The mark in a cocoa colored suit stepped out of the Bridgeport Bank into the bright sunlight. He leaned against the doorway and slipped on a pair of shades. I adjusted my binoculars to enjoy the view. My eyes wandered south over his hard athletic frame. This man was eye candy and I’d been craving some sugar since I started surveillance three long days ago.
He jogged across the street, past my Honda to the parking lot. I ditched the binoculars, propped a weekly tabloid in front of my face and whispered into the recorder.
“4:03 Wednesday. Subject exited bank stuffing a wad of bills in his money clip. Question: Is he meeting person of interest tonight? Using cash to avoid a paper trail?”
I stretched my neck and peered over the magazine. The man shrugged off his jacket. His silk shirt hugged an impressive chest. I watched him open the door, ease his fine ass on creamy leather, and roll away in a shiny black Porsche Boxster.
“Wednesday, 4:06 p.m. Subject left parking lot. Heading north on Archer.” I fired up my silver Accord and shadowed after him.
The hot guy in the Boxster is Chance Savino. A.K.A. the lying cheating bastard who’s married to my client Rita Savino. I met Rita last week when she burst through my office door, electric blue eye liner rolling down her cheeks. Her plump face was stuck in that dreaded ugly cry, convinced her “no good husband” had his hand up someone else’s skirt.
That’s where I come in. My name is Cat DeLuca and I’m a private investigator. I don’t snoop for insurance companies and I won’t find your lost Uncle Harvey. I do what two years of unholy matrimony taught me. I catch cheaters.
I trailed the black Porsche as it bulldozed across town. Rush hour had started early and traffic slowed to a standstill. I cranked up the stereo and blared my horn with the rest of Bridgeport. I wanted to wrap this job up and go home to a bottle of wine. I had my own personal meltdown to attend to.
Next week I turn the big three-oh. And to top it off I don’t have a date for my own party. The guys I meet in this business are not the type you want to go out with. If they were I’d still be married to Johnnie Ricco, the two-timing - wait make that six-timing-cheating bastard. Unfortunately the only sex I’m seeing these days is through the lens of a camera. And trust me, in this business, sex is not a spectator sport.
A collision on Loomis and 31st blocked the intersection. I crept through the gridlock tailing the hot guy off 35th until he jerked to a stop in front of an abandoned building.
The windows were dark and a weathered, sun-bleached sign grew out of the tall grass. It said FOR LEASE. I parked half a block back in the shade of a birch tree and pulled out my high powered specs.
I got a close up of Savino’s dark wavy hair and broad shoulders. He stretched back in his seat and laced his fingers behind his head. My client’s husband was waiting for somebody but it wasn’t his afternoon delight. This deserted office building was no hotel no-tell.
I ducked behind my scandal sheet and relayed the subject’s position into my recorder. Pushing back my seat I raised my legs, wrapping them around the steering wheel. I do a lot of surveillance and I can usually wait longer than most people can be good.
My Honda is an arsenal of cold pizza, Mama’s cannoli, and Tino’s Deli sausages. The sausages are for my sidekick, Inga. She’s an overgrown, energetic beagle and she rules the backseat. I tossed her a sausage and snagged myself a cannoli. Cannoli is an Italian pastry. It soothes like Sex On The Beach, with or without the alcohol.
Something vibrated in my jeans and Hank blasted Your Cheating Heart. I dragged my cell phone from my pocket.
“Pants on Fire Detective Agency,” I said. “We expose Liars and Cheats.”
The voice grated like nails on a chalkboard. “Tell me the truth, Cat. Is my husband sleeping with his secretary? Cuz I’ll kill that hoochie.”
It was a fair question and one half a dozen clients might ask. But the voice was a dead giveaway.
“Call me Cleo.”
“Your husband is not sleeping with his secretary, Cleo. Did he mention his secretary is sixty three years old?”
“He’s a liar!”
“And a cheat. Your husband is sleeping with your sister.”
She gasped. “My sister the lesbo?”
“No, your sister the ho. Come by my office later for the pics. And there’s something else.”
“There’s more? You’re killing me!”
“Your husband plans to leave you. He’s funneling funds to an offshore account.”
For the first time since meeting Cleo she was stunned to silence. “There must be a mistake.”
“No mistake, girlfriend. The man is sucking you dry. I have the account numbers for your lawyer.”
The voice squawked like a cat skimming hot coals. “We never had this conversation. Destroy the evidence and forget I hired you. When I kill the bastard it’ll look like an accident.”
I shoved the last bite of cannoli in my mouth. “My lips are sealed.”
