Reading This Weekend: A Walking Shadow

Every once in a while we find a book that we like and the author(s), graciously give us the first couple of chapters to share with you. Deborah Fezelle and Sherry Yanow have written the sequel to a The Evil That Men Do. If you’ve not read that, you might want to download or buy it first, but A Walking Shadow is just as good as a stand alone novel. So here are the first two chapters for you to check it out!

 

 

A Walking Shadow

 

PROLOGUE

unnamedGianni Fosselli shot out of the house and sprinted after his son. Gasping for breath, he ran like the wind itself, his feet sinking into ground soggy with melting snow. He could make out the dog just ahead of Anthony, his silver collar reflecting the moonlight. The boy’s white scarf whipped behind him as he dashed for the fence.

And then Gianni saw McDeare on the other side of the barrier, yelling for Anthony! Lyle Barton was next to him, McDeare’s accomplice. Dashing towards her son, the boy’s mother materialized out of the darkness, the locked gate swinging open!

The faccia di merda would not lay one perverted hand on Gianni’s precious son. But first, he would silence the whore. Gianni thanked God his gun was loaded, swiftly turning the weapon on Jessica.

In the moonglow, Gianni could see McDeare suck in a breath as he realized the game was over. Gianni directed Anthony to call his dog. When the boy refused, Gianni raised his voice, ordering him to do as he said. The dog lowered his head, barking furiously at Gianni.

As Anthony finally complied, Gianni smiled warmly at his son. He thanked him in front of McDeare and Jessica, wanting them to understand at last how blood told. McDeare was an outsider here, no relation to Anthony Fosselli.

Cocking the gun, Gianni willed his trembling hand still, his moment approaching. He instructed his son to take the frenzied creature into the house. Now. He waited for Anthony to retreat so his father could do what was necessary. The boy played dumb. Gianni shrieked at him to run to the house!

Snarling, the dog leapt for Gianni’s throat. The gun fired, a bright flash–

Bolting upright in bed, Gianni Fosselli wiped beads of perspiration from his forehead.

Mio Dio, another nightmare yanking him out of his sleep.

*

It was a new day, the nightmare behind him. The man who now called himself Max Callaban, the man everyone thought dead, stepped back and surveyed his handiwork. The most important room in the house was finished, all in blue. His son’s room. Satisfied, Max turned out the lights and headed downstairs. The Victorian house was coming together bit by bit. Passing a gilded mirror in the lower hallway, Max paused, his new image looking back at him. A shaven head, his swirl of dark hair gone. Green contact lenses, his brown eyes erased. He threw back his shoulders. He looked fit. He didn’t look like Gianni Fosselli. Not anymore.

There was nothing like restoring an old house to get you back in shape. Especially a house with a personality of its own. The old Victorian rang out with random echoes of laughter. Windows sagged open in the middle of the night. Cold spots leaked. And that haunting recurring dream—racing after Anthony into the yard. McDeare and his cohorts on the other side of the fence. A dog. Dogs were a filthy nuisance … Max chuckled. His imagination was too vivid. The place had character, that’s all.

Max poured himself a grappa from the living-room bar. Strolling onto the front verandah, he surveyed his property, five rolling and leafy acres in northeastern Ohio. The land stretched out like the mid-Atlantic, the autumn foliage a confetti of rust and sienna and pumpkin and mustard. The sun was beginning to sink, turning the pond molten silver.

It was peaceful here, the perfect place to raise a seven-year-old boy. A place with stable family values, as America called it. People went to work at eight every morning and returned home at five. They attended church on Sunday and said grace before dinner. They celebrated the changing of the seasons and the holidays, just like their parents and grandparents before them.

Ambling back indoors, Max headed for a glassed-in side porch he’d turned into his office. He still had a few minutes before leaving. Sitting in front of his iPad, Max read THE NEW YORK POST’S gossip section one more time:

Jessica Kendle and Nick McDeare to Wed New Year’s Eve

Beautiful stage and screen star Jessica Kendle will marry best-selling suspense author Nick McDeare in a New-Year’s Eve candlelight ceremony at the Long Island mansion of famed Broadway producer William Rudolph. The guest list of over four hundred includes renowned political figures and Broadway luminaries. This will be the hottest ticket in town as New York City ushers in the New Year.

