Authors: Meg Perry
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction
Wednesday, July 1
When I got to work the next morning, Ethan was leaning against the wall next to my office door.
I stopped in front of Liz’s door, which was closed. “What the fuck
“Scott’s meeting with the Isaacson dealer tomorrow tonight.”
I failed to see a problem. “And?”
“And I don’t want him to go.”
I unlocked my office door with a sigh. “You’ve known him for two and a half weeks. I hardly think you’re in a position to be telling him what to do.”
“All I know is what happened to me when I got involved in one of your cases. I don’t want that to happen to him.”
I turned on my computer and remained standing, arms crossed. “You involved yourself in that case. You were just lucky that Pete saved your ass. Scott’s going into a controlled situation with the police right beside him.”
Ethan scowled. “It’s not necessary.”
necessary. The police don’t have the requisite knowledge to talk to this guy. In case you don’t realize, this is a
investigation. Someone strangled a girl to death with his bare hands and is running around out there freely. It’s a hell of a lot bigger than what you do or don’t want.”
“I don’t want him to get hurt.”
“Neither do I. Neither do the police. They’re not going to let anything happen to him.”
Ethan started pacing. “We fought about it last night.”
“I’m not surprised, with your attitude.”
He whirled, practically snarling at me. “Why are you taking his side?”
“Oh, for God’s sake. I’m not taking anyone’s side. I’m being
. You’re not.” I took a couple of books out of my computer bag and thumped them onto the desk. “I have work to do. If you want to pout, you’re going to have to do it someplace else.”
“Fine. Thanks for nothing.” Ethan stalked out.
I took a couple of calming breaths and logged into my computer.
When he’d gotten home the previous evening, Scott had spent an hour in the fitness room, running hard on the treadmill, trying to burn off his anger. When his legs were too rubbery to continue, he slowed to a walk and walked for another half-hour, looking out at the lights of the city below and trying to clear his mind. He’d finally been too exhausted to continue, but his emotions were still wound up.
He’d played for a couple of hours and finally fallen asleep on the sofa in his loft. He woke up with a stiff neck and sore calves. He glanced at the clock and realized he had forty-five minutes to get to the West LA police station.
He wolfed down a bagel, showered and dressed, and made it to Butler Avenue with a minute to spare. Walking into the police station was an odd feeling - he’d never been in one before. He checked in at the desk and was given a visitor badge. He was trying to decide whether he should sit or stand when Jon Eckhoff appeared.
Jon grinned at him. “Welcome to the shop. Come on back.”
Scott trailed after Jon down a hallway into a large room filled with cubicles. Kevin was parked in one at the rear corner, typing information into a form of some sort. Scott noticed pictures of the Brodie family thumbtacked to the walls.
Kevin glanced up. “Hey, Scott. Have a seat.”
Jon pulled over a rolling chair, and Scott sat uneasily. The room smelled of burned coffee, cheap cologne, and testosterone.
He was going to be so glad when this was over.
Kevin opened an IM screen and typed a message, then turned to Scott. “Pinter and Garcia will be here in a minute. They’ll give you the details about tomorrow night.”
“Okay.” Scott smiled wryly. “I never thought I’d say this, but I wish you were going to be there.”
Kevin grinned. “Don’t worry. Tim Garcia is the guy who trained me. You’re in good hands.”
Detective Garcia arrived first and shook Scott’s hand. “Mr. Deering, thanks again for your cooperation.”
Scott shrugged. “I just want this over with.”
Garcia nodded. “So do we.”
Elias Pinter was of medium height, built like an ex-athlete going to seed, with a slight pot belly and thinning brown hair. He shook Scott’s hand as well.
Garcia asked, “Any questions about the procedure? It’s the same as before. We’ll meet you at the Bel Air; pick a table next to an empty one and we’ll be close enough to hear your conversation.”
Scott nodded. “What do you want me to say?”
“Nothing particular. Just sell the guy your piece of music. Once the transaction is done, we’ll take care of the rest.”
Pinter said, “There is one thing. If this guy is a member of the cello community, he might be someone you already know.”
Scott swallowed hard. “Surely not.”
“Probably not, but we can’t take that chance. We don’t want to alert anyone beforehand that they’re meeting with you, so we want you to drive a different car.”
