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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 Twenty-one

            As tired as she was, Madison couldn't sleep. Kimm's call had disturbed her. What was she going to hear that she wouldn't like? What could it possibly be?

            She lay in bed, tossing and turning, until eventually she switched on the light and made a half-hearted attempt to read.

            Impossible, her concentration level was at zero. She clicked on the TV in the hope that it would work as a sleeping pill. No luck there. Damn! She refused to resort to David's bottle of Halcion, still sitting in her medicine cabinet. Drugs didn't do it for her.

            Her mind was everywhere, it had been such a mized-up few weeks and she found herself unable to calm down. David reappearing had not helped matters. What did he think? That she was going to rush back into his arms sighing, ' All is forgiven.'

            Hell no. she would never forgive him.

            And then there was Jake. What was that all about? Why hadn't he called? And, even more important, why did she care? After all, it was supposed to be casual sex. No commitments. No promises.

            But care she did, she simply couldn't help it.

            She continued to toss and turn until five a.m., when she refused to struggle any more and finally got up, wondering if it was too early to call Kimm.

            Yes, of course it was, so she didn't , although she was dying to. Instead she put on a thick sweater, jeans and boots, and took slammer out for a marathon walk, stopping to buy bagels and cream cheese and two mugs of Starbucks coffee on her way home.

            Picking up the New York Times from outside her door, she took it into her apartment, flopped on to the couch and started reading.

            After a few minutes she realized there was no way the newspaper could hold her attention. Instead she kept thinking about the funeral and Warner and the things she'd said. Warner had indicated that Stella had been frightened of Michael, which seemed overly dramatic. It was understandable that Michael must've been pissed that Stella had run off with a guy half his age, but it was not in his makeup to frighten anyone, let alone threaten them.

            Kimm's words kept running through her head too. Were they shot execution- style?

            What the hell had she meant by that?

            Madison got off the couch, toasted two bagels, spread them liberally with cream cheese and wolfed them both down. A great way to start the day. Very healthy. Thank God she never had to worry about her weight.

            There was no way she was in the mood to do any research on Antonio 'The Panther Lopez. Besides, she already knew plenty about him. how difficult was it to interview a boxer? He liked to fight, didn't he? He got off on beating up other men. Big deal.

            If it wasn't for the fact that she was anxious to get away, she would've told Victor to have another writer cover the assignment.

            Kimm arrived at eight-thirty. The tall, powerful, heavy-set woman was wearing a navy blue tracksuit and Nike running shoes, her broad face was devoid of makeup as usual, and her dark hair was braided down her back.

            'I got you a Starbucks coffee,' Madison said, ushering her in. 'It's better than the crap I make. We can heat it up in the microwave.'

            'Don't drink coffee,' Kimm said, rubbing Slammer's head. The dog seemed to have taken an instant liking to her. He started making happy sounds and Madison wondered if he knew something she didn't.

            'Really? I can't live without it.'

            'Water in the morning, juice in the afternoon, herbal tea at night.'

            'Any alcohol in there somewhere?' Madison asked, half joking.

            A faint smile flitted across Kimm's usually impassive face. 'Alcohol slows me down,' she said. 'So do tobacco and sugar. I've found that a healthy body creates a healthy mind.'

            'Wish I could be that disciplined,' Madison said ruefully. 'It's not easy.'

            'Nothing worth having is easy,' Kimm remarked.

            Ah, a philosopher as well as a private eye, Madison thought. She hadn't made up her mind whether she liked Kimm or not: the woman did not exactly exude warmth.

            'Let me get you a bottle of Evian,' she offered, walking into the kitchen.

            'Room temperature will be fine,' Kimm called after her.

            Abandoning the fridge, Madison reached into a lower cabinet and pulled out a bottle of water. 'It's been a while,' she said, coming back into the living room. Handling it to Kimm. 'I thought I'd hear from your sooner than this.'

            'Did your friend do the condom test?' Kimm asked, sitting down on the couch.

            'You know, so much has been going on that I haven't asked.'

            'Ask,' Kimm said. 'Make sure she does it.'

            'Why?' Madison said, smiling. 'You need a new client?'

            Kimm half smiled back. She had very large white teeth - not a cap among them. 'I never solicit new clients,' she said. 'They come to me on recommendations. Isn't that how you found me?'

            'Yes,' Madison said, wishing she felt more alert. She hated not being able to sleep - it fuddled her brain. 'Now .uh.can we get down to business?' she said. 'you kind of unnerved me on the phone last night. Why did you say I'm not going to like what I hear?'

            'Because I didn't want I have to tell you to come as a shock,' Kimm said. 'Better prepared than not,'

            'Prepared for what?' Madison asked, perplexed.

            Kimm studied her gravely. 'I don't know you very well, although I do observe you to be a most together person. And observation is my business.'

            'Thanks,' Madison said, not feeling at all together. 'So,' Kimm continued, 'do I sugar-coat it, or do I give it to you straight?'

            'Straight,' Madison replied. Straight before I go crazy!

            'I thought so,' Kimm said, getting up and walking across the room. 'I've read some of your interviews. I always think it's a good idea to know something about the person I'm working for.'

            Get on with it! Madison's inner voice screamed.

            'You're very insightful when it comes to other people,' Kimm continued, ' only you never investigated your own life.'

            'Didn't know I had to,' Madison said flippantly, although -for some unknown reason - her stomach was busy doing flip-flops.

            'What do you know about your father?' Kimm asked, giving her a long, steadfast look.

            'That's a weird question.'

            'It might be weird, but it's quite basic.'

            'I suppose,'

            'So?'

            'Michael is a wonderful man' she said slowly. 'And a terrific father.'

            'What's his profession?'

            'His profession?' Madison said puzzled by this line of questioning. 'Well.he's actually retired, did that when he moved to Connecticut a few years ago. I know you're probably thinking he's too young to retire, but that was the whole point. He decided to enjoy himself while he was still young enough. You see, he and Stella - they like to travel, visit Europe, explore. They're always going somewhere - or, at least, they were. I guess Stella isn't going anywhere any more.'

            'You're not telling me what your father's profession was.'

            'You're not telling me what your father's profession was.'

            'Investments.'

            'Sounds vague.'

            'He made a lot of money.'

            'Lived extremely well. Still does.'

            'I don't dount it.'

            'What are you getting at?' Madison asked, exasperated. 'Spit it out, Kimm, you're making me neverous.'

            Kimm was silent for a moment before speaking. 'Your father was a hit man for the Mob,' she said at last.

            'What?' The word fell out of Madison's mouth like a painful cry for help. 'That's -that's impossible.' 'not impossible. A fact,' Kimm stated, her expression stoic.

            Madison felt as if she were in the middle of some bizarre nightmare. Wake up. Please wake up, her inner voice urged.

            No go, baby, this is actually happening.

            'Why would you even say something like that?' she managed at last. 'It's -it's ludicrous, unthinkable, and totally untrue.'

            'I'm afraid it's not, Kimm replied, annoyingly calm and assured. 'your father's real name is vincenzio Michael Castellino. He changed it legally to Michael Castelli after the trial.'

            'What trial?'

            'The trial where he was accused of murdering your mother.' A long, ominous pause. 'And, oh, yes, her name wasn't Gloria. He lied to you about that too. It was Beth.' A short pause. 'I'm sorry to be the bearer of such devastating news, but unfortunately, this is the truth and. I have the evidence to prove it.'

   


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