Home > Missing You

Missing You
Author: Harlan Coben

Chapter 1

Kat Donovan spun off her father’s old stool, readying to leave O’Malley’s Pub, when Stacy said, “You’re not going to like what I did.”

The tone made Kat stop mid-stride. “What?”

O’Malley’s used to be an old-school cop bar. Kat’s grandfather had hung out here. So had her father and their fellow NYPD colleagues. Now it had been turned into a yuppie, preppy, master-of-the-universe, poser asshat bar, loaded up with guys who sported crisp white shirts under black suits, two-day stubble, manscaped to the max to look un-manscaped. They smirked a lot, these soft men, their hair moussed to the point of overcoif, and ordered Ketel One instead of Grey Goose because they watched some TV ad telling them that was what real men drink.

Stacy’s eyes started darting around the bar. Avoidance. Kat didn’t like that.

“What did you do?” Kat asked.

“Whoa,” Stacy said.

“What?”

“A Punch-Worthy at five o’clock.”

Kat swiveled to the right to take a peek.

“See him?” Stacy asked.

“Oh yeah.”

Décor-wise, O’Malley’s hadn’t really changed much over the years. Sure, the old console TVs had been replaced by a host of flat-screens showing too wide a variety of games—who cared about how the Edmonton Oilers did?—but outside of that, O’Malley had kept the cop feel and that was what had appealed to these posers, the faux authenticity, moving in and pushing out what had made the place hum, turning it into some Disney Epcot version of what it had once been.

Kat was the only cop left in here. The others now went home after their shifts, or to AA meetings. Kat still came and tried to sit quietly on her father’s old stool with the ghosts, especially tonight, with her father’s murder haunting her anew. She just wanted to be here, to feel her father’s presence, to—corny as it sounded—gather strength from it.

But the douche bags wouldn’t let her be, would they?

This particular Punch-Worthy—shorthand for any guy deserving a fist to the face—had committed a classic punch-worthy sin. He was wearing sunglasses. At eleven o’clock at night. In a bar with poor lighting. Other punch-worthy indictments included wearing a chain on your wallet, do-rags, unbuttoned silk shirts, an overabundance of tattoos (special category for those sporting tribal symbols), dog tags when you didn’t serve in the military, and really big white wristwatches.

Sunglasses smirked and lifted his glass toward Kat and Stacy.

“He likes us,” Stacy said.

“Stop stalling. What won’t I like?”

When Stacy turned back toward her, Kat could see over her shoulder the disappointment on Punch-Worthy’s glistening-with-overpriced-lotion face. Kat had seen that look a zillion times before. Men liked Stacy. That was probably something of an understatement. Stacy was frighteningly, knee-knockingly, teeth-and-bone-and-metal-meltingly hot. Men became both weak-legged and stupid around Stacy. Mostly stupid. Really, really stupid.

This was why it was probably a mistake to hang out with someone who looked like Stacy—guys often concluded that they had no shot when a woman looked like that. She seemed unapproachable.

Kat, in comparison, did not.

Sunglasses honed in on Kat and began to make his move. He didn’t so much walk toward her as glide on his own slime.

Stacy suppressed a giggle. “This is going to be good.”

Hoping to discourage him, Kat gave the guy flat eyes and a disdainful frown. Sunglasses was not deterred. He bebopped over, moving to some sound track that was playing only in his own head.

“Hey, babe,” Sunglasses said. “Is your name Wi-Fi?”

Kat waited.

“Because I’m feeling a connection.”

Stacy burst out laughing.

Kat just stared at him. He continued.

“I love you small chicks, you know? You’re kinda adorable. A spinner, am I right? You know what would look good on me? You.”

“Do these lines ever work?” Kat asked him.

“I’m not done yet.” Sunglasses coughed into his fist, took out his iPhone, and held it up to Kat. “Hey, babe, congrats—you’ve just moved to the top of my to-do list.”

Stacy loved it.

Kat said, “What’s your name?”

He arched an eyebrow. “Whatever you want it to be, babe.”

“How about Ass Waffle?” Kat opened her blazer, showing the weapon on her belt. “I’m going to reach for my gun now, Ass Waffle.”

“Damn, woman, are you my new boss?” He pointed to his crotch. “Because you just gave me a raise.”

“Go away.”

“My love for you is like diarrhea,” Sunglasses said. “I just can’t hold it in.”

Kat stared at him, horrified.

“Too far?” he said.

“Oh man, that’s just gross.”

“Yeah, but I bet you never heard it before.”

He’d win that bet. “Leave. Now.”

“Really?”

Stacy was nearly on the floor with laughter.

Sunglasses started to turn away. “Wait. Is this a test? Is Ass Waffle, like, a compliment or something?”

“Go.”

He shrugged, turned, spotted Stacy, figured why not. He looked her long body up and down and said, “The word of the day is legs. Let’s go back to your place and spread the word.”

Stacy was still loving it. “Take me, Ass Waffle. Right here. Right now.”

“Really?”

“No.”

Ass Waffle looked back at Kat. Kat put her hand on the butt of her gun. He held up his hands and slinked away.

Kat said, “Stacy?”

“Hmm?”

“Why do these guys keep thinking they have a chance with me?”

“Because you look cute and perky.”

“I’m not perky.”

“No, but you look perky.”

“Seriously, do I look like that much of a loser?”

“You look damaged,” Stacy said. “I hate to say it. But the damage . . . it comes off you like some kind of pheromone that douche bags can’t resist.”

They both took a sip of their drinks.

“So what won’t I like?” Kat asked.

Stacy looked back toward Ass Waffle. “I feel bad for him now. Maybe I should throw him a quickie.”

“Don’t start.”

“What?” Stacy crossed her show-off long legs and smiled at Ass Waffle. He made a face that reminded Kat of a dog left in a car too long. “Do you think this skirt is too short?”

 

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