I'd been following Jeffrey Parker in his white Lexus LS for three days. I hadn't caught him in the arms of another woman, but I had seen some of the grandest real estate in La Jolla. Made me wish I had an extra five or six mil laying around. None of the properties Parker showed had For Sale signs out front. He had a wealth of pocket listings. Luxurious homes where he got first dibs.
Parker and a client emerged from a house above the beach on Sea Lane. Not quite Malibu a hundred-fifty miles up the coast, but you still had the ocean for a backyard and even got a front yard as a bonus. I sat in my car and watched Parker from up the block. Gray slacks, white shirt, no tie, navy blazer. Tall, three or four inches over me. Fit. Square jaw. I understood why Kim chose him instead of waiting for me to figure things out. I just didn't understand why she took so long to make the choice.
The client, a thirtyish playboy, drove off in a Maserati. Parker locked up, then got into his car. He headed toward La Jolla Boulevard. I grabbed my cell phone off the car's console and tapped a number.
"He's coming your way."
"Roger. I'll duck and cover and follow after you."
Moira McFarlane had been a PI longer than I had and was damn good at it. She ran solo like me and we sometimes teamed up when one of us had a multiple day surveillance gig. Two cars gave the subject different looks when he checked his rearview mirror. We both drove newish Honda Accords, the most popular car in Southern California. Ubiquitous on the streets of San Diego County. Even in high end La Jolla. Moira's was white, the most popular color. I drove black, number two on the list. It blended better with the night.
I pictured Moira ducking below the dashboard and chuckled. She didn't have to duck down too far. She barely stood five feet tall but had an attitude that would fill up an NBA number one draft pick. We'd met after a lawyer, unbeknownst to me, promised her a job then gave it to me instead. She tracked me down and showed me that attitude up close. We settled things over a couple beers, but every time we met since, she'd still greet me with a giant chip on her tiny shoulder.
I didn't have that many friends. I couldn't un-friend one of them just because she acted like she hated me.
Parker turned right onto La Jolla Boulevard, not left which would take him back to his office in the village.
I followed him with Moira in tow. He headed south toward Bird Rock, the tail end of La Jolla. Plenty of expensive homes down there with ocean views to show clients. Except he rolled right through, down to Mission Boulevard into Pacific Beach. P.B. was a few hundred grand lower in zip code than La Jolla, but it still had enough million dollar homes to interest Parker Real Estate. A rookie agent though, not the boss.
Parker made a right on Missouri Street and drove past apartment complexes and condos. He headed toward the end of the street, which dead-ended at the ocean after a block. My gut turned over. Unless Parker had made a wrong turn or intended to park and stare at the ocean, he had two potential destinations. Both hotels. He turned left into the underground parking lot of The Pacific Terrace Hotel.
"What?" Moira's voice jarred me. I'd forgotten I had her on speaker phone during the drive. Lost in my dread of what a hotel meant. One that was hidden from La Jolla but close enough for easy access. I tried to lie to myself that maybe Parker was just meeting a client from out of town. The lie didn't take.
Jeffrey Parker was meeting a woman.
"Nothing. Bust it into that garage. We have to find out who he's meeting."
I drove to the dead end and parked illegally in front of the low steel barrier that protected the sidewalk from the road. Moira swooped into the underground parking lot behind me. I tugged my ball cap low, hopped out of the car, and ran around to the front entrance of the hotel. I'd never met Jeffrey Parker, but he knew who I was. Years ago, when he and Kim were just dating, they'd had conversations about me. He wasn't a fan. My face had been in the news enough over the past couple years for Parker to find out what I looked like.
I hustled through the upscale, fern-dotted lobby to the door to the stairwell and went through it. I plugged my earbuds into my phone as I ran up the stairs. The Pacific Terrace only had three stories, but most of the rooms had decks that faced the ocean. Not the normal hook-up dive I was used to when I worked the adultery detail.
I guess when you were the King of La Jolla Real Estate, the view outside the sin room was almost as important as the one inside.
"The elevator went up to the third floor." Moira's voice buzzed in my ears as I hit the second-floor landing. My instincts had been correct. Only the top floor for Jeffrey Parker.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.