She had been questioning Mannie ’the Iron fist’ about the gunshot when he appeared out of nowhere. Mannie was giving his usual, ’I have no idea what you’re talking about’ look.
"Well," Joy murmured, realizing she wasn’t getting anywhere, "guess I should be getting to the club before Iris has a heart attack." Mannie nodded, his piercing dark eyes sweeping the concert hall. Two of the waiters had called in sick, and it was one of their busiest nights. "You know how Iris gets when things…"
And that was when a hard body collided with her almost knocking her off her feet. Mannie reached out a hand to steady her, his other hand dipping instinctively inside his jacket as he moved forward. Joy moved closer to the box, remaining just behind Mannie, who tensed his massive shoulders, and zeroed his eyes in on his boss.
She could only see him from the back. He was well over six feet with broad shoulders; slim yet muscular. His tuxedo fit like a glove. Thick, shoulder length black hair was tied back at the nape of his neck. Whoever he was he sure as hell had guts. It wasn’t just anyone who would walk right over to Sidney Gambini without an introduction, unless they had a death wish. She shifted her position, so that she could see his profile and hear what he was saying.
"Mr. Gambini." The young man bent forward with a faint smile on his face, an extremely handsome face from where she was standing. "Allow me to introduce myself." He extended a hand. "My name is Dante D’angelo. I believe we have a mutual acquaintance."
"Oh?" Gambini eyed him with suspicion. "And who would that be?"
Joy noticed that Sidney’s wife Dora, and his daughter Eva regarded him with obvious interest. The man nodded at them in turn.
"Good evening, ladies," he said, in a deep smooth voice. "I’m sorry to disturb you. This won’t take but a minute." They both smiled back at him. "Your godson," he returned to Sidney, "Vincent Delino. He had something to do with getting a member of my family shot recently."
Joy sucked in some breath. This had to be the cop connected to the first bumbled attempt on Vinnie’s life. She had overheard Sidney talking to Vinnie about it. Mannie tensed. Joy shrank back. Things could get ugly, even in a hall half-filled with spectators. Although Sidney would never risk a public display, the booth was private enough to allow for some covert violence. Gambini cleared his throat and pulled at his tie.
"Who is this man?" he barked at Mannie. "How in the hell did he get past you?"
As Mannie tried to manage some reply, Sidney’s teenage daughter eyed the stranger."You’re really hot," she told him.
Sidney glared at his daughter. Eva had been a worry to Sidney lately. He had practically been keeping her on a leach.
"Eva," he snapped. "Don’t interrupt. This is business."
The interloper gave Eva a charming smile.
"Why, thank you, young lady," he replied politely, then returned his attention to a disgruntled Sidney Gambini. Mannie came closer, nudging the younger man with his elbow. "Oh, hello." Dante D’angelo smiled at him over one broad shoulder. "Ah, how nice," he said to Sidney. "Do you have to wind him up, or does he run on batteries?"
Joy stifled the urge to laugh. It wasn’t every day that Sidney Gambini was spoken to like that.
"What is it that you want?" Gambini was trying to hold onto his temper.
"I want to know where Delino is, and…"
"Mannie," Gambini growled, giving him a meaningful look. "My conversation with this gentleman is about to end. Suggest to him that he take his seat. The curtain is about to rise."
Dora Gambini looked frightened. She raised her hand to the diamond necklace at her throat, and took her daughter’s hand. Joy glanced at Mannie. He was ready to spring into action. The younger man, however, seemed extremely at ease as he stood up straight, keeping his eyes on Sidney.
"Our conversation is over already? Ah, that’s too bad. I’m so disappointed." He shook his dark head slowly. "And just when we were beginning to get to know each other. I guess we’ll have to wait for the bonding."
Gambini sighed in frustration. "I don’t know anything about Vincent Delino, and I don’t appreciate your brand of humor, so if you, Mr., ah…"
"Sergeant." Dante’s smile faded. "It’s Sergeant D’angelo."
