And not good for him to be around.
He longed for his old FBI partner. Not one bit of temptation there, if you didn’t count the doughnuts and chocolate cake that the big man had always shared. But his former “keeper” had retired at the required age of fifty-seven and was now fishing somewhere in Florida.
Connor could go for that kind of life right now.
Then he changed that and longed for someone like the woman who’d trusted him to stay. The woman who’d vowed to find him if he had left. The woman sitting here with him now, her mind razor-sharp and snapping, her ambition as strong and urgent as his own. New territory.
This was one of those ironic moments in life. He had a huge crush on a woman who could cart him off to jail with one wrong move, and they were running from people who could kill both of them, all because he’d blown his cover with a crime boss, then convinced that boss to let him hang around. Where was the justice in that? Justice, maybe. A challenge? Definitely.
“What about Armond’s son?”
She’d managed to get his head back in the game, just like that.
“Lou lives in Europe. A good life filled with yachts, mansions and red-carpet moments with actresses and models.”
“Like father, like son.”
“Yes, Lou supposedly runs Armond’s philanthropic organizations.”
“He has philanthropic tendencies?”
“He has money to hide or get rid of for tax purposes, yes. He made a big contribution to Princess Lara’s house-building project in New Orleans. For what it’s worth, Armond told me repeatedly that he’d made enough money to come clean and live legitimately.”
“So why didn’t he?”
“His smuggling operation is too easy to give up. And too secret for me to crack into. I’m telling you those receipts and that money—that was put there by someone who wanted to implicate him.”
“One of his own?”
“I don’t know. He pays his people well for discretion and for security. None of them are hurting and Lou is set for life.”
“Hmm. Somebody wants a piece of the pie.”
“Or the whole enchilada.”
“Do you think Lou would off his own father?”
“Money is motive, sweetheart,” he said, knowing it to be true. His workaholic mother had lived for money and had died at gunpoint on a dark street, leaving Deidre and him with mounting charge-card bills and no money to pay for any of her debts.
Josie must have picked up on his dark tone. “I’m sorry about your mother. Bad way to die.”
“Mugged and shot,” he said, the memories of that night hitting him with the humidity. “Deidre never quite got over her death.”
“And you? You became a criminal to provide for your sister?”
“At first. I wanted to be noble like Robin Hood, but the power overtook me. Like mother, like son. She pretended to have it all together, and I’ve pretended to be someone I’m not.”
“But you’re making up for it now, right?”
“I’m trying. Enforced nobility is the closest thing to being noble. So here I am living on the honor system, when really, I have no honor.”
“You’re a work in progress, Connor.”
They’d stared at each other while they crossed another boundary. Did she finally get that he was trying? He prayed so.
“Let’s jot down names and arrange facts,” she said, taking the drawing paper Mama Joe had given her and placing it on the gray, weathered picnic table. “Maybe we can piece together some means and motive.”
“You know how to get to a guy’s heart, Agent Gilbert,” he replied with a hand over his chest.
“I’m a work in progress, too,” she said.
* * *
Four hours later, Mama Joe put a huge piece of fried chicken on Connor’s dinner plate, and they still hadn’t narrowed down one good suspect, just pieces of key people around Armond.
“Now, eat up,” Mama Joe said with false huffiness. “If you gotta run, you sure gonna need some fuel to get you going.”
“This is our third meal today,” Josie noted. “I haven’t eaten this much in years.”
Connor dipped mashed potatoes and lathered them with rich brown gravy. “Good thing I only swing by once or twice a year.”