Cold Case, Hot Bodies(7)

By: Jule McBride


He surveyed a picture of the bawdy house, then a photocopied daguerreotype of his own ancestor, Angelo. His hair was wild, and his piercing dark eyes held a devilish glint. Often, Dario had been told he was the spitting image of the man. When he moved on to the next picture, his heart missed a beat. Gem O’Shea, he thought, feeling a tug at his groin. God, she was hot. Untamed waves fell over her shoulders, and the ends of the curls looked like flaming tongues. They licked an ample chest that spilled from a laced-up dress that was sexy as hell. Lots of cleavage.

The picture was black-and-white, of course, but Dario would bet her hair was flame-red. Her eyes would be blue or green. But which?

Eliana chuckled. “And they say normal men only think about sex sixty times a day.”

Dario blinked. “Huh?”

“What’s this for you? Six hundred?” When he didn’t immediately respond, she chuckled. “Since you’re going to be staying in Dad’s building, maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe Brice will introduce you to that woman’s ghost. But be careful, little brother.”

“Because?”

“Sheila Carella might get jealous.”

“Who?” he teased, still staring at Gem O’Shea’s picture. “I don’t remember any woman named Sheila.”

“You’re incorrigible,” his sister muttered, rising on her toes to peck-kiss his cheek. “But be forewarned. When guys like you fall, they fall hard.”

Dario held up Gem’s picture. “Let’s just hope when I fall, that it’s right on top of a woman who looks like this.”

Eliana hooked her arm through his. “You really are impossible.”

“But you love me,” he guessed.

“In exactly the way all women love guys like you,” she assured.

“How’s that?”

“Completely against my will.”





2



“GEM, YOU’RE A HOTTIE,” Dario said late that night as he tossed back a shot of whiskey, drinking from the bottle. He’d showered in a cramped stall down an unlit hallway, deciding against using a tub in the empty apartments upstairs, then he’d put on briefs, gotten into bed and opened the file, mostly so he could look at Gem’s picture again.

Her finger was crooked and her mouth was pulled into a sexy pout. She would have looked frivolous, but her eyes held too much awareness. Pain, maybe. Something that hinted at emotional depth. According to his information, she’d survived a famine and fled her country. She’d crossed the Atlantic, only to find herself in one of the world’s worst slums, but she’d made a decent life, anyway.Dario felt a magnetic pull, a sense of impending fate. Plain old lust, too. Or else maybe he’d just had too much to drink. Whatever the case, he was fantasizing about playing out the age-old cliché about hookers and cops. It had been a long night, and he was desperate for release. Pat had called about another arson case, and although Dario was supposed to be laying low, he’d visited the scene. Then, because Beppe’s tenants had waylaid him to air their grievances as he was leaving court, Dario had wound up hauling in surveillance equipment to appease them.

Now cameras were arranged strategically around the premises. At least, by the end of the week, Dario would be able to prove his pop’s building wasn’t haunted. When he glanced at the tripod-mounted camera placed discretely in a corner, his lips stretched into a slow grin.

With this camera, he was going to catch a woman, not a ghost. As soon as he’d called and told Sheila about the history of Angel’s Cloud, apologizing since he’d be busy and unable to meet her this week, she’d said she’d never had sex in a haunted house and wanted in on the action.

“It’s different,” Dario had assured playfully. “And not something I can just tell you about. You’ll have to come over and experience it yourself.”

“See you at eight,” she’d said.

But eight had come and gone. Typical Sheila. Punctuality wasn’t her strong point. It was nearly midnight, and anticipation had left Dario as horny as the men who used to patronize the room where he was about to sleep.

To keep his mind occupied, he’d interviewed tenants. There was a middle-aged woman who ran an Italian ice stand, Carmella Liotella, and Chinese sisters, Zu and Ling, who shared an apartment on the otherwise vacant third floor. Brice, whose law office was around the corner, lived in the attic. Rosie, a liberal-looking single mom, was on the first floor, just beneath Carmella and opposite the apartment where Dario had set up camp. She had a crush on Brice, and an alarmingly flirtatious thirteen-year-old, Theresa, who’d been wearing skintight jeans, a midriff exposing a fake tattoo, and enough makeup that she could have been applying for a job as a madam herself.