This scene is a little further in the book (obviously), and introduces another pretty important character. And I'll leave it at that.
“You planning on sitting here all morning?” The waitress topped off my coffee, one hand on her bony hip. She’d seen the backside of forty more than a few years ago and the make-up she’d troweled on didn’t help. “I got to make a living, same as anyone else.”
“With your attitude, I’m surprised you make a living at all.” I pulled a twenty out of my wallet, slammed it on the table. Coffee slopped over the rim, came dangerously close to the papers spread over the cheap laminate. “Consider it a down payment on your tip. Keep the coffee coming and keep your mouth shut and we’ll get along just fine.”
Her mouth twisted in a snarl but her fingers nipped out, snatched up the twenty and slipped it in her apron. Sensible white shoes squeaked on the tile as she spun and stalked away. Shrugging, I doctored the cup, added enough cream and sugar to kill the taste of the coffee. Casey Lynn would be another fifteen minutes. Maybe thirty.
I’d left Jack at the Waldorf, sprawled across the bed and snoring. I’d dressed in the bedroom so I could watch him, just to be sure. He tended to have nightmares the day or so after I saw something, as if he needed to make up for not being able to follow me. Since he wasn’t awake to see me, I indulged myself by running my fingers through his hair, trailing my hand down his spine. I lingered for a moment at the scar, pressed my lips together at old memories.
My fingers lingered on the necklace, worried the charm. Instead of tucking the gold in my purse or the pocket of my jeans, I slid it under my shirt. It wasn’t smart, but I needed the extra comfort. Besides, nobody was going to be looking down my shirt today.
Even now, I picked at the charm beneath my shirt, nibbled on my lower lip while I studied Jack’s notes. He’d take the sketch into the station, see if there’d been a missing person report filed for someone named Roxanne from the Bronx. The notes were mine, mine to look over and absorb and see where they took me. If I got enough information, I’d call in an anonymous tip. Jack and I had done this routine more times than either of us could count.
“I fucking hate you. You know that, right? I abso-fucking-lutely hate you.” Casey Lynn threw her bag into the booth, flung herself in after it. She yanked big, Jackie-O sunglasses off and tossed them on the table. “You know what time I got to sleep? Three hours ago. Which meant I got about two hours before I had to get up to meet you at this shithole diner.”
“You have such a way with words, Casey Lynn. Butter wouldn’t even melt in your mouth.” I took a sip of coffee, studied her over the rim. “You look like shit.”
Her lips quivered for a moment before she grinned. “You sweet talker, you. Damn it. I was going to be bitchy for at least ten minutes before I broke character.”
“You better head back to acting class, darlin’. Either that or get a refund.” I’d slid into the voice Casey Lynn normally heard me use, an accent mellower than my natural twang but stronger than most Southern drawls. “You eating food this morning or still starving yourself?”
“Food. Those five pounds are never coming off, just like my Mama said.” Casey Lynn flashed a big, toothy smile at the hag as she approached. “I sure hope we’re not taking up too much of your time. I promise as soon as we’re done eating we’ll be gone, lickty split.”
I sat back and watched Casey Lynn use her farm girl magic on the waitress, smiling and laughing over some little shared joke. Casey Lynn Hawbacker might have got the hell out of Jewell, Kansas but nothing short of a miracle would get Jewell, Kansas out of her. She’d still look sparkly and new if she spent another ten years in Manhattan’s underbelly.
“And what about you?” The hag managed to smile at me, still under Casey Lynn’s influence.
“Two over easy, bacon, country potatoes, wheat toast.” The sensory memory of hominy grits, scalding hot on my tongue, flashed through me, made me miserably homesick in a way I hadn’t been in years. “Water, please, when you have a moment.”
Casey Lynn pushed her hair back, a wild, curling mass of dark browns, gilded with red. Her hazel eyes were rimmed with red but still alert. “You just make friends all over the place. Dolores, our waitress, is probably thinking about spitting in your food.”
“Considering the twenty in her pocket, I doubt she’ll follow through.” My coffee was edging toward lukewarm but I was going to need the caffeine today. “Jack says hello.”
The quick, indrawn breath and the sudden laxness of her mouth made me snicker. She licked her lip, tongue ring winking in the low light. “Jack says hello or you both say hello?”
“Well, both of us. But not like that.” I sighed when she began to pout. “Not right now, anyway. We’ve both got work.”
“Out of all the men I’ve had - .”
“All three of them,” I interrupted, shuffling papers around.
“Out of all the men I’ve had,” Casey Lynn repeated, spearing me with a glare. “Jack is the only one who could make me move to the other side of the street.”
“You’re not even on a side of the street. You’re playing in the median.”
“And? You are, too.”
“I am not. I live firmly on the side of the street involving men, with the occasional visit to the median.” Waving a hand, determined to not let the conversation stray into areas already talked to death, I pulled the picture of Roxy out of the stack, laid it on top. “I’m serious, darlin’. We’re both busy with work. But maybe you can help us out.”
Casey Lynn’s eyes went sharp. “Decoy work?”
“Of a sort.” I chewed on my lower lip, unsure how much to tell her. Casey Lynn tended to talk more than wise, but sending her in as blind bait didn’t sit right. “Women are being snatched up and sold. About two weeks ago, Audrey Clark stepped outside Low Places.”
Quickly, I gave her the rest of what Jack and I knew so far, pausing only when Dolores brought our food. I dusted my plate with salt and pepper, glanced up to find Casey Lynn studying me. “If you’re not up for this, we understand. I’ll put an ad in the paper, hire someone.”
“I’m thinking it over. You’ve never asked me to do something dangerous.” She forked up a bite of omelette, watched steam waft up before popping it in her mouth. She chewed slowly, eyes distant. Swallowing, she said, “Do you have a picture of this guy Chad?”
“Not yet.” One of the many things on my list to do today. Ian Hamby didn’t know it yet, but he was going to let me in his cousin’s apartment. Or point me in the right direction, at the very least. “You’d get a picture and a wire and one of Jack’s nifty locator beepers. And probably the pair of us in a dark corner somewhere.”
“If you’d mentioned that last bit first, you’d have sold me right away.” Casey Lynn flashed a grin before going back to her omelette. For the next few minutes we concentrated on eating, Casey Lynn staring off in the distance, lists of things I needed to do running through my mind. None of the lists were short and all of them had reached should have been done yesterday status.
“Ok, I’m in.” I blinked, brought my mind back to the conversation. Casey Lynn pushed her plate away and I blinked again, wondering where she’d stuffed the plate sized omelette and how she’d done it so quickly. “You want to work out a cover story now or later?”