|the_water_clock (the_water_clock) wrote,|
@ 2009-08-20 12:23 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||[ story: keep your enemies closer ]|
Title: Keep Your Enemies Closer, Chapter 2: Whose Heroin?
Pairing: American Idol: Adam Lambert/Kris Allen; established Ryan Seacrest/Simon Cowell
Summary: This chapter: Adam and David start their investigation with drug lord Nigel Lythgoe, but it's Kris who discovers a big clue.
Chapter Length: 6900 words
Disclaimer: People sort of own themselves, don't they? Which means this is a work of fiction.
Notes: Keep Your Enemies Closer is an mystery AU set in the New York club scene of the mid-90s, when a rapidly gentrifying East Village contained chain stores and after hours clubs, hungry young artists and heroin dealers. As usual, there will be plenty of music to set the scene and bring you back to a time not long ago. Thank you to ali_wildgoose, who as usual went well beyond the call of beta-duty on this one, dreamerren, who encouraged me to keep going when I'd hit an impasse, and honestys_easy, who helped me give it that final polish. This chapter title from Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers.
The Unpleasantness at Club Idol
This is how it happened:
Adam had been at Club Idol for about a month when he got his showcase at AGT. He'd heard about the place and had come right in and auditioned as soon as he got to the city, and got a job pretty quickly. Something about him and Simon Cowell just clicked; Cowell seemed to get him, when the folks in LA never did. He was looking forward to getting out of the musical theater ghetto he'd been in, and go for some real rock 'n' roll.
According to his coworkers there was always a top star, a chosen one, a numero uno, and the one being groomed at the moment was David Cook. He was oddly not that much to look at, in Adam's opinion, with a bad haircut atop a giant forehead, an unfortunate soul patch that just made his cheeks look bigger, and a bit of a gut. He was weirdly geeky, always doing crossword puzzles or something, and he was really friendly. He supposedly had some Australian tennis pro boyfriend, but that just sounded to Adam like the patented girlfriend in another state. Not exactly rock god material.
Not that Adam had come out of the womb looking as he did. Sure, he could still have strawberry hair and show everyone his freckles and have a little extra weight, but that wasn't the image he wanted to portray. And more than anything, he wanted to project something, something that was still him, was probably more him than his actual self, but that was a little bit stronger, a little bit harder than he really was.
And anyway Simon had said that David was going off on some trip soon, so there was room for a new star at the top, and Adam had every intention of making sure that star was him. One of his errors in LA was not being aggressive enough about the chances he was given; he wasn't going to make that mistake again. So sure, maybe he had a little bit of an attitude when he was putting together the songs for his showcase. But it was his fucking showcase, damnit, and it was going to be awesome.
So of course it was pretty much totally awesome, or at least, pretty much totally what Adam had wanted it to be. Three songs, two fast and one slow, his singing was solid, he worked the fuck out of that stage, he had the perfect outfit, the band was great, and Simon seemed to really like it. Sure, he got notes, but he was expecting them, even looking forward to them; after all, he wasn't there yet. And because Simon got what he was doing in the first place, what he had to say about it could only make it better.
And then, of course, David Cook had to come up to him.
"Hey, Adam, right?" he asked.
"Yeah," Adam said, with all the attitude he had, which was considerable.
"Right, well, um, I'm David."
"I know," Adam said, because seriously, David was the numero uno, and to suggest that Adam didn't know who he was, was to suggest that Adam was an idiot.
"Great, okay, so I was watching you," he said, "and first, I thought you were pretty good."
"Thanks?" Adam said.
"Sure," David said, as though Adam had actually accepted his compliment instead of seeing it for the condescending comment that it was. "But I think you get a little over the top in places."
"Over the top?" Adam asked.
"Yeah, kinda, theatrical?"
"Yeah, because there have never been theatrical rock singers," Adam replied dryly.
David scowled ever so slightly, and Adam thought, good, maybe he's getting what the situation actually is here. "Even Freddy Mercury wasn't like that right out of the box," he said.
"Well, I am," Adam said.
David shrugged. "Okay, man, if that's how you want to play it," he said.
"That's how it's played," Adam replied, wondering how this guy got to be Simon's favorite if he didn't understand that.
