The Honest Liar
The front door of the business opened and people spilled out of the building. All men. All toting the “thug” look. Shifty eyes. Mean expressions. Most under thirty and dressed in low-slung jeans and Tees. They strode to their cars, and the parking lot emptied out.
There was no sign of Rafael Ortiz.
Keith cleared his throat. “Are you sure he’s here?”
“Well, this is his car…” I trailed off as the door opened again, and Rafael emerged from the building.
“Shit,” Keith whispered, his mouth gaping open.
Yeah, shit was right.
Rafael moved slowly, limping as he headed toward us. His face sported numerous cuts and rapidly forming bruises, his left eye was puffy and swollen shut, and bloody tissues plugged his nostrils. He looked hideous. Like he’d taken one hell of a serious beating. I flinched in sympathy. Oh, what a shame to see that beautiful face marred like that.
His open right eye focused on me as he halted before us.
“What the hell happened to you?” I blurted.
His cut lip twitched in a smirk. “Thank you for asking, Detective. Here I thought you didn’t care about me, except to find reasons to arrest me.”
“That’s not true.” My face heated. Was I really that rude to him?
He glanced at Keith. “How did you get dragged into her persecution of me? I thought you were my friend.”
Keith reddened. “I simply offered to be her backup since her partner is out sick today. That’s all.”
“I’m not persecuting you,” I denied. “I was just following a lead. I know you’re up to something. All those men who just left here are associated with a cartel.”
Rafael grunted, his right eye centering on me again. “So, once again, I’m guilty by association? This is a gym, Detective. People come here to work out all the time. To fight. To smooth out their issues.”
I huffed. “Well, you obviously just got your ass kicked. Did you get your issues worked out? You look like shit.”
He chuckled softly, wincing in pain. “Oh, you got it all wrong, Detective. I didn’t get my ass kicked. I won.”