MJ 3: Case of the Purple Rose


He uncurled from the couch like a cat, and walked behind my chair. I was stiff as his hands slid over my shoulders and began to massage. "Marly, why don't you get AC?"

I looked around the office. The building dated from 1922, and my uncle, who'd also been a PI, had kept it original condition. I'd made some upgrades, but AC had slipped my mind. Many things had, I was not known for my attention span.

I moaned as his firm touch relaxed my muscles, his strokes moving with the knowledge of a man well-trained. Hell, he was probably an ace fluffer for his female stars, I thought with the bitter twinge of jealousy.

Closing my eyes, my mind was troubled, but my body was jumping in joy. I was hung over, tired, facing a murder charge, and the man still lit me up like a runway at takeoff.

"No!" I jumped up out of the chair and stepped around the desk.

"Marly," Finn began, all bedroom eyes.

"No, Finn! Look, not this time! This isn't some stupid case, this is our lives on the line here! Get the blood back north of the equator. Last I checked we still live in a state with the death penalty."

He grabbed my chair and began squeezing it with white knuckles. "Marly, it was just a massage. I know what's going on here. Damn it, this is still a case. If Harwood killed Stormy and someone killed him, he had a partner all along, trying to frame us both. I am paying you an ungodly amount of money to find out who the fuck that is!"

"Then no fucking!" I shrieked. There was a lot between Finn and me, too much for me to succumb so easily.

He threw my chair down and stalked over, and though I went for my gun the maniac was faster. I found myself shoved into the bookcase so hard the wind was nearly knocked from me, and then his lips were on mine, my hands pinned at my sides.

I bit his tongue and he kicked me in the shin, hard. I gasped and tasted blood in the kiss. His erection ground into me, and I knew this game. I knew he liked the fight, liked my own muscles, my resistance, and so I went lax, limp as a dummy.

The hot kiss ended with his snarl. "Fuck you, Marly."

"In your dreams pal. Now get the fuck home, find a goddamn good lawyer, and get me every detail on Stormy Michaels."

Standing in the late afternoon sunlight, he looked very much like an angry, avenging angel. I hated his beauty then, more then ever.

Finn was a man who liked the last word, but left without it. I had no idea what that indicated, but I sure as hell knew it meant something.


I was dreaming, I realized at the last second. I walked into the Purple Rose. The red velvet was gray, the black leather ashen. Everyone was strange to me, their voices tinny.

Eddie stood by the bar, leaning on it like it was an old lover. A man of 48, he looked younger. He had his British father's height and eyes, his Italian mother's coloring and temperament. He worked out, tanned regularly, and walked with the confidence of a man who knew too many secrets.

He looked at me in surprise, opened his mouth to speak, and blood came pouring out.

I shot up from the couch to hear my cell phone ringing.

"Go," I said with my customary curtness. Everyone knew I was a night creature, so clients often called me in the dead of night.

"Marly, I need your help."

It was Finn. His voice was breathy, nearly seductive, which meant it was unintended. I tamped down on my body's excitement and sighed, pushing my hair from my face where sweat had it sticking. "What is it, Finn?"

"Someone tried to kill me."

"Where are you?"

"I'm at the studio now, safest place I know."

"I'll be there in ten."

I hung up and grabbed a very quick shower. It was still damn hot even in the dark of night, so I dressed in a tank top and shorts, opting for Teva sandals. I'd never be a fashion-plate, but I'd always be comfortable, damn it.

I strapped my gun on and hid it with a windbreaker, pushing the sleeves up past my elbows. I tugged my damp hair into a ponytail as I strode around, looking out every window.

Down below in the street there was a cop car. Stupid idiots bought only three models, and they were never in the best of repair. The dented Caprice was white with rust spots, all windows open, and inside two of the three detectives were smoking.

I flipped open my cell phone and double checked the time. Just before four, Buzz was still at the bar, waiting to close it down. Like me he'd once been a cop, but he'd retired as honestly as possible, settling into a life centering around alcohol.

"Marly?" He asked, his voice curbed by alcohol, ready to slur.

"I need a pickup, Buzz, meet me by Jack's."


"Bars close in ten, let's say fifteen."

"See ya."

I was smart enough to know the phones were tapped, now I could only hope my driking buddy Buzz remembered the code. I went back to the front window and saw the flurry of activity begin. The Caprice pulled away to find a good vantage point near Jack's Tavern on Rush.

