As a boss, Murphy isn’t a hard task master. I actually like the guy, which is rare for me. We usually met once a month at different locations or more often if I happened to be at his headquarters, which was New York. I was back at base for a change, after several months on the road, a welcome change. I love New York in the summer, but then who doesn’t? He’d invited me over for a barbeque. It was his way of saying thanks, I suppose. I’d met his wife a couple of times, a short-haired, tall virago with a strong Brooklyn accent. And very, very smart.
“Hiya,” I greeted her, giving her a hug. I nodded distantly at Murphy, who grinned at me with a twinkle in his eye. “Where are the kids?”
Chloe Murphy snorted inelegantly. “No longer kids. No longer home. One’s at university – Niall’s at Columbia and Cara’s at a community college. They hardly visit, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
“Who’s that?” I jerked my head in the direction of a tall, ugly woman in her late thirties or early forties. Okay. That’s not very nice of me, I know. But this woman wasn’t beyond plain. Her nose, for one thing, was large and pointy. And she was basketball champion tall.
“One of Murphy’s friends. Come. I’ll introduce you.”
I toddled over behind Chloe, pretending an interest I didn’t feel. “Hello,” I murmured, extending my hand politely. “Randi Moffat.”
The woman’s grip was firm, her voice deep, with a snooty upper-class accent. “Evelyn Bishop. Pleased to meet you.”
“Randi works for Murphy.”
Technically untrue, but I let it pass.
Evelyn Bishop turned to Murphy with a raised eyebrow. “Is she the one that you …?”
Murphy nodded. “We’ll talk later. Let’s eat first. I’m famished.”
My curiosity was aroused, biding my time making idle small talk as we wolfed down chops and steak buns straight from the grill. My only grouse was that there were no onion rings, but I kept mum. At least there was cold beer. I wasn’t driving, my Camaro in storage after being shipped from the west coast after my last assignment. Who drives in New York, anyway?
We went inside into Murphy’s study. Chloe hung back. She was curious too, but the couple had a rule about business and personal divides. Made sense. But I’ve never been married and don’t really know what rules work and those that don’t.
Murphy cleared his throat. “Eve’s pregnant.”
Was that supposed to explain why he was telling me this interesting if ultimately useless piece of information? I’m no OBGYN. Nor a private dick for that matter tracking errant boyfriends.
“The father’s a grifter. Took Eve’s savings and left her – um – holding the bag, so’s to speak.”
Evelyn looked shocked. “I beg your pardon!”
My lips curved in amusement. “What do you do, Ms. Bishop?”
“I am a woman of independent means,” she declared with a haughty smile. When my eyes continued gazing persistently at her, she sighed. “I’m a widow. My husband – god rest his soul – left me with large inheritance. Phil – I met him at a charity ball – seemed very nice. We started dating. One thing led to another and he moved into my place. I got pregnant. I know that I’m a bit old for that, but one is never really too old, if you follow my drift?”
“What do you want from me?” I directed my question to Murphy.
His eyes shifted uncomfortably. “Er – find this guy, get Eve her money back.” He named a figure that made me whistle softly.
“Is that all? No cops?”
“No. Eve wants this to be handled with the utmost discretion.
Of course, she does. I gave Evelyn an appraising glance. “You’re still in love with this motherfucker, aren’t you?”
“How dare you?”
“He’s a fucker and you’re about to become a mother as a result. So? Are you or aren’t you?”
Her cheeks turned a bright red. “That’s none of your business.”
“In other words, yes.” I sighed. Not exactly my cup of tea, but a change of pace after getting battered in Seattle would be nice. “My usual commission, plus ten percent. Take it or leave it.”
“Ten percent?” Her voice grew shrill, which for a deep contralto, wasn’t saying much. “Ten percent?”
“Yup. Take it or leave it.”
“She’ll take it.” Murphy interjected with a nervous glance at his friend.
“Fuck, yeah, she’ll take it. It’s ninety percent of your life’s savings or nothing.”
“Do you really have to swear?” Evelyn asked peevishly. “If we’re to be working together, then we’ll have to establish some …”
“Listen, lady. I’ll say this once. I need information from you. Lots of it. After that, I may have some follow-up questions, but we are not working together. Get it?” She nodded, licking her lips, her eyes growing moist. I felt a guilty twinge. I suppressed it ruthlessly. Rule number one. Never get personally involved. I suppressed another twinge of guilt. I’d broken that rule once or twice. Never a good idea. Exceptions proved the rule, didn’t they?
