Boston Police Detective Robert Teague risked his professional reputation to close the case that ruined his father. He burned a lot of people to do that, and after six years the captain who saved his job hasn’t forgotten how much Robert screwed up. A detective of his experience should have something better to do than chasing down a complaint against a paroled convict, but maybe that's why his gut is telling him something doesn’t make sense. Why did this boyfriend pimp get such a light sentence in the first place, and why did one of Boston’s most prestigious law firms represent him? And what is it about the complaining witness that makes her less reliable every time he talks to her? (The fact that she’s using an alias isn’t helping.)
Even a hard-boiled cop would be shocked by the world Hannah Bruges has been slipping in and out of since she was a young teenager. Counterfeiting, child prostitution and slave labor in all its forms make the world a miserable place, and Hannah knows better than most how evil it can be when no one cares. When anyone can get what they want at every level of a dark market, nothing’s as cheap as a human life. Robert would be happy to close the case if Hannah didn’t keep walking into trouble and dragging him into it with her. And if he’s honest, the detective in him wants to know what she’s really after: the people the law can’t find, or the person no one bothered to look for?
There’s always someone who can give you what you want and what you need, but nothing comes without a price. How much are you willing to pay when it’s someone you love?
The function was scheduled to begin at seven in the evening. Robert made sure he arrived at seven-fifteen; late enough that there would be enough people so he could blend in, but early enough that he could see people walking in.
The man at the desk had frowned when he walked up, but once he showed his badge, he reluctantly let him through. That vindicated his conviction that he did not have much time to find what he was looking for.
He ordered a scotch at the bar after waiting for ten minutes. It wasn't, he told himself, to calm his nerves, but to blend in.
"I'll have whatever he's having," a woman's voice said.
He looked down out of the corner of his eye. He knew who it was, but he was going to play it cool. "Why am I not surprised to see you here?" he said as soon as she got her drink and the bartender walked away.
She turned so her back was leaning against the bar. Her hair was up, and now it looked lighter, as it had in the old picture. It suited her. She was wearing makeup too. A lot of it, but well done. Her dress was beige, close to her skin tone, and with only one strap. The hemline was one of those uneven things that was shorter in the front than the back. She had on heels, and he couldn't help but notice how good her legs looked.
"I'm going to walk out of this room," she said quietly, not looking at him, "and you're going to give me a two-minute head start. You're going to walk downstairs to the bathrooms on the right side of the Starbucks. I'm going to come out after I powder my nose, and you're going to look very happy to see me. Got it?" Before he could answer, she sauntered away, stopping twice to flirt with some of the older men in the room.
Robert looked at his watch. When two minutes had passed, he finished his drink, left money in the tip jar, and walked out. He walked as slowly as he could to the escalator.
One minute later, he had just glanced at the bathroom when he saw Hannah walk out. She smiled broadly and walked over to him. "There you are!" she said, linking elbows with him. "Why don't we go somewhere a little quieter, hmm?"
Robert looked at the calendar of events. Perfect. "I know just the place," he said, then walked her back up the stairs to the fourth ballroom. There was loud cheering and conversation.
Hannah looked around appreciatively. "The American Statistical Association really knows how to party, huh?"
"Why are you dressed like that?" Robert demanded.
"What's the first thing you thought when you saw me like this?"
"That you look like a little girl playing dress up in her big sister's clothes."
Hannah smiled. "And you don't think any of those guys up there go for that?"
Robert folded his arms. "You blackmailed a low-level pimp so you could prostitute yourself to some partners in a law firm?"
"You got this far and that's the best you could come up with?"
"You are going to stop playing games with me, Hannah, and tell me what the hell is going on."
"Three hours, and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"What happens in three hours?"
"I meet you at Wally's, buy you a drink, and tell you everything."
"Wally's on Mass Ave? That's pretty close to where you really live, right?"
Hannah patted his shoulder. "Very good, Robert. You want more? Give me three hours. If I don't get to do what I need to, none of this is going to matter."
"I am a cop. I can't let you go to knowingly break another law."
"I swear to you I'm not going to do anything illegal." She sighed. "Don't you let people get their affairs in order before they turn themselves in?"
"Is that what you're going to do?"
"I'll let you decide." She licked her lips. "Do we have a deal?"
Robert shook his head and looked at his watch. "If I don't see you at Wally's by ten-thirty exactly, I am going to get a warrant for your arrest for blackmail and fraud."
"See you at ten-thirty," Hannah said as she turned to leave. "And enjoy the party."
One second later, he heard a “whoo!” and then a screaming man thrust a beer into his hand. Before Robert could extricate himself, Hannah was out the door.
"For anyone who has read the series, this is a great continuation of the rocky life of Robert Teague. Whether you loved him or hated him in after reading China Doll, you definitely had an opinion, and I was happy to find out what really makes him tick in this novel. The author was not afraid to dig into the twisted world of human trafficking to expose the ugliness most of us never see--and it was all done with the level of empathy and care we've come to expect from her."