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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31





Chapter Thirteen

            Somehow Madison got through Sunday. After her long walk she returned to her apartment to find that Michael had not answered any of her written questions.

            'I can't deal with this writing shit,' he said. 'Ask me anything you want.'

            So she did, and hated sitting next to him listening to him trying to explain. He rambled on about how special Gloria was, how he'd definitely find pictures for her to see. But when it came to revealing details about why Gloria had been shot, he immediately began fudging. 'It was a small gambling debt,' he said, stony-faced. 'That' all.'

            'They killed my mother over a small gambling debt?' she said, staring at him in disbelief.

            He nodded, and refuse to look her in the eye.

            'It must have been bigger than you thought, ' she said, studying him carefully.

            'Who remembers? It was a long time ago.'

            'Jesus, Michael,' she said, her voice rising. 'You're not giving me much information. Aren't I entitled to know?'

            'I'm telling you everything I remember,' he said sharply. 'I owed money, they threatened me. I thought I had Gloria protected, and then they.shot her.'

            'Who's they?' Madison asked accusingly.

            'People,' he said evasively.

            'What people?' she demanded.

            'A gambling syndicate.'

            'Run by?'

            'Who the fuck knows.'

            Madison was eager for details. Obviously he wasn't prepared to reveal them. Who else knew the story? Who could she ask? Maybe Stella. After all, her so-called mother owed her an explanation.

            'Where can I reach Stella?' she asked abruptly.

            'I have no idea,' he replied, his tone hardening. 'She called me once, didn't say where she was. If you track her down I'd like to know.'

            After a couple of hours of getting nowhere, she informed him she was tired and told him to go home. 'When will you come see me?' he said.

            'Where?'

            'In Connecticut.'

            'You're staying in the house without Stella?'

            'Haven't decided.'

            'I need more time to digest all of this,' she said wearily. 'You're hardly telling me anything. I don't even know what my mother looked like.'

            'She was beautiful, like you,' Michael said. 'I'll do my best to find a picture.' Instinctively she knew he wouldn't.

            After he left, she took Slammer for another marathon traipse through the park, her mind flying in a thousand different direction. What else was Michael hiding? He'd stonewalled her on everything she'd asked. She'd learned nothing about her mother. Just that Gloria was this mysterious twenty-one-year-old girl who'd been shot. A girl with apparently no relatives, no family at all.

            Later in the day Natalie called her back from L.A. Madison wasn't in the mood to confide long distance -especially as she was still getting over the effect of the Halcion, which had made her groggy and bad-tempered. She listened as Natalie carried on about all the celebrities she'd recently interviewed, and what assholes some of the young actors were. 'Simply' cause I'm up there in from of a camera,' Natalie complained, 'they think I'm all theirs. But, girl, I got news for them. They can take their arrogant little cocks and shove'em elsewhere.'

            'The important thing is you like what you're doing better than your last job,' Madison said.

            'Yeah, I gotta admit that.'

            'Then that's good.'

            'When are you coming out here again?' Natalie asked. 'I miss you!'

            'I'm seeing Victor tomorrow. Maybe one of his brilliant ideas will bring me back to L.A.'

            'Let's hope it doesn't go down like last time.'

            'Yes, that was a nightmare,' Madison said, remembering Salli T. Turner, the TV blonde who'd been murdered the evening after she'd interviewed her.

            'Hey, at least it made fantastic copy,' Natalie said cheerfully. 'You wrote the crap out of it - did Salli proud.'

            'Thanks.'

            'So what's going on in the love stakes? You seeing anybody?'

            'Like who? Madison replied sourly. 'They're all morons.'

            'You're in a good mood. Is this your I-hate -men week?'

            'How about you?' Madison said, ignoring the crack. 'No time,' Natalie said. 'I'm working my ass off on the new show.'

            'What's your co-anchor like?'

            'An older guy who is not thrilled to be working side by side with a black woman. And no way vas friendly as Jimmy Sica.'

