The Dollmaker

The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens

Book: The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amanda Stevens
looked glummer by the moment. “Who you after, Dave?”
    “Right now I’m just asking a few questions.”
    “It’s what I do for a living, remember?”
    “For a paying client, maybe, but not just for the hell of stirring things up. Why complicate your life? You’ve got things good these days. You don’t need NOPD breathing down your neck.”
    “Who says they will be?”
    “What, you think they’re going to be happy to see you back in town? You were a mean drunk, Dave, and you burned a lot of bridges. Everyone understood what you were going through so they were willing to cut you some slack up to a point. But let’s face it, you didn’t exactly leave behind a pile of goodwill when you cleaned out your desk. You start nosing around in an active investigation, somebody might use that as an excuse to mop up the floor with your ass.”
    “By somebody, you mean Alex Girard.”
    Marsilius set his cup on the porch and straightened slowly. “There’s a lot of bad blood between you two, and he’s got the upper hand these days. Like I said, Katrina changed things in New Orleans. Most of the old alliances were swept away in the floodwaters, and the way I hear it, he’s been cozying up to some of the new power brokers in town. He’s got ambition and he’s got muscle. That makes him a dangerous man in my book. You get crossways with him again, you could end up losing your P.I. license. Then where will you be?”
    Dave grinned. “Maybe I’ll buy myself a boat and give you a run for your money, old man.”
    Marsilius wasn’t the least bit amused. “You watch your back, boy, you hear me? You keep asking questions, you might find out the hard way there’s a hollow point out there somewhere with your name on it.”

    T he sun was already blazing when Claire took a cab into the Quarter. She’d been sleeping when her mother had left the hospital. Claire had awakened to find a note from Lucille propped against a cup of water on the bedside table.
    Running to the house to get cleaned up and get a little work done. I’ll be back this afternoon to take you home.
    Claire had waited until the aide who’d brought her breakfast came in to clear away the tray, and then she’d climbed out of bed, dressed and left the room. She’d used her cell phone to call a cab, then waited in the air-conditioned lobby for the car to pull up outside.
    As she’d pushed open the glass doors, the heat had hit her in the face like a blast from the studio furnace. The trees lining the avenues stood droopy and motionless, and the sprinklers that kept the lawns green in the summer sprayed a steady mist over shady beds of impatiens, begonias and maidenhair fern.
    As her cab crossed the tracks on Canal Street, the driver seemed overly concerned about Claire’s health. He kept an eye on her in the rearview mirror and asked more than once that she please not be sick in his car. Luckily, Claire managed to oblige him, but as she climbed back out into the smoldering heat, a wave of dizziness washed over her and she had to seek refuge underneath a balcony until the dark spots stopped dancing before her eyes.
    The sidewalk was damp from the rain the previous evening, and as the concrete dried in the sun, heat radiated up from the surface like a steam sauna. The air was thick and heavy, and the stench of stale wine and beer hovered over the gutters, turning Claire’s stomach until she had to retreat deeper under the balcony, where cool air wafted from an open shop doorway.
    As she waited for the nausea to pass, she stared across the street at the store window, but from where she stood, the glare on the glass made it impossible to see inside. The cool air from the doorway helped revive her, and a moment later, Claire left the shade and crossed the street. Stepping up on the curb, she felt her heart begin to hammer, and she had to draw in several deep breaths to keep the vertigo at bay.
    And then she was there, in front of the

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