This is the second marriage for both parties. Mr. McDeare, a renowned former investigative reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST, has been divorced for many years. His son from that marriage died of leukemia. The author of five novels, Mr. McDeare has won the prestigious Arthur Conan Doyle Award and been nominated for a Pulitzer for his work at the POST. Ms. Kendle, a Tony Award winner, was married to Broadway star Andrew Brady until his murder two and a half years ago. She has a seven-year-old son. After nearly a three-year hiatus, Ms. Kendle is due to return to Broadway in a musical revival of TO HAVE AND TO HOLD.

In a twist worthy of any drama, Mr. McDeare is Mr. Brady’s long-lost older brother, given up for adoption at birth. The brothers were reunited via a phone call shortly before Mr. Brady’s death. Mr. McDeare was instrumental in the apprehension of Gianni Fosselli, his brother’s killer and the biological father of Ms. Kendle’s son. Mr. Fosselli later died at sea in an escape attempt from a cruise ship. During the course of his investigation, Mr. McDeare and his sister-in-law fell in love. Quite a coup for Ms. Kendle. Mr. McDeare, long considered a confirmed bachelor, has left behind a trail of broken hearts. Apparently, he just hadn’t met the right woman until now.

Max stared at Jessica’s cut-crystal features, the sapphire eyes smiling into the camera, spun-gold hair framing her face. An angel’s face. Nicholas looked the devil next to her, amber eyes fierce under knit brows, strands of ebony hair spiking his forehead. Max’s gaze shifted to the little boy in a framed picture on his desk, his dark curls and cleft chin a mirror image to Max’s at that age. Only the boy’s eyes were his mother’s, blue jewels that changed colors with his mood.

Jessica Kendle Brady, Anthony’s whore mother.

“Mr. Callaban?” Carlo Nori stood a few feet away. “I brought the car around. Whenever you’re ready.”

“I’ll be there in a moment.” Max motioned. “My bag’s by the back door.” Carlo was a connected man, part of Roberto Martinelli’s extended family. He’d been sent by the crime boss to protect Max.

Dropping the iPad into his briefcase, Max slung the satchel over his shoulder. He reached into a drawer and grabbed a small box. His calling cards, the primary reason for this brief trip. It was time to set the dominoes in motion.

*

It was a brisk autumn morning, a light wind churning the inlet. Roberto Martinelli strolled along the pier of his Long Island estate, a Cuban cigar clamped between his teeth. He loved the change of seasons, the never-ending cycles of life and death.

A reedy man with slicked-back hair hurried across the garden’s expanse. Aldo Zappella clapped Roberto on the back. “So, how was Jersey City?”

“Excellent. The camera I ordered arrived. A Canon, cost a fortune. They were practicing with it when I got there. And the girls insisted on modeling the special wardrobe I ordered from Italy. Another fortune.”

“But it gives you pleasure.”

“True.” Aldo knew Roberto well. And he never judged. He was too loyal to judge.

“So how did they look in these designer clothes?”

Cupping his fingers to his lips, Roberto blew a kiss into the air. “Perfection.”

Aldo laughed. “Good.”

“Now,” Roberto spit a piece of tobacco to the ground, “what’s this important news you have for me?”

“Fosselli arrived last night to work out the details. He wants to take the kid at the wedding.”

“Not a problem.”

“In the meantime, he wants a glimpse of his son. And what he didn’t tell me was he plans to fuck with McDeare. He asked too many questions. His hatred’s eating him up.”

“Poking a sleeping rattlesnake.” Roberto shook his head. “I’d hoped Fosselli was smarter than that. Now we need someone to watch McDeare.” Puffing on his cigar, Martinelli paced towards the water. “Get Clint Vaughn.”

“That old shit? Roberto–”

“Vaughn’s a chameleon. No one sees him. And keep Fosselli in line.”

“You want Carlo should report to us?”

“Fosselli and I go back too far. He’s an honorable man. We deal with Fosselli directly.”

“Roberto, there has to be someone better than Vaughn. Anyway, he’s semi-retired.”

