Convincing Alex. Nora Roberts
pushed the buzzer for 110, waited, then hit 305. The answering buzz released the inner door. “People are so careless,” he commented. He could feel Judd’s nerves shimmering as they climbed the stairs, but he could tell he was holding it together. He’d damn well better hold it together, Alex thought as he gestured Judd into position, then knocked on the door of 212. He knocked a second time before he heard the cursing answer.
When the door opened a crack, Alex braced his body against it to keep it that way. “How’s it going, Jesús?”
“What the hell do you want?”
He fit Rosalie’s description, Alex noted. Right down to the natty Clark Gable moustache and the gold incisor. “Conversation, Jesús. Just a little conversation.”
“I don’t talk to nobody at this hour.”
When he tried to shove the door to, Alex merely leaned on it and flipped open his badge. “You don’t want to be rude, do you? Why don’t you ask us in?”
Swearing in Spanish, Jesús Domingo cracked the door a little wider. “You got a warrant?”
“I can get one, if you want more than conversation. I can take you down for questioning, get the paperwork and do the job before your shyster lawyer can tap-dance you out. Want a team of badges in here, Jesús?”
“I haven’t done nothing.” He stepped back from the door, a small man with wiry muscles who was wearing nothing but a pair of gym shorts.
“Nobody said you did. Did I say he did, Malloy?”
Enjoying himself, Judd stepped in behind Alex. “Nope.”
The building might be lower-middle-class, but Domingo’s apartment was a small high-tech palace. State-of-the-art stereo equipment, Alex noted. A big-screen TV with some very classy video toys. The wall of tapes ran mostly to the X-rated.
“Nice place,” Alex commented. “You sure know how to make your unemployment check stretch.”
“I got a good head for figures.” Domingo plucked up a pack of cigarettes from a table, lighted one. “So?”
“So, let’s talk about Angie Horowitz.”
Domingo blew out smoke and scratched at the hair on his chest. “Never heard of her.”
“Funny, we got word you were one of her regulars, and her main supplier.”
“You got the wrong word.”
“Maybe you don’t recognize the name.” Alex reached into his inside jacket pocket, and his fingers brushed over his leather shoulder harness as he pulled out a manila envelope. “Why don’t you take a look?” He stuck the police shot under Domingo’s nose and watched his olive complexion go a sickly gray. “Look familiar?”
“Man.” Domingo’s fingers shook as he brought his cigarette to his lips.
“Problem?” Alex glanced down at the photo himself. There hadn’t been much left of Angie for the camera. “Oh, hey, sorry about that, Jesús. Malloy, didn’t I tell you not to put the dead shot in?”
Judd shrugged, feigning casualness. He was thinking he was glad he didn’t have to look at it again himself. “Guess I made a mistake.”
“Yeah.” All the while he spoke, Alex held the photo where Domingo could see it. “Guy’s a rookie,” he explained. “Always screwing up. You know. Poor little Angie sure got sliced, didn’t she? Coroner said the guy put about forty holes in her. You can see most of them. Poor Malloy here took one look and lost his breakfast. I keep telling him not to eat those damned greasy Danishes before we go check out a stiff, but like I said…” Alex grinned to himself as Domingo made a dash for the bathroom.
“That was cold, Stanislaski,” Judd said, grinning.
“Yeah, I’m that kind of guy.”
“And I didn’t throw up my breakfast.”
“You wanted to.” The sounds coming from the bathroom were as unpleasant as they get. Alex tapped on the door. “Hey, Jesús, you okay, man? I’m really sorry about that.” He passed the photo and envelope to Judd. “Tell you what, let me get you some nice cold water, okay?”
The answer was a muffled retch that Alex figured anyone could take for assent. He moved into the kitchen and opened the freezer. The two kilos were exactly where Rosalie had said he’d find them. He took one out just as Domingo rushed in.
“You got no warrant. You got no right.”
“I was getting you some ice.” Alex turned the frozen cocaine over in his hands. “This doesn’t look like a TV dinner to me. What do you think, Malloy?”
By leaning a shoulder against the door jamb, Judd blocked the doorway. “Not the kind my mother used to make.”
“You son of a bitch.” Domingo wiped his mouth with a clenched fist. “You violated my civil rights. I’ll be out before you can blink.”
“Could be.” Taking an evidence bag out of his pocket, Alex slipped both kilos inside. “Malloy, why don’t you read our friend his rights while he’s getting dressed? And, Jesús, try some mouthwash.”
“Stanislaski,” the desk sergeant called out when Alex came up from seeing Domingo into a cell. “You got company.”
Alex glanced over toward his desk, seeing that several cops were huddled around it. There was quite a bit of laughter overriding the usual squad room noise. Curiosity had him moving forward even before he saw the legs. Legs he recognized. They were crossed at the knee and covered almost modestly in a canary-yellow skirt.
He recognized the rest of her, too, though the tough little body was clad in a multihued striped blazer and a scoop-necked blouse the same color as the skirt. Half a dozen slim columns of gold danced at her ears as she laughed. She looked better, sexier, he was forced to admit, with her mouth unpainted, her freckles showing, and those big green eyes subtly smudged with color. Her hair was artfully tousled, a rich, deep red that made him think of a mahogany statue his brother had carved for him.
“So I told the mayor we’d try to work it in, and we’d love for him to come on the show and do a cameo.” She shifted on the desk and spotted Alex. He was frowning at her, his thumbs tucked into the pockets of a leather bomber jacket. “Officer Stanislaski.”
“McNee.” He inclined his head, then swept his gaze over his fellow officers. “The boss comes in and finds you here, I might have to tell him how you didn’t have enough work and volunteered to take some of mine.”
“Just entertaining your guest, Stanislaski.” But the use of the squad room’s nickname for their captain had the men drifting reluctantly away.
“What can I do for you?”
“You’re sitting on a homicide,” he told her.
“Oh.” She scooted off the desk. Without the stilettos, she was half a head shorter than he. Alex discovered he preferred it that way. “Sorry. I came by to thank you for straightening things out for me.”
“That’s what they pay me for. Straightening things out.” He’d been certain she would rave a bit about being tossed into a cell, but she was smiling, friendly as a kindergarten teacher. Though he couldn’t recall ever having a teacher who looked like her. Or smelled like her.
“Regardless, I appreciate it. My producer’s very tolerant, but if it had gone much further, she would have been annoyed.”
“Annoyed?” Alex repeated. He stripped off his jacket and tossed it onto his chair. “She’d have been annoyed to find out that one of her writers was out soliciting johns down at Twenty-third and Eleventh Avenue.”
“Researching,” Bess corrected, unoffended. “Darla—that’s my producer—she gets these headaches. I gave her a whopper when I