Beautiful Seattle business heiress Gina Fiore has vanished without a trace. Desperate for help, her family turns to Danny Logan, Gina’s former boyfriend, to find her and bring her home safely. Logan is a fifth-generation Seattle native who owns the Logan Private Investigation agency. Along with his associates Antoinette “Toni” Blair, Kenny Hale, and Joaquin Kiahtel, he accepts the case and begins the hunt for Gina.
Logan and his team dig for clues and soon find that they’re not the only ones looking for Gina. The Tijuana-Mendez drug cartel is keenly interested in her whereabouts, as is the Calabria crime family from Chicago. The race is on to locate Gina—the stakes could not be higher. In order to prevail, Logan’s going to need all the skill and luck he can gather, and he’s going to need to confront the unresolved feelings he still has for Gina— feelings that might just get him killed!
Angel Dance has more than 400 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
“Look out, Seattle, there’s a new private eye in town: Danny Logan—retired Army (Afghanistan), with a criminal justice degree and FBI Advanced Training from Quantico—runs a professional investigation business with Antoinette “Toni” Blair, the Seattle native and requisite female sidekick. She sees Danny as “completely brilliant in certain aspects, barely better than adolescent in others. Clear insight in certain areas, barely able to see to the end of his nose in others.” His take on her? “Think Katie Perry with tattoos. Taller, ‘grungier,’ but the same beautiful face, same breathtaking figure, same medium-length black hair, same brilliant blue eyes. No denying, Toni is easy to look at.” Office policy has helped them remain hands-off so far. Their newest case adds more roadblocks and delays to their romance when the lovely, controlling, daughter-of-a-mobster Gina—who happens to be a previous romantic interest of Danny’s—goes missing and her anxious family hires Danny to look in places the local police can’t. Contemporary language and issues abound (marijuana growing operations, Mexican drug cartels, Chicago mob family members) and Northwestern readers will particularly enjoy the many local landmarks and references. With clean editing, vetted police procedures and sound research, Grayson’s tale makes for easy reading. Dialog is solid, entertaining and only occasionally clichéd (“I was just about to … throw her down and make a woman out of her when she broke it off—just in time”). Fast-paced with brief time-outs for reflection by the somewhat angst-ridden, music-loving Logan, the plot is interesting, carefully thought-out and perhaps a little far-fetched and reminiscent of a particular Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie surprise ending. In fact, this first installment of a planned series has a definite but not unpleasant screenplay style. The story zips right along: straightforward with more action than introspection, explanation over exploration, and just enough rationalizing by Danny to explain away any doubt we might have about his decisions.
With two more books in the works and a cast of interesting characters awaiting development, this author is worth watching.”
“The intensity continues to build. Just when you think you have it solved, Grayson throws you a wild curve. It was an excellent read. I highly recommend it.”
Author, Terrorist at the Bus Stop
Seattle is spectacular in the summer. I think it’s God’s way of paying us back for the long, drawn-out Pacific Northwest winters. From late October to early June, the sky is gray. The water’s gray. Even the trees look gray. The later into the season, the grayer it seems to get.
It’s almost always cloudy in the winter, but it usually doesn’t rain hard. Instead, it drizzles continuously—tiny misty raindrops for days on end. It’s not uncommon for the airport to record thirty days of continuous rain—a performance that begins to approach biblical standards. Then, just as people are about to grow moss on their feet or go insane (or both), summer finally shows up.
“June Gloom” gives way to clear skies. The sun comes out for four solid months. The gray is shoved to the back of people’s minds, where it’s quickly forgotten. Seattleites hang up their Gore-Tex jackets and break out their shorts and T-shirts. Temperatures climb into the seventies. Super-saturated green forests set against brilliant blue skies and deep-blue sparkling waters touch the eyes in every direction. The contrast is so striking that tourists—sometimes even locals—stop dead in their tracks to admire the view. Summertime visitors say, “It’s beautiful here! There’s no rain—what’s all this talk about rain? We should move here!” Some do. Then winter returns.
It’s hard to imagine anything bad happening in Seattle in the summer, but of course it does. There’s no slow time of year in my private investigation business. People take advantage of each other year round. Husbands cheat on wives. Wives cheat on husbands. Employees rip off employers. People skip bail, or sometimes just disappear. Logan Private Investigations stays busy.