David turned away, shaking his head, and Adam sat down at the bar. The nerve of that guy, to come up and try to give him notes when hello, he wasn't his manager, he had no idea what Adam was trying to do. Well, whatever.
David Cook hit the stage himself about twenty minutes later. Adam had never actually seen him perform and couldn't imagine it because the guy was so fucking goofy at work. But Adam could tell just by the set of his shoulders as he strapped on his guitar—to much applause, of course; he couldn't be the favorite for nothing, however disingenuous he was about it—that his onstage persona would be quite different. Adam had heard that originally, Cook was singing a lot of grungy rock, but lately had been goofing around with synth covers. This didn't make a lot of sense, but whatever; maybe once you became the favorite you just had to coast until the deal was done.
"Hey guys," David said. "Okay, here's our latest attempt to rescue shitty songs on the radio." He counted off, and he and Carly—which, immigration or no, that whole gay guy married to a lesbian thing was just weird—started playing a riff that sounded vaguely familiar. so much for your promises he sang, in a growl that surprised Adam. Cook was clearly serious about his "rescue", because the song was still there, just stripped of bullshit synths and pumped up with drums and guitar and a vocal that was light years away from anything you could call smooth.
Cook certainly knew what his strengths were, and as he stood there singing and eyefucking about 90% of the crowd, girls and guys alike, Adam admitted, if only to himself, that David Cook had earned his place as the favorite. He needed a makeover to make his outsides match his insides, and that he didn't seem to get that made Adam want to roll his eyes, because rock was at least one-third image, but whatever. Unlike some people, Adam was aware it wasn't his place to give advice.
Now that he'd seen him perform, Adam knew he could safely dismiss most of Cook's comments because they just weren't doing the same thing. But was Adam also even more determined to dethrone him, because being the favorite looked like a pretty fucking sweet gig.
It was 2am when Ryan got home, which wasn't particularly late by his standards, but being alone in the townhouse was unsettling. He needed a drink, but he wanted to be lucid when Simon called. He could do with a bath, but he didn't want to be in the tub when Simon called, either. He settled for some romcoms on the bedroom VCR; perfect, because he didn't think he could sleep anyway. He'd watched When Harry Met Sally and Four Weddings and a Funeral and had moved on to Reality Bites. Winona Ryder and Janeane Garafalo were dancing in a gas station quickie mart when the phone call finally came.
"It's me, how are you, darling?"
"I'm—I'm fine now." Ryan exhaled, relieved just to be talking to him. "Pretty elaborate way to fulfill your prison rape fantasy."
"Ha-ha," Simon said, but he was chuckling, too. "Don't worry about me. They're sending me to Riker's Island this morning, but you can visit me there."
"Every day," Ryan said.
"You're far too busy for that," Simon said, "and anyway they won't let you, I don't think."
"Do you need anything? They let you wear your own clothing, don't they?"
"Yes, but Hernandez and Ramiele have the list, let them worry about that."
"Okay. I love you."
"I know." He sighed. "I didn't do it, Ryan."
"I know. We all know. We're working on it. We'll get you out of there."
"Of course you will. Right, I have to go but Ryan, take care of yourself, yeah? I don't want to have to worry about whether or not you're eating."
Ryan chuckled. "I will."
"Love you too. I'll call you later."
Ryan hung up the phone and stared at it for a bit before reaching for the Kleenex and the remote. Sitting in bed watching Ethan Hawke being charming was as good a time to break down as any. He could be strong again tomorrow.
"You said you wanted me to get along with your wife," Michael said. "You didn't say how."
Carly giggled. "It's not like we're snogging, David."
As David growled and took another gulp of coffee, holding tight to the cup with both hands, the bedroom door opened and a small teenager emerged. "Wow," the kid said, looking at David, "guess you're not a morning person."
"Morning person!" David said, exasperated. "I've had seven hours of sleep in the last two days and my body thinks it's 10 o'clock at night!"
"Also he's not a morning person," Carly said. "Don't shout at poor little David; he'll think you're an ogre."
"I don't think that," the boy said quickly. "And I'm really not that little."
