Barnes & Noble.com
Brad Viking Books
Hollywood - In a town lousy with sleaze, one cop tries to stay clean. But every man has his price. Harlan McCoy's comes in the curvy shape of a bombshell named Lana...
A mystery that takes place among the seedy world of wannabes in Hollywood. A good cop gets tangled up with a sexy starlet with big ambitions. He has to choose between his code as a cop... and the woman who's never made him feel so alive.
Harlan watched the car pull up across the street. Slip under a silky veil of light from a street lamp. It draped the huge steel shape in menacing shadow. He squinted. A jolt of panic turned his stomach into knots. He tried to steady his hand as he took a swig of coffee.
Was he going crazy? It was dark, but he was sure that was the car. The ’41 Packard in his dream. Big bold headlights. Silver grillwork. Solid steel. Doomsday black.
A heavy-set man emerged from the car… strode toward the café. Harlan watched him as he crossed the street and entered. He paused in the harsh fluorescent light and surveyed the late night crowd. His eyes sized up each one like a pro. Who was a potential threat and who was an ally if things got ugly. Harlan knew right away this guy was a cop. But nobody local.
The man headed straight toward Harlan’s booth.
Harlan felt his pulse race. His shoulder snap. He opened his jacket… weapon at the ready.
The man bore down on him… rolling his weight with a slow side-to-side motion like he was negotiating the deck of a ship at sea.
As he got closer Harlan computed the details. Worn leather boots. Pale skin. Jowly moon face. Deep-set eyes. Thick hands. And under his coat… the tell-tale bulge of a weapon. Not just any weapon… a real ego-piece.
Harlan’s back went up. Outwardly he stayed cool. But inside he was a coiled viper.
The man stopped at Harlan’s booth. He rolled a toothpick across his lip.
“You Harlan McCoy?”
Harlan slid his eyes up slow and easy. Never let ‘em see you sweat. The man’s belly hung over his belt at eye level. Must be rural. Never make it as an L.A. cop.
“Could be. Who’s asking?”
The man slipped a brass star from his pocket.
“Earl Duke. Greenville County Sheriff’s Department.”
His head bobbed, annoyed at having to explain.
The words hit Harlan like a wrecking ball. He toyed with a fry to keep from blowing his cover.
“Long way from home. Looking for a job out here?”
“Looking for a fugitive.”
The man tossed a manila envelope on the table.
“Mind if I join you?”
Harlan’s mind was racing. This could only end badly.
Reluctantly, he nodded to the empty seat. The man squeezed his bulk into the booth.
“Been doing some police-work on a case. Brought me out to L.A. Sort of a busman’s holiday.”
An Ahab cop. Obsessed with a white whale 24/7. Just what Harlan needed.
The man opened the envelope… pulled out a dog-eared packet. Clipped to the top sheet was a photo.
Harlan felt his heart sink.
“Arson. Two people died in a meth lab explosion.”
His stubby finger landed on the photo like a bayonet.
“That makes it Murder One where I come from.”
There was a cold, merciless edge to his voice.
“Meth is a dangerous business. Volatile stuff. Dealers blow themselves up all the time.”
“True. Except for one thing.”
“There should have been three bodies in that fire.”
“Yeah. This Joe Buck. I knew him. Tough as beaver hide. Even while he was dying he had enough grit to leave a clue.”
“What was that?”
“Scrawled a name in the soot.”
He looked up, snapped the toothpick off in his teeth.
His finger stabbed the photo once again.
Harlan felt his shoulder begin to lurch. He covered it reaching for his coffee.
“She looks kind of innocent to me. Think this Joe Buck had an agenda?”
“Innocent? That little swamp bitch was a copperhead.”
“You seem to know her pretty well.”
His eyes went dark and distant… something there in the shadows.
“Yeah… I know her.”
He swiveled back into the fluorescent glare of the Starlite.
“Got a warrant to pick her up. Heard you might know her whereabouts.”
His cop eyes fixed menacingly on Harlan.
“Maybe doing porn now.”
Some people deserve to die. Harlan knew instinctively this missing link was one of them. A bully out of his schoolyard past. Harlan’s impulse was to plant the cold blue steel of his .38 right between the guy’s beady eyes right now. Pull the trigger. Blam. Twice. Save the world a lot of grief.
“Who told you I knew her?”
The man had been sniffing the sweet aroma of Harlan’s plate of fries. He needed a grease fix.
Harlan pushed the plate of saturated fat across the table.
“Knock yourself out.”
He watched with a sense of revulsion as the man stuffed handfuls of the greasy sticks into his mouth.
“You were working some O.D. case, right? They ran in the same circles.”
Good. He didn’t seem to know the extent of his connection to Lana.
“Still working that one. This is L.A. Stretched thin.”
The man nodded. The fries were disappearing fast.
Maybe his arteries will seize up right now, Harlan was hoping. Get this bloodhound off the scent.
Harlan reached for the photo.
“But I can keep this photo with me,” he offered. “Help me I.D. her.”
A greasy finger snapped down… pinned it to the table.
“Uh uh. Only one I got.”
Worth a shot. Now the photo at least had a big blob of grease on it.
Harlan picked up his tab, began to leave.
“Been a long night. Need some sack time. Good luck with your fugitive.”
The man gave him the cop’s once over. It was ripe with subtext. A moment of backwoods cunning versus big city street smarts.
“You’ll keep me in the loop then, right?”
Harlan took a step, paused, turned.
“That your old Packard out there?”
“Packard? Those went out with Dillinger.”
Harlan couldn’t hide the twitch in his shoulder. Earl mulled over its significance as he picked his teeth.
“Drive a Lincoln. Ain’t that old. Why?”
Harlan peered into the darkness outside. His mind was screwing with him.
* * *
As he headed down the 405 Harlan was already forming an exit strategy. He knew what he had to do now. It was now or never. The hounds were on the scent. It was the only choice left. He had to get Lana out of here fast. And screw the consequences.
* * *