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Chapter II: Eye Candy
The seersucker rippled in the light of the desk lamp. Reaching into his inside pocket, the man pulled out a wad of greenbacks bound with a rubber band. The number 100 printed in each corner. Delaney exhaled.
“You’ll need a retainer, I presume?”
“And a name,” said Delaney.
The man smiled and laid five crisp bills on the table top. With a lilt: “Charles LaSalle.” Delaney took the money and leaned back. LaSalle smiled, the points of his canines like a second pair of eyes in the dark.
“Mr. Delaney, I’m looking for a woman,” he said.
“Aren’t we all.”
Another smile, then, “I mean to say, I’m looking for my fiancée. She went missing. About three weeks ago. Though I may already be wasting your time.”
“Time is money,” Delaney said. Ten minutes talk, maybe three breaths, then LaSalle paused.
“So,” Delaney summarized. “Your fiancée, Candy Sussman. She disappears. No trace of her to be found, the cops prove predictably useful—that is to say, not in the slightest. Next thing you hear, she’s making a withdrawal from an ATM in Boston.” LaSalle was nodding. “And why, Mr. LaSalle, might you be wasting my time?”
The man folded forward and uncrossed his legs. Tugged on his shirt cuffs and looked out from under sullen brows. “I saw her. Today. She crossed the street right in front of me, arm-in-arm with another man. I tried to follow her, but—” He paused, leaned back and lay the smooth suede of his shoe back across his leg. “I lost her.”
* * *
The sunlight curled around the corners of Delaney’s apartment building the next morning. Heat was dissipating into the sky, and he could hear the counterpoint of city wildlife bubbling just beneath the veneer of civilization.
Leaving the elevator at the first floor, he was suddenly assailed by a blow to the head, followed swiftly by nausea, vertigo, and finally blackness.
Pushing palms against carpet tile, he lifted himself up. His vision worked like a badly-tuned television. In the yellow swirl of the overhead lights he could make out a figure—a woman, he thought—standing over him.
“Who are you?” he growled.
“My name is…” she paused. “Ms. Sharp.”
“That wasn’t terribly convincing.”
“I have no interest in convincing you of anything. But if a name means that much to you, by all means use it, Ray.”
“I kinda got a migraine. Got anything for that, Ms. Sharp?” He had fought his way back to vertical and looked her up and down incautiously. Young, well-dressed. Everyone was better dressed than he was. Hair pulled her cheekbones high across her face.
“This might help,” she responded. And she tossed into his hands a small, black [noun].
“What’s this?” Delaney croaked.
“It used to belong to a certain Miss Candy Sussman. I think you and she are acquainted?”