David Archuleta was the latest in a string of subletters of David Cook's room in the apartment he shared with Carly. They'd only met the day before, but David had already fallen for the kid's goofy charm, and Carly clearly thought the world of him. So they'd decided to let the kid stay, even though it was a bit cramped, since Michael had a hotel room anyway.
"Archuleta, then," Carly said. "We call that ogre over there 'Cook' most of the time anyway."
"I'm not an ogre, thanks," David said. He regarded the teen. "Archie. I think Archie suits him better."
"Gee, nobody's ever given me a nickname before," Archie said.
David shook his head. "I dunno if Simon is gonna go for all this golly gee stuff, Carly."
"You talked to Simon?" Archie asked.
"Yeah—good news and bad news. Good news, he wants to see you."
"Super!" he said, smiling broadly.
"Bad news, he got arrested last night."
"Oh," Archie replied.
"But," David continued, "we're going to get him out as soon as we can, and actually, I have an appointment uptown. And you," he said, pointing at Michael, "have a meeting with a real estate agent. So Carly, it's up to you to keep Archie from running into traffic."
"Can't," she said, getting up from the couch. "Gotta date."
"At 10 o'clock in the morning?" David asked, grabbing his coat.
"She's a nurse," Carly said. "Works overnight at Bellevue. She's coming to pick me up now."
"Guess you're on your own, kid," Michael said.
"I can take care of myself," Archie said, scowling.
"'Course you can," David replied, ruffling his hair before walking out the door.
"I grew up in the Bronx, you know!" he shouted as the door closed behind them.
On the street in front of their building sat a woman, clad in leather, atop a Harley. She had dark brown hair, but the bits around her face were platinum blonde.
David walked up to her, extending a hand. "You must be Carly's date," he said. "I'm David, her husband."
The girl shook his hand. "I'm Amanda," she said, smiling. "Heard you were coming back this week."
Carly huffed behind him. "Stop trying to make trouble," she said, then leaned in to kiss Amanda. "Hey baby."
"Hey," she replied. "Ready to go?"
"You bet," she said, grabbing the extra helmet from the back of the bike. "Oh, this is Michael, David's boyfriend."
He and Amanda shook hands as well, then Carly got on the back of the bike. "See ya later!"
They drove off, and Michael and David walked in the other direction down the still-snowy sidewalk to the subway. "That girl had a very firm handshake, didn't she?" Michael asked.
David shrugged. "All her girlfriends are like that."
"So what you're saying is, we're fucked," Ryan said.
"I wouldn't go that far," David Hernandez replied.
Adam wasn't particularly used to being up and doing things this early, so he was still clutching the mug of coffee that the secretary had handed him when they walked in. The office reminded him of Arnie's in LA Law—big window behind Hernandez with a view of the Hudson river, imposing walnut desk, comfortable chairs for the clients, leather-bound books in the bookcase. Hernandez looked young, probably a junior partner, but that made sense; Simon always valued young and hungry over old and experienced. David Cook didn't look like he'd gotten much sleep, either, and Ryan didn't look like he'd slept at all.
"The ADA was very clear," Hernandez continued. "She wants Simon to flip on Nigel Lythgoe."
"Which he will never do," Ryan said.
"He might need to change his policy on that," Hernandez replied.
Ryan shook his head. "He won't," he said. "Besides, he doesn't actually know anything. Nothing current, anyway."
"Well, we're not going to get bail for that reason, and because she's decided he's a flight risk." He looked down at his desk calendar. "The arraignment is set for a week from tomorrow. I think we should present a defense—maybe we can get an acquittal then. If we put up a good fight she might back off."
"You sound like you don't believe that," Cook said.
Hernandez tapped his pencil. "DioGuardi's been after Lythgoe for years, ever since she got on Special Narcotics. If she thinks Simon is her way in, she's not going to let go easily. She might not have enough to convict—the drugs weren't on his person, many have access to that office—but in this climate it's probably more than enough to indict, and that's usually enough to scare someone into rolling over."
"Not Simon." Ryan sighed and rubbed his temples. "Okay, so what now?"
"On our end, we're going to look into the financials," Hernandez said, "and see who would gain from Simon being out of the picture. Ryan, these are the guys you said could poke around downtown?"
