Murder Above Fourth

an excerpt

Eric Jamieson looked down the length of the art gallery, at the polished wood floor, at the paintings hanging in neat rows on both walls, at the green fern plants strategically placed here and there among the pieces of sculpture. He swiped a hand over his short brown hair, his light blue eyes gleamed, and he exhaled a long, satisfied breath of completion. Yes, he had done it, given the gallery the facelift he'd promised Peter Brandon, the gallery owner, and all before Peter was due back from his vacation. Actually, he'd been due back this morning, but he'd called to say he and Jeff Stevens, his lover, were running just a tad late and he'd see Eric in the afternoon.

Perfect, Eric had thought, that'd give him time to take lunch over to Nick's office so they could spend the hour together-something they hadn't had enough of recently, what with Jeff and Peter away on a two week vacation. Jeff was Nick's business partner in the investigative business-Stevens and Fallon. Their office was within easy walking distance of the gallery. Eric could be there and back within the space of an hour or so. He picked up his cell phone from the desk at the back of the gallery and speed- dialed Nick's number.

"Stevens and Fallon, Private Investigations. How can I help you?"

"Hi, Monica, it's Eric. Is he there?"

"He sure is." Monica sounded edgy. "And I sure hope you can put him in a better mood than I can. He is Mr. Grump today."

"Sorry." Eric knew a bad-tempered Nick could be worse than a threat of weapons of mass destruction-and just as loud. "What's he mad about?"

"Heck if I know. He arrived this way and hasn't snapped out of it so far. His door is closed, and that's always a bad sign. Did you cut him off or something?"

Eric chuckled. "No, but we've been real busy with both Peter and Jeff away. Maybe he just found the pressure too much."

"Well, thank goodness Jeff's back today," Monica said with a sigh. "Maybe he can straighten Nick out-oh sorry..." She giggled. "Wrong terminology."

"Tell me." Eric laughed. "A grumpy and straight Nick would send me running for the hills."

Laughing, Monica said, "I'll put you through."

After a few beeping sounds, Eric was greeted by an almost churlish, "Nick Fallon."

"Hi. You sound mad."

"Hey, Eric..." Nick blew out a long sigh of frustration. "Not mad at you, just some asshole trying to make my life more difficult than it need be."

"Who's that?"

"Remember that LAPD cop I had a run in with some time back-Bob Morales?"

"Yeah, I remember. What about him?"

"He's tryin' to get my license pulled. The son-of-a-bitch filed a complaint against me."