“He’s been semi-retired ever since he got his PI license. Vaughn’s natural habitat is a bar and his main diet is a bottle of scotch. But the lazy SOB always comes through for me, and he loves money. I don’t want any screw-ups this time. Not with McDeare.”

*

Hands stuffed in his pockets, Nick McDeare clipped home, the late afternoon sun warm on his face. Rounding East Seventy-Fifth Street, Nick headed towards Fifth Avenue. The Brady brownstone rolled into view, slate gray and neatly framed by a ribbon of black wrought-iron fence. Nick flicked the gate open, catching a speck of trash on the front steps. He bent down to pick it up.

What the hell?

It was a matchbook. And not any matchbook. This was a refugee from Oceano, Gianni Fosselli’s former restaurant, playground for the rich and famous. Now extinct, like Gianni.

Nick turned the familiar matchbook over in his hand, a drawing of a cruise ship set against a tropical sunset. How did this particular book of matches home in on this particular brownstone?

Trying to ignore the kick to his gut, Nick brushed a hand through his hair. Okay, someone who used to frequent the restaurant and lived in the area accidentally dropped the matchbook on his way past the brownstone. It blew onto the stoop. New York City streets were littered with trash and packed with pedestrian traffic. No big deal.

Pocketing the matches, Nick fished for his keys and turned the locks.

*

From behind a Victorian lamppost down the block, Max Callaban smirked at the shock on McDeare’s face.

Excellent.

This was just the beginning of his hell.

Custom made for Nicholas McDeare, Max Callaban was adding a tenth circle to Dante’s nine.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

Clint Vaughn spent last night at Hanratty’s, celebrating the wrap of a cheating husband case. After a rewarding evening of booze and pool following two all-nighter stakeouts, he’d fallen into bed at dawn like a dead man. His cell squawked at five p.m. Groping for the phone, Vaughn crawled out from under a mound of blankets. “Yeah?”

“It’s Aldo. Our friend has a job for you. He’ll make it worth your while.”

Groaning, Clint sat up. You didn’t say no to Roberto Martinelli. Aldo barked instructions and hung up. Clint staggered to the bathroom, just big enough to turn around. If you kept your arms down. “What an asshole you are, Aldo.” He swallowed three aspirin with a large glass of water. His throat was parched, his tongue coated with cotton balls from the bottle of scotch he’d inhaled.

The grizzled image in the mirror didn’t interest Clint. His sandy hair had turned to dirty ice. His face had more layers than a canyon. His pale blue eyes were slits. But he could still reel in the ladies and he didn’t need any of that Viagra shit, so what the hell?

He made an obligatory phone call before heading back to Hanratty’s for a pastrami on rye and a bottle of scotch. Revived, Clint drove across town to check out his new quarry. This time it was some arty-farty celebrity. Who the hell was Nick McDeare?

*

Nick McDeare was playing chef tonight. He eyed the collection of food on the kitchen counter. Let’s call it Asian fusion. Mary, Jessie’s live-in housekeeper and surrogate mother to them all, was gone for the weekend so Nick had taken charge. To begin, a delivery of crispy spring rolls, edamame, and vegetable udon noodle soup from Amoy’s. Nick had made the entrée from scratch, setting out a platter of salmon and eel sushi next to sweet potato and shrimp tempura.

Jessie filled two flutes with Pinot Blanc. She looked exhausted, another long day at rehearsal. She was driving herself hard for opening night.

“Sit.” Nick pulled out a stool at the granite counter. “Did you eat anything all day?”

“Two chocolate bars and a turtle?” Jessie made short work of the starters, dropping an elbow onto the counter and smiling. “Mmm. I feel much better.” Reaching back, she rewrapped her ponytail into its tie, wispy blond strands framing her face.

“What would you do without me, Kendle?” Nick cleared away the takeout, setting out their dinner plates and chopsticks.

“You are so good to me. I think I’ll marry you.”

“Since you’re being so agreeable, there’s something I need to ask you …” Nick motioned to the slew of new wedding RSVPs fanned out on the counter with the mail. “Do I know any of these people? Do you?” He took a sip of wine.

“Funny, I’ve been asking myself the same question.” Jessie flashed him a weak smile.