I smiled and waited for them to turn the corner before going down the back. If Buzz remembered, he'd pick me up at the Jackrabbit, and I'd find out just what the hell had happened to Finn.


Finn's studio had once been a warehouse for car parts. Later, after he'd taken it over, he'd been a fence and everything stealable and sellable under the sun had lined rows of shelves inside.

Now there were sets. Fake walls would go up, pretend rooms created for scenes in his porn movies. The walls were lined with props, a wardrobe department, which I always found ironic for movies that were two solid hours of naked people fucking.

There were two doors to get through, the first required a buzz and a pass by camera and voice. The second was guarded twenty-four hours a day by three shifts of men with assault rifles.

Tonight it was Champ, a small time boxer who'd taken one too many hits to the head to be useful in the ring. He'd long ago learned not to bother searching me, he merely nodded and opened the door.

"Thanks," I muttered, and stepped inside the porn palace.

I'd never been here at this time of night, and it was eerily empty. A set was staged of an office, and on the floor were clothes. The shot must have gone late to be left unclean, and the smell of sex still hung in the air.

The only bright light came from Finn's office and he frantically waved me over. I liked his office, it was richly appointed. The couches were leather and buttery soft, the carpet was like a pillow, and the art on the walls was real. The bastard had taste, I could admit that.

"What's going on?" I asked before she shut the door behind me.

His white t-shirt was ripped at the hem on one side and the shoulder above had a smear of dried blood. His jeans were covered in dirt and more blood, and his hair was disheveled.

"Marly," he growled and hugged me.

The hug was a shock. We yelled, we fought, we fucked, but neither of us were hugging people. Awkwardly I tried to hug back, and despite the late hour, despite all the dark past we shared, I was only aware of his broad frame, the heat of his body, the musky scent that was pure Finnegan.

"Finn, what happened?" I asked, muffled by his shoulder.

"Marly." He set me back and looked down into my eyes. Pure, Irish blue, I saw sadness, fear, and some dark emotion I couldn't identify, yet sparked a feeling of commiseration deep in my own heart. "Marly."

He kissed me. I hadn't been expecting that. He kissed me slowly, but forcefully, the force would always be there with Finn, but the slow was new. Finn was a hit and run kind of guy, and that was how I liked it.

I'd been a cop before being a PI and had been around enough death to know that close calls sometimes made people want to affirm life. Sex was the quickest route in most brains, and it seemed Finn was wired that way.

Before my brain fully caught up the bastard had the windbreaker off and was undoing the holster. He got stuck, needed help, and I broke off, panting and staring at him. It was my chance to walk away, to slap him and get back to business, or give into what he needed and I wanted so badly.

When I pulled the gun off triumph flared for a moment in his gaze, making my jaw tick. I loved him, I knew that, but I'd be damned if I let anything go that way. This was about sex, reaffirming life, nothing more.

So I grabbed his shirt and yanked it over his head. Damn, he had a nice chest. More hair than I usually liked but on him it was perfect. I went after the pants next and quickly realized he was commando, and happy to see me.

I stripped with brutal efficiency and kept my socks on, and was glad to see his jaw tick. I started to ask a very blunt question, but stopped myself in time. No need to be brutal, I thought, but he was making no moves. I was used to Finn making all the moves.

I was lost for only a moment before resorting to a trick guaranteed to get him moving. I sank to my knees and grabbed his cock. Above me I heard him moan and from the shifting of muscles accompanying his widening of stance, I knew his head was back.

I loved his cock. That I could always be open and honest with my feelings for. Not exceptionally long he was fairly wide, curved slightly up, infinitely fun to ride. For the moment I made do sliding as much as I could into my mouth.

Wrapping my fist around the base I felt him shiver, so I rewarded him with a firm lick around the base of the tip. His hands came to rest in my hair, moving about for a moment before he jerked the ponytail holder loose. It caught, pulled on my scalp so I scraped my teeth on the head, making Finn hiss.

When my hair was loose and he moaned happily, I began to suck, stroking up and down. I loved this, truly I did. He was under my control, at my command. In my mouth his cock swelled as his sac tightened, and I began to hope he'd cum, allow himself to lose control.

No such luck. Suddenly the Finn I knew slid into place and he jerked me away, dragged me up, and kissed me like a wild animal trying to maul my face.

