Chapter 34

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Howie Boy received the call from security that his visitor was on the way up. Minutes later, he heard the timid knock on the office door. His father had been overly concerned about the situation, but he felt confident about being able to handle the lady cop.

He opened the office door.

The woman standing in front of him was nothing like he expected, and the sight of her momentarily threw him off balance. He had anticipated a uniformed, armed, serious-looking, matronly sort. This lady hardly fit that picture. First of all, she looked as if someone had punched her in the face. Her nose had obviously been broken, and it looked like she had undergone recent surgery to fix it. Her face was bruised and swollen.

Had Lionel done that to her?

She wore a navy-blue business suit, like a detective, instead of a trooper's uniform. She was fit, athletic, and it was too bad she dressed in slacks. He imagined she had killer legs. The short hair bob didn't do her any favors, but despite her hair length and the bruises to her face, he could see beneath the damage she was a fine looking woman. A few years younger than he was, maybe in her mid to late twenties.

Unless she carried a small gun in an ankle holster or one in her purse, she appeared to be unarmed.

She broke the silence. "You're Howard Collier."

If she had planned to piss him off from the start by calling him Howard, she had succeeded. "I'm Howie Boy, not Howard, and Mr. Collier to you."

She seemed to recover from the surprise of seeing him and flashed a badge in front of his face. "I'm Petronia Henning, Trooper Henning to you, or you can just call me ma'am."

He chuckled. Her attitude amused him. He beckoned with his arm toward the interior office. "Yes, Ma'am. Please, come on in. Have a seat. Can I offer you anything to drink? Looks like you could use one."

She walked past him, erect, confident, maybe acting a bit too confident as if she were putting on a show. She gazed around the room. "No, thank you." She settled onto one of the office sofas.

"Do you mind if I have a drink?" He had already forgotten her name and didn't wait for her to respond. He approached the liquor cabinet and fixed himself a bourbon. He sat opposite her.

She sat, one long leg crossed over the other. "I was expecting to meet with your father."

"I hope you're not disappointed."

"Not at all, since you're actually my person of interest. I thought you lived in Idaho. What brings you to Pennsylvania?"

He sipped his bourbon. "My annual hunting trip. Your timing is right, although whether it's good timing or bad timing depends on the point-of-view and the outcome of this meeting."

The trooper cocked her head. "Are you expecting a bad outcome?"

"Maybe." He paused. "For one of us."

A corner of her mouth twitched, a sign she might be more nervous than she wanted to appear. "Are you threatening me, Mr. Collier?"

He forced a smile. "Not at all. I just have the feeling you're going to be disappointed. You aren't going to find what you're looking for."

She raised an eyebrow. "Oh? What am I looking for?"

"Suppose you tell me."

From her purse, she pulled a photo and reached over to hand it to him. He took it from her and studied the image. Damn. Manty had been so sure he had disabled all the security cameras. "Looks like someone photo shopped my face onto someone else's body."

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