Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(12)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(12)
Author: Lisa Shearin

“Heat detector,” Ian explained. “The key showing the faintest glow was pressed first, the brightest, last.”

“But it’s freezing out here and Scott was wearing gloves.”

“It’s that sensitive. Though at this temp, it wouldn’t get a reading after about two minutes.”

The door clicked and we were in.

I glanced over at Ian. Black leather coat, black jeans, black boots, black watch cap, unshaven face set on scowl.

“Could you at least try to look harmless?” I whispered. “You’ll scare Scott.”

We were in a relatively short hallway with four doors, two on each side. Scott was standing in front of the farthest door, hand raised to knock. Good. Ollie hadn’t answered the door yet. Scott saw us and recognized me. I gave him a big smile and a little finger wave. He’d seen me in Ollie’s shop before in addition to delivering to my apartment. Which boded well for the success of what I was about to try.

The kid’s mouth gaped open. “How did you—”

“It’s okay, hon,” I said as casually as I could. “Ollie told me the code. He’s expecting us.” That last part had to be true. Ollie wouldn’t be hiding in what was essentially a vault if he wasn’t expecting visitors.

Scott visibly relaxed—and I reminded myself to breathe.

“What’s he owe you?” I asked.

“Twenty-five ninety-eight.”

I whistled.

“He ordered the lobster Cantonese, six crab rangoon, four eggrolls, and a—”

I held up a hand. “That more than explains it.” Ollie was going all out on his last meal.

I turned to Ian. “Pay the man.”

“What?”

“And give him a big tip. Scott’s putting himself through NYU.”

Ian reached for his wallet, muttering under his breath. “Ollie’ll pay me back if I have to turn him upside down and shake it out of him.”

Scott pocketed the cash and emptied his delivery bag on a table in the hall then knocked on the door for me. “Li Fong’s,” he shouted. Then he grinned, winked at me, and left.

We heard at least three dead bolts slide back plus an iron bar.

Ian rolled his eyes.

Ollie cracked open the door to peek out, saw me, and his eyes widened. But Ollie’s survival instinct was no match for Ian’s determined steel-toed combat boot.

“Scott, you little—” Ollie shouted.

“Miss Mac tips better than you,” Scott called back over his shoulder.

“I told you being cheap was going to get you in trouble,” I told Ollie as Ian forced our way in. “This time it might save your life.”

• • •

Oliver Barrington-Smythe was on his fourth egg roll and third crab rangoon. I was on my second wave of nausea. I made a mental note never to eat Chinese food for breakfast.

“You have to believe me,” he said around a mouthful of egg roll. “I didn’t know Adam Falkenburg would break into my office, and I have absolutely no idea why he would have a photograph of you.”

I didn’t have to believe him, but I did. However, the late Dr. Falke’s trust didn’t go nearly that far. He’d added a couple of extra letters onto his last name just to keep Ollie from knowing who he really was.

What I couldn’t believe was why Ollie would even consider having what Dr. Falke had been in the market to buy. My nausea might have been caused by something other than the smell of Chinese food in the morning. I thought monkey brains had to be the nastiest thing Ollie had for sale.

I was wrong.

Oliver Barrington-Smythe was in possession of a mummified and preserved monster arm.

Dr. Adam Falke had been looking to buy one, and Ollie had it to sell.

That didn’t explain why the Danish historian and archaeologist had broken into Ollie’s office to get at his computer, and it did nothing to clear up why Falke had a picture of me. But it did confirm that no object was too bizarre or disgusting for Ollie to try to make a buck on it.

My British friend and his aliases had a pricey lifestyle to support, and had no qualms about what he did or who he conned to keep himself in the style to which he was accustomed. However, pricey didn’t necessarily mean tasteful, as was evidenced by a toupee that sat on his head like a squirrel with Taser-styled fur. I didn’t think Ollie was particularly vain; he just knew he looked like Humpty Dumpty without his rug.

Ollie was digging into the lobster Cantonese with a spork. “Falkenburg told me he represented an interested party who wanted to buy the arm.”

Ian and I exchanged glances. We both knew that Ollie’s interested party had to be the same person who had sent Vivienne Sagadraco a present that went poof.

“There’s a head that goes with it. He wanted that, too. It’s a matched set.”

I experienced wave of nausea number three. “Well, of course. You couldn’t break up a set.”