He backed me to the couch and fell with me. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and somehow he shifted it so he was still pressed against me, but my legs wrapped around his.

"Marly," he said somehow with his tongue halfway down my throat, and then he slammed in.

No condom. Shit. Then I was full and the sensation was searing. The danger of it was exciting and though I knew I was being stupid, I didn't care.

"Finn, this isn't working, you can't move," I tried to say though with my bottom lip firmly between his teeth I barely understood myself.

He responded by jerking my hips up, bending me nearly double so that his long legs were on the couch, he kneeled between mine. He laughed and finally began to move.

I could only gasp. In this position he felt huge, and I felt helpless as he began to thrust harder and harder like jackhammer. God, it turned me on. I tried to clutch at any patch of skin near but I was surrounded by Finn. I tried to pump my hips back but I couldn't move.

"Finn," I groaned as his sweaty body moved more into a slide.

In this position his cock slid heavily against my g-spot, beginning a tight thrumming low in my body. "Finn!" I cried when one hand pinched one of my nipples roughly.

He caught my mouth again and his kiss was soft, very soft. So very different from Finn, so very different from the tense muscles and hard thrusting of his body strangely it was this that drove me to a screaming orgasm.

Finn moved through it, taking my clawing nails against his skin, rocking against me hard, our sweaty bodies sliding frantically. Then his head tipped back and he came with a roar. I felt him cum inside me, deeply, and the fierce beauty of him pushed me to another orgasm, shockingly close to the first.

I screamed again, mindless, my body throbbing and pulsating, his own so hard inside me, all around me.

It seemed to last eternity, our bodies so close, my eyes closed, listening to our panting breaths. When I opened them he was looking at me deeply. "Marly I-"

"Finn, we forgot to use a condom."


Whatever romantic nonsense he'd been planning to say slipped as he pulled away brutally fast. "Shit," he repeated, standing there naked, swiping a hand through his shaggy black hair. "What if-"

"I can't get pregnant and I'm clean. Well, it hasn't been a full six months since the last AIDS test, but Harwood and I always used condoms. I'm safe. You?"

"I've only been with you and Stormy in recent memory, and I make all the actors get tested constantly. I did too, when I was fucking one. We were both clean."

"Then lets forget this ever happened. Hand me my clothes and an ashtray, and tell me what happened."

He handed me the clothes and I dug my cigarettes out, lighting one as he searched his drawers for an ashtray. Pulling one from the desk he handed it to me and flopped beside me on the couch.

"I didn't see him, but he was big. I was walking, over on Ashland, just south of Addison. I was at Mikey's, a little tipsy, and I was jumped. I fought, but he was huge. Hired muscle is my guess. He never spoke a word, just beat me."

I saw a few bruises on his body, but none that had stopped the rough sex. "I take it the blood is his?"

He nodded. "Can I bum one?"

I passed him a cigarette and the lighter. Somehow he made a very dirty habit look sexy as he lit it and sucked in smoke deeply. "I had my butterfly knife on me, cut him a few times when he grabbed it. He was going to stab me but two drunk kids stopped in the alley to piss. He ran off. All I saw was a tall man, built like a brick shithouse, long trench."

I froze for a moment. Sounded like Rocco, one of Hardwood's crew. But since I was the current favorite for Eddie's killer, it made little sense for Rocco to go after Finn instead of me.

"What is it?"

"We need to get you into hiding. Could have been one of Harwood's, and if so, you're not safe."

He sat back and ashed with grace I'd never master. "Marly, I worked vice. I know his men, I know their games. I'm safe."

"It's been more than a few years since you worked in vice, there's new players on the scene, new tricks. You're not safe. I appreciate you're a tough guy and a big fish and all, but you ain't safe."

"Then what am I supposed to do?"

"Carlos can run Gold 'n' Rod for a couple of weeks. Take a vacation."

"I'm being investigated for murder. My million dollar plus company has just lost its biggest star, whom I'm accused of murdering. Running is the worst thing I could do."

"You want to live?"

I gave him the hard stare that had withered criminals and judges, even made a mobster creep like Harwood back off. Finn had seen this stare only a handful of times in the decade-plus length of our association.

"I can't leave the state."

"You don't have to."

"Where will I go?"