Which explains why I was sitting on my office balcony over Lake Union on the sixteenth of August, a fine Tuesday afternoon, trying to finish a surveillance report on my laptop. A client who owns an electronics parts distribution company kept coming up short in her inventory. After bringing in her auditors and back-checking her internal control procedures, she deduced that one or more of her employees—most likely dock employees—must be stealing from the business. She couldn’t prove it, so she asked us to place the dock under video surveillance–one of our specialties.
We took our plain white Econoline, stuck our “Ryan’s Quality Plumbing” vinyl to the sides, and parked it across the street from her docks. Three days later, we had the evidence to prove she was right.
Truth be told, I wasn’t making much headway on her wrap-up. I kept getting distracted by a Laser-class sailboat regatta on the lake directly in front of me. The windward mark was just forty yards from my chair, and each time the fleet of little boats approached the mark, I noticed a very attractive blonde in a gray Laser. She was fighting hard, holding her position near the front of the pack. I saw her little boat heel precariously, causing her to hike way out. Clearly, she was in it to win. Though I can’t say whether she won or not, I know for certain she was a very effective distraction.
This bout of three-steps-forward-two-steps-back mind-wandering came to a sobering halt when my associate, Antoinette Blair, buzzed in on the intercom.
“Danny, there’s a man named Robbie Fiore here to see you.”
Robbie Fiore–now there was a name from the past. I can’t say I was totally surprised.
“Thanks, Toni. Do me a favor and bring him on back to my office, would you?”
I grew up in Seattle and graduated from high school with Roberto Fiore. Robbie and I ran with different crowds, but we were friendly. We were both on the track team—I ran the mile; Robbie was a pole vaulter. Through him, I knew his kid sister, Gina.
Gina was two years younger than us. She’d show up at the track meets with her friends to root for Robbie. She was one of a kind. Short—maybe five two—with a fiery personality, almost cocky. Beautiful: thick, dark hair and a knockout figure, even in high school. And, unlike some pretty girls, she had brains to match and she wasn’t one to hide the fact. I’d see her in the halls at school, surrounded by girlfriends and guys with stars in their eyes. She was the center of attention. Even though I was older than she was, she intimidated the hell out of me in those days. I could never find the nerve to ask her out on a date.
Now, Gina was missing. Gone. No trace. The story had been front page in the Seattle Times yesterday and today, and I’d seen her picture on television. Even the national news had picked up the story this morning. “Local Business Heiress Vanishes.”
Gina had not been seen since last Thursday. No clues, no ransom demand—no nothing. The police effort had started slowly, as is typical in an adult missing person case, but the press reports indicated that this was changing now. Gina’s lifestyle didn’t seem consistent with someone who’d simply disappear. The papers said her purse, her driver’s license and credit cards, and all her personal effects were found locked in her apartment. Her car was parked in its normal space. It certainly sounded unusual–maybe even suspicious.
When I first saw the story, I’d thought of calling the family to offer my services. I’m not sure why I hadn’t–finding missing persons is another one of the things we’re good at. Maybe the timing didn’t seem right yet. Maybe I half-way thought that Robbie would be the one to call me. Besides, the police were starting to get fired up, and they probably wouldn’t welcome my uninvited help. God knows I couldn’t just barge in. Whatever the reason, I hadn’t made the call.
“Robbie,” I said, walking to meet him as Toni brought him into my office. We shook hands. “Good to see you.”
“Hi, Danny. It’s been a long time.”
“It has. I’m so sorry to hear about Gina.”
“Thanks. I guess you saw the news—seems everyone has.”
He looked at me for a second, then he nodded. “So I suppose it’s not hard to figure out why I’m here.” His voice wavered—he was clearly scared. His normally stout, six-foot frame was bent; his shoulders hunched.
“She’s gone, Danny,” he said, “The family’s scared to death. My parents flat adore her. She’s their baby.” He paused, then added, “If anything bad’s happened to her, it’ll just kill them.”
“I’m here to ask for your help,” he said. His eyes were surrounded by dark circles, and he looked as though he were on the verge of tearing up.
“I understand,” I said. “Why don’t we talk for a few minutes about what we might be able to do.” I nodded toward Toni. “First, let me introduce Toni Blair, an associate of mine. If we end up deciding that my firm can help your family locate Gina, Toni will be in on it with me. If it’s okay with you, I’d like her to sit in with us from the start. That way, she and I can compare notes later and make sure we don’t miss anything.”
