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Unbreakable Bond - Chapter 5



CHAPTER FIVE


I blinked. My mental hamster momentarily stunned on his wheel as I stared at Chip. "ADA? As in Assistant District Attorney?"

He nodded. "That's the one."

I closed my eyes and thought a really bad word.

Not only had my client killed her husband based on the motive I'd provided her with, but turns out the guy in charge of prosecuting her wanted me to play “tour guide” with him. Derek was going to have a field day with this one.

I halfheartedly thanked Chip and dug my phone from my pocket as I walked, head down, back to my car. Maya picked up on the first ring.

"The Bond Agency?"

"Emergency. I want you to get me everything you can on an Aiden Prince. ADA. Now!"

"Right. Two seconds." I heard her fingers flying over her keyboard. A beat later she fired back with, "Aiden Prince, 38, graduate of Yale Law, recently employed as an LA County Assistant District Attorney. Previously with the Kansas City district attorney's office, wife died last year from breast cancer, and he relocated to LA. Oh, how sad."

"Anything else?"

"He's a leftie, ran in the LA marathon this year, and donated $20,000 to juvenile diabetes charities last fall. Give me ten minutes, and I can have his credit history."

"Don't bother. Thanks, Maya."

"Any time."

I hung up and slipped inside my roadster.

I tapped my fingernails on the console as I watched Aiden examine a spot on the ground. He knelt, careful not to put his knee in the wet soil, poked at something with a pen, then turned and gestured to a colleague—this one clearly marked as a cop by his Sears quality suit. The cop bent down, looked at the ground, then both men straightened and put their heads together, serious expressions marking their brows.

I would have given my fave Louboutins to know what they were saying.

Instead, I put my car in gear and pulled away from the curb, pointing it toward Studio City.

As soon as I hit my apartment, I grabbed the trashcan from my bedroom and dumped the contents on the floor, rummaging through until I laid hands on the cocktail napkin. I smoothed it out on my dresser, reached for the prepaid unregistered phone I kept for emergencies, and dialed the number before I could change my mind.

It rang. And again. Five rings into it, I was just about to give up when his voice picked up.

"Prince here."

"Hi, Aiden? It's Jamie."

Silence on the other end.

"We met the other night. At the fundraiser? Black dress?"

Still silent. Great. How many napkins had this guy given out?

"The tall blonde?" I prompted again.

"Right, right," he said, recognition dawning. "Hi. Sorry, it's been a long day."

Tell me about it.

"Anyway," I went on, "it was so nice meeting you. I…well, I honestly haven't been able to stop thinking about you."

"Really?" He didn't sound like he was entirely buying it. "And here I thought I'd struck out."

"Oh, no. You made quite an impression." Which, as of half an hour ago, was the truth.

"Well, I'm glad you called, Jamie. I'm pleasantly surprised."

"That's me. Full of surprises. So, how are you?"

"Ah, good. Fine. Sorry, I'm, uh, just a little distracted at the moment."

"Work?"

"Yeah."

"What do you do, Aiden?"

"I'm a lawyer."

"What kind?"

"Criminal."

"Defense or prosecution."

"Prosecution."

"No kidding? Any chance you're working that case where the judge was shot?"

"It's a big case," he hedged.

"Talked to the wife yet?"

"You ask a lot of questions, Jamie."

I bit my lip. Too far?

"Just trying to get to know you, Aiden," I said, pouring on the charm.

"Apparently. Listen, I'm kind of tied up here. How about I give you my life story over drinks tonight?"

Not exactly how I'd envisioned this conversation going. But…

"Alright."

"Yeah? Great. Uh, say around nine?"

"Perfect."

"Okay. Great, okay then. Listen, I'm really sorry, but I've got to go. But I'll call you later about tonight, okay?"

"Looking forward to it, Aiden. Looking forward to it."

I hit the End button and dropped down on my bed.

Okay, so maybe no one was talking to the press. But there was a chance that "Jamie Smith" and her might be able to garner a little more information out of our ADA than Chip and company. Like if the cops were looking at the wife, if she'd told them about our little sting operation, and if the Bond Agency was about to be plastered all over CNN as the purveyor of murder motives to unhappy housewives everywhere.

If I was lucky, I might even be able to persuade Aiden to keep the agency out of the investigation altogether.

As gears turned in my head, my phone rang.

"Hello?" I answered. In a voice that, in hindsight, might have been a little on the imagining-seducing-an-ADA-for-insider-info side.

"Wow. Sexy. Who did you think was calling? 'Cause I know that wasn't for me."

Danny.

"No one," I hedged.

"Uh-huh. So, you just answer the phone like a sex kitten all the time? Remind me to call you more often."

"I was not being a sex kitten."

"Trust me, you keep talking like that, and you can start charging three-ninety-nine a minute."

"Thanks for the tip," I mumbled, making a concerted effort to give my voice an angry edge. "And, by the way, where were you last night? I was two seconds away from a complete meltdown, and you wouldn't pick up your phone."

"I had company," he responded, and I could almost see the smirk on his face. "A nice, young, redheaded bit of company with a huge set of—“

"Halt! No more details. I get the picture. I take it you were too busy to watch the news, then?"

"Never watch the news. Too depressing. Why? What happened? Brad and Angie back together?"

"I wish. No, Judge Waterston."

"What about him?"

"He took a bullet to the head yesterday afternoon."

