“It’s pronounced ‘dossier,’ you stoned asshole.” Liam snapped the folder out of Skip’s hand. “You don’t pronounce the ‘r.’ ”
Chef pulled the folder from Liam’s grip and glared at him. “Be nice.” He started to study the folder, stopping every now and again to lift his beer for a long drink. Music thumped in his ears, making careful study of the file more difficult than it needed to be. While not clutching his beer he rubbed at his temple.
“Well, unlike you, Bro, I don’t speak Spanish.”
“Don’t start with me, Skip. You won’t like me when I’m angry.” Liam finished the last of his scotch and waved his glass in the air.
“What’ll you do, go Hulk on me? You can’t even put together a good profile. What are you, the worst lawyer in the tri-city area?”
“Children,” Chef half-growled, not looking up from the folder.
“I am a damned good lawyer, you shit.”
Chef pounded the table. “That’s enough! Liam, go sit at that table over there and wait for Liz.”
“Good thing, too,” Liam said. He picked up his new glass of scotch and stood, glaring at Skip. “I was about to kick his ass.”
“Ha! I’ve got like a hundred pounds on you, Bro.”
“Go, Liam.” Both watched him leave, Skip with a satisfied grin. “Why do you have to antagonize him like that, Skip?”
He shrugged and smiled over the rim of his glass. “I really don’t have a reason. It’s fun.”
“Makes sense. So, where’s the rest of it?”
Skip stared into his beer, gawked at a waitress and a pair of girls playing pool, and looked over at Liam drinking alone by the door. The forefinger of his free hand traced small circles on the black table.
“You do have more, right? I mean, this is great, but really basic.” Chef finished his beer and searched the bar for their waitress. He made eye contact, smiled, and waved his empty glass in the air.
“Dude, do you have any idea how difficult it is just to get in to the FBI database, let alone digging through all of their red tape? Not only do they have separate logins for each different type of crime – of which he’s got many. This guy’s done everything, arson, rape, murder, armed robbery, at least a dozen times each – they’ve also got separate security points for all sorts of different things, some of which don’t allow remote access to … . You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Computer stuff. Security. The FBI is being a pain in your ass.” Chef took a long pull from his beer. “Of course, I have no idea what you’re talking about. That’s what you’re here for.”
“Right, well, it was really hard.”
“And I appreciate your work, Skip, I really do. You’re the Wolverine of computer hacking. You’re the best there is at what you do.”
Skip’s face lost some of its intensity. “You’re just saying that.”
“No, I mean it. Without you, I wouldn’t be anywhere on this without you, and my daughter’s murderer would have just gone free.” It would never get easier to say, Chef realized. He took several big gulps of beer, blinking away the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes while his face was hidden.
“This the Hatcher file?” Liz pulled out a chair and sat delicately in it. She reached over and slid the file closer to her so she could comfortably read.
“Yeah. I sent you this a couple days ago,” Skip said.
“I’ve been busy, haven’t had an opportunity to look it over yet. You’ll forgive me.” The waitress placed a gin and tonic on the coaster nearest Liz. Liz didn’t so much as spare her a nod. “Where’s Liam at, I thought you said he was going to be here?”
Chef took a quick swig of beer. “He’s at that table over there waiting for … you. How did he not see you come in?”
“Oh, I’ve been here about an hour, in the back area. Some kid has been buying me drinks, trying to get into my pants.”
“Poor guy,” Skip said. “He doesn’t know he has no chance with you.”
“Actually, I’m seeing him again next weekend. Oh, don’t look at me like that, it’s not like I’m taking him home with me. The Good Lord knows I wouldn’t mind that one bit.” Liz didn’t look up from the file to see the look Skip gave her. She didn’t need to. “Don’t look at me that way, Skip. Just because I go to church doesn’t mean I’m dead below the waist.”
“I …” Skip looked to Chef, and back to Liz, his eyes wide.
“Save it. Tell me about this guy, and don’t leave anything out.” She looked at him and slapped the folder closed. “This isn’t everything you’ve found.”
“Hold on, let me go grab your best friend first. He’s going to need to hear this.” Chef stood and walked halfway to Liam’s table before catching his eye. He beckoned for him to join them, and returned to the table. “He’s going to be a little irritated, both of you be nice.”
“What the hell, where did you come from?” Liam waved his empty glass of scotch toward the door. “I’ve been watching for you by the door.”
“You’re late, Liam.” Liz said, stifling a grin. “You could never show up on time. Then when you did come, it was always way too soon.”
Skip choked on his beer.
“Don’t start with me, Liz.” Liam sat, smiling. “Not today. So, what are we talking about, the guy?”
Before answering, Skip took a big gulp of his pale, fruity beer. “His name is Ethan Hatcher, he’s twenty-eight. He’s committed murder in eleven states, rape in seven, robbery of all kinds in thirty-six states, sometimes with a crew of up to five.”
“Small time,” Liz said. “Thinks he’s some kind of gangster.”
“Probably. He picks up a new crew every city he stays in, and then moves on after a few months. We’re fortunate, breaking into your house seems to be his first action here in the city.”
Chef slammed down his glass. He looked ready to bash in Skip’s skull with it. “Fortunate?”
“So we have more of a chance to find him and … stop him. If he’d been here, say, since April, he’d be getting ready to leave. Your house is the first place that’s been confirmed that he hit, so we know he’ll probably be sticking around for a while.”
“He won’t be sticking around,” Chef growled. Liam placed a hand on his shoulder.
“What else did you find, Skip?” Liz’s voice held an edge.
“Something interesting, he’s got a juvenile record longer than my ... . Forget it. It’s pretty long, anyway.”
Liam perked up. “How could you have found his juvenile record, those are purged after age twenty-one.”
“Bro,” Skip said. He placed a hand on his chest. “You are so adorable. Never change. When he was sixteen, Ethan called in to report a fire at a condemned house he was staying at. He’s pretty funny, the first thing on the transcript was ‘It wasn’t my fault.’ ” Skip pounded the table, breaking down into a fit of giggles. Liz and Liam laughed with him, Liam stopping to drain his scotch, only to begin again.
College students circling the pool tables in the corner stumbled and staggered around, some chuckling and others bellowing. Their voices carried over the music to the smaller tables meant for two where couples leaning closer to each other chatted and shared their best ‘Please sleep with me tonight’ smiles. The buxom bartender flashed her teeth at every paying customer, gave each generous tipper a shallow bow to show off her exquisite breasts to encourage them to tip her more the next time they bought a drink. Chef hated all of them.
Chef stood, his chair tipped over backward and clattered to the floor. “When you three are done cackling like a trio of hyenas, you’ve got some work to do. Find this guy. I want him dead.” He gave each of his companions a murderous glare before stalking away.