"Okay," he said, and made eye contact with Adam and David. "For the love of God, do not do anything illegal. No breaking and entering. Take pictures, don't take things. It won't do Simon any good if I have to go in and bail you two out. Got it?"
Adam turned to David, who looked more somber than he'd ever seen him. "We got it," David said, and Adam nodded.
"Good. Ryan, we'll check in each morning, good for you?"
"Yes, definitely." He rose, and David and Adam stood as well. "Thanks, man."
"Anytime. And really, call me if anything comes up."
Ryan was quiet in the elevator, but as soon as they hit the street he made a beeline for a pay phone. He pulled a piece of paper from his wallet, and dialed the number; for the first time since Simon was arrested, he seemed angry. "Yeah, I think you know who this is," he barked into the phone. "You're fucking right it's a mess. … I'd say I have every reason to be pissed. … Give me an address. I'm sending people over there. … Jesus, of course I can't. You know that. I shouldn't even be calling you. … Yeah, well, you can tell that to him when he gets out." He hung up the phone, then turned to Adam and David.
"Okay, 225 west 4th street, looks like a storefront under construction. Tell them you're Cowell's people, and they'll let you in to see Nigel. Don't let him snow you, but don't let him get a rise out of you either. He likes doing that. Just get him to tell you how his drugs ended up in my man's desk." Ryan ran a hand through his hair and sighed, calming himself down, then reached into his pocket and turned his phone back on. It beeped with new messages. "I—I've gotta get back to work. Don't call me to talk about Nigel. We'll do it in person later."
Adam put a hand on Ryan's shoulder. "We'll take care of it. It'll be fine."
"Yeah, man. You know, try not to think about it," David added.
"Thanks guys," Ryan said, and headed back down Broadway to the MTV offices. "If you need any other numbers, call Ramiele," he shouted.
He didn't do that last night, though. He'd been exhausted from everything that had happened—Simon wanting him to play at AGT, the arrest, the car ride with Adam—and collapsed into bed. Now he was just drinking some coffee, listening to Tori Amos making metaphors out of breakfast cereal and trying to loosen up before his audition later, when his cell phone chimed the alarm he'd set for noon.
Kris had never had a cell phone before, but in New York it was essential. He made ends meet teaching guitar lessons, mostly to ladies on the upper west side, and it paid to be always-reachable. Besides, the long distance plan was much cheaper, and he liked knowing that he could call his parents, or his brother, whenever he needed to. But noon, that was a regular call.
"Hey lady," Kris said.
"Good morning," Katy replied.
"How are you?" he asked. "How did the audition go?"
"Pretty well, I think," she said. "I have a call back on that other thing tomorrow."
"The toothpaste ad?" he asked.
"Katy, that's great!" he said. "You should get it, you have great teeth."
"Yeah, well, so do all the other girls," she said.
"They can't be—"
"As pretty as me?" she finished. "Kris, it's like the prettiest girl from every sorority got on a bus and came to Hollywood, where they lost twenty pounds and got fake boobs, a fake tan, and hair extensions."
"Sounds like a lot of fake," Kris said. "At least your boobs are real."
"I'm not sure anyone cares about that except—well, I'm not sure anyone cares about that anymore."
"Hey," he said, "I still care about your breasts, you know."
"I know," she said, softly. "So, how about you?"
He told her about the audition at AGT, about Simon's arrest—to which her only comment was "of course you should do what you can, but be careful"—and about his car ride with Adam. "I dunno," he said, "it was nice, singing in the car like that."
"You were kinda avoiding him for a while, weren't you?" she asked.
"Well, it was awkward, after what happened," he replied. "But maybe now we can be friends. Friends are good, need more friends."
"You haven't made friends at church?" she asked.
"Oh I have," he said, "but you know, they're mostly regular people with regular jobs, not like, crazy musicians working at nightclubs downtown. Doesn't seem to be a lot of crossover that I've seen so far."
"Well, maybe you should try going to the later services. Not everyone likes staying up all night and then going to church."
"True," he said. "I'll think about that. But I want to make more friends at the club, too."
"You will. People love you."
"You love me," he said.
"I do, but you know what I mean."
"And if you want to be something more than friends with him, that's okay, too," she said. "It's been a while. You should date more."
