Sometimes no news is bad news

Hermosa Beach

Vincent Palmieri hung up the cellphone with a casual snap of his wrist. He knew his boys in the BMW would be springing into action any second. They'd been following Bonner all day -- from his Malibu home to LAX -- watching him panic inside the terminal when his wife disappeared. Then they tailed his cab to Falco's place in Beverly Hills and watched him go inside.

Palmieri wasn't surprised by Bonner's sudden change of plans. Most men were fools. Especially men who married reality show actresses.

But Ernesto? Holding a gun on Bonner's wife. At Falco's home? That was unexpected.

Palmieri flicked open the phone and dialed. He needed some good news. Something to make his stay in Cabo worth all the trouble. Something like Hans finishing the job that morning. That would at least be a good start. Only Hans hadn't called. And Hans always called.

The phone rang too many times, and Palmieri's casual demeanor slipped into something less comfortable. He was about to close the phone when a voice he hardly recognized wheezed into his ear.

"What the hell happened?" Palmieri asked. "You were supposed to call me as soon as it was done."

"She's gone," the man's voice strained against the words.

"Good. You had me worried. I don't hear from you, I worry."

A series of choking coughs caused Palmieri to tilt the phone away from his ear. When the choking stopped, the voice moaned, "She jumped . . . out the window."

"Jeez, a little messier than normal. The cops'll be all over that."

"Carmen . . . escaped," the moaning was followed by a sickening gurgle, and Palmieri slammed his hand on the poolside table. A middle-aged woman in a lounge chair looked up from her John Grisham novel and frowned. Palmieri ignored her.

"You listen to me, Hans. I don't know what the hell's going on, or what's wrong with your voice, but if you ever want to speak again, you take that blond head of yours and figure out where the hell she went! She's a pole dancer! How hard can it be?"

The woman looked up again and scowled.

Palmieri sent her an obscene gesture, heard the line go dead and slammed the phone shut between his palms.

If he caught the late afternoon flight, he could be in L.A. by sunset.

Shaun Morey left corporate life recently to devote himself to writing full time. "It's been the worst financial move of my life," he says, "and I've never been happier."

Chapter 11

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