“It’s not too late to elope,” Nick said, staring at her over the rim of his glass.

Her eyebrows shot up. “You’re kidding. Over two hundred RSVPs already. They’re all coming. And we’ve got another two hundred to go. Thanks to our respective agents.”

Draining his glass with one swallow, Nick filled another flute, a headache beginning to ping. How had falling in love with Jessie turned into a ten-ring circus?

“It’s just a few hours out of our lives,” Jessie said in a little voice. “We can’t back out now.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“You want to call it quits because the wedding’s too–”

Leaning over the island, Nick kissed Jesse on the mouth, smoothing the hot words into a throaty purr. He finally drew back, his lip twitching. “That’s better.”

“Yeah,” she murmured. “Much. Better that is.”

“You know I love you. You know I want to marry you.”

“You’re lucky you’re a good kisser.”

“It’s not luck.”

“And they say actors have the ego. Listen, I would’ve been happier getting married at the courthouse. You know that.”

He did. It wasn’t Jessie’s fault everything had snowballed out of control in the past eight weeks. His agent Liz and her agent Jeremy had talked Bill Rudolph into offering his mansion. It had been impossible for Jessie to say no, not after everything the producer had done for her. Like a pair of gremlins, the agents had leaked wedding tidbits to the rags and social media for Jessie and Nick’s “own good.” As if they needed more paparazzi on their doorstep.

Reading his mind, Jessie said, “The ceremony’s an hour out of our lives. We say our vows and then we party before we head off to London. What’s so bad about that? By the way, Mary bent my ear before she left for her sister’s.” Jessie snared a piece of sushi with her chopsticks. It dropped onto the island before it reached her lips.

“I can’t take you anywhere, can I?”

Making a face at him, she got it right on the third try. “Anyway, Mary made me promise you’d settle on a best man by the end of this weekend.”

“I’m asking Lyle.”

“Lyle for you, Abbie for me. Anthony as ring bearer. No one else. That part we keep simple.”

“Simple’s good.”

*

Being Chief of Detectives at Midtown North meant long hours. Sometimes it meant being married to the job instead of the wife. Lyle Barton stared at the reports on his desk. Paperwork, the part of the job he hated. It was nine forty-five. Barb had called twice, reminding him Dina was waiting for his help on her science project. Lyle scrubbed a hand over his long face, skin as slack as a hound dog’s.

Draining his tenth cup of mud, he got up and stretched his taut frame, his eyes drawn to faded splotches on the floor. Steve Bushman had swallowed his gun in this room, in front of him and McDeare. Barton still had a hard time dealing with his partner’s collusion with Martinelli. Especially at night, in his dreams. Who was he kidding? His nightmares.

At his cell’s buzz, Barton clicked on. McDeare. “What’s up?”

“I was wondering … how much would you hate being my best man New Year’s Eve?”

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“On what I have to wear.” Silence. “McDeare? You there?”

“You’re going to hate it a lot.”

“A tux?”

“Worse. Tails.”

“Why don’t you just invite Queen Elizabeth while you’re at it?”

“Very funny. The whole thing’s gotten out of hand. But I need a best man.”

Tails. “Yeah. Okay. Only for you, McDeare.”

Barton could hear Nick laughing as he hung up. Funny. Lyle Barton, Nick McDeare’s best man. He’d hated the arrogant SOB when he first met him. Life was one surprise after another.

*

His heart thumping as if he’d been scaling Mt Everest at a dead run, Nick woke with a start. Frantic, he scanned the bedroom for Anthony before he realized it was just a dream, a horrible dream. He’d been imprisoned in a cage, watching helplessly as Gianni grabbed Anthony, struggling and kicking. The boy was terrified, shrieking for Nick.

Those damned Oceano matches.

Nick glanced down at Jessie, nestled against his shoulder. She needed her sleep before rehearsal that day. They had the house to themselves for the weekend. Besides Mary being gone, this was Anthony’s sleepover weekend at Eric’s. Jessie didn’t have to sneak from her bedroom up to his fourth-floor suite at night. No disapproving looks from Mary in the morning. Carefully disentangling himself from her arms, Nick reached for his robe. He shuffled downstairs, pausing on the second floor. Early dawn shafted through the open doorways of the old two-room nursery under reconstruction.