"I will," he said, even though the prospect of it made him feel anxious, given that he hadn't really dated before, let alone dated men.
"Good. Because, um, I'm going out tonight, actually."
"Yeah?" Kris asked. "With who?"
"Whom," Katy said, "and it's the bartender from work. He's an actor, too."
"Of course he is. You're in LA."
"This isn't weird?" she asked.
"No," he said, and almost meant it. "I think—I think we're just weird. Well, obviously we're weird, because we didn't even notice that we were weird, and now that we have, we've gone right back to being the same weird we were before. Um, if that makes any sense."
She chuckled. "Probably only to me, but then, I'm weird!"
They both laughed then. "God, Katy, what would I do without you?"
"I don't know," she said. "I don't know what I'd do without you either. You come in pretty handy, actually."
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Yeah, when some guy is talking to me, and I tell him about you, and he acts like a jerk, then I can cut him off right away," she said. "Better than not finding out he's a homophobic jerk until a few months in."
"True," Kris said.
"But Bethany's gay friend gives her makeup and wardrobe advice," she said. "So you need to step it up."
"Well, Adam could probably do that for you," he said. "Heck, he could probably do that for me."
"What?" Adam asked. "Why?"
David cocked his head. "Because I know some of these people."
"Like Anoop?" Adam asked. "Everyone knows Anoop."
"No," David said, "not Anoop. Other people."
"Who you're not going to tell me about?"
"Whom you'll meet when we get inside. Sheesh, Mary, take a chill pill."
Adam rolled his eyes, but he didn't have much in the way of a snappy comeback.
They were on that part of West 4th street that had confused Adam when he first moved to the city, where it took a strange 90º turn, resulting in corners like West 10th and West 4th. The address in question did look like a storefront under construction, with newspaper lining the inside of the plate glass window and work permits on display. David tapped at the door.
It opened just enough for a handsome man in a fedora to stick his head out. "Da?"
"We're Cowell's people," David said.
The man looked them up and down. "How do I know this?" he asked in a heavy Russian accent.
David sighed. "Someone just called to announce us."
"But how do I know you are the people from the phone call?"
"Look, just get Lacey," David said.
The man scowled. "Fine," he mumbled, and shut the door.
Adam turned to David. "So you know people?"
"Shut up," David said.
The door opened again, and this time a girl with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun appeared, and she gasped when she saw David. "My god, David Cook!" she squealed, and threw open the door.
"Hey Lacey," David said, grinning and returning her hug.
She was wearing some kind of costume, a sleeveless, close-fitting crimson dress with a long slit in its knee-length straight skirt; that and the flower in her hair made her look like an extra from Evita. "How long have you been back?"
"Like two days," he replied.
"Well, come in, come in!" she said, pulling them inside the door and through an inner curtain. "Don't mind Dmitry; he takes being at the door very seriously."
Dmitry was wearing pants and suspenders, but no shirt, and Adam was momentarily distracted by his sculpted chest and shoulders. "Is serious!" he protested.
Lacey rolled her eyes. "You can leave your coats here," she said, indicating a nook that was probably once the coat check.
She led them into the main room, which was warm and quite dark, and their eyes had to adjust from the bright chill of the street. An overhead lamp with an old-timey fixture cast an amber light, and instrumental music played from a hidden stereo. Young people lounged on couches and chairs around the periphery, all in costume similar to Lacey and Dmitry. In the center of the room, a middle-aged couple danced in a tight embrace. The man had a fedora, too, tilted at an angle that almost hid his face; he had shaggy blond hair and a small but powerful build. The woman was pretty, with long brown hair and incredible legs, shown to full effect by the thigh-high slit in her skirt.
Lacey leaned over to David and muttered, "We're doing the tango this week."
Once she said that Adam could place the music, that driving beat and the accordions and strings. At first the couple stepped in time to the beat of a staccato drum, bodies pressed together from shoulder to knee. As the accordion kicked in so did their dancing, and they moved quickly across the floor, the man lifting up the woman and swinging her from one side to the other, holding her tight against his body. When the music got even faster, they did a series of steps where she kicked her foot up between his legs, and Adam wondered if there had been any errant kicks when they were rehearsing. They danced slinkily together a bit longer, and as the song ended, he dipped her, low.
