8 Antiques Con

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Authors: Barbara Allan
hurried off to get an extra room keycard for the detective, leaving me alone with him.
    “Detective Cassato,” I asked, “have you heard from Tony?”
    He shook his head. “Make it ‘Sal.’ No, Brandy, I haven’t. Not since he went into WITSEC—too damn dangerous. And you?”
    I sighed, and nodded. “Briefly, a few months ago. I . . . I wish I knew how he was doing.”
    “Tell me about it.”
    “It’s so unfair. Doesn’t the Mob usually leave police officers alone? I thought it was their code where law enforcement personnel were concerned.”
    Sal sighed. “New York, maybe. But this is New Jersey wiseguys that Tony testified against . . . and they’ve got a whole other way of doing things.”
    Like sending a hit man to my hometown, after finding out Tony had moved there.
    The detective was saying, “They do things by their own rule book, ya know? Only, their rule book don’t have any rules in it that I know of.”
    “Detective? Sal?”
    “Not meaning to overstep, but . . . you might like to know that Tommy did have at least one enemy.”
    “When you share what you know, Brandy, that’s not called overstepping. It’s called cooperating.”
    I told him about the heated confrontation I’d overheard yesterday evening between Bufford and his ex-partner, Gino, admitting that I didn’t even know the man’s last name.
    He thanked me for the information. “You know, I can see why Tony likes you.”
    “I can also see why your mother drives him bananas.”
    Then he went back through the gold curtain to the crime scene.
    Since Mother would probably be a while getting another keycard, I returned to our room, where I found Sushi sleeping soundly on the freshly made bed. Lucky her.
    “Any problems to report?” I asked.
    She opened one eye, then another, finally yawning by way of an answer, then rolling over on her back for a tummy scratch.
    After a minute of that, I padded over to the minibar to select something to eat—vanilla cream–filled cookies, for only five times their going rate back in Serenity—of which I shared a few bites with Soosh, getting crumbs on the coverlet.
    I went back for a bag of four-dollar chips, and got even more crumbs on the bed—maybe on purpose, peeved as I was with Mother for getting us involved in yet another murder. I hoped Sal Cassato had been kidding about fingering us to the FBI.
    And here I had been looking forward to a fun-filled vacation in New York, with the only detective work in our plans being that of searching the countryside for Aunt Olive.
    Spitefully, I reached over, picked up the mattress remote control from the nightstand, and pumped the gage up to one hundred, making the bed hard as a rock.
    Let Goldilocks sleep on that .
    With my malaise lifting a little, I got out my cell and saw that I had just missed a call from Joe Lange. I had wanted to check in with him anyway, because he was running our antiques shop back in Serenity while we were away.
    Joe, a friend since my community college days, an avid collector of Star Trek memorabilia, was pretty knowledgeable about antiques in general. He had wanted to come along to the convention—excited about Tommy Bufford starting a retro-style con at a smaller venue—but found himself short of funds.
    Or maybe the pre-con search for Aunt Olive had discouraged him.
    He answered on the first ring. “Trash ‘n’ Treasures, Joseph Lange speaking.”
    At least he’d left off his rank and serial number.
    “Joe,” I said, “everything cool at the shop?”
    Something else you need to know about Joe: he still talked in Marine-speak, even though he’d been discharged ten years ago.
    I asked, “You doin’ okay, dude?”
    “For a first civ-div.”
    Translation: a former Marine in the civilian world (I had gotten pretty good at deciphering his dialect).
    “And the shop? All’s well?”
    Less than thirty seconds into the call and he was repeating himself

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