“She definitely did lie. It was definitely him. But I still don’t believe she was in on it. Or if she was, she’s one of the greatest actresses who ever lived. She was furious at him. She couldn’t wait to identify him. I told her she didn’t have to do it face-to-face, and she said she wanted to. No way was she working with him.”
“Owen, she was sucking his dick the other morning. How much deeper in with him could she be?”
“How do you know?”
“Well, maybe she did help him set it up, but I can’t see it. Maybe they got together afterward, like Stockholm Syndrome or something. Maybe that’s why she lied.”
“Where are you when it comes to finding him?”
“Nowhere so far. He’s like a fucking ghost. His driver’s license is for an address in Laveen that he hasn’t lived at in years, if he ever lived there. His name isn’t on any house deeds or rental agreement that we can find. His main hangout seems to be the Bikini Lounge, but he hasn’t been seen there in weeks.”
“At this rate, I’m going to have to take a stand against police corruption.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that if you and your counterparts in the Phoenix Police Department don’t shape up, I’m going to have to stop paying you. I already know where to find Sharpton. He’s been going to an English bar in Downtown Phoenix. He’s friends with the owner.”
“Somebody told me, of course. And it doesn’t really matter, because if we don’t find him there, I’m sure Linda can tell us where to look.”
“By the way, you’ll probably be getting a missing person report about Joel Billingsley, who was tending bar here. He’s disappeared. Just quit on me.”
“And he’s missing? Was he in on it too? Is that why this place smells like a slaughterhouse?”
“We only serve free range meat.”
L inda was in her apartment, applying for jobs online. When she heard the knock on her door, she opened it to find a man with the build of a football player and the manner of a cop, but she knew somehow that he was neither, and she didn’t try to stop him when he walked in. The man told her he worked for Mr. Casci. He showed her some pictures on his phone, and asked her if she recognized the person in them. At first, she hadn’t realized that the mess was a person. He told her to look closer. She did, and realized that it was Joel.
C asci sat on a stool in The Lost Leaf and talked with Ryan, who was tending bar. “Thanks again,” he said, handing Ryan an envelope heavy with hundreds. “Here’s a little present for you.”
“Thank you,” Ryan said. “I’m glad I could help.”
“Do you like working here?”
“Yeah, it’s cool.”
“I won’t ask what they pay you, but I think you’d find a better deal at my place. I could use someone like you, who takes care of his territory. Would you be interested in coming to Green Life?”
“Maybe,” Ryan said. “We should talk about it.”
“Some other night, we will. But I’m gonna cash out here now and head over to the Duck and Swallow. I hear there’s a good show there tonight.”
Ryan smiled and nodded.
M ark sat at his keyboard in the Duck and Swallow. The crowd was appreciative, and his tip jar was getting full. English Tony had wanted to spread the word that a reputed desperado was playing music in his bar, but Mark had persuaded him not to. He wasn’t sure about advertising his presence if he did more gigs there. If he just played to passing trade, he might be able to do okay with tips. The place had never gotten busy tonight, but there had always been enough people to be called an audience.
It was after midnight, and he was at the end of his last set. He found himself thinking of Linda, who hadn’t responded to any of the texts he’d sent her earlier in the day. He played “One for My Baby,”