He looked up, seeing Adam and David watching from the entryway, and quickly pulled the woman upright.
"Right, you lot see what you can make of that," he said. "Dmitry and Heidi, you take over. I expect to see some results when I return!" He walked over to David and Adam, who realized he must be Nigel Lythgoe. "You were sent by Cowell, I expect?" he asked.
"Yes," David replied. "I'm David, this is Adam."
Handshakes all around, then Nigel said, "Let's go into my office." He turned back to the dancers. "Travis? Could you come with me please?"
From the crowd, a young man who looked so much like Blake that Adam did a double-take—same size, the same build if Blake were in ridiculous shape, same hair—followed them down a dark hallway into the back.
Behind the office door, a few other folks sat around watching some black and white video of a woman in flowing skirts and a shirtless man dancing to Copland's "Appalachian Spring." "Ah, yes," Nigel said as he sat behind the desk. "Mia always turns to Martha Graham when she's blocked."
"I'm not blocked," said the scowling woman with short blonde hair and horn-rimmed glasses who held the remote. "I just need clarity."
"Well, turn it down for me, won't you, darling?" he asked. "These are Cowell's people."
As she did, the woman who'd been dancing with Nigel sat on the desk, her legs crossed such that her skirt slid even higher up her thighs, making her look like Cyd Charise in Singin' in the Rain, and Adam wondered if that was precisely what she was going for. He had a sudden urge to take a quarter out of his pocket and start tossing it up and down.
"So," Nigel said, "what do you know?"
David answered, "We know that they were your drugs. I saw them myself. We know that DioGuardi wants Simon to inform on you, and that he won't. We know that there's a very short list of people who could have put them into the desk. What we want to know is, who should have had them, and where should they have been."
Nigel scowled. "Can't actually tell you that. Not because we don't want to, but because whoever is missing their allotment isn't talking about it. Very inconvenient." He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of scotch, and a tall blonde sprang up to fetch him glasses from a cabinet in the corner. "Thank you Cat. Please, I insist," he said, pouring out scotch for himself, Adam and David. "Marc, you should have some as well," he said, and a balding man who'd been sitting in the corner stood next to the desk and took a glass of his own. Nigel took a sip and smacked his lips. "But what I can tell you is how our distribution system works—or used to work, until yesterday. We're completely overhauling it, so I don't mind letting you in on it."
"We've got a working solution for you," Marc said.
"I would hope so," Nigel replied. "Right, how we get it into the country and process and package it is of no concern to you, I assume?"
"None," David replied.
"Once we have it in the envelopes," Nigel said, "it's placed into batches the size of the one that was seized, and given to the couriers. I won't go into how that works, as all the batches for the week were picked up as scheduled, and by the appropriate people."
"There's one courier per dealer," said Marc. "The dead drop is coordinated by us. Cat calls with the locations; that way the courier and the dealer are never in the same place at the same time. They don't even know who their contact is, and the locations change every week. Whoever wanted to set up Cowell is either one of the dealers, or one of the couriers. And since we haven't heard any shouting from a dealer about how his package wasn't there, we're thinking it's one of the couriers. And that's the part of the system we're changing now."
"It's always Cat?" David asked.
"That's part of the system," Marc said.
"I have a very distinctive voice," Cat said, and she did, round tones like an announcer with an accent that sounded like one of the girls on Monty Python.
"What would happen," Adam asked, "if there was a cop or someone else staking out the drop?"
"Oh, that wouldn't happen," Nigel said.
"Wouldn't happen?" David asked.
"Let's just say that Mr. Giuliani isn't the only one keeping the streets safe," Nigel said. "Turf wars are messy and violent. If one person controls all the territory, it's remarkably calm and peaceful. And if we have a problem within our own organization, we simply take care of it as we see fit." He stared at Adam, sternly. Travis-the-Blake-clone shifted behind him, and Adam noticed the bulge in his jacket that probably meant he was armed. Adam was suddenly reminded that for all the dancer trappings, Nigel was still a drug dealer.
"But the dealers know about your relationship with Cowell," David said smoothly, "so wouldn't it be in their best interest not to tell you, in case you blamed all this on them?"