Robbie looked at Toni and nodded.
“I’m glad to meet you, Robbie,” Toni said, shaking his hand. “I’m real sorry about your sister.” There’d been no time to brief Toni on what was happening, but it wasn’t necessary anyway. She’s one of those unusual people—the kind that you never see studying, but they always seem to know everything that’s going on around them. She has the unique talent of being able to put people at ease quickly. People respond well to her, as Robbie did now.
“Thanks,” he said, his face brightening a little. “I appreciate that.”
I directed Toni and Robbie to the little conference table in my office. “Let’s have a seat, and you can tell us what’s happened.” They sat down while I grabbed a notepad for me and one for Toni.
“Robbie,” I said, “Just to be clear, I should start by saying we don’t know anything—only what we’ve seen on the news and in the paper. For a number of reasons, that’s not always reliable.” I’m sure Robbie didn’t know that the press tends to report what the police feed them. Oftentimes, the police hold things back for tactical reasons. But we needed all the information. “We’re going to take notes while you start at the beginning and tell us everything—everything you know—even the little stuff.”
He nodded. “Okay.” He looked at the water outside for a few moments while he seemed to gather his thoughts.
“Gina works for the company—that is, my dad’s company: Pacific Wine and Spirits. She and I both work there. This past Friday, she didn’t show up for work.”
Toni and I both took notes.
“We called her and left messages at her condo and on her cell. We got no answer, no calls back. I sent her e-mails and text messages—again no answer. This isn’t like her—Gina never misses work. She won’t even be late for an appointment unless she calls first. By Friday afternoon, we were really starting to get worried. Cindy Dunlap, our HR director, and I decided to go to her apartment and check it out.”
“You have a key, then?” I asked.
“Yeah. Gina and I have always exchanged front door keys and keys to each other’s cars so we can help out in case the other is out of town or something. I went inside and saw that she wasn’t there. At first, I was relieved. Then I noticed her purse was on the counter and her keys, too. I went back outside and saw that her car was in its parking space. I hadn’t noticed it on the way in.”
Toni raised her hand suddenly. “Let me interrupt you for a second,” she said. “Before you get too far into what’s happened over the past few days—I apologize, I should have been more clear and asked a few background questions first. I need you to back up so that we can get a few basic things out of the way.”
“Oh, sorry,” he said.
“No, it’s not you,” Toni said, “but I don’t know anything about Gina—only what I’ve seen on TV. I don’t even know her full name or how old she is.”
“Oh,” Robbie said. “Her full name is Angelina Theresa Fiore. She’s twenty-seven, born on June 14, 1984.”
“Her physical description?”
“She’s five feet two inches, I think she weighs around 105 pounds. Long, dark hair.”
“Any distinguishing marks? Tattoos, piercings—that sort of thing?”
“Three twenty-seven West Olympic Place, unit 304, here in Seattle,” Robbie said.
“That’s right near where my parents live,” I said.
“Mine, too,” Robbie said. “They’re still in the same house they were in back in high school.”
I nodded as Toni scribbled furiously. “Fill me in,” she said. “How do you two guys know each other?”
“High school,” Robbie said. “Danny and I graduated from Ballard High in 2000. Gina was two years behind us.”
“And church, too,” I said.
“That’s right,” Robbie agreed. “We all attended St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill.”
Toni nodded. “I see. So Gina graduated in–?”
“2002,” Robbie said.
Toni wrote this down. “And after that?”
“She graduated from U-Dub with a degree in business finance in—I think—2006.”
“That sounds right,” I added. “I went out with Gina for a bit in late 2006. She’d just graduated.”
Toni glanced up at me, then looked back at her notes. She wrote for a minute without speaking.
“Anything else on the background?” I asked her.
She finished writing and flipped back a strand of hair that had fallen across her face before she looked up. “No, that’s good. That helps for now,” she said. “Okay, Robbie. Back to current time. You’re in Gina’s condo. You’ve noticed that her purse and keys are still there and her car, too.”
“Yes. After I saw all of Gina’s stuff, that’s when I started to get worried. She wouldn’t go anywhere without telling us, and she certainly wouldn’t go anywhere without her purse or her keys. So I called the police.”