“Please. I just want my money back. I’m done with him.” Tears were streaming down her cheeks now.
I sighed again. If I had my doubts earlier, I was pretty sure now. The uppity bitch was in love. And it might pose a problem. I was right the first time. Keep her as far away from the grifter as possible. Shouldn’t be too hard.
“I need to speak to Murphy alone. If you’re free after, you and I need to have a long chat. Work for you?”
She nodded and fled, still sobbing.
“You were a bit hard on her, don’t you think?”
I glared at Murphy. “How do you know her?”
His reply was prompt. “Her brother went to university with me.” His eyes shifted slightly. Realization dawned. Fuck!
“Jesus. You dated her, didn’t you? Fucked her too? Does Chloe know?”
He shook his head, giving me a sheepish grin. “It was a long time ago. Ancient history.”
“I thought you had better taste.” Chloe was a looker. Not as attractive as me, of course. Even at fifty, Chloe could turn heads. “Fucking cradle-snatcher! Was she of age?” I didn’t really care. Murphy wanted a favor. He wasn’t going to gripe.
“She was better looking then,” he snapped defensively. “You’d be wise to show some respect.”
I gave him a mock salute. “Yes, sir. Absolutely, sir. Three bags full, sir.”
I grinned at him. We’d been through the wars, Murphy and I – a lifetime ago, it seemed. I knew that he didn’t mind. Not really. “I’ll get to work. But if she comes back to you crying like a baby, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m not handling her with kid gloves. It’ll do her some good. Last thing you need is her Chloe getting a whiff.”
“Just don’t push her over the edge, will you, Randi? As a favor to me?”
I gave him a grudging nod. I could be sensitive when it was required. Really.
I found Evelyn chatting animatedly with Chloe in the kitchen, no signs of a tear-ravaged face. Marvels of modern makeup no doubt. I jerked my head at her. She murmured an excuse to Chloe and joined me on the picnic table in the backyard.
“Okay. Let me have it. Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out.” I pulled out my phone and started the recorder, which seemed to be strangely fascinating to my new client.
“Well, as I told you, I met Phil Connors at a …” she stopped, glaring at me as I started laughing. “What’s so hilarious?”
“Phil Conners? Haven’t you ever seen Groundhog Day?” She gave me a blank look. “The movie? Bill Murray and Andie McDowell?” She shook her head. “Sorry. I’ll explain later. Go on.”
She sniffed. “I don’t watch movies much. I prefer the theatre. Or the opera.” I nodded encouragingly. Figures, I thought privately. “He’s tall, good-looking in an elegant sort of a way. Seemed a bit bookish. Professorial, if you get my meaning.”
“Elbow patches, glasses and so forth?”
She nodded. “Well, he seemed really shy after asking me to dance. He said that he didn’t have any friends. Even the charity event ticket was a gift from the dean who couldn’t make it. Later, we exchanged phone numbers. Then, I ran into him at the opera. He was alone. So was I. We got talking. And …”
“Whose idea as it was to move in?”
She frowned. “I’m pretty sure it was … I suggested it. I’m sure. He did say something about his apartment going condo and not being able to afford …” Her face contorted. “It was a lie, wasn’t it?”
“I’m willing to wager that you never saw the inside of his apartment. It was too messy. Or he had a roommate. Something or the other. Right?” She nodded miserably. “Fair enough. Do you have any photos of him?”
“No. He hated being photographed. I’m not exactly a millennial, always on one’s smartphone, do you know? And I … well, I didn’t mind being discreet either. This was a bit new for me. It’d been, oh, I don’t know, a few years since I’d dated after my husband died.”
“Who was a lot older than you, I’m guessing.”
She shot me a look of suspicion. “Are you sure that you don’t know me from somewhere?”
I grinned. “Just clever guesses. Relax. I don’t know you from Adam. Or Eve.” I giggled at my own joke, while Evelyn continued to look miserable. “Oh, and by the way, how did your husband die?”
It was one word–a sad one at that. “Cancer.”
“Say no more. I’ll need access to your bank accounts – all of them. A duplicate key to your place and the address. And a word to your super – I’ll want to check video surveillance footage. I suggest that you go on a holiday someplace nice. Did he leave you with enough money to survive?”
She nodded, looking embarrassed. “More than survive. I have an offshore account that he didn’t know about.”
