“I’m just going to talk to him.”
“Uh-huh.” Brody crossed his arms over his chest. It appeared he wasn’t buying it for a second.
“You need to wait here.” She touched his arm. “He won’t talk to me if you’re there, giving him your death-ray stare.”
“I don’t like it. If you’re not out in fifteen minutes, I’m coming in after you.”
“Twenty.” She kissed him.
He frowned. “All right, but not a second more.”
At seven in the evening, Carnival was quiet. She stopped at the security desk. The guard recognized her. “Ms. Barrett. Are you here to see Mr. Fletcher?”
“Yes. I don’t have an appointment. He told me to drop by if I was in town.”
The guard pulled up a screen of approved visitors and scrolled to the Bs. Hannah’s name was third from the top. He made a call. “Mr. Fletcher is in his office. He says come right up. You know the way.”
“I do. Thank you.” Hannah walked down a corridor to a bank of elevators. The car shot smoothly to the twentieth floor. She exited the elevator and went through a huge set of glass doors. After checking in with the cool blond secretary, she waited by a bank of windows that overlooked the city. Other than the Strip, Vegas spread out in an array of randomness, as if the city planners had tossed high-rises, cheesy motels, and empty lots on a game board and built them where they landed.
“Ms. Barrett, Mr. Fletcher will see you now.” The secretary opened her boss’s door.
“Thank you.” Hannah crossed the threshold.
The room was absurdly large. Herb’s desk was a mammoth slab of mahogany faced by a semicircle of chairs. In the corner, a conversation area had been formed with a black leather sofa and two matching chairs. An acre of empty space yawned between the workspace and more intimate seating. He might dress like a regular joe, but his office was wall-to-wall swank.
Herb stood as she entered his office. He came out from behind his desk to greet her. “I’m so glad you dropped in.” He offered her a hand.
Yeah, that was not going to happen.
Hannah stopped short. Confusion crossed Herb’s face. He gestured toward the conversation area. Hannah preceded him, but instead of sitting, she paced in front of the window. The backdrop of Sin City felt appropriate for the conversation they were about to have.
She’d been in Herb’s office several times before, but it had never been just the two of them. Alone with him, the cavernous space felt oddly intimate.
“You look like you’ve recovered. I’m glad to see that. I hope you’ll be back to work soon.”
“I’m sure I will.” Hannah finally took a seat, perching on the edge of the sofa. The thought of her going back to her jet-set career with people like Herb Fletcher gave her indigestion. She felt like she was treading water, working hard and getting nowhere. How did she measure her accomplishments? With dollar signs. She wasn’t much different from Herb.
“I’m glad.” Herb stopped in front of a chair. He gestured to a wet bar by the window. “Can I get you a drink?”
“No, thank you.” Hannah gathered her thoughts.
Herb crossed to the bar. He took a tumbler off the shelf, flipped it over, and set it on the granite top of the bar. He brought his drink back to the chair and eased into the leather. “Something is bothering you, Hannah. What is it?”
“Please, I’m not one of your smooth-talking, beat-around-the-bush suits.” Herb sipped his drink. “If you have something to say, let’s hear it.”
Right. There was no way to tactfully ease into this conversation. Hannah leaned forward. “The man who assaulted me was involved in a human trafficking ring specializing in underage girls. The night of the party, these girls were working out of the motel behind the club. I also know that someone at that party arranged for a group rate with their pimp.” Hannah watched his eyes. No shock. No outrage. “You knew, didn’t you?”
Herb waved a hand. “Men have appetites. You saw that during the party. You can take the richest man and reduce him to his basest instincts with the lure of sex with a beautiful woman.”
“Not all men,” Hannah said, her thoughts flickering to Brody.
He snorted. “Most of the men I know.”
“You need to upgrade your social circle,” Hannah said. “So, were you in on it? Did you pay to appease your appetites?”