Work would be finished within days. Nick wandered into the space. The wall separating the two rooms had been knocked down, creating an enormous open area for Nick’s office, the place he’d pen his novels. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined a wall. A desk faced arched windows, overlooking the back garden’s curving cobblestone walkways and stone benches and fountain.

Next on the list were the master bedroom and sitting room, due for a total makeover. Nick and Jessie wanted no shadows from the past looming over their future.

Ambling to the windows, Nick stared down at a blood-red cardinal at the bird feeder. This house had such history. Jessie had been born in the brownstone, in her mother’s family for generations. When Jessie was thirteen and her mother died, Mary Bodine had moved in, becoming a member of the family. Jessie’s father had raised Andrew here as his foster son when Chelsea Brady passed away. Jessie had married Andrew and raised Anthony here, Andrew the only father Anthony had ever known. Now Nick was adopting Anthony, the papers already filed and signed. He’d steer him into adulthood, freeing him from Gianni’s reign of terror.

It was fitting.

Gianni had killed Nick’s brother. Nick was raising Gianni’s son.

The monster had to be turning over in his grave.

*

Max Callaban’s car had been trailing Anthony ever since the boy left his home yesterday afternoon. Max had watched as Anthony climbed into a dark limo, driven by an athletic black man wearing a three-piece suit. Anthony had seemed overly friendly with the chauffeur. Since when did his son fraternize with the help? And when did Jessica hire a car and driver?

The limo had pulled in front of a luxury building on East Sixty-Second Street, the driver escorting Anthony into the lobby. Max and Carlo had returned to the high-rise this morning, just in time to see Anthony emerge with another young boy and a woman who looked like the boy’s mother.

Had Jessica farmed their son off on someone for the weekend so she could fornicate with the degenerate McDeare in private? Che cosa la scopata?

*

Anthony used to be thrilled to go to the movies with Eric Pemberton and his mom on Saturdays. He’d loved sitting in the dark theater eating buttered popcorn and drinking grape soda. He’d picture how he’d photograph things in the movie with the fancy old camera Uncle Nick had given him. It even used film.

But today he’d rather be playing soccer with Zane Harwell, his new friend at his new school. Besides, Anthony was too old to go to the movies with someone’s mom. Zane lived around the corner from the movies downtown, and his mom let him go with his friends.

What he really wanted to see was the cool movie about aliens. But instead they were seeing a stupid cartoon about a lion. Anthony shoved popcorn into his mouth and stared sullenly at the floor. He was too old for– Anthony froze. Someone was watching him. He could feel it.

Sliding up in his seat he peeked over his shoulder. No one was looking at him except an old lady, sitting next to a little girl. Anthony twisted around, trying to see everyone’s face. Mrs. Pemberton leaned forward and glared at Anthony.

Hunkering down in his seat, Anthony fingered a ring on his right hand that Uncle Nick had given him. It had belonged to his son Jeffrey. Anthony’s daddy Andrew had died and Uncle Nick’s son Jeffrey had died, but now he and Anthony had each other. They’d chosen each other for a father and a son. Gianni didn’t count, and he was dead anyway. Whenever Anthony was afraid, he touched the ring and felt safe. He knew Uncle Nick would always protect him.

On the walk home with Eric and his mom, Anthony still had the creepy feeling someone was watching him. Uncle Nick had told Anthony he’d enrolled him in his new private school with his new adopted last name—he liked printing it out in capital letters, ANTHONY MCDEARE—because Andrew Brady was a celebrity and in the news. That’s why the kids at the old school had teased Anthony—because he was Andrew Brady’s son, Anthony Brady. Uncle Nick and Anthony’s mom were celebrities, too, but it was Andrew Brady who was in the news the most because he was dead. Now Anthony was afraid he was a celebrity, too, even with a new name. Was someone following Anthony who knew about him?

Why couldn’t he be a normal kid with normal parents? Why did he have to have three dads when other kids had one or two? It made Anthony so mad sometimes. Gianni popped into his mind again. But Gianni was dead. He was being a baby.

Pushing his fear away, Anthony raced for the marble lobby of Eric’s apartment building, ignoring Mrs. Pemberton’s cries to slow down.

