“Well, that sucks,” I said as we walked back outside. And it really did, because I’d been hoping to get this over with so I could go home. But as I glanced up the street, I noticed a man with dark blond hair wearing a charcoal grey woolen coat walking briskly up away from us. From the back, he looked a lot like our guy.
“Hey, Baxter…I think that’s Vox.”
“Oh, yeah?” Baxter followed my gaze, and a smile curled his lips. “Sure looks like it. Let’s see if we can flag him down.”
I arched an eyebrow as Baxter immediately began heading up the street. “You’re going to have to move a little faster than that if you want to catch up to him.”
Baxter snorted. “I’m not an idiot, Chandler,” he said irritably. “I’m not in the habit of accosting citizens on the sidewalk. We’ll follow him to wherever he’s headed, then take him aside for a quick conversation.”
My lips curled into a smile despite myself. “All right, if you say—”
A muffled shriek cut my words off, and I jerked my head to the left just in time to see a guy in a ski mask burst out of the CVS, clutching a knife in one hand and a bulging paper bag in the other that I was willing to bet wasn’t filled with Slim Jims and Cheetos.
“Dammit.” Baxter snarled under his breath as I rushed forward, probably because we were letting our drug-dealing accountant get away. But there was no way I was letting this guy rob a store right in front of our eyes.
“Stop!” I shouted as my flats slapped against the cobblestones. Shit, that was uncomfortable. I was going to need to wear better shoes next time if I planned on making a habit of this. “Stop, police!”
The guy briefly glanced over his shoulder, eyes wide with fear, which turned out to be a mistake. The epitome of grace, he tripped on one of the cobblestones and crashed face-first into the hard ground. The paper bag flew from his hand, and I grinned triumphantly as cash spilled onto the street.
“Oh, no you don’t!” I shouted as he began to get onto his knees. I tackled him, then grabbed and twisted the wrist of the hand still clutching the knife. Yelping, his grip loosened, and the knife clattered to the ground, safely out of reach.
“Police brutality!” he yelled as I yanked both his wrists behind his back, digging my knee into his sacrum to ensure he didn’t get up.
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered as I cuffed his wrists. “Tell it to someone who cares.”
“I guess you didn’t need my help.” Baxter’s voice came from my right, and I looked up to see him standing there, both his eyebrows raised approvingly. The sight almost mollified me, until I remembered that he was a liar and was keeping secrets from me about my fiancé.
“Yeah, well, just because I did the hard part doesn’t mean you get to put up your feet.” I yanked the perp to standing, then shoved him toward Baxter. “Read him his rights and take care of the paperwork. I’ll see if I can catch up with Vox.”
“Wait!” Baxter called as I spun away. “You can’t just go walking off! You don’t have jurisdiction!”
I ignored him, pushing through the crowd of gawkers and headed after our suspect before Baxter could say another word. Maybe I didn’t have jurisdiction, but I didn’t trust him, and I was better off working without him. Vox might not have anything to do with Tom’s death, but I had a sudden urge to go after him, and I didn’t need Baxter to take a single guy like him down.
Knowing that Baxter couldn’t very well stop me with his hands full of criminal, I hurried onward. I couldn’t tell you why, but something urged me to catch up with our original suspect despite the fact I hadn’t wanted to take this case in the first place. Call it Detective’s Intuition.
As I walked, I touched lamp posts and shop windows, catching little glimpses of him here and there to make sure I was on the right track. These little visions had me take two right turns and then a left, and then I caught sight of Vox turning the corner. His disappearance from my view once again galvanized me into action, and I stepped off the sidewalk and onto the street so I could hurry after him without having to push through the crowded sidewalk.
I rounded another corner just as Vox stepped into the parking lot in front of a high-end club. The stacked stone exterior of the building was awash in purple light, no doubt coming from the bulbs recessed into the rooftop ledge, and above the chrome double doors, huge metal letters spelled ENVY Nightlife. Judging by the full parking lot and the line of people spilling out onto the sidewalk, this was a popular joint. It also looked completely out of place amongst the little red brick buildings smooshed close together.
Unfortunately for me, Vox was apparently high enough on the food chain to bypass the line. He went straight up to the biggest bouncer I’d ever seen in my life. Seriously, if mountains wore suits, that’s what this guy looked like, right down to his craggy dark face and plate-sized hands that probably looked like obsidian boulders when they were clenched.
And the worst thing was, he wasn’t even the only one out there. I counted three other enormous men in suits patrolling the outside of the club, all fitted with black shades and earpieces, and the bulges beneath their suit jackets suggested they were packing heat.
Just what the hell kind of club was this, that the owner felt the need to have armed security guards around?
Mountain Man seemed to recognize Vox on the spot, because he inclined his massive head, then stepped aside to allow him entry. Dance music, heavy on the bass, spilled into the crisp air as the bouncer opened the door, but as soon as Vox was inside, the door shut and the sound abruptly cut off.
So, they’d soundproofed the building, too. Yeah, that wasn’t weird at all.
I had half a mind to march up to the bouncer and flash my badge, but the idea of doing so made the hairs on the back of my neck crackle. I had the feeling these men wouldn’t take kindly to being heckled by a cop the size of their pinky toes, and even if I did manage to muscle my way into the club, the commotion would likely alert my suspect, which was the last thing I wanted.
But how to bypass the line? At least as a detective I got to wear plain clothes. They wouldn’t be able to tell I was a cop. Slacks and a black blazer didn’t exactly scream detective to most people. But being a nobody wasn’t going to get me inside, either.
A car door slammed nearby, and I turned toward the sound to see a man in a steel suit walking away from a red Lamborghini. I figured a guy like him wasn’t going to be waiting in line, so I turned toward him, then allowed my wrist to brush against his platinum cufflink.