Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (4 page)

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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He came back to himself, realizing I’d just heard his thoughts. It didn’t bother him at all. “Well,” he said pleasantly. “I guess we’d better get back in there. Jimmy and Nick should be here by now.”

“But I thought…oh never mind.” He confused me, and I couldn’t help shaking my head.

Uncle Joey noticed. “What?” he asked, stopping me in my tracks. “What’s the headshake for?”

“Nothing,” I said. He raised his brows expectantly, not letting it go. I gave in. “All right. If you must know, I was just thinking that you’re really good at this…at what you do.”

His face brightened. “Ah…so you admire me. That’s nice.”

This time I kept a pleasant expression on my face, even though it was hard not to roll my eyes. He chuckled, not fooled by my expression for a minute.

We left his office and found two men waiting by Jackie’s desk. Uncle Joey greeted them enthusiastically and showed them into the conference room.

Jimmy seemed pretty young for the job, but he was in awe of Uncle Joey, and I knew he’d be loyal, especially after both his Uncle Johnny, and his Cousin Jerry’s murder. He appreciated the way Uncle Joey took care of Walter, the man who’d killed them.

Nick was about my age and harder to read. He was on the short side, had dark wavy hair, and a five o’clock shadow, even this early in the morning. For some reason he put me on edge.

We took our seats, and Uncle Joey gave a nice speech about Jimmy and Nick, which I tried to tune out while I listened to everyone’s thoughts. The only thing that came through was that Nick was certain his position was payback for all his dad’s hard work. It was about time, and he was willing to use the position for whatever power it would give him. He hoped to expand his father’s business and use Manetto’s clout to make new friends and, if possible, get rid of a few enemies…permanently.

Hmm…that sounded pretty cold-hearted. Just the kind of person Uncle Joey would like. I decided to steer clear of him, especially when he caught me studying him. I jerked my gaze away, but not before he started thinking about me and wondering what I did for Uncle Joey. He figured it was something important, and decided that was the first thing he was going to find out.

Oh great, now I had to worry about him too.

The meeting ended, and Nick didn’t waste any time. He turned on the charm and headed straight for me. “I’ve heard about you…Shelby, right?” He continued without giving me a chance to answer. “Now that I think about it, haven’t we met somewhere before? You seem familiar to me.” He was lying through his teeth.

“I don’t think so,” I responded. I glanced toward Uncle Joey, hoping he’d see me and come to my rescue.

“Hmm…well in that case, I hope we can get to know each other better.” He smiled with a lop-sided grin, making him more approachable and handsome. He was quite the charmer. “It will be nice to come to the office if you’re here.”

“Well…I don’t work here full time, just occasionally when Uncle Joey needs me.”

Nick’s eyes widened. “So you’re his niece? Now it makes sense. That’s probably why I’ve heard of you.” He was thinking that it didn’t make any sense at all, since the niece he’d heard of had red hair. Hadn’t something bad happened to her? She couldn’t be me, but he’d only heard of Manetto having one niece. What a puzzle this was turning out to be.

Uncle Joey came to my side, just in time to hear Nick’s comment about me being his niece. He glanced at me with narrowed eyes before turning his gaze on Nick. “So I see you’ve met Shelby.”

“Yes,” Nick said with enthusiasm. “I can even see a family resemblance.” He was totally sucking up, and it was hard to keep a straight face.

“Really,” Uncle Joey answered, pleased. Nick using that angle made his job a lot easier. Maybe he should let everyone think I was his niece. It would work since I insisted on calling him ‘Uncle Joey’ all the time anyway. “Good, then you’ll also be glad to know that she’s off limits.” He said this with a smile, but there was a threat behind his words.

Nick stepped back in surprise. “Oh…sure. I didn’t realize…”

“Of course you didn’t,” Uncle Joey said, giving him a pat on the back. He narrowed his eyes and smiled thinly, just to make sure Nick understood.