So, he was that cop. Just then Mannie moved forward to put a hand on his forearm. The police officer gave him a cool smile.
"I think," Mannie said, "Mr. Gambini would like you to leave."
"Ah." He backed up, his eyes on his extended hand. "I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I don’t like people touching me, unless I give them a personal invitation."
Eva’s eyes trailed over him. "Um, how does one go about getting invited?"
Disapproval appeared on Sidney’s face, as his wife told her daughter to be quiet. The man grinned at her. Then, dismissing Mannie with his eyes, he pointed a finger at Gambini.
"I know Vinnie is involved. I will find him."
"Get him out of here, Mannie," Gambini hissed, standing up. "Now!"
The people sitting in the next box looked over, then away again, as Mannie shot them a look. Dante threw up his hands with a laugh as if ready to surrender.
"There’s no need for an escort. I see I’ve overstayed my welcome. Don’t worry, Sidney, old buddy, we’ll have other opportunities." He issued Dora and Eva a slight bow. "Enjoy the concert, ladies."
His daughter giggled. "What a piece of eye candy," she announced, when he turned to leave.
He gave her a wicked wink, which only served to further infuriate Sidney. He clenched his fist.
"Do you always have to act like such a little whore?" Gambini said under his breath, giving his daughter a dirty look. Embarrassed, she fell silent. Gambini sat back down, eyeing the police officer. "If you are a smart cop, I think you will consider this our final conversation, Sergeant."
"That sounds like a threat. That wasn’t a threat, Mr. Gambini, was it?"
"Of course not." Sidney gave him a cool smile. "Enjoy the show, officer."
Joy backed up. The man who had introduced himself as Dante D’angelo was standing right in front of her. She was startled by his beautiful light blue eyes. But he really wasn’t seeing her. In fact, he looked right through her. Then he glanced at Gambini over his shoulder.
"I know Delino ran back to you for protection. That means we will see each other again."
"I don’t even know who you’re talking about," Gambini replied, stiffly. "Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to see the opening act."
"Don’t let me hold you up any longer, no pun intended," he said, smiling.
He brushed by Joy without another look in her direction. She followed him for a second with her eyes, than looked back at Sidney, who was motioning to her to come over to him. She narrowed her eyes, and walked over to the aisle.
"I was just about to leave," she told him. "Remember, Iris called."
"I know, I know." He waved his hand. He was clearly on edge. "But I want you to do a favor for me, mia. If that cop goes anywhere near the club, and starts asking questions I want to know right away."
She nodded, clutching her purse to her side. "Of course."
"More than that," he said, lowering his head, forcing her to bend forward to hear him. "If he does come around I want you to get to know him a little better. Be charming. Let him think you like him. And don’t let him out of your sight. I want to know his every move."
"I thought you’d put Mannie on it," she said, looking at Dora and Eva, who sat whispering beside them.
"If I put the boys on him, he’ll pick up the tail right away. He’s a cop, but he’s also a man. A beautiful woman like you, and the guard goes down. Find out what makes him tick."
Joy nodded. It wasn’t the first time she had distracted a man for him. She had done this countless times, but never with a cop. Usually, it involved no more than a friendly drink.
"You want me to flirt a bit, find out what I can?"
He nodded. "Exactly."
"If he comes into the Sand Dune, I’ll chat him up," she told him.
He patted her hand, and then turned his attention to the stage.
Joy walked to the exit, her eyes trying to pick out that cop in the crowd. It wasn’t hard with a man built like that, standing over six feet; he was easy to spot. She watched him. He was working his way to his seat, which was directly below where Sidney and his family were sitting.
Sidney wanted her to get to know him a little. Well, she could think of worst things. But this one was a cop. He probably expected that Sidney would have some kind of an eye put on him, especially after what he just pulled. Of course, she could never really get to know him. She could never really get to know anyone.