Rich bitches. They were all the same. I still felt sorry for her, though. After all, she was pregnant with the asshole’s baby. “Leave me your phone number so I can contact you. And Evelyn?”
“I’ll find him. That’s my job. Your job is to relax and stay out of New York. Go someplace you’ve never been before and unlikely to go. A place you’ve never discussed with Phil Connors. Do you know of a place like that, or do you want me to recommend a few?”
She shook her head. “I know just the place. I’ll make the necessary arrangements as you requested and leave in a week’s time. And Ms. Moffat?”
“Call me Randi, please.”
“Randi, then. Thank you. I really appreciate what you’re doing for me.”
“Thank me when it’s done. With a bank transfer. Or, if it works out, I’ll deduct it from the money I get back for you. Alright?” She nodded.
I said my goodbyes to Chloe and Murphy and headed for the subway.
Finding grifters was like panning for gold. It was all about looking in the right place. And even then, you needed luck, patience and time. Plenty of time. First, however, I needed to do my research. Evelyn was pretty prompt in providing me the access required. The bank accounts told me next to nothing. The money had been transferred to an account in the Cayman Islands. Big surprise there. That was as good as a black hole. I needed to find the fucker first. Then twist his arm until he coughed up the money. I relished the latter. The former was grunt work. I got busy.
Finding a usable photograph wasn’t easy, but I managed in the end. No matter how hard one tries, it’s virtually impossible to escape being photographed unless one has lived in an enclave in the middle of nowhere and never moved. Like an Amish settlement. Or an island. Moving around in New York – theatres, the opera, subways, even streets where the wealthy lived, meant zero privacy. Phil Connors–I had no other way of addressing the grifter until I discovered his real identity–was good but couldn’t possibly have been clever enough to completely avoid detection. At least, that was my reasoning. The super at exclusive condo was no pushover, but Evelyn had laid the groundwork well. I took extra care, wearing up in a pantsuit of the occasion, dark glasses and my bounty hunter ID – New York requires me to carry a license. As it happened, he didn’t ask to see it, allowing me access to the surveillance footage. Armed with dates and times of his entry, I set about my task. Phil Connors was good. He wore a hat most times while entering and exiting the building, covering most of his face. I downloaded several images into my laptop under the watchful gaze of the super. I then found a nearby café, armed myself with a coffee and hacked into their security system. It was dead easy. Again, he’d been careful, but I managed to get a hundred or so partials – various angles, various bits and pieces. The eyes were missing in most of them, but that didn’t particularly bother me. I had a description from Evelyn, which was all that I needed.
It was painstaking work. Two weeks later, I emerged triumphant, sending the composite that my computer program had created and sent it off to Evelyn for confirmation. I warned her not to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, where she was going. It was unlikely that Phil would set after her, but sensible precautions couldn’t hurt. I got a thumbs up as a response. Time for phase 2. The most boring bits were almost done.
Xander Griggs came from Greek ancestry, changing his last name to fit in. I knew him from my days at the agency. He wasn’t particularly happy to see me, but then again, we’d parted on bad terms. Or rather, I’d ghosted him after a fun weekend at The Vineyard.
“What do you want?” was his blunt greeting. His eyes gave him away, eyeing me hungrily.
I fiddled with my visitor’s badge, drawing his attention to my not inconsiderable cleavage, licking my lips for added emphasis. “Why can’t I be here simply to see you?” I argued. “It’s been – what? – a couple of years?”
“Four. And do give me that crap. I repeat, what do you want?”
“I need to use your facial recognition program of yours.”
“It’s not mine. It belongs to the agency and it isn’t available for public use, especially riffraff that walk off the street.”
I gave him my best hurt expression, rounding my eyes. More lip licking. “Oh, Xander, sweetie. I really missed you. You’ve spoilt me for other men. Can you blame me? You’re too much man for me. That’ what it is.”
He snorted. “Pull the other one.”
“Alright,” I sighed. “What do you want in return.”
“Seriously, Randi, I can’t let you use it. Period. Sucks, I know. You’re not an agent anymore. On the other hand, if it’s an active case …” His voice trailed away suggestively.
I shook my head. For a brief moment, it was extraordinarily tempting, but had I lied, Xander might’ve just gotten pissed off enough to arrest me. It was illegal to lie to a Fed. Oh, alright. About important stuff. Not about why I’d ghosted him. “It’s a grifter I’m chasing after he conned a client of mine. No active case, as far as I’m aware. I don’t even have a name. An alias, which I doubt he’s used before or will use again. But my client doesn’t want to press charges.”
