Authors: Jessica Gadziala
"Heroin is an opiate, but it's part synthetic so you can't just extract it from poppy. It's made from morphine. So first you need to extract the insides from the poppy, dry the morphine so you can ship it, then chemically extract the heroin from the morphine."
"And you know that they aren't doing this because..."
"Because it's too much fucking work, Elsie. The biggest supplier of opium and morphine is Afghanistan. Do you know how hard it is to ship shit in from Afghanistan to the United States right now? Third Street isn't big enough to grease the palms they would need to to get that shit in here. And why bother when you can get a contact from Mexico or Columbia, fuck, even fucking Burma or Laos, to do the dirty work for you? You lower your overhead and your risk of getting found out. So, no, they're absolutely not making heroin in that warehouse on Kennedy."
She was silent for a moment, tapping her nails on her mug as she thought. They weren't fake nails, either, I noticed with a bit of surprise. They were short and shaped and painted a pale pink, but they were her own nails.
"Could it have something to do with the prostitutes?" she asked a minute later with a shrug that suggested she already knew the answer.
"Can't think of a reason why it would."
"All you are doing is nixing my ideas," she shrugged. "Got any of your own to throw around?"
"Babygirl, I don't know what you want from..." I trailed off as the doorbell chimed.
"Say 'saved by the bell' and I'll throw my coffee at you," she warned, clicking it down on the counter and moving over toward where she dropped her purse. I bypassed her, going to the door, taking the food and paying the delivery guy before she could even get her wallet out of her purse. "Hey what are you doing?" she asked as she walked up to me closing the door.
"Yeah, but this is my house."
"And that means I pay for the food."
"You have a dick?"
"I'm sorry?" she asked, her eyes almost going comically wide. Talk about how to make heroin and she doesn't even blink, use the word 'dick' and she gets the face of a school girl.
"Dick. You got one?"
She shook her head slightly as if to clear it. "Not the last time I checked."
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from commenting on just how long it had been since she checked. "Right. I got one. So I pay for the food," I said, brushing past her toward the kitchen.
I was putting the bag on the island when she came in, arms crossed over her chest. "That's incredibly sexist of you."
"My mother calls it chivalrous," I said, pulling out the takeaway containers and putting them on the counter. "You got plates?"
"Only if you want to wash them after you use them. I'm eating out of the containers," she said, going to a sliding drawer and pulling out utensils.
"You're eating out of the containers?" I asked, watching as she pried open the lids to the food.
"What?" she asked, leaning down and sniffing the chicken parm. "You've never eaten out of a takeaway container?"
"Yeah, baby, just didn't think you would have."
"Right," she snorted, rolling her eyes. "Money like me couldn't possibly know how to eat out of plastic. It's been all fine China and silver spoons for me. I hope you didn't order either of these exclusively for yourself, because we're sharing."
As if to prove her point, she stabbed some tortellini and started cutting up the chicken. "Knock yourself out," I said as she did just that, diving into the food like she hadn't eaten in a month.
"Don't look at me like that," she said, lowering her eyes at me. "I eat fatty stuff like this maybe once every two or three months. It's here in front of me and I have every intention of pigging out."
I held my hands up, palms out. "Babygirl, you stuff your face. Something sexy about a woman enjoying her food." To that, she choked on her mouthful, bringing her hand up so she didn't spit it out. "Drink?" I asked.
She waved me toward the wine rack and I moved to it, not bothering to hide my smirk. It was no secret I had enjoyed my fair share of women. More than, if I were being perfectly honest. It was rare that one genuinely surprised me. After growing up surrounded by women then spending my teens and adulthood successfully chasing them, it was hard to find one who threw me.
Elsie threw me.
She was simply a mess of contradictions. Rich girl who liked to eat out of takeaway containers, who had the money to get lasik but wore huge dorky glasses instead, who gave me bedroom eyes then went upstairs and eased her sexual tension then practically blushed when I used the word 'dick' or said it was sexy to watch a woman eat, who seemed straight up and down in every way that mattered but was getting herself involved with a fucking street gang.
I picked a bottle at random, opened it, and poured into glasses that were beside her sink like she used them recently and rinsed them out and left them to dry. Unlike her coffee mugs, her wine glasses apparently got used.
"Gonna save any for me?" I asked, pulling up a stool and sitting down next to where she was leaning over the counter steadily devouring both meals somehow simultaneously.
"Darwin," was her mouth-filled answer, her hand up masking her lips.
"What?" I asked as she reached for her wineglass and took a long sip.
"Survival of the fittest. It isn't my fault you're weak," she said, putting her wineglass down with a clink and diving back in.
Not more than ten minutes and maybe six bites later, the food was gone, mostly into Elsie's body. She finally reached out for a stool and pulled it up to sit on as she topped off her wine.
"So you have no clue what the warehouse is for, aside from telling me it's not to make heroin or store prostitutes."
"Right," I agreed. "And you're not going to tell me why the fuck you're sticking your pretty little nose in street gang business."
"Right," she agreed with a small nod.
"So that's it?" I guessed, at a loss for how I could get her to tell me anything more than what she had already.
"That's it," she agreed, standing, making it clear dinner was over. "I'll walk you out," she said, turning and walking off toward the front room, leaving me very little choice but to follow behind. She had pulled the door open and was standing off to the side. "Thanks for the chemistry lesson and dinner."
I felt my lips tip up and nodded, moving out onto the front step before I changed my mind and swung back around, pushed inside, and pressed her up against the door in her entryway. My hands went to her hips, my thumbs spanning across her stomach as my head dipped down.