*

“Okay, hold it,” Quill Llewelyn shouted. Jessie watched the director sprint up the theater aisle and onto the stage. He clapped his arm around her. “Jessie, you have to fight those tears.”

“I’m sorry, Quill,” Jessie swiped at her wet cheeks. She was standing in front of a flag-draped coffin. Her character Christine had lost her precious son in the Vietnam War. But all Jessie kept seeing was Andrew’s coffin in real life. “I know what you want. I’m trying. I just–I keep seeing Andrew.”

“Look, honey,” Quill soothed in that lilting Welsh accent, “I know how hard this is for you. Let’s try it again, okay? If you see Andrew, use your grief. You want to be strong for Andrew, right?” Quill dashed back down the stairs, his long blond hair flying. He yelled over his shoulder to the rehearsal pianist. “Mimi, follow Jessie. If she stops and starts, just follow her.”

Her hands on her hips, Jessie paced in a tight circle. Andrew. Of course. Andrew had always fallen apart whenever Jessie cried. He never knew how to stop the tears. She’d hang onto that. Jessie looked at the coffin. Instead of seeing her husband inside, she pictured him on the other side, pleading with her to stop crying.

Taking a deep breath, Jessie inched towards the casket, eyes on the flag. Her voice quavering, she began the opening stanza of “Not This Boy, Not My Son” a cappella. Her voice cracked. She closed her eyes and filled her lungs with air. Focusing on the coffin, she launched into the second stanza, the piano accompanying her this time.

Kneeling in front of the casket, Jessie pictured Andrew’s eyes urging her to stay strong. Her voice steady, she smoothed out the flag as if she were straightening her son’s collar. Jessie spread her arms, trying to hug the coffin, trying to hug her son.

Her voice caught in her throat. Burying her face in the flag, Jessie balled it in her fists as she fought for control. When she lifted her head, her eyes drifted skyward. As she rose from her knees, she railed at God for taking her son, begging him to take her instead. Her voice was strong and full-bodied. As Jessie built the song, her voice intensified and rose to a crescendo, her world telescoping into the moment, into Christine Mackey’s skin.

When she finished, everyone in the theater broke into applause. Jessie blinked, back in the real world. Quill leapt onto the stage and hugged her. “You nailed it, Jessie. There won’t be a dry eye in the house. Now go home and sleep on your day off. In two weeks, we open.”

*

On a whim, Nick had ridden with Willie to pick up Jessie after rehearsal. The cast had recently moved from a rehearsal studio downtown to Dickason’s, producer Bill Rudolph’s theater complex in the heart of Times Square. Jessie’s musical was being staged in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theater, one of several in the modern arena.

Sitting in the last row of the darkened theater, Nick was amazed at how Jessie transformed onstage. The beautiful woman who was an endearing klutz in real life turned into a picture of fluid grace on the stage. Sliding down the seat, Nick had fought the image of his own lost son as Jessie sang an emotional song about her dead child. Jeffrey had died four years ago, but the ache was forever there.

The director brought the rehearsal to an end. Before Nick could reach the stage, Jessie’s leading man bounded up the stairs to her side. Josh Elliot looped his arms around Jessie, kissing her forehead. Nick halted, watching as Jessie dropped her head on his shoulder.

Spotting Nick, Josh whispered something to Jessie before moving away. She lifted her head and smiled at Nick. “What a nice surprise. How long have you been here?”

“Not long.” Nick stepped onto the stage.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Nick draped his arms around her from behind. “That song, Jess,” he whispered in her ear.

“You saw it? Oh God, it’ll be so much better.” Jessie whirled out of his embrace and said goodbye to Josh. “Come on,” she told Nick. “My bag’s in my dressing room. Let me show you around and then we can go home.”

While Nick followed Jessie into the stage wings, she gave him a guided tour, pointing out the scenery flats and turntables on stage right and left. With a single rotation a whole new room would revolve into view. Jessie showed him the stage manager’s booth, where the show would be called. Quick-change rooms were directly off both wings.