Nick was now more interested in me than ever, but he took his cue and excused himself. Before walking out the door, he turned back with a smile. “Oh…and I’ll take care of that matter we discussed earlier,” he said. At Uncle Joey’s nod, he left the room.

By then everyone else had already left, leaving Uncle Joey and me alone. “Well?” Uncle Joey didn’t waste any time.

“Um…Jimmy will be great. He’s totally loyal to you.”

“What about Nick?”

“He’s got a lot of ambition,” I said.

Uncle Joey laughed. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“He wants to expand his father’s business, and hopes to use your clout to do that. He’s also not opposed to eliminating anyone who gets in his way. With your resources, of course.”

“He wants me to do his dirty work, huh?” Uncle Joey said. “Well, we’ll see about that. Anything else?”

“Yeah, he’s also pretty interested in me, and what I do for you.”

“I figured that much,” Uncle Joey said. “Especially after you called me Uncle.” He was sure I knew he didn’t like it, but that hadn’t stopped me yet.

“Is that why you let him think it for real?” I asked.

“Partly,” he answered. “But it just occurred to me that it might offer you some protection from anyone who knows me. If they think you’re my niece, they’d probably leave you alone.”

“Oh…I see,” I said. Was he serious? Or was he just getting back at me? It seemed like it was a little of both.

“Is that it?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Then I think that’s all for today,” he said. “Thanks for coming in.”

“Sure,” I said, eager to leave. I hurried to the hall, and caught a glimpse of someone as they ducked out of sight around the corner. Was that Doug or Nick? Uncle Joey almost ran into me.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, but I think someone might have been eavesdropping on our conversation.” I pointed down the hall. “They went that way.”

Uncle Joey hustled faster than I would have thought possible. I quickly followed. We rounded the corner to a door that opened out into another hall. This was where the restrooms and exit to the staircase were located.

Uncle Joey pushed open the staircase door and leaned over the railing, with me trailing behind. Footsteps echoed from below, but stopped with the swinging of another door a few stories down.

“It won’t do any good to follow now,” Uncle Joey said, thinking the person running down the stairs could have been anyone in the building, and not necessarily the person eavesdropping on us. But then where did that person go?

“We should see if Doug is in his office,” I said.

“Good idea,” he agreed. We hurried from the staircase, back into the hall, and the door to the men’s room opened. Doug came out, and he glanced at us with surprise, but I thought I caught a glimpse of relief from his thoughts. Did that mean it was him?

“What’s going on?” Doug asked, concentrating on Uncle Joey.

“Nothing,” I quickly said.

Doug was confused at my answer. Why was I lying? “Mr. Manetto?” he asked.

Uncle Joey was trying to figure out what I was doing. He shook his head and gave up. “Do we have surveillance cameras out here in this hall?”

“No sir. Would you like me to set some up?”

“Yes, but right now, I want to see the footage from just a few moments ago in the office hall.”

“Sure,” he said.

We followed Doug into the security room, and waited for him to rewind the footage of the hallway. He backed it up, and we saw everyone come out of the conference room, including Nick. The hall was empty, but a minute later, it looked like someone came in from the door to the restrooms. That was a blind corner, and the angle of the camera was tilted off just enough so that all we could see was his shoulder. He stood there until I came out of the conference room, and quickly pulled away. It was basically what I’d seen myself.

Uncle Joey sighed, trying to remember what I’d said to him, and if it was enough to give me away. “Will you please adjust that camera?” he growled, looking pointedly at Doug.

“Yes sir,” he said, thinking it wouldn’t really make any difference. That corner we were looking at was at an angle the camera couldn’t penetrate, no matter how he adjusted the angle. It was perfect for listening in on any conversation that went on in the conference room. As long as the door was open. Then he thought he’d better do a good job for Manetto, or he’d get sacked, and he couldn’t afford that right now. Not after all his hard work to get hired.