“Did the police send someone out?” I asked. The notion that you have to wait forty-eight or seventy-two hours before filing a missing person report is an old wives’ tale. On the other hand, just because you file a report, the police won’t necessarily do anything right away unless there’s suspicion of foul play or unless the missing person suffers from some sort of mental condition that could put him- or herself in danger.
“They did. They were very prompt, as a matter of fact, and sent two people—a detective and a patrol officer. They looked around her condo a little and filled out a missing person report. They told us that they’d file the report, but that there wasn’t much that they’d be able to do initially. I went straight over to my parents’ home and told them what was happening.” Robbie paused and looked around, then said, “Would I be able to get a bottled water from you?”
“Of course,” I said. I hopped up and grabbed him one off the credenza.
He took a long drink and then continued. “They pretty much freaked out. My dad called Gary Frohming—our lawyer. Gary must have had some pull with higher-ups at the police department, because later that same afternoon, the police called back. They sent out two different guys. They interviewed us and took another report.”
Never hurts to have friends in high places. I remembered Gina’s dad was “plugged-in” socially and politically. If anyone had friends with pull, it would be Angelo Fiore.
“We’re still talking about last Friday, August 12?” Toni said.
“Okay. Do you remember who these two guys were?” I asked. “If we’re able to help out, we’ll coordinate with them.”
“I do,” Robbie said. “I have their cards.” He reached into his jacket, pulled out two business cards and handed them to me.
“Dwayne Brown,” I said, reading the names off the cards. “I know Dwayne pretty well. I don’t think I’ve met his partner, Symanski.”
“He’s the guy that was at our open house?” Toni asked. “The one you worked with while you were in the army?”
“Yeah,” I said. I was a U.S. Army CID Special Agent at Fort Lewis with the sixth MP-CID Group for three years from 2005 to 2008. Dwayne was with the Seattle PD. We worked on three or four cases together. “Dwayne’s a good guy.”
“He’ll cooperate with us?” Toni asked.
“Most likely,” I said. “Unless he’s being told not to.”
“Okay,” Toni said, focusing back on Robbie. “So Robbie, you said the police came out—where’d they interview you?”
“The second time, they talked to all of us at my parents’ home.”
“We’ll talk to them separately, but did your parents have any information they were able to add?”
“No, not really. My mom said that Gina was supposed to have come over that night. Dad didn’t know anything at all.”
“After the interview, did the police visit Gina’s condo and do any sort of investigation there?”
“Yes. The next day—last Saturday—they sent a whole team of people out. They photographed everything and took some of Gina’s things—pictures and bathroom stuff, mostly. They collected some fibers from the carpet. Oh, and they took a cup from the sink. On the way out, though, Detective Brown told me that there didn’t initially appear to be anything unusual or suspicious about the condo—aside from the fact that Gina wasn’t in it and all of her personal stuff was.”
I nodded. “Okay. Sounds like a CSI investigation. I’ll follow up with him about that.”
“Their jackets said ‘CSI.’”
“I have a question,” he said.
“The CSI people took her hairbrush and put it in an evidence bag. Why would they do that?”
“It’s standard procedure. They’re collecting a DNA sample. It’s required by Washington state law in missing person cases for identification.”
“Identification?” he said. “Why don’t they just—” He stopped and then said, “I see. It’s so that in case they find a body . . .”
“That’s right. In case they find a body, they can make a positive ID using a DNA sample, even if the body is otherwise unrecognizable. Don’t try to read anything into it—it’s standard procedure and good police work.”
He was silent for a second, then said, “It’s hard not to read anything into it when you’re talking about collecting a DNA sample to potentially identify the body of your sister.”
“I understand,” I said, “but I don’t think it’s going to come to that.” I looked him in the eyes. “Look, Robbie, I’ve worked several adult missing person cases over the years. And I know you’re probably scared to death, and you have a right to be. But I need to tell you, the odds are very good that Gina’s fine. She’ll either come waltzing home all by herself or the police, maybe with our help, will find her and she’ll be okay. It may be hard to think that now, but that’s probably what’s going to happen. Understand?”
He nodded. I continued. “The hard part for you and your family’s going to be dealing with the unknown, and particularly, dealing with the wait while the process plays out.”
Robbie nodded again.