Danny was silent on the other end. Then, "What happened, James?"

I filled him in as best I could. Which, considering all I knew came from Soledad and Tom at the news desk, wasn't much.

When I was done, Danny just did a low whistle. "Wow. Sucks, babe."

"That seems to be the general consensus."

"But you know this isn't your fault. People do weird things. You can't predict them."

"I know." And I did. It just didn't make me feel any better.

"Hey, what are you doing right now?" he asked.

I looked down at the cocktail napkin. "Nothing."

"Cool. Want to meet for a late lunch?" he asked. "My treat."

I shrugged. Who was I to turn down a free meal?


* * *


Twenty minutes later I met Danny near his place in Santa Monica at the Dungeon, a pizza and hoagie joint with no windows, peeling paint, and the absolute best pastrami and onion sandwiches in the known universe. A large stained bar spanned one side of the room, with a handful of wooden tables and chairs and a scarred pool table taking up the bulk of the tiny place. A TV was mounted from the ceiling in one corner, the guy behind the bar flipping between a soccer match and the news. Danny was waiting for me at the bar, already working his way through a Budweiser.

"Hey, kid," he said when he saw me approach. He looked down at my snakeskin pumps. "Nice shoes."

"Thanks."

"You fight a rattler for those?"

"Nope, just a pushy salesman. You order yet?"

"Two hot pastramis, coming right up."

"You are a god."

He grinned, flashing white teeth at me. "That's what the redhead said, too."

I rolled my eyes. "Spare me."

I perched on the stool next to him and signaled the bartender, a middle-aged guy with pock marks and thick, bushy eyebrows that were barely independent of each other, for a beer of my own.

"So, how'd you and Sam do with Shankmann?" I asked.

Danny shook his head. "No deal. Nanny did the laundry, then went to Starbucks. The mister spent his lunch hour on the phone in his den."

"Great."

"Buck up, kid. We'll try again tomorrow. I got a feeling he can't keep it in his pants for long."

"Let's hope," I mumbled. Because Mrs. Waterston's cash was only going to last us so long.

Five minutes later I was enjoying a cold Budweiser and a steamy plate of hot, thinly sliced pastrami on a Kaiser with browned onions and lots of spicy mustard. It was as close to heaven as I could get with all of my clothes on. I heard Danny moan beside me, echoing my sentiments. We ate in silence, each of us completely engrossed in our gluttonous meals, only vaguely listening to the drone of the television behind us.

Until, once again, Soledad began talking about everyone's favorite deceased judge.

"Tom, we've just received some breaking news about the shooting death of Judge Thomas Waterston…"

I groaned. "See what I mean?" I asked around a melt-in-your-mouth bite. "This case is a media feeding frenzy. Clients are going to start dropping like flies."

Danny grinned. "Cheer up. You can always change your slogan. 'We track 'em down, you shoot 'em up.'"

I punched him in the arm. "Ha. Ha. Very funny."

"Ow." Danny rubbed his arm in mock pain. "You've been working on that right hook, haven't you?"

I ignored him, taking another mouthful of pastrami as Soledad shared her breaking news with the viewing public.

"Just moments ago we at Channel 4 obtained exclusive video of a suspect police now believe may have played a role in the judge's death. Tom, police tell us they are looking for this woman."

I glanced up at the TV.

Then nearly choked on my hoagie as an image of me in a slinky black dress filled the screen.

"Holy…” I heard Danny mutter. But my entire being was focused on the words pouring out of Soledad's perfectly painted mouth.

"Police are looking for any information regarding the whereabouts of this woman, known only as Jamie Smith," she continued. "She was apparently the last person to see the judge alive and, as you can clearly see here, she is instructing Judge Waterston to room 318, outside which, as you know, his body was ultimately found the following day."

Somehow I managed to swallow the bite of pastrami and onions that had turned to lead in my throat. He'd been found outside room 318? How could that be? I'd made it up. It was all lies. There was no one waiting for him in 318.

"Do they know yet how this person was connected to the judge?" Tom asked from off screen.

Soledad shook her bob back and forth. "No, Tom. The only information we have comes from this footage."

I stared at the screen, frozen as I watched myself tell the judge where to meet me, saw his pleased reaction, then his hand cupping my butt as I giggled flirtatiously.

I grabbed my Budweiser and took a long swig, wishing like anything it was something stronger. I thought I heard Danny talking beside me, something about calling a lawyer.

But honestly none of it sank in. I closed my eyes, trying to keep my head from spinning right off my shoulders. Where had the press gotten that footage? Had the judge really gone up to room 318? Had someone followed him? And what about his wife?

As if to answer my question, Soledad piped up from the corner again.

"Tom, we go live now to the judge's widow, Veronica Waterston, speaking out about these newest developments."

"Our family is doing its best to cope with this tragedy," came the widow's voice.

Only it wasn't her voice. She sounded like she'd smoked three packs a day for the last sixty years. And had not the slightest hint of a Hepburn accent.

My eyes shot open. I stared at the TV screen mounted above the wooden bar as the image of a portly, grey-haired woman in dark polyester filled the screen. Below her ran a banner bearing the name "Veronica Waterston."

If this was the judge's wife, who had come into my office?

Every fiber in my body froze in place, my swirling brain suddenly focusing with alarming clarity on just one terrifying thought.

I'd been set up.

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