Herb looked disgusted. “I like women, probably too much, but I don’t fuck children. To be blunt, I like my women stacked, the key word being women,” he emphasized. “I certainly don’t need to use prostitutes. I have a whole club full of gorgeous young women who would be thrilled to have sex with me.”
Revulsion curled in Hannah’s belly. Herb might not have participated, but he still viewed women as objects to be acquired and used. “If you didn’t make the arrangements, then who did?”
“Does it matter?”
“Why? Money can buy anything. It’s the way of the world.” Herb returned to the wet bar. Setting his glass on the black granite top, he lifted the lid from an ice bucket and used tongs to add a few cubes to his tumbler. Ice cracked as he poured from a bottle of The Macallan. He leaned an elbow on the bar and brought the glass to his lips. He rolled the liquor in his mouth, pleasure lighting his eyes as he appreciated the taste.
His casual stance emanated indifference and arrogance. He thought he was in complete control, that he was above reproach.
“Good scotch?” she asked.
“Very. Distilled in 1939, it was introduced while World War Two was breaking out in Europe. It’s one of the earliest additions in The Macallan Fine and Rare series. It’s like drinking a piece of history. I paid ten thousand dollars for this one bottle. Do you know why?”
“Because you wanted it,” Hannah said. “And as you told me once, you always get what you want.”
“Yes. I do.” Ego flashed in his eyes. “But in this case, I bought it simply because I could. It reminds me that I’ve come to a place where I don’t have to scrounge for coins in the ashtray of my car to buy food.
“My father was what you would consider a good man. If a man took a week off because his wife was ill, my father paid him anyway. He hired drunks just to give them a second chance. Even though he owned the company, if the crew was a man short, my father would climb on a roof and nail shingles. I have a distinct memory of him taking me along with him to visit one of his workers in the hospital. After he gave the guy’s wife some cash to help tide her over, he said to me, ‘Herb, we might not be rich with material things, but we are wealthy in our hearts.’ What a load of bullshit. He was giving money to other people while our family was living in a two-bedroom shack.”
“He sounds like a kind man who had his priorities straight.”
“Do you know what all that kindness got him? Nothing. He worked himself into an early grave.” Herb gestured with his drink. “After he died, I took that limping, pathetic excuse for a company and built an empire out of it.”
“So now you can have anything you want.” Hannah’s body was stiffer than the chrome sofa frame.
“Exactly.” Herb took another sip.
“So if you didn’t make the arrangements for teenage prostitutes, who did?” she asked.
He raised a shoulder.
Hannah let out a disgusted breath. “I thought you knew everything that happened in your club.”
“Of course I know, but I’m not ratting anyone out.” Herb finished his scotch.
“That’s some sense of misplaced loyalty, Herb.” Hannah rose. “Next time you need a lawyer, don’t call me.”
“Watch your back, Hannah.”
She headed for the door. One hand on the knob, she whirled. “Is that a threat?”
“You have nothing to fear from me. You don’t threaten me. But curiosity and integrity can be a dangerous combination, and you should be worried about what’s going on in your own house instead of mine.”
Brody was walking into the lobby as Hannah came off the elevator. Disappointment was etched on her face.
“Your time was up,” he said.
She gave him a tight nod and hurried out of the building. He wrapped an arm around her waist as they crossed the parking lot
“He says he didn’t participate, but he knew. Like that’s much better.” She swiped an angry tear from under her eye with her forefinger.
“How do you work with people like that?” He pressed the fob and unlocked the car.
Hannah turned, resting her forehead against his chest. “I don’t know, and the worst thing is I can’t repeat any of our conversation to the police. He’s a client of my firm. I’m bound by confidentiality.”
“Don’t worry. Douglas has Herb Fletcher on his radar.”
They drove back to the Venetian and went up to their room. It was glitzy, with a big king-size bed a step down from the seating area. The window had a beautiful view of the city lights, but Brody closed the Roman blinds. He had a feeling Hannah wouldn’t want to stare at the glittery landscape of Vegas when they’d spent the day seeing its ugly underbelly.