Garcia added, “In case the dealer is someone who knows you well enough to know what your car looks like.”
“Oh. Um - okay.” Scott didn’t know whose car he could borrow. Maybe Verna’s. He’d worry about that this evening.
Garcia said, “We’re going to have Tristan Oliver standing by to identify the guy as the one who sold him the stolen solo. Once we snatch the dealer up, you’ll be free to go.”
Scott sighed. It sounded simple enough. “Good.”
Jon said sympathetically, “Try to relax. Thirty hours from now, this will all be over.”
On the way back to his condo, Scott stopped in the lobby to get his mail. He was shocked to see Ethan there, looking contrite, holding a bouquet of flowers. Ethan held them out hopefully. “I’m sorry.”
Scott took the flowers hesitantly. “Thank you. What brought this on?”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking today.” He looked at the floor, digging his toe into the linoleum. “I - I - um - saw Jamie this morning, briefly, and he berated me for my behavior. I was pissed at first, but then I realized he was right. I’ve known you less than three weeks. I’m hardly in a position to tell you what to do.”
Scott glanced at the concierge, who was studiously attempting to appear as if he wasn’t listening. He sighed. “Come upstairs.”
Ethan followed him into the elevator sheepishly. He seemed to have truly changed his mind, but Scott wasn’t ready to trust that yet. He unlocked his front door. “Let me get a vase for these.”
Ethan waited, his hands in his pockets, while Scott found a vase and arranged the flowers. “These are lovely. Thank you again.”
“I’m sorry. I really am. It’s just -” Ethan’s voice seemed to fail him for a minute, then he must have dug up some courage from somewhere. “I like you. I care about you. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
A couple of days ago, those words would have made Scott’s heart skip again. Not now. He said, “I appreciate that, and I understand your concern. But I can’t stress to you enough that this is a perfectly safe operation. This dealer may not even be the killer. And even if he is, he didn’t shoot or stab the girl, he strangled her. Unless he’s some martial arts master, I think I can handle myself. And the cops are going to be at the next table.”
Ethan had been nodding all the way through Scott’s speech. “I get it. I do. I wish there was something I could do to help.”
Scott folded his arms and regarded Ethan thoughtfully. “I can’t use my own car. If it’s someone in the cello community, we might know each other. Seeing my car in the parking lot might tip him off.”
Ethan practically clasped his hands together. “You’re welcome to mine. Drive to my house on the way to Bel Air tomorrow evening and you can leave yours there and take mine.”
That would work; if Scott had borrowed Verna’s car, he would have needed to drive to Hancock Park anyway. “Okay. Thank you.”
Ethan looked extremely uncertain. “Um - am I still welcome to come to San Fran with you? Separate rooms?”
Scott couldn’t think of a reason to say no, although he suspected that if he’s been at the top of his game, he could have. “Sure. I’ll enjoy the company, and you can recommend all the restaurants.”
Ethan’s wide grin split his face, and Scott felt the same rush of attraction that he’d had in the bookstore. “That’s awesome. We’ll have a good time, I promise.”
Scott simply nodded. Ethan said, “So - since we can’t move into my office tomorrow, how about Friday? Then we’ll go out, wherever you want.”
Scott smiled in spite of himself. “Sounds like a plan.”
Thursday, July 2
We held our wedding rehearsal at Ali and Mel’s, in their large, wooded back yard. Mark, with Kristen’s help, was preparing his and Neil’s house for the wedding tomorrow. Not everyone could hike up the mountain with us tomorrow, but all of our relatives - especially Pete’s dad - could be at the rehearsal.
Pete picked me up after work, and we drove straight to Ali and Mel’s. My dad, Barb, Uncle Doug, Aunt Linda, Carly and Mike were already there. The rehearsal didn’t start until 6:30, but my other relatives began drifting in well before time.
Uncle Dennis arrived first. Aunt What’s-her-name turned out to be Aunt Toni, a petite Southern belle with dark hair in a pixie cut who was at least fifteen years younger than Dennis. She greeted all of us politely but seemed overwhelmed by her husband’s gigantic blond relatives. I saw Pete begin to speak to her and figured that he’d ease her into comfortable participation.