“You guys are going to face challenges and scenarios you’re not used to. The possibilities will run from simply unpleasant to downright horrible—the worst things that could ever happen to a family. We’ll talk about these things—no sense locking them in a closet and avoiding them. We should talk about them so that you can develop rationally based expectations. We can help provide you with some logic and context to all the possibilities, and you’ll see that the reality is that the odds of the really bad things happening to Gina are very low, even though you’re probably scared shitless now.”
He nodded. “We are—scared, I mean.”
I nodded. “That’s understandable. For now, though, my advice to you is this: don’t dwell on the unpleasant possibilities. You’ll just scare yourself even more. And if you are scared, then your parents will be scared to death—scared at a time when they need your strength the most. Make sense?”
“Be strong for your parents; they’ll need your support. Take my advice. Bottle up the fears so you can channel your mental energy into something productive—liking helping find Gina.”
He nodded. “I appreciate that, Danny.”
“No problem. But while we’re on this line of touchy questions, I’m assuming there’s been no contact by anyone with anything to do with any sort of ransom. Have the police said anything about ransom demands?” I asked. “Have they set up a recording system or some sort of monitoring system on your phones?”
“Yes, they are monitoring my mom and dad’s phone. They set it up Saturday. But you’re right—we haven’t heard a word from anyone that would make us believe she’s been kidnapped,” Robbie said. “No calls. No letters. No e-mails.”
“Good. Now back to our questions.” I thought for a second. “Let’s shift gears and talk about Gina’s behavioral traits. I know her from high school and from a brief time in 2006, but that doesn’t amount to much—especially five years later. What can you tell us about her?”
“Well,” Robbie said, “she’s super smart. She works hard. She’s outgoing. She’s usually happy, although she does have a temper. She’s focused. She’s a great manager at work.” This meshed with the Gina I remembered. It didn’t sound like she’d changed at all.
“Question,” Toni said. “When you say ‘usually happy,’ how had she been acting for the few weeks before last Thursday?”
Robbie considered it. “Maybe a little different. I wouldn’t call it unhappy. She never seemed unhappy. If anything, I might call it preoccupied. Like when you have a big project at work, and it demands all your attention.”
“Was there anything going on at work that would have caused her to be preoccupied?” Toni asked.
“That’s the thing. There’s nothing. It’s a pretty routine time for us. No expansions, no new distributor lines, nothing.”
“Business is good?”
“Business is very good,” Robbie answered. “Seems the worse the economy gets, the more people want to drink. Since Gina took over the finance department, our profitability’s gone through the roof.”
This made sense. I’d have been surprised if she was anything other than an excellent business manager. “So she didn’t mention anything at all that might have caused her to be preoccupied?”
“No—at least, not to me.”
“How often do you speak to your sister?” Toni asked.
“She heads the finance department; I head operations. We work in different ends of the same building. We’d talk about business every couple of days, sometimes more often. We had weekly staff meetings with all the department heads. And we’d meet at mom and dad’s place for lunch, usually on Sundays.”
We scribbled on our notepads, trying to keep up. After a moment, Toni said, “Okay. Let’s change topics again. Gina has no history of just up and disappearing? Never done this before?”
“Never,” Robbie said.
“Okay,” Toni continued. “I don’t mean to be indelicate, but is Gina straight or homosexual?”
Robbie looked surprised. “I think she’s straight,” he said.
“How about boyfriends or girlfriends?”
Robbie shook his head. “I don’t know of any boyfriends. Certainly nobody she brought home to meet the family. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have boyfriends that I don’t know about. She may have—she’d probably not have told me unless she thought I needed to know.”
That was a pretty good summary of the Gina I thought I knew. She wasn’t the type for chitchat.
“As to girlfriends,” he continued, “I think she was friendly with a couple of the girls in the finance and accounting department. They would be good for you to talk to—they probably know more about Gina’s social life than I do.”
“Okay,” Toni said. “Does she use drugs? Any problems with alcohol?”
“As far as I know, she’s never used drugs. She’ll have a social drink or a glass of wine, but she’s not an alcoholic or anything like that.”
“Good,” Toni said. She wrote in her notebook. “How about any sort of personal problems? Any history of mental illness? Depression? Anything like that?”
“No mental illness. No personal problems I’m aware of.”
“Do you think she might be suicidal at all? Has she ever mentioned suicide?”
“Okay. Can you get us some recent photos?”
“Yeah. Mom’s got a bunch.”
