Don't Tease Me, Chapter 1
I land in Newark with nothing but coffee in my belly and an ache in my chest.
I should be thrilled. It was my first week of my new corporate job with a hair product company–a huge step up for an independent hair stylist.
I just observed a three-day workshop held for a packed hotel conference room in Vegas. As part of my training, I’ll observe three more—in Denver, Los Angeles and Tucson, then take over as trainer, teaching them myself.
My head snaps up to find a grim-looking woman and blank-faced man dressed in suits blocking my way.
“Yes? What’s going on?”
The woman flashes an ID card at me. “I’m Tracy McGalicaster from the FBI. We’d like to ask you some questions.”
I try to peer around them, as if the answer lay in the carousel, with my suitcase. “Um...no, thanks,” I fumble.
“It’s not a choice,” McGaliscaster says drily. “Sully will get your bag. Come with me.”
I look around again, still somehow hoping someone might intervene, or explain they had the wrong person. The woman takes hold of my upper arm and begins to maneuver me through the airport and out to a waiting sedan.
Her companion arrives ten minutes later with my bag and climbs in beside me.
“What’s going on?”
“We’ll be asking the questions, Miss Tyler.”
Neither agent answers.
I chew on my lip.
They want information on Bobby. This is what I get for getting involved with a mob boss. I should’ve known better. Not only has he bludgeoned my heart, but now my head’s on the FBI’s chopping block.
Cold dread washes through me.
They take me to a small office with nothing but a few chairs and a table. “Sit,” the woman commands. Her chair scrapes the floor as she pulls it back, and the sound echoes against the blank walls.
I lick my dry lips, wishing I had a water bottle.
“Miss Tyler, you have been working as a hairstylist for how many years now?”
“Are you asking me or answering me?”
I glare at the woman and say nothing.
She opens a file and shuffles some papers. “I have here your tax returns from the past twelve years. I have both state and federal. Never once, in all the twelve years did you claim any tips.”
“So?” I grit my teeth.
“So, I find that unusual. Are you really that terrible at what you do that no one–in twelve years–ever paid you a tip?”
I fold my arms across my chest and glare.
“That seems unlikely. A better answer is that you have been defrauding the government, Lexi.”
“That’s ridiculous!” I sputter. “How much do you believe I make in tips a year? Not enough to pay taxes on them, I can tell you that. Did you happen to notice how much I earn a year? I’m not exactly in the highest tax bracket.”
“It doesn’t matter. You owe all your back taxes, plus interest and penalties. Then there are the legal ramifications. Tax fraud is tax fraud, and this case will be easy to prove.”
I wait. I know there will be more.
“You’re looking at jail time. And somehow I doubt your new employer is going to keep you on when they find out you have to take a leave of absence.”
My fingernails dig into my arms where they tangled across my chest.
“Unless, of course, you choose to cooperate.”
I say nothing. I've watched too many cop shows to not guess exactly where this conversation leads.
“We’d like information on Bobby Manghini,” Sully says.