Something About You Page 42

ON THE WEST side of the city, Grant put on his game face as he approached the bar with the red neon side that blinked “Club Rio.” He felt naked without his gun and shoulder harness, but only a man with a death wish would attempt to bring a piece into this kind of place.

He opened the door and the loud rhythmic beat of salsa music spilled out. Almost immediately upon stepping inside, a bouncer dressed in black and wearing an ear wire frisked him. He asked the bouncer where he could find Mr. Black—that was all his contact had told him, to ask for a Mr. Black. The bouncer nodded in the direction of the few empty booths in the back of the club.

Grant chose the booth in the corner and took a seat. It was doubtful that anyone would hear him and “Mr. Black” over the music, but given the stakes and the purpose of his visit, he didn’t want to risk having any eaves-droppers. A waitress came for his order, and he asked for a whiskey neat. He didn’t plan to drink it, but appearance was everything in situations such as these and he didn’t want to look overly nervous or suspicious.

After the waitress came back with his drink, he sat back in the booth and feigned interest in watching the dancers out on the floor in the center of the club. In the middle of the second song, a tall, thin man in his forties showed up at his table. He wore an open-neck white cotton shirt that hung loosely over dark jeans and had shortly cropped bleached-blond hair. His arms, exposed by his rolled-up sleeves, were covered with tattoos. Not exactly the image he’d had in mind.

“Are you Mr. Black?” Grant asked.

“Good guess,” the man said in a slightly raspy voice. He took a seat across the table. “I hear you’re looking for information about an FBI investigation, Mr. Lombard.”

Grant decided against asking how he knew his name. “I heard that Roberto Martino might be able to assist me.”

Mr. Black lit up a cigarette and exhaled smoke across the table. “Mr. Martino doesn’t assist people, Mr. Lombard. People assist him. Tell me something—does Senator Hodges know you’re here?”

Grant also decided against asking how they knew who he worked for. “He doesn’t need to know. His chief of staff sent me,” he said, playing up the charade that he was there only on Driscoll’s orders. Not that anyone was likely to find out about this meeting. Club Rio was not a bar that told its secrets.

“Why should I care about Senator Hodges’s chief of staff?” Mr. Black asked.

“He has the ear of a very influential man. Having a connection to Senator Hodges could be useful to your boss one day.”

Mr. Black considered this as he took another drag of his cigarette. “Maybe. Maybe not.”

“Perhaps you’d be more interested to learn that Senator Hodges and Mr. Martino share a common enemy.”

“Martino has many enemies. You’ll have to be a lot more specific.”

“Jack Pallas.”

Grant caught the quick flash of recognition in Mr. Black’s eyes. “So you know him.”

Mr. Black nodded. “Yes . . . I know Jack Pallas. Although he had a different name when I knew him.” He appeared far more interested now. “What do you know about Pallas?”

“I know that he got inside your organization,” Grant said. “That he betrayed Martino and took out several of your men in the process.”

Mr. Black paused for a moment. “What is it you want, Lombard?”

“Pallas is the lead agent in a murder investigation that implicates Hodges. The FBI is hiding something from us. The senator’s chief of staff has asked me to find out what that something is. He would, of course, be very grateful for your help with this matter. As the senator’s primary advisor, he would hope to be able to return the favor some day.” Sure, he’d embellished on Driscoll’s orders, but the way Grant figured it, if Roberto Martino ever came to collect on the favor, that would be Driscoll’s problem, not his.

As if silently beckoned, a waitress appeared out of nowhere and set an ashtray before Mr. Black. He flicked the ash off his cigarette then rolled it against the ashtray, rounding off the cherry. He took another drag, and Grant could tell he was considering his offer.

“Look at it this way—by helping us out, you get to f**k with Pallas’s investigation,” Grant added. “Whatever it is he’s hiding, it’s important enough that he doesn’t want anyone to know about it.”

Mr. Black eased back in the booth with a humorless grin. “You seem pretty confident that we’ll give you this information just for the hell of it. I think you’ve overestimated Martino’s dislike of Pallas.”

“Have I?”

Mr. Black said nothing at first. After another drag of his cigarette, he stood up. “Wait here.”

Grant slowly exhaled. Assuming he didn’t return with a couple of goons and a car with a plastic-lined trunk, it looked like he might be on his way to getting some answers.

Mr. Black returned a few minutes later. He tossed a folded piece of paper onto the table. “This man will help you. Meet him at this address at ten o’clock on Saturday night. You now owe us, Lombard. Not some chief of staff or anyone else—you. So I hope whatever information this man has, it’s worth it.”

Grant felt the anger rise in him, although he refused to show any reaction. He hoped the information was worth it, too. He was counting on it.

He unfolded the paper and saw a name and an address. He looked up, sure he was being played. “This can’t be right.”

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