I spent a minute reviewing my notes, then said, “Robbie, if we’re able to work on the case, we’ll need a complete list of people from your organization that you think we should talk to—people who work with Gina or even just know her.”
“Okay,” he said, staring at the wall, concentrating intently on something.
“And—” I started to say when he interrupted me.
“Wait a second,” he said, “I made a mistake.”
“What’s that?” Toni asked, looking up from her notepad.
“Of course there was one guy that Gina brought home to meet my parents.”
My upper body tensed.
“Who?” Toni asked. “Do you have a name for this guy?”
“Yeah,” Robbie said. He turned to me. “It was you.”
Toni looked at me, questions in her eyes. After a moment she recovered and said, “Danny? Anything you want to add?”
“Give me a second.”
I pictured Gina the way I remembered her—laughing, witty, happy, on top of the world. In front of Robbie, I didn’t know how to say that I’d had a secret crush on Gina probably since the first time I saw her in high school.
I didn’t know how to say that after high school, I wrote it off as a silly boyhood crush, at least until I bumped into Gina in late 2006, and all the old feelings came back. This time, at least, I’d grown up enough to find the guts to ask her out. To my surprise, she’d said yes.
I didn’t know how to say that I spent three of the best weeks of my life with Gina that November.
I didn’t know how to say how crushed I was when I had to ship out to Quantico, Virginia, just after Thanksgiving for three months of FBI Advanced Training School, and that during that time, our romance fizzled.
Finally, I didn’t know how to say that, at least when we were together, Gina was damn sure straight.
I didn’t know how to say any of this crap, so instead I just said, “No, I only saw her for a few weeks at the end of 2006. I can’t think of anything to add.”
Toni stared at me with an expression that made it clear she wanted to call, “Bullshit!” Rather than stare back at her, I did the manly thing—I looked away. It was quiet for a few seconds, then I turned back to Robbie. “Tell you what, why don’t we leave it at that for now? You’ve given us some really useful background information. We’re not going to solve the case this afternoon. We’re just gathering basic information to see if we’re able to take it on. If we do, we’ll have a lot more questions. Toni, do you have anything else?” I turned to her.
Whether she did or not, she could tell I wanted to end the interview, so she looked down at her notes, flipped through a couple of pages and then looked back up and smiled. “No, we’re good for now.” She glanced at me and added, “I think we’ve got plenty to work on here.”
“Okay.” I turned back to Robbie. “We’d like to help,” I said. “Before we can commit for sure, I need to do three things. First, I have to meet with Detective Brown and find out SPD’s posture on our potential assistance. We need them to approve our getting involved, or, at least, for them to have no insurmountable objections.”
“I don’t think that should be a problem,” he said.
“Good.” I chalked his optimism up to friends in high places. That’s okay. I could use a little benevolence-by-association. “Second thing, I need to have a meeting with my staff to find out from my whole team whether we think we can actually be of service, or if we’d just get in the way. We talk over big cases like this as a group before we make a commitment.”
He nodded, and I continued. “If both of those go well, the last thing I’ll need to do is talk to you again, but this time with your parents. We need their stories. I think all of these things can happen by tomorrow, so are you okay if we set a tentative meeting for two o’clock at your parents’ home?”
“The sooner the better.” Robbie stood to leave. “I want you to know that whatever happens, we’ll be grateful if you help us try to find her. We feel completely helpless and, frankly, that’s not a position my family often finds itself in. My dad’s a borderline Type A personality, and Gina’s the absolute definition of a super–Type A.” His scared expression was back. “I’m not that way, and neither’s mom. When our family bumps into a problem, usually Dad—or recently, Gina—will take charge and make things happen. With her gone, we’re kind of floundering. We don’t know what to do, and it’s killing us.”
Toni took Robbie to the door and said good-bye while I reviewed my notes. A few minutes later, she came back to my office and sat down. She hoisted her Doc Martens up onto the corner of my desk and stared at me while she chewed on the end of a pencil. She said nothing.
Finally, I looked up and said, “What?”
“Nothing,” she said, a bit of a smirk beginning to show on her face. I recognized the look. She was about to have some fun at my expense.
“What do you want, you—you little pain in the butt?” I asked.