Hmm…if he was the one spying on us, wouldn’t he be thinking he’d gotten away with it? He did seem to know an awful lot about it, though. Could it be him?

Doug left to get a ladder, and Uncle Joey motioned for me to follow him to his office. After he closed the door behind him, he sighed. “Remind me to never talk to you unless we are in my office, and the door’s closed. Was it Doug?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “His thoughts are hard to read, but he wasn’t thinking that he’d gotten away with it, so I guess not.”

“Then that means it has to be Nick,” Uncle Joey said.

“Not necessarily,” I interjected. “It could have been any of them. They were all wearing dark suits.”

“That’s true,” he conceded. “But out of them all, who would do it?”

“Nick,” I said. “Because he was the most interested in what I do for you.”

“I don’t know if he heard enough to tell him what you do.”

“Even if he did, how could he believe it? I mean, who reads minds for Pete’s sake?” I shrugged. “Whoever it was may not have been close enough to hear that much anyway. We weren’t talking that loud, and the corner isn’t real close to the conference room.”

“True,” Uncle Joey said. “There’s not much we can do except have you listen to their thoughts next time, and see if you hear anything then.”

“Right,” I agreed, already dreading my next visit. “I really miss Ramos. If he were here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Uncle Joey took that hard. Maybe he shouldn’t have sent Ramos off so quickly. He had friends in Seattle, but he didn’t want them to know Kate had taken his money and gotten away with it. No, Ramos was his best choice, and until he got back, he’d just have to make do. “He’ll be back soon, maybe this weekend if we’re lucky.” He was hoping Ramos would find Kate, and bring her back with him. That would make it all worth it.

“All right, well…I’ll see you later.” I stepped toward the closed door.

“If anyone in my organization talks to you, I want to know,” Uncle Joey said. He was thinking it would be a sure sign of guilt.

“Okay,” I answered. “Bye.” I marched out the door with quick strides, eager to get away. I got to the elevator and punched the button, realizing it would be a huge mistake on my part to ever let my guard down around Uncle Joey. He had not only put me in my place earlier, but I realized he was all that stood between his men and me.

If they ever found out what I did for him…what? What would they do? Try to use me against him? That wouldn’t work so well. Besides, they were all on the same team, right? They might want to use me for their own purposes, but Uncle Joey wouldn’t let that happen. We had an agreement. It made me that much more indebted to Uncle Joey, and it was definitely to my benefit that he stayed alive and well. So much for ever escaping him.

I found my car and decided that instead of wallowing in my misery, I needed to compartmentalize my life. Yes, I was involved with Uncle Joey, but that was just a small part of what I did. I had a job to do and lost money to find. It was time to concentrate on the success of Shelby Nichols Consulting Agency.

I pulled my car out of the parking garage and centered my thoughts back to the lost bank money. The lingerie shop wasn’t far, and I was eager to see what it looked like. A few minutes later, I found it in a little strip mall off Main Street.

The “Novelty Creations” sign hung above the big windows where mannequins wearing sexy lingerie were prominently displayed. I opened the door, and a little bell rang, announcing my presence. A young woman came out from the back and greeted me, telling me to let her know if I needed any help.

At the moment, I was the only customer in the shop, so I took my time to browse through the tables of underwear. The first table had a nice assortment of styles and sizes, but the second table was not what I expected. Now I understood where the ‘novelty’ part came in. Embarrassed, I quickly put the underwear down, and decided to talk to the clerk.

“Did you find what you needed?” she asked.

“Actually, I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions,” I said. “Are you Dottie Weir?”

“No,” she answered. A blanket of suspicion covered her thoughts. “Why do you want to know?” Was I from the insurance company? She’d already filled out everything they wanted.

“I’m a private investigator, and I just wanted to ask her a few questions,” I said, hoping to put her at ease.

“Well, that’s going to be hard, since she’s dead,” she answered. “What’s this about?”

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
8.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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