Tae Bo guy. Trainers around here interview the celebs, not the other way around.'

There was a pause while both of them pondered the same question: What the hell are you doing here?

'Okay, you first,' Shane finally said.

'I'm in showbiz now.' Nicky smiled. 'I guess I always was in the business of show. Hey, what's a street- corner hustle if it's not a good performance? I'm not selling bets on the nags anymore either… My bets are all at the box office-on movies, which we bullshitters in the cinematic arts always refer to as 'film.' '

'You're in the movie business?' Shane said, finding that hard to believe.

'Yep, producer. Got my own company, Cine-Roma Productions. We're in preproduction on a film right now. I've also got a big development deal with Farrell over at Paramount, on a novel I bought called Savages in the Midst.'

'The sequel to Gorillas in the Mist?'

'Midst… Midst, with a d, Shane. Like in our midst… like that. It's about the meat-eaters in showbiz, and a girl from Illinois who's looking to be a star, and about savages in suits who ravage her body and, eventually, her soul. We could cast the fucking thing off this party's guest list. Farrell is talking Gwyneth, but I'm not so sure. I'm thinking more like J-Lo. Do it a little harder edged. Make the statement seem integral… amp up the verisimilitude.'

'The what?'

'Verisimilitude-means the appearance of truth. You have to learn these words, and some Yiddish, if you wanna be a player.' He put his hands in the pockets of his ridiculous multicolored suit, rocked back on his Cuban heels, and regarded Shane. 'Now you.'

'Huh? Oh… Just Alexa and Farrell's fiancee, Nora Bishop, are old friends. Nora used to be Alexa's baby-sitter when she was a kid.'

'I like mine better.' Nicky smiled.

'Me too,' Shane admitted.

'Listen, bubee, seeing you here might be fortuitous.'

'Yeah?' Shane looked puzzled. 'How's that?'

'I was thinking of calling you last week. Isn't that a mitzva? Haven't seen you in four years, thinking about calling you… kaboom, here you are. That's what we in the biz call-'


'With a dose of righteous karma.' He smiled. 'Shane, I'm looking for a girl who's dropped out of sight. This is silly really, but I bet you could pull this off for me. Her name is Carol White. She's perfect for a part in this movie I'm casting.'

'Savages in the Midst.'

'No, the other one, the one I'm doing at my shop… at Cine-Roma. This film I'm talking about already has a green light-what we call a firm go. The girl I'm looking for, Carol White, is perfect for the part of Cherri, which is a showy little role… the lead character's best friend. Carol has this ethereal quality, which is a word we use in film meaning translucent, delicate, refined… very hard to find these qualities in a young actress. Okay, so here's my problem. She used to do some low-budget stuff around town and some TV, shit like that, and then she kinda disappeared. I checked with SAG, and they got no current address on her. I think she may have even dropped out of the business altogether. I don't know who her current agent is.'

'I can promise you, I'm not representing her,' Shane said.

'I was thinking you could maybe go into the police computer. Carol White… ten little keys that spell 'Big Break.' If she's had a traffic ticket or owns a car, you could get her address, then I give her the part that kick-starts and totally redefines a career. When they do the E! Celebrity Profile on her five years from now, she's gonna be up there saying, 'I owe it all to an L. A. cop, and a helluva guy, Shane Scully.' '

'Listen, Nicky. You probably haven't heard, but I've been on a medical leave of absence for almost a year. I don't go back on the job until next week. So I don't really have any way into the police computer right now. They change the access codes all the time. So mine's not even current anymore. I mean, as much as I'd like to help and all that…'

'Right.' Nicky smiled but stopped tipping back on his stacked heels. 'Hey, listen, I was probably way outta line there anyway. I mean, the police computer isn't exactly dial-a-job.'


'Hey, well, it was just a thought. You're looking good, man. Stay healthy and God bless. You're on my prayer list.'

'Your what?'

'Found Jesus. A lot happens in four years. Go figure. Spent twenty years living a bullshit life before I discover the Big Guy is my savior. Now I got Jesus and Louie.'

'And just who the hell is Louie?' Shane was grinning.

'Louie is the god of all moviemaking. If Louie smiles on you, you get big stars, big grosses, and it never rains on your beach shoot. In the film business we learn these things. Take care, Shane.'

Nicky turned to walk down the corridor, and Shane felt instantly bad about brushing off the favor. How hard would it be to help little Nicky? Nicky, who had helped Shane with dozens of useful tips and never asked for anything in return.

'Hey, hold on,' Shane called out, and Nicky turned to look back. 'I changed my mind. I gotta go down to my old homicide table tomorrow to pick up my duty jacket anyway. I'll get somebody to run her. Gimme your card.'

'You always were my favorite copper, even when you had the cuffs on too tight.' Nicky grinned and pulled out an alligator wallet, removed some expensive-looking cards, then handed one to Shane. There was a logo of the Roman Colosseum embossed in gold. Under that it said: CINE-ROMA-NICHOLAS MARCELLA,C.E.O.

'Carol White,' Nicky said, 'spelled just like it sounds.'

'Okay. I'll call you tomorrow if I get anything.'

They separated and Shane prowled around. He was really having a good time now. He had a second scotch on the rocks, spent some time talking to Catherine Zeta-Jones, and then later, Alexa was back at his side.

'Hi. Where'd you go off to?' Shane asked.

'Just meeting the other bridesmaids and looking at pictures of the dresses Nora ordered for us. I can't believe they're getting married in ten days.'

'Right, right… I was just saying the same thing to Catherine Zeta-Jones,' Shane said, a smile twitching the corner of his mouth.

'Get outta town… Where?'

Shane pointed to the beautiful actress, who was wearing capri pants and a crop-top. She caught Shane's eye as he pointed her out to Alexa and waved at him.

'Down, girl,' Alexa growled, then her expression changed. Now it was her no-nonsense look, the one she wore downtown at Parker Center.

'I've gotta go. We got a one eighty-seven out in Sunland that the CRASH unit is worried about. They want me to roll on it.' She held up her cell phone. 'Just got the call.'

'Really? Who died?'

'They think it's Kevin Cordell, but the D. B. took so much lead that they're gonna have to do the I. D. with dentistry.'

'Sometimes good old street justice works,' Shane said, thinking it was about time somebody put Kevin Cordell on the ark. Kevin's street name was Stone, and he'd been a Crip O. G. for over twenty-five years. Stone ran the Front Street Crips, who pretty much controlled the major drug action throughout South Central L. A. Except for a nickel jolt at Soledad for accessory to second-degree murder, up to now he'd largely escaped justice.

'If it's really Stone, it could create a power vacuum and we could end up with Crips and Bloods shooting each other and anybody else who gets in the way,' Alexa said.

'You need the car… I can drive you.'

'No. Nora will be really upset if we both leave early. The Sheriff's Department is doing us a favor and sending a unit over from the substation here. They'll taxi me over the hill.'

'You really think they need the head of the entire Detective Services Group standing at a crime scene, looking down at the vic while a bunch of lab techs roll the body?'

'Hey, they're my detectives. I go whenever I'm asked. Besides, I'm only the acting head of DSG, so I try

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