“Do you have the head?” Ian asked.

“Not yet,” Ollie said. “Though I’ve got a meeting set up at noon with the man who does.”

“How big is the arm?” I asked.

“As long as you are tall.” He gave me a quick up and down, re-calculating. “Then again, probably longer.”

“Does it have claws?” Ian asked.

Ollie nodded around a mouthful of lobster Cantonese and held up his spork. “About this long.”

“Keep eating,” Ian told him and motioned me over to the corner of the room. “Falke’s employer sent him to get the arm and head from Ollie. For whatever reason, the monster killed Falke. He’s dead, but his boss still wants those parts . . .”

“And the only person who knows their whereabouts is our egg roll connoisseur over there.” I looked at Ollie and shook my head. “He might as well have painted a bull’s-eye on his forehead.”

There was a grim glitter in Ian’s eyes. “Not if we get the arm and head first.”

He walked back over to where Ollie had just popped the last crab rangoon into his mouth. I followed.

“Where’s the arm?” Ian asked Ollie.

“Certainly not anywhere near me. I showed Falkenburg a photo of the arm which I let him take with him. He damned well wasn’t getting the arm until I got my million pounds.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Pounds?”

“Falkenburg was based out of London. If he had to be in the land of the barbarians—no offense Mr. Byrne—”

“None taken. Yet.”

“It made him more comfortable to deal in real money. It helped to establish trust. I like my high-end clientele to feel comfortable doing business.”

“Nice,” Ian said. “For the second and last time, where’s the arm?”

“Certainly not in my gallery. I don’t keep any higher quality merchandise there.”

That was the truth.

“I’ve had clients try to take items without payment.” Ollie smiled up at Ian. “I’d be delighted to take you to the arm—as soon as you deposit a million pounds into my account . . .”

I wasn’t surprised that Ollie tried to fleece us for the money, but I was shocked that Ian didn’t clear Ollie’s kitchen table of everything, including Ollie.

Ian smiled, though there was nothing friendly about it. “As long as you have that arm, you’re a dead man walking. Tell me, Ollie, what is the price of your arm—and your head? Give the arm to us and we’ll make sure the very well-connected person holding the leash of the thing that ripped your late client to shreds knows that you don’t have it anymore. That should keep your head on your shoulders for a little longer.”

Until he pissed off the next criminal mastermind who had their own personal hit-monsters.

“You must understand, Mr. Byrne, I’m a businessman. I can’t make exceptions for—”

Ian took his phone from his pocket. “You heard what happened to Dr. Falkenburg, correct?”

Ollie nodded and swallowed the last mouthful of lobster Cantonese with an audible gulp.

“Words don’t do it justice.” Ian walked around the table, pulled up a chair, and sat right next to Ollie. A little physical intimidation went a long way—it went even longer with gruesome photos. “A friend helped us get these pictures from the NYPD crime scene investigators. They do good work.”

Ian used his index finger to scroll through the photos, and Ollie got pastier with every flick of the finger.

“Most of these really need no explanation,” Ian said. He paused and turned his phone vertical, and then with an exaggerated puzzled expression, turned it back again. “I’m not sure which way is up on this one.” He took his fingers and expanded the photo. “Oh yeah, that’s it. There’s your overhead light fixture with a rather long piece of intestine hanging from it.”

Ollie’s now-empty take-out box dropped from his suddenly nerveless fingers as his other hand went to his mouth. He fled to the bathroom.

Ian pushed a button on his phone and held it up to his ear. “Yasha, we’ll be right out.” I detected the barest hint of a crooked grin. “Yes, there will be three of us.”

6

WE were on our way to Brooklyn to pick up an arm and see a man about a head.

Ollie had a meeting at noon at Green-Wood Cemetery with the seller’s agent to finalize the details about buying the head. Ian pressured Ollie for his contact’s name and details. Ollie reluctantly replied. Now all we had to do was get Ollie to the cemetery on time.

Ian had called Kenji and told him that we’d not only found Ollie, but also the two things that Falke and his boss had been after. Kenji relayed the information to the boss lady, and needless to say, Vivienne Sagadraco was intensely interested. To ensure that we kept what we were about to acquire, she’d dispatched a security team to the storage unit in Brooklyn. They would be waiting when we arrived. Dragons didn’t fool around when it came to protecting things that they acquired—be it gold, gems, or a monster’s body parts.

   
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