Tyler and his fiancé Blair came in next. I’d met Blair once. He was a fellow librarian but was a digital archivist at the Library of Congress working with books in the TR section - photography. At our previous meeting, I’d tried to find some common librarian ground to stand on with him and failed. He was as reserved as Tyler was ebullient and greeted Pete with a limp handshake. After a few minutes, Pete sidled over to me and said, “Your cousin’s boyfriend is - um -”
I laughed. “Yes, he is.”
Steve and Meredith arrived next, and I finally met Meredith, a beautiful woman with short black hair. She was funny and forthright and seemed more than a match for Steve. If she was moving back to Alamogordo, maybe there was hope for the two of them.
Liz, Jon and Kevin arrived, then the Fortners - Ali’s parents, Charlie and Audrey, and her sister Lauren and brother-in-law Dustin - then Jeff, Val and the boys, then the Ferguson-Fernandez crew. Introductions were made, acquaintances were renewed and the room started getting loud. Ali clapped her hands for attention, and everyone quieted down. “Let’s move into the back yard. We’ve got a wedding to rehearse.”
Neil arranged us all - Dad beside me, Steve beside Pete - and said, “When we reach Eagle Rock, this is where all of you will stand. Dave, you’ll have Pete’s ring; Steve, you’ll have Jamie’s. We’ll say some preliminary vows, which Pete and Jamie don’t want to reveal yet, then we’ll exchange rings with
set of vows which we won’t say until tomorrow.”
Everyone chuckled. Tyler said, “We’re not going to hear
Neil smiled. “After the exchange of rings, I’ll have each of you take the other’s hands and repeat the vows. Then I’ll pronounce you married, we’ll take pictures and head back to my place to eat some shrimp.”
Everyone applauded. Mel said, “Dinner is buffet-style. Everyone come in and help yourselves. Pete and Jamie first.”
Scott had never been one to get nervous. Sure, he’d have the usual anticipatory butterflies before a solo performance, but he wasn’t nervous.
Now he thought he’d gone right past nervous to scared shitless. He was completely out of his element here. Meeting with Tristan Oliver had been one thing - the cops hadn’t seriously suspected him of killing Elena.
In spite of what he’d told Ethan, the guy he was meeting tonight was likely to be Elena’s killer. Yes, they’d be in a crowded bar; yes, Detectives Garcia and Pinter would be right there beside him - but still.
When he walked into the bar at quarter of eight, he spotted Garcia and Pinter at the bar. He worked his way to a table with an empty one next to it and sat, angling away from the entrance. Pinter and Garcia immediately brought their drinks to the table beside him, chatting as if this was just another evening out for them.
The closer it got to eight, the more nervous Scott became. At 8:05, the dealer still hadn’t appeared. When his loaner phone beeped at 8:09, Scott nearly leaped out of his chair. He checked it and saw a text from Chance Percival.
Can’t make Bel Air. Meet at 8:45 in parking lot of Von’s off Ventura Freeway in Glendale.
Both cops had glanced in Scott’s direction when his phone had sounded. Scott wordlessly handed the phone over to Garcia, who read it and said softly, “Damn.” He handed it back. “Say yes.”
Scott replied with shaking hands. Garcia and Pinter were both already on their phones. Pinter gestured to Scott to follow them. They left the bar, both cops still talking.
When they reached Ethan’s Audi, Garcia ended his call. Pinter was still talking. Garcia said, “Do you know where you’re going?”
Garcia took the loaner phone and programmed an address into it. “There you go. We’ll go ahead of you, and we’ll have more people on site.” He looked sympathetic. “We’ll park within sight. If you get in trouble, honk your horn. Try not to worry.”
Scott smiled weakly. “Might as well tell the sun not to shine.”
By the time he got to Glendale, Scott thought he must have burned through all the adrenalin in his body. He was exhausted but calm. If he died tonight, at least he’d had a good run. His dad would probably sue the shit out of the LAPD.
He pulled into the parking lot just as his phone beeped again.
Are you here?
Scott pulled into a parking space.
Just drove in. Where are you?
I’ll come to you. What are you driving?
I see you. Be right there.
