Read The Hinky Bearskin Rug Online

Authors: Jennifer Stevenson

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The Hinky Bearskin Rug

The Hinky Bearskin Rug

Hinky Chicago Book Three

Jennifer Stevenson

Book View Café Edition
September 17, 2013
ISBN: 978 1 61138 288 4
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Stevenson

For my babe, Rich
Chapter One

Jewel Heiss
sat white-knuckled in the back seat of her aged Tercel with her ex-con-artist
partner in front and her sex demon at the wheel. It was a steamy Chicago Monday
in late summer. They were headed for the Eleventh Ward, responding to a
consumer complaint. This one had come down from the Fifth Floor. The
complainant had gone to her alderman, and her alderman, knowing what was good
for him, had brought it straight to da mayor, and from there it trickled down
to Jewel’s Hinky Division.

mission was to make the consumer’s problem go away, without publicity. That,
and to get out of this car alive.

Jewel sat in
back with the files, so that Clay could take the risk of a head-on with Randy
at the wheel. Randy’s model for driving was obviously a Hollywood chase scene.
He had flair.

“Here’s the
turn. Jesus, Randy, slow down!”

Randy slewed the Tercel into a squealing halt.

Jewel put a
hand on her throat. “That was way too exciting. I hope I didn’t pee my pants.”
If it hadn’t been ninety degrees in the shade, she’d have been ice-cold with

In the
rear-view mirror she caught Randy smiling at her. “I’ll wager that you had no
notion you could get such performance from this vehicle.”

“Clay, you’re
supposed to teach him how to drive like a normal person, not a cop show rerun.”

Clay showed
her an innocent face over the back of the front seat. “Well, we’re sort of

“Sort of! As
in, not really. In fact, where traffic is concerned, we’re not cops at all, and
we do not get to drive like idiots. Ever.”

Clay made his
pouty lips into an O and twinkled at her through his shaggy blond bangs. “I
think he’s doing very well.”

sabotage. He’ll be busted and grounded within a week of getting his license.
Which we cannot afford.”

busted and grounded is the best education for a new driver. Worked for me when
I was sixteen,” Clay said. “Hammers home the rules.”

“Which you
ignore for the fun of it,” she said. “The difference being, you were a citizen
on a learner’s permit, and Randy can’t even get a learner’s permit until he has
an identity. You were going to fake up ID for him, remember?” Jewel hated to
think how many laws she was breaking, the longer Randy stayed in her life. “If
he gets busted, he’ll be deported.” Did the Immigration and Naturalization
Service have a special way of dealing with hinky wetbacks? She shuddered. “He
could end up in hinky Guantanamo.” She didn’t know which would be worse. “For
nasty experiments.”

“No, he won’t.
He’ll end up in a bed somewhere,” Clay said, which didn’t reassure her at all.

“I shall be on
my guard,” Randy said, his smile gone now. Randy had once been an English lord —
pedigree, gold, estates, and all — and then he was turned into a sex demon by a
mistress who thought he needed basic nooky training, and then, two hundred
years later, he’d turned up in Jewel’s life. Gorgeous, arrogant, now brilliant
in bed, dirt broke, and unemployable in the twenty-first century.

Clay had
turned up in her life at the same time. It was a testimony to his con-man
skills that he was now her partner and not behind bars. Jewel never worried
about Clay.

But the
competition thing worried her.

It was barely
seven o’clock, but the complainant had a funeral to go to that morning, and
she’d insisted on speaking to an investigator. Jewel led the team up to the
house, a solid red brick two-story bungalow with beautiful stained glass
windows in front, and knocked on door.

behavior,” Jewel said sternly. The door opened. She said, “Mrs. Othmar?”

tough-looking old battle-ax in a long black cocktail dress looked her up and
down. “I am.”

“I’m Senior
Investigator Heiss with the Chicago Department of Consumer Services. We’re
responding to a complaint you made through your alderman.”

Mrs. Othmar
said stuffily, “I made no complaint.”

Jewel backed a step and checked the
house number over the door. “Pardon me, ma’am, but it came down to us from the
mayor himself. We take your concerns seriously.”

Mrs. Othmar
seemed about to shut the door in their faces and then she didn’t. “Come in.”

She led
Jewel’s team into a dim, cool living room full of antiques. She thawed when she
got a load of Randy’s dark blue Armani. “Please sit down.”

Jewel took a
deep breath. “According to our report, you told your alderman that a man from
the Department of Inspectional Services came to your door two days ago and
asked to see your smoke detectors and electrical boxes. He found something
unusual in your basement—”

nothing down there,” Mrs. Othmar snapped, and Jewel thought,
Uh-huh. Not any more.

“And when he
found it, he told you he would condemn your property if you did not remediate
within ten days. He also said that remediation probably wouldn’t work.”

“He said it
would cost ninety thousand dollars!” Mrs. Othmar said indignantly. “That’s
ridiculous! Even asbestos remediation doesn’t cost that much.”