            'I guess that means he's not lusting to get into your pants.

            'Right!' Natalie said, laughing. 'He's another married one. Besides, he'd sooner be sitting next to Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer. Now them he could lust after!'

            'I guess you miss working with Jimmy?'

            'Ah, yes, he was my favorite married cheater. Always on the prowl.' 'His brother Jake called me.'

            'No shit? You were kind of into him, weren't you? Only he was busy running after that hooker, Kristin something or other.' 'Thanks for reminding me.'

            'Well, it's the truth.'

            'Okay, I'll call you in a couple of days,' Madison said. 'Hopefully I'll have some news about my plans. Believe me, I'm in the mood to get away.'

***

            Her doorbell rang at ten o'clock the next morning. 'Damn!' she said, almost tripping over Slammer on her way to peering through the peep-hole.

            An exceptionally tall person stood in the hall. She opened the door. 'Good morning,' the tall person said. 'I'm Kimm Florian. We have an appointment.'

            Slammer went into attack mode, growling viciously.

            Madison dragged him away by his collar.

            Kimm Florian was a broad-faced Native American woman dressed in plain khaki slacks, a brown sweatshirt and running shoes. She wore no makeup and her jet black hair was plaited in a long braid down her back. She was not fat, merely large boned.

            'Oh,' Madison said. She'd been so distracted that she'd forgotten to cancel the appointment. 'I'm so sorry- I meant to call you.'

            'Problem?' Kimm said, standing there - an imposing presence.

            'My friend changed her mind,' Madison said, thinking that Kimm Florian looked less like a private detective than anyone she could have imagined.

            'She did?'

            'Sorry.'

            'Not your fault.'

            Feeling guilty that Kimm had made the trip for nothing, Madison invited her in. 'Can I offer you a coffee, orange juice or something?' she said.

            'Water will be fine,' Kimm said, entering the apartment.

            'You don't look like a private detective,' Madison remarked.

            'Not?' Kimm answered, with the glimmer of an amused smile. 'What's a private detective supposed to look like?'

            'I dunno,' Madison sadi vaguely. 'Don Johnson or something .'

            'I'll see if I can summon up some of that stubble.,' Kimm said drily, sitting on the couch. 'The good thing about me is that nobody ever suspects I'm watching them.'

            'That's good,' Madison said, fetching a bottle of Evian from the kitchen and handing it to the tall woman.

            'Tell me about your friend,' Kimm said.

            'Well, uh, she was suspicious of her husband for about five minutes, then she realized she was making as mistake.'

            'Women never make mistakes,' Kimm said knowledgeably. 'Instinct is everything. The first time a woman suspects her husband is screwing around, she's right.'

            'How do you know that?'

            'A hundred and fifty cases later I should know. Your friend will require my services. Maybe not now or next week, but she'll definitely be calling me again.'

            'You seem pretty sure.'

            'What test?' Madison said, humoring the woman.

            'Have her go to his wallet, take a look to see if he keeps a condom in it. Most men do, you know.'

            'Not married men.'

            'You'd be surprised.'

            'Okay, she goes to his wallet, and to her amazement she discovers a condom. What then?'

            'She marks the corner of the packet with a small dot. Then a week later she checks out his wallet again to see if the same packet is still there.'

            'What will that prove?'

            'If there's no dot, it's a new packet. And .if he's not using condoms with her ..'

            'That seems awfully simple.'

            'It's the simple things that trip'em up,' Kimm said, with a knowing nod.

            'Really?' Madison said, and then she had a brilliant idea. 'Do you track people down?' she asked. 'You know, look into their past? Can you go back like twenty-nine years and find out about someone?'

            'Certainly,' Kimm said.

            'There's a man and a woman I'd like you to investigate.'

            'Give me their names and all the information you have on them.'

            'It's not much. The woman's name is Gloria Delagado. She was involved with a man called Michael Castelli. Apparently she was murdered. Shot.'