Marc shook his head. "Not when they have to get five grand to us as our cut," Marc said. "If they had that kind of cash lying around, and could survive a week of no profits, they wouldn't be dealing."
David nodded, and there was a pause.
"Anything else?" Nigel asked.
"I don't think so," David said.
"So in return," Nigel said, "we ask that you let us know who betrayed us."
"And if you find out before we do?" David asked.
Nigel smiled—a wide, cold smile. "We'll tell you," he said. "Either way, we want to deal with this event internally. I'm sure you understand."
Adam felt a little creeped out, but David said, "Of course." He stood, and then they all did. "Thank you for talking to us."
"Of course," he said. "Anything for Simon. Say, aren't you the one we sent Lacey over for?"
"Yes, I am," David replied. "Thank you, it was a great help."
"Glad to do it," Nigel said. "Glad to do it. Oh, would you like anything while you're here? Complimentary, of course."
Adam and David looked at each other. Adam didn't really want anything at all, but he wasn't sure if they could really refuse.
"You know," David said, "we have a lot of people to see today, and I'd rather not be wandering around with anything on me. But we both appreciate the offer."
"Of course. If you have any information, Ryan will know how to find us."
"And if you do?" David asked.
"Don't worry about that," Nigel said. "We know where you are."
Once they were out on the street, and out of the sight of the storefront, Adam turned to David and said, "Okay, that was creepy."
"Yeah, he's pretty intense," David replied.
"So, what's with that girl Lacey?"
"Oh, Simon thought the way I moved on stage wasn't sexy enough," David said, "so Nigel leant Lacey to help me out."
"Interesting," Adam said. "He's never had to say that to me."
David raised an eyebrow. "I've actually heard him say just the opposite," he said. "Not that it matters, since you don't listen to criticism."
"Whatever," Adam said, rolling his eyes. "So what's next."
"Lunch," David said.
They ordered, and then David pulled a notebook and pen from his bag. "Okay," he said. "They usually make lists of suspects, in the books. So let's start with motive. Paula—I know they're friends, but ex-wives can't be overlooked."
"That city councilman from Bay Ridge," Adam said.
David looked up. "That guy still giving Simon trouble?" he asked.
Adam nodded. "He practically bullied Simon into letting him have the club for a benefit for that foundation of his, to get his vote on the noise ordinance."
David rolled his eyes. "There might be money stuff, but I think we'll have to wait and see what Hernandez turns up. Okay, means?"
"Nigel. We shouldn't count him out just because Simon says so."
"Not at all." As he wrote "anon. courier" David said, "I don't buy that shit that guy Marc was saying about how it couldn't be a dealer, either. Opportunity, that's everyone who could have put the drugs into the drawer. Who even knew about the drawer? Chris Richardson, I'd bet."
"Worth asking him, and Nick too. The office girls that are still around: Kristy Lee, Ramiele—"
"Tatitana," David said, writing the names down.
"She was an office girl?" Adam asked. "What, a favor to her dad?"
David nodded. "One of the perks of owning the building. And I hate to say it, but …"
"Ryan, yeah. Well, then we can clear him."
By the end of lunch, they had a list with annotations:
PAULA ADBUL—Ex-wife. PROS: Semi-acrimonious divorce. Hidden spite? Must also know Lythgoe and how to work hidden desk drawer. CONS: Alimony—Simon goes to jail, she stops getting her check.
DANIEL GOKEY—City Councilman. PROS: Wanted to shut down the club due to noise complaints, til Simon charmed him. CONS: Doubtful he has a connection to Lythgoe, or one that can be proven.
NIGEL LYTHGOE—"Businessman". PROS: Could easily get heroin, and bribe someone else to plant it. CONS: Wouldn't want to put Simon in a position to inform on him. No clear motive.
ANON. COURIER. PROS: Means. CONS: Why would courier have motive? Or be close enough to Simon to have opportunity? Or know that their dealer wouldn't squeal to Lythgoe?
ANON. DEALER. PROS: Means. CONS: Would framing Simon be worth the money and possible danger? What motive, and what opportunity?
CHRIS RICHARDSON—Manager, Club Idol. PROS: Opportunity. May have unknown motive just from working under Simon. CONS: No clear motive, nor connection to Lythgoe's organization.