“Client? Last I heard you were a licensed bail enforcement agent.”
I preferred the more colorful bounty hunter term, but I let it pass. “It’s a favor for Murphy,” I revealed reluctantly.
“Ah. I see. What’s the alias? I’ll run it for you.”
He started laughing. Soon we were both lost in paroxysms of mirth. Xander, though not exactly a Greek God, had a passable sense of humor. After a quick search, he shook his head. “You’re right. No dice.”
“I have a composite,” I murmured, sliding my hand up his thigh suggestively, fluttering my eyelashes at him for added effect.
He looked furtively around to see if anyone was paying us any attention. “Two dates. Or one weekend, like the last time.”
An hour later, I practically skipped out of the building, a sheaf of papers in one hand and a flash drive in the other. Bingo. I had him. Or at least, I thought I had him.
Phil Connor’s real name was Iain McGregor, a third generation American of Scottish ancestry. He actually went to university and dropped out after being caught running a scam on a number of wealthy students of both sexes. He was jailed for some of them, serving time – not much though. At least, his fingerprints were on file. I wasn’t sure how to use them, but I did have them, along with photographs in a variety of disguises. After his release, he simply dropped off the face of the earth. Several sightings, a list of possible marks and their woeful tales accounted for the rest of his file. The last sighting was the one I had. That was the good news. The bad news was that he didn’t favor any particular type of scam. Iain McGregor was an equal opportunity con artist with no discernable patterns. Then again, no one had attempted to decipher one. I got to work.
Two days later, I was ready to tear my shoulder-length hair out. There was no pattern. I’d underestimated Iain McGregor. I briefly considered simply hacking into his accounts, then dismissed the idea. For one, I wasn’t all that much of a hacker. CCTV systems were one thing. A bank’s layered security systems were an entirely different kettle of fish. I could always hire one, but that carried its own set of risks. Besides, finding the fucker was fast becoming a challenge. My Moby-dick, so’s to speak. Grim analogy, I know. I didn’t want to die in my own trap.
I decided to go on my promised date with Xander with a view for pumping him for more ideas. It wasn’t really a date. I called him up, fixed a time and showed up at his apartment. After we had sex, I watched him light a cigarette, wrinkling my nose.
“Do you really have to do that?” I grumbled, padding to the bathroom for a wee. On my return, I discovered that he’d obligingly stubbed it out. “Last time we met you weren’t a smoker.”
He shrugged. “Just the occasional puff, now and then. What do you really want, Randi? We both know that you didn’t call simply to keep your side of the bargain.”
I grinned unashamedly. “Can’t get anything past a genius G-man, can I?” I teased him. “I’m drawing a blank with our Phil Connors.”
“He’s out our anything,” he pointed out bluntly. “He’s your target. Okay, let’s have it. What do you have so far?”
I gave him an update on what I’d done. “The only pattern that’s consistent is that he never goes back to a mark, ever. No matter the temptation. Locations across the States from East to West – no favorites. An assortment of cons. He’s no computer expert – so online scams are out. Steals only as a last resort, which is why his raiding Ms. Bishop’s bank account is an anomaly. He’s not on any social media.”
Xander sighed. “I have a friend in Homeland Security. We can run the composite you gave me through their databases. That’s the best that I can offer.”
I nodded, acknowledging his offer. “Aren’t the Feds interested in him?”
He shrugged. “None of his marks have pressed charges, your client included. The only ones we have on file are because of concerned friends and relatives filing a report with local law enforcement agencies. He’s small fry, Randi. And, as you’re already aware, all his marks can afford their losses, so there’s no big hue and cry over his crimes.”
“Oh, alrighty then. I’ll wait to hear from you after you run the composite through Homeland’s database.”
I started getting dressed, when he tugged at my hand with a reproachful look. “Aren’t you spending the night?”
I shook my head. Taking pity on him, and considering that he was helping me, I slipped off my briefs. “One more go, and then I’m leaving. Okay?” I didn’t wait for his answer, reaching between his legs.
A week later, I got a call from an anxious Evelyn Bishop.
“I’m sorry, hon,” I informed her after the usual pleasantries. “I don’t have anything to report. I am making progress, though.”
