you—soon as you get your wits back. You’re just not putting it together yet. Maybe because of the way you’re … uh … un dressed.” “Please. No games. I have a splitting headache.” Then a vision of the near miss jumped up. “You mean that white car?” “Yep. Think about it.” I squinted in concentration, rolling my memory tape. In the video, I saw my foot lift to step off the curb, then a white sedan bore down on me. A Toyota, definitely a Toyota, expensive model. My eyes lifted from the front-end emblem to the windshield. A woman, brunette, familiar features. “You think it was Garcia driving that car?” He had a gotcha look on his face. “You don’t stay alive on the street by guessing. You can’t afford to be wrong. But I did see a white Toyota Avalon with dark side windows. I could make out that the driver was a woman. And I saw that same car make a beeline toward you. Now, you got any other enemies that want you taken out?” He paused while I gnawed on what he said. “You’re thinking about it,” he said. “That’s good. Keep it up, and I figure you’ll come to the same conclusion. So I’ll just get back to work unless you want to buy me dinner.” He stepped into the street, mumbling loud enough for me to hear, “Love them red panties. My favorite color on a woman. Mighty nice ass, too. Been a long time …”
nineteen I managed to get to my car and drive away without another catastrophe—or another free skin show. While I replayed the incident, the Anvil Chorus clanged away in my head. Was it Maria Garcia, or whatever her name was, driving the Toyota? Did she try to kill me? It was possible. The bash I received in Jacobs’ room was no accident. Maybe my head was so hard, the assailant didn’t realize a simple sledgehammer wouldn’t do me in. My stomach roiled with the realization I might be a target, while common sense said there was only one solution. Find her and her accomplices before she found me again. Simple to say. Accomplishing it promised to be far more difficult. Once I accepted the premise that Garcia came after me, the question became how she knew I’d be there. The only possibility was she saw one of my flyers. That solution led in two directions. The first was that someone I’d questioned didn’t level with me. Possible. Especially when I considered no one in the strip mall owed me any loyalty. The other was she returned to one of the shops and was not recognized. Mr. Homeless told me the picture wasn’t right, her hair was different from the way she normally wore it. I knew from personal experience how a woman can change her appearance by changing her hairstyle. It was one of my favorite tricks when conducting surveillance. There are times a person needs someone else to discuss a situation with—a partner, a husband, or a best girlfriend. This was such a time, but I had none of them. Since escaping Sonny-the-Bunny, I had shied away from close relationships, concentrating instead on establishing independence and enhancing my reputation as a PI. My caseload said I’d been successful. At that moment, though, I’d have exchanged some of my success for a friendly ear. David came to mind, but I nixed him. Far too spooky to share with a new love interest. Probably scare him back to North Carolina. I shuddered. If Garcia tried once, how soon before she tried again? I’d have to stay on my toes. Be alert or be dead would have to become my mantra. Maybe I’d invent a fancy logo to represent it. A round yellow face with big searching eyes. Stupid? Yeah, but in spite of my predicament, I could still make myself smile. The smile disappeared when I noticed a broken fingernail and scratches in the polish on several others. Talk about adding insult to humiliation to injury. Was this the same day that started on such a high? I grabbed my cell phone, called my manicurist, and explained my dilemma. She understood and said I needed to get to her shop as fast as I could.