"We’ll ask your cousin Eddie when he testifies against you."

Jud knew he was cornered. He had been hoping the agent was lying about finding the car, but now Jud knew he was telling the truth. Damn his cousin. Eddie hadn’t done what he’d been told. He’d promised to destroy the car, and Jud had given him a hundred dollars to do it quick. What a slacker, he thought.

Liam checked the time and turned to leave. Allison was at the Hamilton, and he needed to see her, to make certain she was all right. There were two agents with her, but he wouldn’t stop worrying until she was by his side.

"Book him," he ordered as he reached for the door.

"Wait." In a panic, Jud blurted, "I want a deal. For a lesser charge I’ll give you the name of the man who hired me. Just charge me with a misdemeanor."

Liam laughed. "For attempted murder?"

"I wasn’t trying to kill her, I tell you. Going down the hill like that was an accident. I was only trying to get her to stop, but I hit her bumper too hard."

"Why were you trying to get her to stop?"

"I was supposed to steal her laptop."

Liam put his hands flat on the table and leaned over. "Who were you working for?"

"Do we have a deal?" He looked from Liam to the other agent expectantly.

"Depends," Liam said. "What can you give us?"

Jud persisted. "I want a deal first."

"You help us out, we’ll help you," Liam offered.

Jud took a deep breath and said, "Fred Stiles."

"What about Stiles?" Liam asked.

"He’s the guy who hired me. You see? I’m cooperating."

Liam knew Bronsky wasn’t finished confessing. His body language said as much. He was squirming in his chair and couldn’t look Liam in the eyes.

"It wasn’t an attempted murder," Jud insisted. "I was just supposed to take her laptop and make her come with me." He dared a quick glance up and wished he hadn’t. The agent looked as though his anger was ready to erupt.

"Where were you going to take her?" Liam asked. 

"I didn’t know. I was just supposed to get her and then call for a location to drop her off. The only thing I was told was that she was supposed to finish some program. I figured the less I knew, the better. I didn’t want her to get hurt, and I would have gone down that hill to see if she was okay, honest, but I saw a car coming, and I had to get out of there."

"Where is Stiles now?"

"I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since he gave me the job. Stiles can be a real badass if you don’t come through for him. He always gets what he wants. I figure if I lie low for a while, he’ll calm down. My guess is he’s already got somebody else to do the job. One thing I know for sure about him, he won’t give up. He’ll send . . ."

Liam was out the door before Jud finished his sentence.

TWENTY-SEVEN

Once behind the curtain, Allison let Peter carefully remove the gown. After dressing in her silk skirt and blouse, she sat in front of a mirror and unwound her braid. She brushed her hair and thought of Liam. She had actually expected to see him in the crowd. The longer he stayed on her mind, the angrier she became and the harder she brushed. A few minutes later, her hair was shiny and straight, and her anger had subsided. She finally came to the realization that she was being completely irrational. She just wanted to feel sorry for herself. How could she not? she justified. In the last few weeks she’d been told she’d ruined innumerable lives. She had ruined Will’s life because she hadn’t kept him out of prison. She’d ruined her aunt’s and uncle’s lives because she wouldn’t lie for them in court. And, oh yes, she had also ruined Brett’s and Stiles’s lives because she wouldn’t let them steal her work.

Were they all crazy? Or was she? The question merited thought.

She took a cotton ball and some mineral oil and removed the eye shadow. She’d wash off the rest of the makeup when she got home, she decided. The FBI agents would be waiting for her.

The party had moved inside to the ballroom, where the air-conditioning cooled the guests, and food and beverages were in abundance. Giovanni was the star, as usual.

Allison was leaving the dressing room when Peter found her and handed her her purse. "Your boyfriend is here," he said. "He wanted me to remind you that you’re supposed to wait for him in the garden."

She started to tell him she didn’t have a boyfriend, then changed her mind. "What did he look like?"

"How many boyfriends do you have?"

"Too many to count," she answered. "Now, please tell me. What did he look like?"

"He’s kind of tall, with blond tips in his hair, and to be honest, darling, I think you should tell him to stop using so much self-tanner."