“I’m rethinking this whole business,” was her staggering declaration. “Perhaps it’s best left alone. I … I don’t really care about the money. I wanted to speak to him again, maybe even see him one last time. He has a right to know that he’s going to become a father.”
“You’ve decided to keep the baby, have you?”
“There was never really any question about it. It’s my only memory of Phil. I just want him to get the chance to … b-be a f-father.”
I could hear quiet sobbing on the other end of the line. I waited for the sniffles to die. “Evelyn, I do understand. Let me … give me another couple of weeks. I’ll find him and get him to meet you. I can’t promise, of course. He’s not easy to find.”
“Owen said that you’re the best.”
“That’s awfully sweet of him, hon, but if a man doesn’t want to be found, then it’s well-nigh impossible. He could’ve left the country. I’ll know soon enough if he has.”
“Oh, well. Keep me posted. Send me regular updates, even if it’s nothing.”
“Oh, and before I forget, did you find out his real name? You said that Phil Connors was an alias.”
“No, I didn’t,” I lied. “I do have the composite which you’ve verified as being him. I’m running that through all the known databases.”
Though there wasn’t much else for me to do, I decided to call Murphy, ostensibly to give him an update. I filled him in, both with my interactions with Xander, minus the saucy bits, and my conversation with his Midtown maiden-in-distress. You see, bitches, I can be alliterative too.
“Why didn’t you tell her his real name?” was his only query after I was done with my spiel.
“Obvious reasons. I don’t want her off on her own, looking for him, taking out ads or something equally asinine. I want you to talk to her. Set her expectations. Ask her to move on. You know.”
“Beginning to care, are you, Randi?”
I snorted. “For fuck’s sake, do you really believe that? I don’t give a rat’s furry little ass what happens to that bitch or her equally uppity offspring. If she does something stupid, you’ll come running to me, won’t you? I’ve already wasted time, money and … used up favors to do this for you. I need to draw a line somewhere.”
“Two more weeks. Then you’re free and clear. I’ll have a word with Eve.”
To pass the time, I explored the first of two avenues left to me. I started visiting all the haunts from his past, before he’d become a conman. He had no family. His parents had died in a highway pileup when he was a teen. He was an only child, so no siblings to track down. I wandered the corridors of his high school, looking for yearbooks and teachers who might remember him. It appeared that his teenage was nondescript. Probably just honing his skills. No one seemed to remember him. His college days, on the other hand were more notorious. I even found a couple of professors who’d had affairs with him while he was still a student. They didn’t admit it, of course, but I could tell by the way their eyes warmed to the mention of his name. Unfortunately, it gave me nothing of value.
On the off chance that he may have abandoned protocol and revisited his marks, I checked them out. I was incurring expenses that I could barely afford, but there was something driving me. An unfathomable force. Was I really feeling sorry for Ms. Highfalutin-goody-two-shoes? Murphy may have a point, I ruefully acknowledged to myself.
It was after I’d returned from my last trip, I received a courier from Evelyn. It was for a ticket to a charity ball run by the same charity. There was no accompanying note, but I figured that she must’ve contributed again. Fucking fat cats! When will they ever learn? I splurged on an evening gown, wondering if I was out of my mind, wasting money on a dead-end assignment.
I spotted him almost immediately. He hadn’t changed his appearance much, although he was dressed in a tux instead of professorial elbow patches. I watched him covertly from under my eyelashes, biding my time. He wasn’t mingling, nor had he asked anyone to dance. When he made his way to the open bar, I sidled next to him, doing my fluttering eyelashes maneuver. He didn’t even give me a second glance.
“Come here often?” I queried in my best Emma Stone impression. I couldn’t pull off Evelyn’s deep huskiness, which I belatedly acknowledged was attractive in its own unique way. But it was worth a try. All I received was a pitying look. I tried again. “Looking for someone in particular?”
This grabbed his attention. He nodded. “She isn’t here.” There was a sadness in his tone. He’s a grifter, I reminded myself. Not bad looking, but he wasn’t trying very hard to sweettalk anyone. Not yet anyway.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“It’s an open bar,” was his dry reply.
“I didn’t mean here.” To his cocked eyebrow, I murmured, “My place. It isn’t too far.”
His eyes raked me dispassionately. “You’re a lovely lady, no doubt. But I’m not looking for …”
“Neither am I,” I retorted, moving closer. I laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. “I’m Billie Jean, by the way. And you are?”
“Phil Connors,” was his startling reply.