NICK MITCHELL—Manager, Club AGT. PROS: Opportunity, same possible motive as C.Rich. CONS: Or no motive, and no Lythgoe connection.
KRISTY LEE COOK—Former office girl. PROS: Known for blaming Simon for lack of music career; hated working for him. Opportunity. CONS: Lythgoe connection?
TATIANA DEL TORO—Former office girl. PROS: Opportunity. CONS: Doesn't seem to bear a grudge against Simon; doesn't have connection to Lythgoe's people.
RAMIELE MALUBUY—Current office girl. PROS: Opportunity. CONS: Still in Simon's good graces. No connection to Lythgoe.
RYAN SEACREST—Lover. PROS: Opportunity, could find Lythgoe, could be working with him against Simon. CONS: No apparent motive.
"It's a start," Adam said.
David looked at his watch. "I have to be at Club AGT; I told Carly I'd come to her rehearsal."
Adam remembered that Kris had mentioned he'd be trying out for Nick today. Surely it wouldn't be bad to lend him some moral support. "I'll come along," he said.
"See?" David said. "You went a whole hour without saying anything bitchy. I knew you could do it."
"Sure I can, when the conversation isn't completely boring," Adam said.
"Oh, here we go," David replied, rolling his eyes.
Club AGT was Simon's other location—a small performance space and bar below Houston St on the lower east side. It showcased the kinds of acts Simon might manage but that didn't fit with the pop-and-dance focus of Club Idol. Some nights had stand up comics, other nights drag queens, but most nights there were rock bands on the AGT stage, and Simon thought Kris would be a better fit for AGT than for Idol. Kris had arrived early to meet with manager Nick Mitchell, but he hadn't arrived yet, so Carly invited him to sit in on her band Cherry Bomb's rehearsal in the small practice space in the cellar. It wasn't going particularly well because their drummer, Megan Joy, was having trouble concentrating.
"It wasn't me," Alexis Grace said, setting down her bass and lighting another cigarette. "She's been like this all day." Alexis had pink and blonde hair and looked pretty tough, but Kris thought it was just an act, as most days she was very considerate to the eccentric Megan.
"Guys, leave her alone," said Brooke White, the keyboardist. "She'll calm down faster if we stay off her case." Kris had met Brooke before and she was really nice—he liked her a lot.
"Let's just start again from the top," Carly said. "Okay, Megan?"
Megan nodded, but didn't say anything. She had long straight blonde hair and would have reminded Kris of Katy if it weren't for the tattoos all over her arms, and that she was about six inches taller than him. She counted off the beat, and after eight bars Alexis joined in, then Carly and Brooke on a straight-ahead post-punk rock song. Carly sang: hey what do you say I gotta fifteen million dollar contract coming my way. But when they went into the chorus, things went awry.
"Damnit, Megan!" Carly said, as the band stopped playing. "You fucked up the transition again!"
Megan growled, then tossed her sticks on the floor and ran out of the room.
Alexis tutted. "I'm not going after her," she said.
"You guys are frustrated," Kris said. "I'll go."
He found Megan in the storage room, sitting on a crate. She looked up when he came in, and there were tears on her cheeks.
"Hey," he said gently. "Don't cry." He walked toward her slowly.
"Oh god Kris, I'm in so much fucking trouble!"
"I'm sure you'll get the transition. Everyone has a bad rehearsal sometimes." He'd reached her side by then, and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her tight to his chest and putting his chin on top of her head. "Ain't worth all this."
"It isn't that," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt. "I heard you were there last night."
"Where, at Idol? Yeah, I was working."
"In Simon's office, I mean. When—when it happened."
"Oh," he said, wondering what that had to do with anything. "Yeah, I was there. Kinda crazy."
"It's all my fault," she said.
"What is, honey?" he asked, not able to keep up with her change of topics.
She leaned back, looking at him. "If I tell you, you can't tell Alexis. You have to promise!"
"All right," Kris said, "for now."
"I did it. It's my fault he's in jail now."
"What?" Kris said. "I don't see how—"
"It is," she said. "I'm the one who put the drugs in Simon's desk."
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