Excerpt of City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley
(Page 2 of 5)
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I said so.
He sat back in the chair. Just because you got a license that makes it all legal . . . youre still nothing more than the girls down on Turk. I looked you up.
Her dress hitched a little higher when she leaned over his desk to rub out the cigarette in the scarred wood. His eyes fell.
Congratulations. You can read.
Sour smile, spit at the corners. Pulled his eyes back up while he rocked on his feet, the chair squeaking in rhythm.
I can read all right. Its some record. Spain with the Reds. Came back and worked for Dianne Larouche as an escort. Then hooked up with Charlie Burnett on divorce cases . . . He paused, savoring it, looking her up and down. He was never one for fresh bait. Then Burnett gets bumped off, they claim you figure out who, and you get a license and take over his business and land some cushy Worlds Fair job on Treasure Island, guarding Sally Rand. Takes a whore to know a whore, I guess. So . . . who was the dead Jap a client?
Miranda dropped her eyes from the clock on the wall to the shiny, stubbled face of Star number 598. She stared at him until he flinched, his chair shrieking one last time.
Get on with your job or I call my attorney.
His hands clenched around the fountain pen, red and pulpy. Your attorney. He your new pimp?
The section gate swung open, banging against the partition. Phil stood, twirling his hat, looking at Miranda. Star number 598 flushed purple, jumped up from the desk.
If you want to take over, Lieutenant . . . The words trailed off in a mumble while he slid out into the hall.
Phil took off his hat, lines on his face deeper than she remembered. More gray on his chin. More paunch in his belly. Goddamn it. She wasnt up to Phil, not today. Better to deal with the Puritan.
You do something to Collins?
She reached across the desk and took another Chesterfield out of the gold case, not speaking until she snapped it shut and returned it to its pile.
Objects to me on principle.
Phils eyes followed her hand when she picked up the yellow cab matchbook. After two attempts, she struck one on the desk and lit the stick, hand shaking slightly. Leaned back in the hard wooden chair and met his eyes.
Been awhile, Miranda. You look good. Its beenhow long? Since the Incubator Babies racket last year? They must be treating you right, all your Fair friends.
She shrugged. Pays the bills. And Im keeping busy in the off-season.
Still with divorce cases, I hear. Well, good for you. Kept Burnett in clover. He cleared this throat, looked down at his large hands, unexpectedly helpless, folded on the desk.
So one more year...guess one bankrupt Worlds Fairs not enough. Maybe 40ll be more magic than 39, who knows. You going back to work in May?
She took a deep drag on the Chesterfield and blew a smoke ring. Gave him half a smile.
Same troubles, same fairshorter season. Bigger Gayway this year, though, more girl shows, more work for me. So yeah, Im hitching my tent to Treasure Island again.
He cleared his throat again, studied the floor at her feet. Pressed his hands tight on the desk, fingers splayed.
Ill be retiring soon. Chief Quinns going home in a few days... the mayors appointing Dullea. You probably heard about it. Therell be changes always are. Im not always going to be around to watch out for you. Id like to see you get settled.
Miranda stared at the lipstick stain on her cigarette. A woman two rows over was sobbing into a handkerchief.
If by settled you mean married and not working, sorry, Phil. I appreciate the doting uncle routine, but I can take care of myself.
Excerpted from City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley. Copyright © 2010 by Kelli Stanley. Published in February 2010 by Minotaur Books. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.