My eyes wandered across the street to the black Porsche and I shrieked like Cleo. My eye candy wasn’t in it. I swept the street with binoculars. How could this happen? But I already knew the answer. It was the voice - that crazed Cleo voice that threw me off my game. There was no call for Cleo’s husband to cheat on her, but why he didn’t choke the squawking life out of her while she slept is beyond me.
My passenger door jerked opened and a giant blue eye filled the lens of my binoculars. I screamed and untangled my legs from the steering wheel.
“Looking for someone?”
I dropped the spy eyes and checked Rita Savino’s husband with a professional eye, tripping briefly over the baby blues and lean hard physique. He smelled musky and clean and his short cropped hair was the color of dark chocolate. His skin was tanned to a soft caramel and the yellow silk shirt fit him like melted butter. Liar, liar, I reminded myself and dabbed the drool from the side of my mouth.
“You’re in my car,” I said frostily. “Get out or my dog will attack.”
Inga licked his ear as the cheater helped himself to a cannoli.
“Hey. That’s my supper.”
“You’ve eaten two already.”
“Have not,” I lied and licked the powdery sugar from my lips. “I’m calling the cops.”
“Good. Then you can tell them why you’ve been following me all day.”
“I didn’t spot you at first but I smelled your donuts. They gave you away.”
“They’re not donuts. They’re cannoli and I’ve been tailing you since Monday.”
His brow arched in surprise. “You’re good. But your donuts are better.” Savino slurped the last lick of cream from the cannoli and winked. “So, who’s paying you to tail me?”
I flung a business card and he read aloud. “Pants on Fire Detective Agency. We Expose Liars and Cheats.”
He glanced over. “You’re Caterina DeLucky?”
“It’s DeLuca. I’m Cat and that would make you the Liar and Cheat.”
“You’re not serious.”
“Your wife is. She hired me.”
“Ha!” He followed with an eye roll.
“Did you think you fooled her? You have all the classic signs of a wandering husband. You don’t wear your wedding ring away from home, you sniff around other women’s donuts, and you drive a Boxster. What is it, Chance? A mid-life crisis or a need to compensate.”
“I like the car. It performs well.”
“And you don’t?”
“Do you want to find out?”
It was my turn for the eye roll.
“Do you have a picture of this woman I’m rumored to be married to?”
“I don’t need her picture. I’ve got yours.”
His eyes fell to the file on my lap and he snagged it before I could stop him. “Not a flattering photograph.”
“Your wife must like it. She gave it to me.”
He scrunched his lips. “Look at this picture, DeLucky. It’s not something a wife would have of her husband. It was taken on a street somewhere without my knowledge. Your client isn’t my wife. She hired you to check me out.”
I snatched the file back. “You flatter yourself, Chance Savino. Your wife filled this form out. She describes your height-6’4, weight-190, eye color-bro…”
I stopped short and closed my eyes. His were cobalt blue.
“I’m glad you noticed. Yours are the color of emeralds.”
My skin felt hot and I drew in a breath. Chance Savino was everything I hated in a man. Unfaithful, a player, and God knows what else. But damn he was hot.
“Blue, brown, what’s the difference,” I flashed back. “Your wife made a mistake. A woman forgets things when her husband does the horizontal hula with somebody else.”
“Ha! You’re hilarious. When do you meet her again?”
“Thursday at Marco’s. It’s Lady’s Night. Two for one margaritas.”
He pulled a bill from his wallet and my mouth dropped. I didn’t know President Cleveland had his own money.
“This is a retainer. I don’t know what this woman’s game is but I want you to find out. She’s probably a business competitor but don’t take any chances. Don’t let her know you’re on to her.”
My voice raised an octave. “I’m not on to her, I’m on to you. As far as I know, this could be Monopoly money.”
He stepped from the car, leaned in the window and winked. “Wait here, DeLucky. I’ll be right back.”
Chance Savino moved like hot smoke. He sprinted toward the vacant building with the For Lease sign. For a suspended moment my mouth gaped and my eyes fixed on his hard muscular frame.
“Wait!” I screamed and jostled the door open. A box of cold pizza fell to the floor. I hightailed it out of the car and dashed after him, yanking up the straps of my sling backs as Chance Savino disappeared inside the building.
“Hey, I’m not taking your money!” I chased after him at a dead run.
I was two steps from the door when the earth rocked and the building exploded. The sound was deafening. I flew out of my Dolce & Gabbana’s and was hurled backward in a raging blast of glass and debris. Heat scorched my lungs and the words FOR LEASE whirled at my head. I crashed into darkness with the strange sensation of breaking into 500 Monopoly pieces.