"Listen, Elsie. I get it if you have some shit you're in and you think you need to handle it on your own. But don't get yourself in too deep without back-up. If things look like shit and you need some help, find me, okay? I don't want to read it in the society pages that you got yourself killed because you were too fucking stubborn to ask for help." My fingers dug in, pressing her harder against the wall as her mouth fell slightly open. "Got me, babygirl?"
Her lips pressed together and she swallowed hard. "Ah, yeah. I got you, Paine," she agreed with a small nod.
"Good," I said, trying to force my hands to let her go, but all they did was sink in harder as they lifted upward, bringing her up onto her tiptoes as she gasped. My lips crashed onto hers hard and fast before I tore myself away and threw myself outside, slamming the door behind me before I turned around, stormed back in and fucked her right there in the open doorway.
The next day went as follows: got up, didn't think about the kiss, got dressed, didn't think about it in the shower, got to work, didn't think about it during coffee breaks, set up an appointment with the Barrett guy, didn't think about it while stopped at the god damn red lights on the way to said appointment...
Yeah, so Paine kissed me.
One minute, I was walking him out the door. Everything was chaste, calm, somewhat normal. The next second, he had me pinned against the wall, his strong hands on my belly and holding on tight, pulling me almost off my feet. And, let me tell ya, for a tall girl, that was quite a feat. Then he was offering me backup if I needed it.
And then his lips were on mine.
I felt it down to my freaking toes. My toes. Like a middle-school girl getting a kiss from the most popular boy in school. It went through my whole system, pinging rather intensely at the nerve endings between my legs before it journeyed down.
Then not more than five seconds later, I was collapsing against the wall without his hands holding me up. The door slammed and my hand moved up to press into my lips that felt electric from the contact.
That was just what my under-utilized sex drive needed.
It goes without saying that I did a really bad job not thinking about that kiss. Never mind that it was barely even a kiss, just a meeting of lips. No motion, no tongues, no nothing. But, regardless, it was effective. And it was impossible to not think about.
So as I parked my car across from the police station and climbed out, I was thinking about it. Which was why it didn't immediately strike me as odd that the PI had his office across from the NBPD. But as I beeped my locks and rounded my car to look at the building, well, the strangeness started to settle in. Because not only was it across the street from the police station, but it was completely windowless and the door was a simple white wooden one. I use the term 'white' loosely here. It had, at one time, presumably, been white. In current times, it was more... brown thanks to what looked like mud smatterings all up the front of it. The only way you'd know there was an office there was because there was a small plaque under one of the windows that said Barrett Anderson Investigates.
On a loud exhale that sounded a lot like second-guessing, I reached up to knock on the cleanest part of the door that was well above eye-level as I reminded myself that there was always the Sawyer guy to fall back on if the Barrett guy turned out to be a flop.
I waited, shifting my feet for a second as I looked over my shoulder toward the eerie alley to the side between Barrett's 'office' and the Chinese food place next door, the smell of broccoli, garlic, and soy sauce making my stomach growl in anger.
There was shuffling inside the office, the sound of several things crashing to the floor and sliding across it, a soft curse, then the door flew open.
And there was Barrett Anderson.
And I was pretty sure I needed to put out a call back to the Sawyer guy.
Because Barrett looked like a mess. He was in his late twenties, tall and lean in an almost underfed kind of way, with shaggy brown hair, warm brown eyes behind glasses that looked eerily similar to the ones I wore the night before around Paine, pants that were a shade roomy and a thick gray sweater with brown elbow patches. Yes, elbow patches. And a dark blue beanie.
Okay. I was being a snob.
Maybe he looked homeless because he was an uber-genius or something. You know, smart people were known for being rather absentminded about normal, every day tasks like haircuts and... eating proper meals. The clothes, well, some guys just genuinely didn't know anything about what did and did not go together, let alone what was and was not in fashion.
All the awful clothing aside, he was actually pretty good looking. A good couple square meals to get some meat on his bones, he would actually be really attractive in a sort-of hipster kind of way.
"You ready?" he asked, giving me quick eye contact before turning away and disappearing behind his office door.
Alright. Not having great social skills wasn't unusual either if he was smart.
I took a deep breath, shook my head slightly, and followed him inside, closing the door at my back.
Yeah, well. If you ever stopped to consider what the office of some of the great writers in the twentieth century before computers were a thing looked like, offices like Bukowski or Salinger might have inhabited, yeah, that was what Barrett Anderson's office was like. Meaning it was a small room with a simple black office desk and chair with a chair for visitors and a hip-level office cabinet on the side. But every single surface was stacked with books, with paperwork, folders. The walls had newspaper clippings, online printouts, pictures, and handwritten notes pinned with colorful thumbtacks to above my personal eye level.
Barrett was already behind his desk, shuffling papers that made the five or six discarded coffee cups sitting on top of some of said stacks of paper wobble ominously.
As I walked toward the guest chair, I immediately rethought my impression that Barrett was the tech-savvy guy his website implied. Because, well, he didn't even have a
in his office. No computer, laptop, fax, phone... nothing. How the hell had he even made the website in the first place?
"Not what you were expecting?" he asked, reading my expression with a small smirk.
"Where's your computer?" I blurted out as I sat down.
"What do most people think is the most valuable thing in their houses?" he asked, but it was rhetorical because he went on with barely a pause. "High end jewelry, the TV, stereo system... no. It's your computers and laptops. If I broke in, I wouldn't even have to steal it. I could just use a zip drive with some specific malware on it, stick it in the USB port, let it do its thing, pull it back out, and I have access to every password to every bank website, investment website, 401K website you have ever visited. I also have all the dirt on everything you've ever looked at online. A computer should never be left out where someone else could access it for even a couple of seconds."
Well. Didn't I kind of feel like an idiot?
"But the paper trail you have here?" I asked, waving a hand around.
"Take a closer look," he invited, nodding toward the paperwork on his desk.