“This gay guy that Matt mentioned, Lisa’s lover. Did he tell you his name?”
“I don’t think so,” said Claire. “Oh, wait. He might have said something in passing. Franco? Francesco? Is that possible?”
Hanging up, Danny stripped off his clothes and jumped into the shower. Something about pounding jets of hot water always helped him think. He felt as if today he’d been handed multiple pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. And if he could only somehow see how they fit together, he might have the answer to this riddle. The problem was that they weren’t the pieces he’d been looking for.
He came to New York looking for information about Lisa Baring’s past. Instead, he’d learned a lot about Lyle Renalto’s. Only there was no Lyle Renalto, there was only this Frankie Mancini. Frankie Mancini…who was gay…so he couldn’t be Azrael the rapist-killer, right?…but who was apparently linked with Lisa Baring. Though not as her lover. Just as Frankie had not been “Princess Sofia’s” lover, whoever she may have been. Just as Lyle Renalto had not been Angela Jakes’s lover. Everything was linked, but each link came full circle back to itself rather than connecting with the others.
What am I not seeing?
It wasn’t just the people who came full circle but the places too. New York, L.A., Hong Kong, Italy, New York. And Morocco. That’s it. Dublenko said Frankie’s Princess Sofia claimed to come from Morocco. That’s where Matt Daley and Lisa were going to run off to, before Lisa disappeared.
Was Morocco important, or just a coincidence? Danny’s head ached.
Drying himself off, he sat down on the bed and looked again at Frankie Mancini’s photograph in the Beeches yearbook. Lyle Renalto smiled mockingly back at him. Frankie was younger than Lyle, his face more fleshy and rounded. Yet despite the differences, they were clearly the same person.
On instinct, without really knowing why, Danny switched on his computer and pulled up the picture Inspector Liu had provided of Lisa Baring, the one he’d given the NYPD and various agencies and organizations in the city with so little success. He stared at Lisa’s face for a long time, almost as if he expected her to speak, to reveal her secrets. Finally, he zoomed in on her eyes, the eyes that had bewitched Matt Daley—and presumably Miles Baring before him—reducing him to a shadow of his former self. They reminded Danny of other eyes he had seen. Eyes he had seen somewhere else. Eyes he had seen long ago.
All at once, there it was. Literally staring him in the face.
Heart pounding, Danny McGuire picked up the telephone.
How could I have been so blind?
INSPECTOR LIU LOOKED AT THE HOTEL manager distastefully. The man was bald, apparently uneducated and morbidly obese, his whalelike blubber squeezed into a gray polyester suit two sizes too small for him and so shiny it was almost silver. Yet he seemed to be running one of the most expensive establishments in Sydney, a five-star hotel right on the harbor whose clients included rock stars and politicians. There was no justice in this world.
“You’re quite sure it was her?”
“Look, mate,” the manager wheezed, handing back the photograph of Lisa Baring. “I might not be Stephen friggin’ Hawkins, all right, but I know how to recognize a face. Especially a face that gorgeous. It’s part of my job.” He scratched his armpits unselfconsciously. “It was a couple of months ago now. Stacey upstairs’ll have the exact dates for you. She checked in with a bloke, good-looking fella, but she paid the bill. I’m pretty sure they reserved under ‘Smith.’”
“You don’t verify your guests’ passports?”
The manager snorted derisively. “We’re not the bloody FBI, Mr. Liu.”
“Inspector Liu,” Liu said coldly.
“And no offense, but we’re not the Chinese police state either,” the fat Australian went on, ignoring him. “If I started sniffing around every Mr. and Mrs. Smith who checked in here, I’d soon go out of business, let me tell you.”
“Who paid the bill?”
“She did, the sheila. In cash.”
“But they left no forwarding address, no credit-card billing address, nothing?”
“Like I said, I don’t think so, but check with Stacey. She’s the eyes and ears of this place if you know what I mean.”