"Get dressed." I stubbed out my cigarette and stood up sorting out my own clothes. "You must have a change around here. You can call Carlos on the way. And on the drive, you're going to tell me everything you know about Stormy Michaels."

"I don't have my car, and you're being tailed."

I pulled my bra on and smiled. "That's why we're going to steal one."

He froze for a moment, cigarette dangling from his lips. "Holy shit, you're serious."

"You remember how, and if not, I'll teach you. Now come on, we've got a long drive ahead of us."

He shook his head and stubbed out his own smoke. "You're going to get me killed, Marly."

Or die trying, I thought grimly.


It made the most sense, I thought, that it was an enemy of Harwood's. Eddie had lots of those, he was one bad boy, and it was plausible that Stormy was merely a mistake, a casualty.

If someone had tried to kill Eddie with Finn's gun, that could mean only one thing: the killer was an enemy of Harwood and Finn. They were both criminal masterminds, but Finn's days were behind him now that he was a pornographer. Oh, it was a short time ago he'd engineered the death of two women, but they weren't exactly girl scouts. Eddie's list was as long as my arm and filled with much more malicious men.

At first we didn't speak on the drive. Finn remembered how to hotwire a car just fine, you couldn't grow up on the south side and ever forget. He chose a Toyota Camry, smart boy, and the car blended in with dozens of others the same year and color as we headed out of the city.

After a few cigarettes, I pumped him for names. Finn had many, and I compared them with my own mental list of Harwood's. I had one hit, and I played my best poker face so Finn wouldn't pick up on it.

Luckily we'd arrived at the one spot where I knew he'd be safe.

"A casino boat?"

I grinned openly as we stepped out of the car. The heat had stayed through the night, and the canal holding the boat only made it humid and sticky. Everyone was out for air conditioning, and the boat was packed.

"C'mon, I'll introduce you to an old friend."

I thought I heard him mutter something about someone else to kill, and my eye ticked. Not so much over worrying about his guilt, rather because he'd been carrying around this torch thing for too long.

"Marly, couldn't you have friends that worked in strip clubs? A legal brothel? Anything but this place."

I glanced at him sideways and saw a furrow between those impossibly blue eyes. "I thought you liked gambling."

"Office pools on baseball or football, sure, but this is...obscene."

Something in the texture of that last word on his lips made me shudder. There was a story there, every instinct I had told me that, but we were pressed for time. I had one more stop to make before I opened up shop.

We flashed our IDs, both of them fakes, and stepped inside to another world. Too much black and gold, trying to look ritzy, and yet the people that filled it leaned towards socks in sandals, fanny packs, and visors. Indoors. At night.

I flashed a twenty at a waitress and she stopped, eyeing only the money and Finn. "Heya," she said with a snap of gum and an impressively subtle eye movement.

"Oh, I like her."

I did not want to slap him, I did not want to slap him. Repeating the mantra in my head wasn't working, so I elbowed him.

"Listen doll, can you get Johnny?"

She took the twenty but looked again at Finn. "Sure thing, and you stay right there."

I watched her and her impressive ass walk off. Finn started to subconsciously follow and I held a hand up to his chest. "Not smart."

He smiled down at me, eyes glittering through the deep shadows around them. "Marly," Finn drawled, "are you jealous?"

I snorted. "Hardly, but the last woman you slept with got iced with your fingerprints all over it. Watch it, or history may repeat itself."

He leaned down and nuzzled through my frizzing hair to my ear and spoke in a low, seductive tone. "Then you're the one we have to worry about."

I was reaching for my gun when Johnny Lake showed up with the gum chewer in tow. "Thanks Sam, you can go now," he smartly ordered her. Johnny was an old informant of mine from my homicide days on the force. Bodies got dumped by the boat all the time.

He was still a large man in height, breadth, width, and depth. With his wavy dark hair artfully plastered and permanent grin, he could have been the gregarious owner of a big and tall store.

"What are you doing here?" He growled through a smile at Finn.

I cocked a brow and glanced at my...whatever the hell Finn was to me, I was tired of secrets.

"She brought me," he jerked a thumb at my face.

I rolled my eyes. "Down boys. Johnny, can you keep Finn for a couple of nights in a room and in the blind spots here?"

He looked at me with that smile, and I'd known him long enough to trust his doe brown eyes more. "I owe you, Marly, and that's the only reason why I'll say yes. But you," he stared hard at Finn, "have to promise to behave. I mean it."

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