Following Jason’s lead, I reached into my coat, pulled out my Glock, and aimed it at the intruder, who slowly and deliberately raised his hands in the air. For a tense few moments, it was like a mime’s deathbed — quiet, awkward, and nobody seemed to know just what to say. The silence was finally broken, however, by a familiar voice — a woman’s voice.
“With all the testosterone swimming around this room, I’m afraid a girl could drown.” The voice came from the hallway, outside the door. “Can I come in, or is one of you boys gonna put a slug in me?”
The question was obviously meant to be rhetorical, as the dame sashayed her way in without waiting for an answer. I lowered my piece, but kept an eye trained on her big bodyguard.
As she moved further into the room, her eyes slid over Jason with obvious disdain and came finally to rest on me.
“Why, Charlie Booth, whatever are you doing here?” Her eyes didn’t show the slightest hint of surprise.
Before I could answer, Jason broke in. “I could ask you the same question, honey. I put the alimony check in the mail last week, so I’m guessing this is a social call.” Jason had lowered his weapon, but there were daggers in his eyes.
Denise ignored him completely and glanced down at the gun in my hands. “Still compensating, I see. How’s Mary doing? Still trapped and tragically unsatisfied, I imagine.”
“Get out, Denise.” It was clear from the ice in his tone that Jason had had quite enough. “I don’t have the patience right now. If you’re looking for a handout, you’ve picked a hell of a time.” Jason stood up and paced to the window. “I’m cleaned out. Haven’t had anyone walk through that door up until Charlie, a few minutes ago.” His voice was getting steader by the minute, but a slight stagger in his step still betrayed him. Jason was always good at powering through, but given the amount of Scotch left in the bottle on his desk, I wagered he had some stiff opposition.
Denise finally turned her attention to Jason. “I’m not here for a handout. I’m here…” Her voice caught for a moment, and I could see the false bravado drain out of her for a moment. Only a moment, though, and then the steel was back in her eyes. “I”m here because I need your help.” She reached into her handbag, pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with handwriting on both sides. Paperclipped to the back of the paper were two polaroids. She held the bundle at arm’s length with one velvet-gloved hand.
Jason turned and regarded her with a suspicious eye, but made no move towards the piece of paper. Hell, I was surprised he was still standing.
“Charlie, be a pal and get that for me, yeah?” He made a motion towards the note with his head.
Still keeping one eye on the bodyguard, I slid over to Denise and pulled the note from her hand. She let go of it almost gratefully and I dutifully ferried it over to Jason.
Jason grabbed the paper, braced his back against the wall, and began to read. I could see him mustering all his focus.
I was impressed. When I drank as heavily as he apparently had, I couldn’t read for shit.
When he finally finished, he took a quick glance at the two photographs. Then, after a long minute, Jason dropped his hands to his side. He looked at Denise, then at me. “Charlie, our guests have outstayed their welcome. Would you be a pal and show them out for me? Maybe give them directions to the police station, I think they got themselves confused.” His voice was stony, but betrayed a slight hint of helplessness.
Coming from Jason McAllister, that scared the shit out of me.
I was about to do as he asked when Denise finally broke down. The steel slid from her eyes and was quickly replaced by a river of tears. “Jason, please.” Her voice was soft, her desparation palpable. “I know you two never saw eye to eye, but he’s everything to me! And if you can’t find him, or if I can’t come up with fifty thousand dollars by tomorrow night, he’s going to die!”