She didn’t look away. “I’m just waiting for you to tell me the whole story about you and this missing mystery woman.” Toni’s eyes sparkle when she’s being mischievous, like now. She enjoyed seeing me on the hot seat, and she was smart enough to know that, indeed, that’s where I was.
Antoinette Blair is a twenty-six-year-old Seattleite blessed with striking good looks, kind of like a “grunge” fashion model. Think Katy Perry with tattoos. Toni’s taller, “grungier,” but has the same beautiful face, same breathtaking figure, same medium-length black hair, same brilliant blue eyes. No denying, Toni is easy to look at. She and I have gone to charity black-tie functions on behalf of the agency a couple of times, and let me just say, she dresses up real nice when she swaps her leathers and studs for an evening gown that covers up her tats while uncovering her cleavage. It was a pretty cool feeling having her on my arm and every set of male eyes in the room on her. The wealthy tech geeks who usually go to those sorts of things must have thought, “What’s a knockout like her doing with a shithead like him?” Get over it, propeller-head.
Sparkling blue eyes, drop-dead figure, and stunning intellect notwithstanding, I think my favorite Toni Blair feature just might be her smile. She actually has several she can use, ranging from a coy, seductive grin all the way to a full-power, stupefying Julia Roberts–like megawatt blast that can stop a train.
I met Toni in 2007 when we were both seniors at U-Dub in the Criminal Justice department. I was still in the army at the time, and Toni worked part-time at the restaurant her mom managed—still manages, in fact. Toni’s parents divorced when she was young, and her mom worked full-time first as a waitress, then later as a manager. She’d saved money every month so that Toni could go to college.
In 2008, after I was discharged from the army, I opened Logan Private Investigations. Toni basically hired herself and became my first employee. Turned out to be the best move I ever made. Toni is a serious private investigator. Dead shot with the Glock 23 she’s always got tucked somewhere on her person, and damn good at Krav Maga—the Israeli army martial art that I picked up in Afghanistan and have been practicing ever since. Toni and I train together once a week or so.
Attractive as Toni is, I knew better than to mix my work life with my love life, so I always considered her off-limits. I knew she understood, and I think she felt the same way. But this didn’t stop her from messing with me. When we’d practice our grappling, if I started to get the better of her, she’d grab me in the crotch and squeeze, then laugh when I immediately tapped out. Then she’d laugh even more when I’d get pissed.
She knows me so well that she could tell when she had me pinned down on something. She was enjoying this immensely.
“Give it up, Logan,” she said. “I can’t do my job unless I have all the details. I need facts, man.”
“Alright, alright,” I said. “It’s simple. In high school, I had a silent crush on Gina—same as probably 90 percent of the other guys there. Nothing came of it. Then, six years later, I bump into her at Starbucks. We start talking and end up dating.”
“Did you fall in love?”
“No, I didn’t fall in love,” I said. “We were only together for three weeks.”
Toni kept working me. “Did you—you know, did you two . . . consummate the relationship?”
I glared at her. “Fuck you, Blair—none of your goddamned business.”
She laughed out loud.
“If you must know, we had a fabulous few weeks together before I shipped out to the FBI Academy. I had a dumpy little apartment then, near Fort Lewis. I’d drive up to Seattle most every night, and Gina and I’d go to a movie or out to dinner, or sometimes just hang out at her place. She’d just graduated and was working at her dad’s business. She had a nice apartment in Fremont. She took me home for Thanksgiving that year with her family.”
“Go on,” Toni said, when I paused to reflect how nice the holiday had been.
“Yeah. Three days after Thanksgiving, I shipped out. Our romance fizzled. It was hard, but I wouldn’t say I was brokenhearted.”
Toni was respectfully silent, then said, “Well, look at the bright side. When we find her, you’ll be able to light a new fire there.”
“Yeah? I don’t know about that.” I thought for a few seconds, and then said, “Actually, I see two problems with that.”
“One?” she asked.
“One. We have to find her.”
She shrugged. “If she’s alive, we’ll find her,” she said. “What’s number two?”
“Remember Thomas Wolfe?” I asked.
She smiled. “Ah yes,” she said. “Here it comes. You’re going to say ‘You Can’t Go Home Again.’”
I was impressed that she guessed where I was going, though I probably shouldn’t have been.
“Well, that’s bullshit, you sentimental sop,” she said. “You can do whatever you want.”
I like Toni. She needles me a lot, but I think I’ll keep her.