I couldn’t help reacting, my jaw dropping and eyebrows arching. His eyes narrowed with suspicion. In for dime, in for a dollar. I went for broke. “My friend, Evelyn Bishop, gave me her ticket. Mentioned you, as it happens.”
“I was hoping to run into her. Do you know where I can find her? I went to her apartment. I was told that she’s on vacation. Didn’t tell me where she’s gone.”
“If you come back to my place, I might just give you that piece of information.”
“How is it that you know her?”
His question took me by surprise. My not inconsiderable experience working undercover, however, came to my rescue. “I’m a close family friend to a college buddy of hers.” Stick as close to the truth as possible. “We met at a barbecue. Hit it off immediately.”
“Oh. I don’t know about going back to your place. You see, Billie, I am not looking for a relationship or even a fling. I do, however, desperately want to get in touch with Eve.”
“Tell you what,” I offered. “Let’s go back to her place. I have the key. We can talk some more.”
I was desperately buying time. If he disappeared, there was no way to track him. To my delight, he nodded, escorting me courteously. He was the quintessential gentleman, flagging a cab, opening the door for me, and solicitously making sure that I was comfortable. I texted the super, informing him of my plans so that he wouldn’t kick up a fuss. I also texted Evelyn, asking her to head back. Finally, I sent Murphy an update. Phil Connors aka Iain McGregor had very little to say on the short journey.
After we got inside, I poured him a glass of wine, getting myself a beer. It was the fancy kind, a brand I hadn’t heard of and tasted kinda funny, but gulped it down, considering my options.
“How do you know Eve?”
“We were going to be married,” he revealed, sighing. “Then, I went and did something really stupid. I left her high and dry. Cold feet, I suppose.”
“What about the money?” I asked. Eve, as my friend, would’ve confided in me for sure.
“I needed it desperately. Short term loan, if you prefer. I’m ready to return it to her. If she’ll have me back.”
My phone buzzed. There were two messages. One from Evelyn, several smiley faces, a couple of teary ones and a thumbs up. The other was from Murphy, asking me if I wanted the Feds involved. I texted him back with a no.
“You have her account details. Transfer the money back and I’ll arrange for Eve to return. But there’s one more condition. I’m going to be there too, when you meet her. You really hurt her, Phil.”
“And for that, I’m deeply sorry. But I’m not transferring any money until I see her.”
We stared at each other. Deadlock. He sipped his wine. I chugged down my beer and went for another. When I returned, he had a gun in his hand, pointed at me.
“Who are you really?”
“I told you. I’m a friend.”
“What’s her favorite color? Her favorite Opera? What does she like to eat?”
I licked my lips nervously, moving closer. “We aren’t that close. So? What’s the big deal? And why are you pointing that gun at me?”
“Let’s just call it a wise precaution,” he informed me with a small smile. “I seriously doubt that you’re Eve’s friend. Did she hire you to find me? What are you? Private investigator? What’s your real name? It’s not Billie Jean, is it?”
I sighed resignedly. “The name’s Randi Moffat. Bail Enforcement Agent, actually, licensed to practice in New York. And you’re Iain McGregor, wanted in several states for fraud and theft.” I hesitated. “Including by the Feds in New York.” I crossed my fingers, hoping that the bluff would work.
“Feds?” he scoffed. “I’m willing to bet no one has even pressed charges. Least of all Eve. She’s in love with me.”
There was no arguing with his last statement, but I did have an ace up my sleeve. “There’s a file on you. I have a friend in the FBI. I can even tell you the name of the agent in charge of your case. How do you think I found you? Or your real identity?”
He gave me an expressionless stare. He was a cool customer! “ID, please.”
I showed it to him, using the excuse to move even closer. Ridding him of his gun would be dead easy. I wasn’t really scared. He wasn’t going to shoot. If he had wanted to kill me, he would’ve done so by now.
“Alright. You’re telling me the truth about your identity. I’ll grant you that. Maybe your friend in the FBI exists too. However, I happen to know that there are no outstanding warrants out for my arrest, neither in my real name, nor any of my aliases. I check regularly. That part about the file could be true. All you’re interested in is the money. Did she promise you a recovery fee?”
I was ready to give up. There was one last throw of the dice left. “If you don’t return the money, I can get Eve to press charges. Trust me on that. She’s pretty pissed. Or haven’t you heard the saying–hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?”
