The Job (Fox and O'Hare #3)(7) by Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg

Kate smiled at that. If she ever got married, she was going to hire this guy to get her down the aisle.

“I’ve read through the initial police reports,” Kate said. “And at the risk of sounding judgmental, it would appear that your security is lacking. The Matisse wasn’t attached to an alarm, and you don’t have any armed guards.”

“If there are armed guards, then there could be a shootout. And what would the result of that be? Bullet holes in people and paintings. We have an alarm system that we set at night. It never occurred to anyone that a painting would walk out of here during the day. We’ll fix that by putting guards at all exits.”

Kate went back to the FBI field office and spent hours sorting through all the Ford F-150 sales, rentals, and thefts. By nightfall, Kate and her crew had a list of more than a hundred trucks to look for and had located thirteen of them. None of the ones they found had any connection to the theft. She left the office around 8 P.M. and returned to her hotel room.

There was a small television bolted to the dresser but no visible remote. She was going through drawers, looking for the remote, when there was a knock at her door. She gave up on her search, squinted through the peephole, and was shocked to see Carl Jessup standing in the hall.

Her first thought was that he was there to fire her. She could think of no other reason for him to be making a personal appearance. Great. She’d been pretty much kicked out of the Navy, and now she was going to be booted out of the FBI. Okay, fine, but she was keeping the windbreaker.

She pulled herself up tall and opened the door. “It’s not often that I see you in the field,” Kate said with forced good cheer.

She took a closer look. It wasn’t Jessup. It was someone wearing a Jessup mask. Damn! Kate pulled the fake Jessup into her room with one hand, kicked his legs out from under him, and body slammed him to the floor.

“That hurt,” the fake Jessup said. “I didn’t see that coming. You really have to work on your hostess skills.”

Kate looked down at him. “Nick?”

He took the mask off. “I thought I’d surprise you.”

She closed and locked the door. “Are you out of your mind? The FBI field office is right across the street.”

“Would you prefer I’d visited you there?”

“I would have preferred you didn’t visit me at all.”

“I find that hard to believe. I’m charming. And I have a show-and-tell for you.”

“Don’t even think about it.”

“Not that kind of show-and-tell,” Nick said. “That show-and-tell comes later. I brought you a mask.”

“Of course,” Kate said. “I knew that.”

“It’s made from a thin layer of hard resin. A computer does a detailed facial reconstruction from just a couple pictures and then sculpts the mask in a 3-D printer. It’s ridiculously easy to get a mask like this. You can order one online for three hundred dollars and have it delivered to your door in forty-eight hours. Of course, I can get it done faster.”

“You could have told me this on the phone. You didn’t have to come here.”

“True, but I miss you when you’re gone.”

Kate’s heart skipped a beat. He missed her! Oh good grief, she thought. Get a grip. He’s a con man!

Nick looked around the room. “I’m starved. Where’s the minibar?”

“This room doesn’t have a minibar.”

Nick kicked his shoes off and stretched out on the bed, hands behind his head. “We need to change hotels. I have standards.”

“You need to change hotels. I’m fine. I have no standards.”

Nick grinned and crooked his finger at her. “Come here. I like a woman with no standards.”

Kate squinched her eyes closed and grunted. “Unh!” She opened one eye and studied him. “What do you know about the Gleaberg robbery that you aren’t telling me?”

“Nothing,” he said. “But I’ve done some business with Big Mike. A few years ago, right after his payola scandal, I got him to invest in a phony satellite radio network on the promise that his artists would get airplay.”

“He went for that?”

“It appealed to his greed and his desire to win. He was still angry about being locked out of the terrestrial radio business, but there was nothing in the court’s ruling that kept him from satellite radio. The deal I offered made him feel like he was getting back at the bastards who took him down. He was the perfect mark. Rich, dishonest, and greedy.”