Jessie led Nick into the green room, the cast’s communal gathering place, before they headed down a smaller hallway to Jessie’s dressing room. Nick rambled around the cozy space, a mirror outlined in white bulbs on the dressing table. Blond wigs nested inside mounted open cupboards. A clothing rack ran along a wall, already holding some finished costumes. A framed picture of Anthony and another of himself sat on a side table next to a comfy couch. “No Andrew?”

“In the green room. I have to learn to go it alone now.”

“You’re not alone. You’ve got me. Always.”

“And I love you for it.” Jessie reached up and pressed her lips to his mouth. Drawing back, she said, “Let’s stop at Amoy for take-out and spend the night in bed. It’s our last chance before Anthony comes home tomorrow. What do you say?”

“I say you’re brilliant.” Nick reached into his pocket for his cell. “Peking Duck, sesame noodles, and spicy shrimp dumplings?”

“And scallion pancakes.” Jessie grabbed her jacket and dance bag. “And that yummy eggplant with the ground pork.”

Josh Elliot popped his Viking blond head into the room. “Jessie, just remembered. Don’t forget we have that interview with the Entertainment Channel Monday after lunch.” He winked at Nick.

Phoning in their order, Nick kept an eye on Josh. Was he that dumb, blond, and good natured, or was he good at acting that dumb, blond, and good natured?

He just knew he didn’t like the son of a bitch. And he bet he dyed his hair.

*

Clint Vaughn had tailed Nick McDeare from the brownstone to the theater. He was parked down the street in his beat-up Chevy, his eyes fixed on the stage door. The bright marquee lights over the theater kept attracting his attention.

JESSICA KENDLE & JOSH ELLIOT

IN

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

A WILLIAM RUDOLPH PRODUCTION

 

An hour later McDeare emerged with Jessica Kendle and climbed into the limo, stopping at a Chinese restaurant on East Fifty-Eighth Street before returning home. Clint double-parked half a block from the brownstone and speed-dialed Aldo. “I’m on McDeare. Looked him up on the Internet. He’s some hot-shot author.” Also vaguely familiar looking, and not from his book covers. The only thing Clint read was a racing form.

“He used to be an investigative reporter. A good one.”

“What’s this about?”

“The less you know, the better.”

“Bullshit. What’s this about?”

Aldo cleared his throat. “You know who Jessica Kendle is?”

“Hey, dumb fuck. I’m tailing them, remember?”

“Keep talking to me like that and you’ll end up as landfill.”

“Ooh, I’m scared.”

There was a pause before Aldo said, “The real father of Jessica Kendle’s son is going to abduct him New Year’s Eve, with your help. In the meantime, I want your eyes on McDeare.”

“I need more details.”

“Look them up on the Internet. Dumb fuck.” Aldo hung up on him.

Late that night Clint sat at his computer, slowly draining a bottle of scotch. It hadn’t taken more than one Google search to discover Gianni Fosselli was Anthony Brady’s biological father. The man had gone ape-shit and murdered Andrew Brady when he’d discovered Brady had kept him away from his kid. Two years later, Fosselli had been arrested and killed in an escape attempt.

Supposedly.

Fosselli had played everyone for a fool, courtesy of Roberto Martinelli. Chuckling, Clint turned out the light and crawled into bed. Martinelli had orchestrated a brilliant sting. No surprise. Roberto was one of the smartest men Clint had ever known. They went back a long way. Clint had saved his fat ass on more than one occasion.

Growing up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, Clint and Martinelli had been neither enemies nor friends. Both had had scrapes with the law, and both had kept their mouths shut. Later, Clint had joined the Marines, developing into a crack sharpshooter and sniper. Martinelli had become another kind of soldier, one who answered to organized crime, joining the Cappadore family. His skill had lain in his ability to get a job done without leaving a trace to the pile of corpses behind him.

Clint and Roberto had put their respective skills to common use more than once, to their mutual satisfaction. The two youths from Brooklyn had merged on the same path, their silent friendship a bond most people never understood. Clint didn’t like Roberto and he didn’t hate Roberto. He had too much money for his own good, but he’d trust him with his life.

As long as he played by the rules.

As for Aldo Zappella, Clint regarded him as an infinite source of amusement. Aldo took life much too seriously.

You let the good times roll, or you might as well be dead.

 

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