Officer Lou Hernandez is surprised when he's asked to help Gideon Monahan catch an art forger. He's not too happy, however, when he meets the man he'll be working with. Lou thinks Rory Kinley is a supercilious pain in the ass. Rory, on the other hand, sees no reason why Lou has been brought into this. After all, he's just a cop, albeit one who is good at going undercover.
The art forger they're after -- Nate Hanks -- cons collectors, saying he has an undiscovered painting by a famous artist. He's killed one of his marks already to keep from being caught.
Lou and Rory will have to set aside their differences as they set up a sting to stop Hanks. When they do, they discover they may not be as incompatible as they thought. The question becomes, will their growing feelings survive what's to come -- or be destroyed in the process?
"I'm here with Gideon Monahan," he told the hostess when he entered the restaurant.
"Yes, sir. He's in the lounge at the moment" She pointed him in the right direction.
Lou found Gideon sitting at a table set for three, overlooking the patio, and he took a seat, draping his coat over the back of the remaining chair.
"You made it," Gideon said.
"You sound surprised."
"I wasn't certain you'd come. You were ... shall we say ... less than enthusiastic last night. What would you like to drink?"
"A beer, please."
Gideon flagged down the waiter, placing an order for beer for both of them, as well as asking for the Chef's Cheese Board. "We can eat here, where it's more private, or go into the restaurant," he said when the waiter left.
"Here's fine," Lou replied. It was somewhat noisy, as with most bars, which would cover their words if need be.
"I presume you talked to Lieutenant Harber."
Lou nodded. "He convinced me I should at least hear you out before making up my mind."
"Very good. We'll get into that when my associate arrives."
Lou smiled dryly. "Double-teaming me?"
"He knows as much about Nate Hanks as I do, since he's been tracking his activities."
"You sound like most bosses. Leave the dirty work to the employees."
"Not really, but in this case ..." Gideon shrugged.
"If you already have someone on Hanks, why do you think you need me?"
"For your undercover skills." Gideon looked past Lou, smiling at something -- or someone, it turned out, when a man came over to the table.
"If you don't mind," the man -- Lou figured he was in his early thirties -- said, pointing to Lou's coat.
"Not at all." Lou moved his coat to the back of his chair.
"So you're the cop, huh?" the man said with a supercilious glance at Lou as he sat.
"Rory," Gideon said in a cautionary tone. "Lou, this is Rory Kinley. Rory, Lou Hernandez."
Lou gave a sharp nod, asking, "Do you have something against the police, Mr. Kinley?"
Rory shrugged. "They play a useful part in society. I just don't see that you'll be any good when it comes to working with us." He looked Lou over with a jaundiced eye. "We need someone who can pass as a wealthy buyer with no scruples." He chuckled. "Being a cop, you've probably got the last bit down pat."
Lou clenched his hands. If they hadn't been in a high-class place ... Temper. Cold-cocking him would only get me tossed out on my ass. "You might be surprised what I can pass as," Lou said, keeping his voice low and calm to hide the animosity he felt.
"I'm sure I would be." Rory sipped the drink he was holding, then set it on the table, turning to Gideon. "Have you explained what we have in mind?"
"Not yet. He does know who we're after ... and why."
"You told him about the man Hanks killed, I hope," Rory said.
That set Lou's radar pinging. "As part of his con?"
Gideon nodded. "I was going to get to that tonight. Not precisely as a part of a con, obviously, but we think it was the result of one of his buyers knowing more about Bramer -- the artist Hanks claimed did the painting he had for sale -- than Hanks expected. At that point, Hanks could have faded away. Instead, we believe he murdered the man."
"You believe. You're not certain?"
"The man is dead. Unfortunately, we've yet to learn how to commune with ghosts to ask him how it happened," Rory pointed out sarcastically.
Ignoring him, Lou asked Gideon, "What was his name? And how did he die?"
"Elliot Manning. He fell down a flight of stairs at the garage where he parked his car."
"Wait. I remember that. It happened about six months ago. He was found at the bottom of the stairs by the parking attendant. It was late at night. Right?" Lou paused, trying to recall the details. "According to friends, he was celebrating his birthday. They thought he was fine when he left the restaurant. The coroner found that his alcohol level was well above the legal limit."
"You have a good memory, Lou," Gideon said.
"Only because it made the news and sounded like something out of a whodunit: Wealthy Colorado Springs Businessman Dies in Tragic Accident, I think the headline said."
"It did. If we hadn't been on Hanks' trail at that point, we wouldn't have thought anything about it." Gideon took a drink. "I let a friend of mine on the police department down there know about my suspicions. Unfortunately, with no witnesses and no indication it was anything other than what it seemed, there was nothing he could do."
Lou nodded. "But you're certain Hanks was involved?"