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She sighed with some theatricality-one of her mannerisms from the old days which he loved. "Okay, one. What?"

Striking fast, he leaned over and kissed the top of her head. "Welcome back."

On his way to the Sunset Youth Project administrative offices at Ortega Street and Sunset Boulevard, Mickey couldn't get Como's $650,000 salary out of his brain. Or Sunset's $50 million- per-year operating budget. These dollar figures s.h.i.+fted his initial take on Como's murder. This much money around, it was likely in play.

And as far as this went, it was good news for Alicia. If she was of any interest at all to the police, it was not because of money, but because of her relations.h.i.+p to Como.

As Alicia had told him, information on nonprofits was a matter of public record, and hence easily accessible. With Len Turner's list to guide him, Mickey had done some computer research last night and verified that the three largest nonprofits where Como had a seat on the board-the Mission Street Coalition, Sanctuary House, and Halfway Home-each operated with a budget of over $30 million per year. Since none of these quite matched the size and scope of the Sunset Youth Project, Mickey's first call was on Como's home turf.

The two-story building wasn't much of a scenic destination. The low, overcast skies didn't help much either.

Standing across the street, Mickey was struck by how sad and nondescript the place looked. The grounds took up an entire city block. Off to his left side, behind a twelve-foot cyclone fence with razor wire threaded around the top, were a deserted asphalt playground, four basketball hoops with no nets, a metallic climbing structure, and parking for half a dozen cars, including a Lincoln Town Car limousine.

Over the front doorway, a flag hung at half-mast.

Inside now, Mickey walked through the wide, low lobby-again, echoes of public schools he'd attended. A dozen or more young people loitered by the stairway on his right. He was headed toward a directory mounted on the wall in front of him, but noticed that the large office next to it, venetian blinds behind the gla.s.s, was lit up and obviously occupied, its door wide open. Stenciled on the gla.s.s were the words: Sunset Youth Project, Office of the Executive Director. Inside the large room, more loiterers stood around between the desks behind the counter. Mickey slapped on a smile and knocked. "Excuse me," he said, "I'm looking for Lorraine Hess."

The a.s.sociate director stood behind the desk in her office and reached out a hand to shake Mickey's.

Dominic Como, Mickey was quickly learning, had an eye for lovely women. First the truly beautiful Alicia Thorpe, and now his a.s.sistant director. Solidly built, more than slightly overweight, and even in rimless eyegla.s.ses, Lorraine Hess clearly at one time had been a babe and, except for the weight, wasn't so far from still being one. She wore a rust-colored woolen suit over a plain white blouse, the e

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