Scott turned off the engine. A nondescript sedan pulled into the space facing his - Pinter and Garcia. Thank God.
A few seconds later, a car pulled up beside his, so close that Scott couldn’t open his door. Fuck. His nerves were back. Pinter opened the passenger door of the sedan but didn’t get out. He and Garcia had turned off the dome light. Scott didn’t think anyone would notice them unless they were looking.
Scott heard the driver’s door on the car beside him close. The driver must have walked behind the car; when the passenger door opened, Scott jumped. He turned, seeing what he’d expected - a bad toupee and black-framed glasses.
What he didn’t expect to see was Cameron Wiley’s eyes staring at him through those glasses.
Scott breathed, “
What the fuck are you doing here?”
Scott’s brain was screaming.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit
. “I’m here to sell you an Isaacson duet. Why’d you change our meeting place?”
“My wife started badgering me about going out. I didn’t want to take the time to drive all the way to Bel Air.” Wiley narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t know you owned any originals.”
Scott shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant. “Why would you? It’s never come up. I didn’t realize you were collecting them.”
“Why are you getting rid of it?”
“It was a gift originally, not something I’d buy myself. I’m trying to clear out some space. I’m seeing a new guy and we’re talking about moving in together. What’s with the disguise?”
“I…” Wiley faltered. “I didn’t want to be recognized.”
Scott didn’t want to give Wiley any indication that he knew the reason for that. “Why would that matter?”
Wiley stared forward. “I’ve gotten myself in some trouble.”
Wiley gnawed on his lip. “I’ve - um - lost some money in video poker machines. My wife doesn’t know. I have to make it back.”
“I’m not going to keep it. I know a collector of Isaacson originals. He buys what I bring him.”
“Oh. But - there aren’t that many originals around, Wiley. What are you going to do after that?”
“I haven’t thought that far ahead.” Wiley tightened his jaw. “Are we going to do this deal or not?”
“Yeah, sure.” Scott took the envelope containing the duet out of the side pocket of the door and handed it to Wiley. “Here it is.”
Wiley pulled the score out of the envelope and examined it. “Okay. Eight hundred, right?”
“What’s your collector going to pay?”
“Fifteen. He fronts me the money to pay you.”
“Listen, you’re in financial trouble… I’ll let you have it for six. Two hundred more for you. You don’t have to tell your dealer, do you?”
“No.” Wiley seemed to relax a little. “I appreciate that, Scott.” He reached into his jacket pocket, retrieved several hundred-dollar bills and peeled off six, handing them to Scott. “There you go.”
“Thanks.” Scott pocketed the money. Maybe this was nearly over. If Wiley would just get out of the car…
Wiley said offhandedly, “By the way, you don’t happen to know anything more about the investigation into Elena’s death, do you?”
. “No, I haven’t seen the cops since Elena’s funeral.”
“I thought one of them was a friend of yours.”
“No, he’s the brother of one of my exes. Hardly a friend.”
Wiley sat, brooding. Scott tried to send out thought waves.
Get out of the car. Get out of the car
“Whose car is this?”
“My boyfriend’s. Mine’s in the shop.”
Wiley reached to his head and pulled off the wig. “I’ve screwed up bad, Scott.”
Scott’s brain was now groaning,
Oh, God. Please do not confess to me
. He said, “There’s help for compulsive gamblers, Wiley. Meetings, like AA.”
. I’m in a hell of a lot more trouble than that.”
“Wiley, I don’t…”
“Shut up!” Wiley slapped the dashboard, making Scott jump. “
to me! Nobody fucking listens to me!
should have listened to me!”
Scott started sending his thought waves to Pinter and Garcia.
Get out of your car. Get out of your car
. “What are you
“She said she was going to have the kid!” Wiley turned to Scott, almost pleading. “I couldn’t let her
that. You can understand that, can’t you? I
let her do that.”
Scott groaned inwardly.
was the father of Elena’s baby? He wondered how much worse it could get as he said, “Oh, Wiley. Of
I understand that. How awful for you.”
Wiley seemed pathetically grateful. “
. See, you
it. You know what it’s like... having a goal - you can’t let
get in the way.”
occasionally described the experience of getting admitted to Juilliard as murderous. “That’s right, Wiley. You have to overcome the obstacles.” But… “I thought you went to Portland.”