His eyes lowered. I moved fast, knocking the gun out of his hand and smacking him across the face. He put up a fight, but it wasn’t much. Minutes later, I had him strapped down to a chair with zip ties that I happened to carry around.
The gun was in my hand now, pointed squarely at him. I knew for damned certain he couldn’t be sure if I’dshoot.
“With your record, I could easily claim that you coerced me back with to this apartment with your gun. We struggled for it after you tried to rape me and … with my credentials, the investigation would be a short, cursory one at best.”
“You’ve got me,” he jeered. “What are you going to do now? Phone a friend?”
“This is no game of who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire, Iain. May I call you Iain? It is your name, after all. First, I want you to transfer the dough. Now. No bloody excuses. I have a phone you can use, even if you don’t have one. Or just give me your account password. I already have your account numbers.”
“I’m impressed. Alright. Let’s do it.”
It was an hour later when Evelyn showed up, teary and tired, but happy to see her darling Phil Connors. She glared at me reproachfully when she noticed his bust lip and zip ties, before raining kisses all over his face. Next, she got the first aid kit out.
“What did you do to him?” she snapped, tending to his injury.
“First, I want my commission. The money’s back in your account.”
“In due course. I want a word with Phil.”
That earned me a startled glance from the hustler, a slow smile forming on his face. “Eve, I came back for you. I’m truly sorry for all the money I stole.”
“So?” I derided. “You freely admit it? Even if you’ve made restitution, that’s still grand larceny. It’ll only go towards mitigating circumstances towards your sentencing at your trial.”
“I don’t want him to go to jail,” Evelyn protested. “I’ve told you so countless times.”
“That’s not your call, Ms. Bishop. There are many other victims. Marks to your darling Phil. And what about the other women he’s conned after you? What about them? Don’t they deserve some justice?”
“I haven’t seen a single woman after I left you, Eve. That’s the god-honest truth.”
“Am I supposed to believe you?”
He glared at me. “I’m not talking to you. I’m addressing Eve.” He gave her a beseeching look. “I’ve returned the money. All I want is you.”
My phone buzzed again. It was Murphy, wanting to know what to do with the men he’d arranged to surround the apartment. I called him.
“Give me some more time. Evelyn’s here. They’re talking. He’s spinning some sort of a tale, but I’m not sure if she’s buying it.”
“Alright. But it’s costing money, Randi. And it’s coming out of your commission.”
Evelyn turned to me. “Can’t you untie him? You have the gun, don’t you?”
“Not until I’m satisfied that he’s not a danger to you. And, as I’ve said, you give me my money. I’ve held up my end of the bargain, haven’t I?”
“Which you couldn’t have if I hadn’t sent you the ticket,” she pointed out with irrefutable logic.
“Be that as it may, Ms. Bishop,” I began heatedly, when she held up her hand. She whipped out her phone and made the transaction with some prompting from me.
“Okay. You have your bloody money. Now, can you please untie him?”
I reached for my phone again. “I’m calling the Feds. Get ready to make a statement.”
Expectedly, her eyes filled with tears, rounding in agony. “You promised,” she wailed. “I love him! I’m going to have his child and …”
There was no mistaking the ecstatic whoop of joy from Iain McGregor. “Child? Mine?” he whispered. “Truly? Oh, Eve! I love you too! I don’t care if I have to go to jail. You’ll wait for me, won’t you?” He turned to me. “Do your worst, Ms. Moffat. I’m ready to face the music. I’ll make a full confession, and restitution to the extent I can with the money that’s left over. Just untie me so that I can kiss the love of my life.”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell, Mr. McGregor,” I spat. “And this playacting isn’t fooling me one tiny bit.”
Actually, he was getting to me. Both of them were. She slipped onto his lap, cradling his face, kissing him all over. I felt tears sting the backs of my eyes.
Evelyn pleaded, “Can’t you see that he’s being sincere? Haven’t you ever been in love? Can’t you reconsider? Just remember to think twice before you ruin both our lives.”
I retrieved the flash drive from my purse. “Do you have a computer?” When they both ignored me, I prompted the woman impatiently. “Eve?”
She nodded, slipping off his lap. “Why do you need it?”
“He’s promised restitution. I have a list. If he gives the money back, I’ll consider letting him off the hook.”
Outside, the night was cold. Murphy’s men had gone home. I was alone again. I hadn’t felt lonelier in my life. Phil Connors. What a fucking irony!