            'Isn't Castelli your name?

            'Uh..yes.'

            'Is Michael a relative?'

            'He's my father.

            Kimm looked at her shrewdly. 'You want me to find out about your father?'

            'Yes. I want to know everything about him, because I have this horrible feeling that I don't know him at all.'

            'I can take care of it for you,' Kimm said. 'But you should be aware that if he's not giving you the information you need, you might not like what I discover.'

            There was something reassuring about Kimm. She was strong and sympathetic, yet at the same time she exuded confidence. Madison had faith in her. 'I know,' she said. 'Go ahead and find out everything you can.'

*****

            By the time Madison arrived at the office it was past noon. Victor greeted her with a hearty pat on the back. 'I have exactly two things to say to you,' he said, his voice louder than ever. 'And you, young lady, will like both of them.'

            'Don't call me young lady,' she said irritably.

            'Why?'

            'It's patronizing.'

            'So sorry,' he huffed, not sorry at all.

            'Run it by me,' she said, all business.

            'You've never interviewed a boxer, have you?'

            'No.'

            'There's a big fight coming up in Vegas. Antonio "The Panther" Lopez versus the champ, Bull Ali Jackson. I think the Panther's a fascinating subject.'

            'That's' cause you're a guy. What about our female readers?'

            'You'll get into the personal aspect of his life, the same as you always do. You know, his women, clothes, social activities.'

            'Is he married?'

            'No. He's had three children with three different women, and he's only twenty-three. Is that interesting enough for you? The fight is in Vegas in six weeks. You'll be ringside.'

            'Ringside!' she said disgustedly. 'Who wants to watch two assholes beating the crap out of each other?'

            'You do. It'll be exciting.'

            'Sometimes you're such a guy, Victor. Do you really think that's what excites women?'

            'I know what excites women,' Victor said dourly. 'A new mink coat winter. It certainly turns Evelyn on.'

            'Haven't you told her that wearing fur is politically incorrect?'

            'I've told her till I'm speechless. It makes no difference. She still expects me to buy her a new fur every year.'

            'Don't,' Madison said sharply. 'You're supposed to be supporting the cause. What would you do if somebody threw a can of paint over her?'

            Victor couldn't help smiling. I'd slip them a reward,' he said, cluckling to himself. 'A big reward.'

            'So, you want me to go to Vegas?'

            'How do you feel about that?'

            'Not too bad I was hoping to get away.'

            'Why?'

            'Just because .'

            'You look tired,' Victor said, peering at her. 'is everything all right?'

            'Why wouldn't it be?'

            'Another long, lonely weekend?'

            'I do not have long, lonely weekends,' she said, irritated. 'First of all I have tons of friends, and secondly, I have a dog. Just because I'm not with a guy doesn't mean I don't have fun.'

            'You miss David.'

            'Fuck David!'

            'Yes, you miss him. but I have the answer for you.'

            'Can't wait,' she said, not at all anxious to hear what it was.

            'We're having a dinner party. Evelyn insists you come.'

            'And why is that?'

            'Because my dear wife considers herself Manhattan's greatest matchmaker, and she has the perfect man for you.'

            'No, Victor,' Madison groaned, 'not again. I've been through that too many times at your house. Let me see now, the last time the perfect guy was twenty-one and a nerd. And the time before that he was, like, eighty-six. I mean, with all due respect to Evelyn, she has no idea what I'm looking for. In fact, I'm not looking period. If I trip overit, fine, and if I don't, then I'm perfectly happy by myself.'

            'I see,' Victor boomed.

            'What is this whole deal about a woman always having to be with a man?'

            'You can't turn us down this time,' Victor said. 'It's Evelyn's birthday.'

            'Oh, God!'

            'I take it that's a yes?'

            'Okay, I'll come. I'll even bring a present. But please, whatever you do, no more fixing me up.'

   


Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62