“I did. My flight didn’t leave until eight p.m.”
“I thought I had your invitation.”
Wiley scowled at him. “No, I kept mine.” He reached over and yanked the neck of Scott’s shirt down, dragging Scott toward him. “You’re not wearing a wire, are you?”
. For fuck’s sake, Wiley.” Scott pulled away and straightened his shirt, his heart pounding. He seized on an idea and reached into the pocket where he’d stashed the money - hoping that the horn on the Audi operated on a hair trigger. “You know what? Let me give this…” As he spoke, he turned toward Wiley, poking the horn with his elbow.
The horn sounded.
Scott said, “Oops. Let me give this back to you. The duet is yours. Sell it to your collector and keep…”
He didn’t get the chance to finish. Pinter whipped the passenger door open and dragged Wiley out of the car. “On the ground! Hands behind your head! Get on the fucking ground!”
Wiley didn’t resist. “What the
We’re not doing a
deal. It’s a piece of
Scott gripped the steering wheel to stop his hands from shaking. Garcia leaned in the passenger door. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Scott took a few deep breaths. “He told me he’s the father of Elena’s baby.”
was his motive.”
“She told him she wanted to have the baby. He said he couldn’t let that happen.”
“All right. Good job. Sit tight for a sec.” Garcia went back to his car and returned with what looked like a large toolbox. He opened it and took out a pair of latex gloves, put them on and picked up a brown paper sack. “Let me collect this evidence and we’ll let you get out of there.”
“Okay.” Scott watched as Garcia picked up the wig and dropped it into the bag, then sealed it. He took out a small flashlight and scanned the floor of the passenger side but apparently didn’t see anything worth collecting. He turned off the light and stepped back. “Okay, you can slide over now.”
Pinter apparently had Wiley cuffed; he hauled him to his feet. When Wiley saw Garcia talking to Scott in the car, he figured out what was going on. “Deering, you
you! Rot in
The parking lot was full of police cars, red and blue strobes lighting up the night. A couple of uniformed officers took charge of Wiley and put him in the back of a patrol car. Scott eased himself over the parking brake and out of the car, sucking in lungfuls of fresh air. He’d never been so glad to be outdoors. He was still shaking and realized he was cold. He hugged himself. “When can I go?”
Garcia said, “If you can wait for a few minutes, I’ll drive you home. Pinter will bring your boyfriend’s car.” He peeled off the gloves and took the toolbox and evidence to his car, then returned with a blanket, which he draped around Scott’s shoulders. “There. Better?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“You can sit inside our car if you’d like.”
Scott allowed himself to be led to Garcia and Pinter’s car but sat perpendicularly with the passenger door wide open, his legs outside. A tow truck came, winched up Wiley’s car, and left with it. A crime scene unit arrived and did some more investigating in Ethan’s car, but it didn’t take long. Garcia and Pinter both spent time on the phone; the patrol car left with Wiley. The other police cars gradually pulled away, and it was dark and quiet again.
Garcia and Pinter came to their car. Pinter said, “Do you need anything else out of your boyfriend’s car?”
“No.” Scott took the money out of his pocket and showed it to them. “This belongs to Dr. Oliver.”
“Ah. We’ll have to print it first.” Garcia gloved again and produced a smaller paper sack, which he held open for Scott to drop the money into.
Scott said, “It’ll have my prints on it, too.”
Garcia sealed the bag. “Right. You were printed at the original scene, correct?”
“The original scene?”
“The Holmby Hills wedding.”
“Oh. Yeah, I was.”
Pinter said, “If you give me the keys, I’ll drive your boyfriend’s car to his place.”
Scott wanted to refuse, but he really didn’t think he was in any shape to drive. “They’re still in the ignition.”
“Perfect. I’ll follow you there.” Pinter slid behind the wheel of Ethan’s car.
Garcia de-gloved and got into the driver’s seat. “Where to?”
“Hancock Park.” Scott gave Ethan’s address.
Garcia reached into his back seat and produced an unopened bottle of water, handing it to Scott. “It’s not cold.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Scott cracked the top and drank greedily.
Garcia smiled and started the engine.