March 16th, 2005
Lyric’s Cop

Lyric hesitated for all of one minute before giving in. Her gut told her that they didn’t have much time before the dogs would disappear—permanently. And what he said about working together made sense—not that she couldn’t read the writing on the wall. He was in for trouble if he thought he was going to turn this into his investigation.

“Fine, let’s go.”

Gene Surbeck’s address turned out to be in an apartment complex, a collection of ugly, blocky buildings with peeling paint and plenty of borrowed shopping carts straddling the curbs. The name G. Surbeck showed up in a crude scrawl above the mailbox for apartment 15-C, Building Three. Kieran led the way up two flights of stairs, confidence rolling off him like a wake behind a barge.

The TV in 15-C was turned way up, probably to drown out the sound of a yelling kid. But Kieran’s knock sounded official enough that the noise level dropped and the door opened just wide enough for Lyric to get a look at the woman inside. Her face was heavily made-up, but no amount of bottled goop was going to hide the damage—puffy eye, split lip.

“Yeah, what-da-ya want?”

“You Linda?” Kieran asked.

“Not likely. If you’re looking for her, you’re a year too late.”

“Actually we’re looking for some dogs,” Lyric said.

The woman’s smile turned sly. “I got one here. I might be interested in parting with her.” She stepped back to let them in.

The place stunk of urine, cigarettes, and beer. A little boy with no clothing wandered in from another room and peed on the carpet in front of the TV. The woman reached over and gave the toddler a whack on his butt. “Not on the carpet!”

The boy started bawling. The woman knelt down next to the sofa and reached under, grabbing until she caught a hind leg and managed to get a protesting mass of filthy white fur out from under the couch. “Here she is.” The woman huffed to her feet. “Her real name is Ant-wa-nette. But we just call her Lady.”

Lyric held out her arms for the dog. The woman relinquished her without a word, then lit a cigarette and sucked in a lung full of smoke. “I got her awhile back. She was real cute and fancy when we brought her home. But I don’t have no time to cut her hair and give her baths. Besides, she didn’t take to Frankie.” The woman waved her cigarette in the direction of the still crying child. “Guess she’s never been around kids. Mainly she just stays under the couch.”

Lyric’s skin tingled with the sixth sense she’d learned to trust. “Where’d you get her?”

“She followed me home from the grocery store.” The woman giggled. “I just put her in the basket with the rest of my things and brought her home—kind of like a present to myself.”

“I didn’t know there was a grocery store in walking distance.”

“Well, it ain’t close. But I go to the Safeway over on San Carlos—usually cut through the Rose Garden to get there.”

Lyric nodded. The Rose Garden was an old neighborhood of beautifully maintained houses with a park in its center that had hundreds of different rose varieties in it. “Is that where you found Lady, in the Rose Garden?”

The sly expression appeared again. The woman shook her head. “Tell you the truth, I don’t remember any more. Gene’d know, but he ain’t here right now.”

Kieran shifted. “He the one who hit you?”

The sly expression disappeared, followed by a suspicious one. Lyric tried to divert the woman. “How much do you want for Lady?”

The woman took another long pull on her cigarette and looked at Lyric, then Kieran. “Fifty bucks.”

Kieran snorted. “For that flea-bag?”

Lyric shot him a warning look. He might be trying to haggle down to a cheaper price, but she wasn’t willing to risk losing the dog. She’d bet twice the fifty that somebody in the Rose Garden was missing a well-loved pet.

Lyric moved closer to Kieran, angling so she could press against his thigh and give her aching pussy some relief while clueing him in on how this was going to go. “I’m going to be mad at you if I can’t take Lady home with me.” She felt his cock jump against her leg and couldn’t resist rubbing against him just enough to see his eyes flash with lust.

Son of bitch but she was asking for it. Braden was right when he said his little hellion of a cousin needed a man to set some rules and enforce them. Two could play this game. Kieran speared his fingers through her hair and forced her face to his. “I’ll buy the dog, but you’re going to pay me back, baby, and I don’t take cash.”

Heat flashed through Lyric’s body at his show of dominance. She couldn’t resist answering his challenge. “Whatever you say, Kieran.”

His smile was feral as he loosened his grip on her hair and managed to brush his hand against her aroused nipple when he reached for his wallet. Lyric only barely held back a moan as she turned toward the woman.