H Is For Homicide Page 22

He and Bibianna came off the dance floor. The band was taking a break and the noise level dropped so fast it was almost like turning deaf. I focused on Jimmy's face, knowing any minute he'd spot me and the recognition would leap in his eyes. The two of them sat down at the table, and Bibianna pulled her hair up with one hand and fanned her bare neck with the other. She was winded, laughing, the color high in her cheeks, her hair damp at the temples where the dark strands had separated into little tendrils. ’’This's the woman I was telling you about, came to look at my place,’’ she said to him, indicating me. ’’What'd you say your name was?’’

Jimmy's smile was polite as his gaze traveled from her face to mine. I held a hand out.

’’Hello, Jimmy. I'm Hannah Moore,’’ I said. ’’You remember me?’’

Clearly he did, and I knew from his look my real name was attached to the recollection. Whatever his current status, he was still too thoroughly trained as a cop to blow my cover. He smiled as he took my hand, dosing me with the same low-voltage se*uality he turned on Bibiana. He lifted my hand to his mouth, kissing my knuckle affectionately. ’’God, babe. How are you? It's been years,’’ he said.

’’You two know each other?’’ she asked.

He returned my hand to me reluctantly. ’’We were in grade school together,’’ he said without pause, and I felt myself flush with pleasure since that was the connection I cared about. The academy and whatever happened after that was the stuff of our grown-up years. The other had a magical quality that would always take precedence in my book.

He pulled a crumpled bill out of his pants pocket with a glance at Bibianna before his eyes returned to my face. ’’I need some cigarettes, doll. Can you do me that?’’

She hesitated just long enough to let him know her cooperation was a gift. Her smile was underlined with irony and the look she gave me was knowing. She tucked the bill between her breasts and walked away without a word. Jimmy's gaze traced a loving line up her legs to her hips. She was moving with the self-conscious thrust and sway of a model or a starlet, aware of her effect. She sent a slow smile back to him, puckering her mouth in a gesture that was half pout, half promise.

I felt a laugh bubble up. ’’I can't believe running into you this way,’’ I said. ’’How do you know Bibianna?’’

He smiled. ’’I met her in L.A. at a Halloween party a year ago. I saw her a couple times down there, then ran into her again up here.’’

’’I had no idea you were back. What have you been up to?’’

’’Not much,’’ he said. His eyes flicked across my face as he checked me out. ’’How about yourself? Last I heard you'd left the department and were working for some agency.’’

’’I was. I got licensed. Now I work for myself. Are you still with the L.A. County Sheriff's?’’

’’Not exactly.’’

’’What 'exactly'are you doing? Last I heard you were being tried for theft,’’ I said.

’’She's something, isn't she?’’ he said, avoiding my question.

’’What's the story, Jimmy?’’

He propped his chin on his fist, smiling at me with his eyes. ’’I'm retired. I sued the shit out of them - ten million bucks.’’

’’You sued them?’’ I said. ’’What about the charges?’’

My reaction seemed to amuse him and I watched him shrug. ’’I was acquitted. That's the way the system works. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. I'd been on medical leave, collecting disability for job-related pain and stress. Next thing I know, there's a bunch of us charged with conspiracy, money laundering, income tax evasion, God knows what else. They put us through hell and by the time I got from under that, all my benefits were cut and I was being asked to resign. Forget that. No way. I found a lawyer and filed suit.’’

’’After you were cleared?’’

’’Shit, yes. I'm not going to let them get away with that. The way they see it, I got off on a technicality. I was the only one acquitted, but I still did the whole nine yards the same as the others, so why am I being penalized twice? A jury said I was innocent.'

’’Were you?’’

’’Of course not, but that's not the point,’’ he said. ’’The prosecution had a shot at me and couldn't make it stick, so now I'm off the hook. Doesn't matter if I did it or not. Court says I'm clear, I'm clear. That's the law.’’

’’So they fired you?’’

’’In effect. What they did was they axed my disability. They decided I was trouble and they wanted me outta there, which is why they cut my benefits. Said I had an attitude. No way I was going to put up with that, so I sued their asses off. We just settled last week. Seven hundred and fifty thou. Of course, when the check comes through, my attorney's going to take his cut off the top, but I'm still going to end up with three sixty-five. My retirement fund. Pretty good, yes?’’

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