Stacey was a meek mouse of a woman in her sixties who corroborated everything her boss had already told the inspector. Mrs. Smith had paid in cash. No, she’d never mentioned anything about future plans, at least not at the front desk. Mr. Smith was “quiet” and “attractive.” Stacey declined to hazard a guess as to his age.
“I’d like to see their room.”
The suite was palatial, even by the hotel’s grand standards. “Mrs. Smith” must have needed a wheelbarrow of cash to pay for a week’s stay here. Then again, Lisa Baring could afford it, what with her old man’s money burning a hole in her thieving, conniving pocket. He and his men scoured the rooms for fingerprints, hair, or other forensic evidence, but after two months and God knows how many subsequent occupants, not to mention twice-daily cleaning by the hotel staff, they weren’t hopeful.
Every chambermaid was interviewed, along with the concierge, bar and restaurant staff and someone named Liana at the spa where Mrs. Smith had availed herself of the hotel’s signature hot stone massage.
“She seemed a little emotional, to be honest,” Liana remembered, batting her heavy false eyelashes in Inspector Liu’s direction and almost asphyxiating him with a gust of CK One perfume. “She was tearful during her treatment, I remember that. But guests often are. So much gets released when you really hit those meridians, you know what I mean?”
“Did she say anything about what might have been upsetting her? Any information at all might help us.”
Liana thought about it. “She didn’t. But I’d say it was man trouble. I saw her with her hubby in the lobby a couple of times and he was always holding her hand or fussing over her, but she didn’t seem into it. She kept shrugging him off.”
By the end of the day, Inspector Liu was frustrated. He’d flown out to Sydney in person, because the Australia sighting was the first solid evidence he’d managed to get hold of, since Mrs. Baring’s second attempt at absconding, that she was (a) alive, and (b) a free agent, not locked up in some sex offender’s dungeon, as certain bleeding-heart factions seemed to believe. But the trip had been a bust. He’d discovered nothing that he couldn’t have learned from a ten-minute phone call from Hong Kong.
Leaving three men behind to finish collecting the physical evidence, he took his leave. “One of our chauffeurs can take you to the airport,” the fat manager offered magnanimously. “If you have to leave Sydney, you might as well do it in style.”
Sitting in the back of the plushly upholstered, air-conditioned limo, Liu brooded on the fact that Lisa Baring and her lover seemed always to manage to remain one step ahead of him. You could bet your bottom Hong Kong dollar that they had left Sydney in style. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. He rapped on the window that separated passenger from driver, which promptly rolled down.
“There’s a call button if you want it, mate. You see that console there on your left?”
But Inspector Liu wasn’t interested in call buttons and consoles.
“How many chauffeurs does the hotel employ?”
“There’s six of us.”
“And do you keep records of your journeys? Which guests go where?”
“There’s a logbook, yeah. It’s in the office.”
“But…your plane. I thought you said the last flight to Hong Kong—”
Stacey in the office was dismayed to see the grumpy Chinese policeman back so soon.
“Inspector. I thought you said you were—”
“I need the drivers’ logbook,” said Liu. He gave her the dates. “I need to know who chauffeured the Smith party to the airport.”
“Not all of our guests use the cars,” the woman warned him. “Most check out under their own steam.”
But Liu wasn’t listening. There it was. Smith, 10:20 A.M. Marco.
“I need to speak to Marco. Right now.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Stacey said nervously. “Marco’s off on compassionate leave. His mother passed away a week ago.”
Inspector Liu could not have cared less about Marco’s mother. “Give me his address.”
MARCO BRUNELLI WAS STILL IN HIS underwear and a stained vest when the Chinese policemen knocked on his door. Actually they didn’t so much knock as hammer.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” Marco swallowed nervously, thinking about the stash of weed lying there in plain sight on his bedside table, his failure to pay his last year’s tax bill and an incident with a pole dancer at Blushes nightclub that had occurred the previous month. Not that the latter was his fault.
“You work at the Huxley Hotel, as a driver?”