Mish introduced us.
“Madame Dalca, Ronald Mayhew.”
She quickly looked me up and down. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mister Mayhew.”
“As well, Madame-” I stumbled.
“Dalca. Cosmina Lugasch Nicolescu Dalca.” But she said it matter of factly.
I reached out my hand, she offered me her fingers. Long, cool, papery. Two of them had thick rings.
I drew myself straighter, knew it was obvious before I could stop myself. “Thank you, Misses- Madame Dalca.”
She nodded, let go of my hand, studied my face. Her odd dark eyes were level with mine.
I could tell she was crack smart. Too smart. The way that always gets me nervous in a dame. Not just blue blood conniving, but real brains. Something in me wanted to look away, but something didn’t.
“My Mishalom says you are a good detective.”
I looked behind her at Mish. “Ron’s the best,” he said. “And he’s very discrete, as I’ve said.”
“You have a good friend in Mishalom. We both do.”
Mish sucked in a breath.
“What do you want? What do you need my help with?” I asked her.
Lines around her mouth deepened. Her cheeks hollowed and she looked as old as I figured she must have been.
“Mr. Mayhew, I need to find my son. Quickly.”
I nodded, kept my face stone serious.
“Sorry to hear. Has he been missing long?”
“Now that’s not very long. The police-”
Mish moved a hand out toward me, before he could think. She shook her head to silence me.
“He is dangerous to you.”
Mish spoke up. “No, no. She means he is dangerous to…” he hesitated. “…Americans.”
I thought for a moment, about why she fled Romania, the problems brewing in Europe. “So he’s an agent for the Germans?”
She shook her head. Then turned back to Mish with a pleading look.
Mish took in a very deep breath. His coat tightened on his belly.
“Ron, have you been reading the papers?”
“I haven’t caught up the past couple days’ worth, no.”
“Two young women. Both pros, at least that’s what the police are saying, but you know they say that as not to panic the good people. Both in movie houses.”
“Yes. In the past three nights,” Behind his glasses Mish blinked furiously. “Nasty.” He brushed two fingers to his neck, probably without thinking. A slasher? I gritted my teeth.
“And you think it’s him?”
“Yes. We have no doubt.”
She turned back at me, suddenly looking like she was working to keep herself from getting unhinged.
“I’m sorry,” I said, but it came out like a mutter. I touched her arm to reassure her – it was slender but sinewry under her sleeve.
People come to me needing all kinds of things, but never something as thick as this before. I thought for a moment. If it weren’t for Mish I would have turned it down. I knew Trish would hate me for it when I told her tomorrow, even if this woman was diamond. And there was something in those dark blue-gray eyes.
I tried to stay balanced, all business. “Why are you sure it’s your son?”
She turned to Mish again.
“Mishalom, you have not told him…?”
“No, not yet. But we can trust him, Madame Dalca. We have to.”