Jewel resumed, “Then he suggested that since you couldn’t afford remediation
and it wouldn’t work anyway, you should sell your property to a man he knew who
buys such houses and remediates them on the gamble.”

“Search my
house,” Mrs. Othmar said in a shrill voice. “You won’t find anything.”

Randy had a
faraway expression. Clay tapped his knee and raised his eyebrows. Randy shook
his head.

Jewel said, “That
won’t be necessary, Mrs. Othmar. We’ll take your word for it.”

That made Mrs.
Othmar blink.

My sex demon is a walking hinky
detector. He would know if there was anything on the premises.

“Do you happen
to recall the man’s name? The man who visited your home? Or the name of the man
he said would buy it?”

Mrs. Othmar
was still blinking. “I think Joseph? Samuel? Something biblical. It was on a
patch on his windbreaker. The windbreaker was blue,” she added helpfully.

“Did he show
you any identification?”

“Naturally. I
insisted.” More blinks. “But unfortunately I don’t recall—”

“How about the
guy who buys hinky — who buys houses?”

“He gave me a
card for that man. I’ve been looking for it.”

Jewel’s hopes
collapsed. “If you find it, will you phone me? I’d like to see it.” Mrs. Othmar
still seemed upset. “Do you happen to know if he visited any other homes on
your block?”

“I asked
around,” Mrs. Othmar said. “He hadn’t. That’s why I complained to my alderman.
It was as if he chose me to bilk.” She was plenty mad about that. “He must have
expected a fool.”

“Well, he
knows better now,” Jewel said.

That pleased
her. “Of course I complained immediately.”

It took twenty
more minutes to get out of there.

On the way to
the car Jewel said, “She got rid of the pocket zone
she complained and
we got here.”

“Ten four,”
Randy said.

She socked him
on the arm. “I’m cutting off your television privileges until you can drive
sanely.” She got them onto Lake Shore Drive. A faint haze of pink smog hung
over the Drive, promising a doozy of a morning traffic jam.

a pocket zone, anyway?” Clay said. “Other
than something the city can condemn your house for.”

“A pocket zone
is a little patch of unreality. A — a hinky spot.” She still found it hard to
say the word

“How big a

“Depends. They
say Pittsburgh started with a pocket zone on a single seat on a commuter train.
They don’t know if some guy died there, or if a teenager had her baby there, or
what. It spread through the train, and they think somehow the train spread it
across the city. Pocket zones formed in places along the rail lines and the
expressways. Nobody knows for sure, and the people who know the most are behind
the yellow-striped barricades.”

“That makes it
kind of tricky to gather information, doesn’t it?” Clay drawled.

“Don’t get me
started on how the feds  ‘fix’ things.”

“So the city
will condemn a place with a pocket zone on it?”

“First I’ve
heard about it. Inspectional Services should have reported it directly to me.”
She frowned out the windshield at two teenagers in Grant Park who were holding
up lighters and giggling, trying to coax a pigeon to bring a cigarette butt
close enough to light it. “But if it’s hinky, it stays hinky, doesn’t it?
Randy? You didn’t feel anything on her premises?”

He shook his

“So somebody
has figured out how to, what? Fake a pocket zone? Let’s report to Ed. I need

They were
stopped dead at the light at Jackson Boulevard.

“I thought I
was to drive,” Randy whined. “How may I acquire a license without practice?”

“Oooh, all
right.” Out of misguided pity, she switched seats with him. While she made
notes on her clipboard, she overheard snatches of conversation from the front

“Darn, she’s
moody. You didn’t stork her, did you?” Clay said to Randy. “Go straight here.
You can get off at Randolph.”

“Give her a
slip on the shoulder? No.”

awfully positive.”

“A sex demon
knows these things. I see every part of her.”

“Too much
information. Turn right here. Wait, wait! Wait for the light!” The car jerked
to a stop. “Now you can go.” The car jerked forward. “Wait for this guy to
turn.” The car jerked to a stop again. Clay called from the front seat, “Stay
calm back there! We’re just building a little right-of-way awareness!”

Jewel shut the
file, laid it on the car seat beside her, and covered her eyes.

She wasn’t
calm. She was jonesing for coffee, tired, hungry, annoyed, afraid for her life,
and, under all of that, horny. Maybe it was because she was sitting in a car
with two men she’d had sex with recently. Clay claimed he didn’t want to mess
up their work partnership by sleeping with her, but he’d had two shots at it on
their last undercover case. He wasn’t bad, either. And he never, ever stopped
competing with Randy.

Randy, of
course, did her with mind-blowing magical sex-demon tricks every single night.

For some
reason, dating two guys was exhausting her. Since she’d hit the city she’d
dated uncountable men, bedded and dumped them. When that got scary she stopped,
and, just when the pressure had built to the internal combustion point, she’d
found Randy and rescued him from sexual slavery to a brass bed. And now he was
sex slave. Though Jewel might as
well be his slave, since he lived with her, worked with her, and haunted her

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