She didn’t hear Henry come up behind her. She jumped when he touched her shoulder.
“Sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He glanced over at Detective Buchanan to make sure he was still busy talking with the technician and then said, “I just wanted you to know I checked my computer again.”
“What were you checking?”
“I wanted to see if the photo of that dead man was sent to me,” he whispered. “But it wasn’t. I wish it had been. I wish it had been sent to all the e-mail addresses you had programmed into your phone. It’s not good that it was sent just to you.”
She nodded. “I know.”
“It was clever, the way he sent it,” he said, “making it look like it came from my computer.”
“I never would have opened the attachment if I hadn’t recognized the sender. I guess he didn’t want to take the chance that I’d delete it.”
“I think he’s targeted you for some reason,” Henry said. “But why?”
Alec heard the comment. “That’s what we’re going to find out.”
Alec was digging through his pocket looking for a card to give Regan when his cell phone rang. It was the third call in the past fifteen minutes from the office. Lewis’s assistant kept calling to demand that he get back to the station as soon as possible. The lieutenant was waiting to talk to him. Alec knew why. Lewis had obviously just found out that Alec had gone over his head to the commander to save the job of the young cop who had interrupted the sting operation.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Regan asked.
“I guess I should.” He flipped the phone open, listened for a minute, and then said, “I’ll get there when I’m finished here.”
Before the assistant could argue with him, he disconnected the call and turned back to Regan. He found one of his cards and handed it to her. She gave him a grateful smile. Gorgeous woman, he thought. And damn, was she sexy. Another time, another place, and he definitely would have asked her out, but he couldn’t now. Not with an investigation pending. Besides, even if he didn’t get the job with the FBI, he was still going to give notice and leave Chicago within the next month or two, so getting involved with any woman was out of the question. Unless the woman was into casual sex. Regan Madison wasn’t. He knew that much about her just by being with her for a half hour.
He mentally shook himself. He had no business thinking such thoughts now. Funny how the mind worked. Guess his brother Dylan was right. He was perverted.
“Detective Wincott is running the investigation into Sweeney’s murder,” he said. “I’m helping him out, but he’s senior man, and he’ll be over to talk to you soon. You’ll want to stay in the hotel.”
“Yes, of course.”
“But in the meantime, if you think of anything else,” he said with a nod toward the card she held in her hand, “there’s my number.”
“I have physical therapy for my knee in an hour, but I can cancel.”
“I thought that scar looked new. It wasn’t there when I ran into you on the street. What happened?”
She was surprised he’d noticed. The incision wasn’t large, but the scar was raw, the skin puckered.
She said what she was thinking. “You noticed it wasn’t there the first time we met? That’s impressive, Detective.”
Not really, he thought. He’d have to be a eunuch not to notice those sexy legs of hers.
“Baseball,” she continued. “I twisted it sliding into third base. It happened last summer.”
“Baseball, huh?” He smiled. He was having trouble picturing her in a uniform with a ball and bat. She seemed too soft for that sport.
“Yes, baseball,” she said. “It was a charity game. Why is that funny?”
He didn’t answer. “You wrenched it last year, and you only just now had the surgery?”
“I was procrastinating, but then I hurt it again …” She suddenly stopped and then blurted, “What an idiot.”
“No, not you,” she said. “Me. I’m the idiot.” In her hurry to explain, her words tripped over one another. “I know who has my phone. At least, I think I know, and I can’t believe it took me so long to remember. You see, I dropped my purse, and that’s when I lost it. I’m sorry. I’m not usually so rattled. There was this man. He chased me to my car, and he—”
That statement gained his full attention. He put his hand up. “Whoa,” he said. “Slow down and start at the beginning.”
“Yes, okay,” she said. “It was a week ago Friday night. That’s the last time I used my cell phone. I’m sure of it.”
He pulled out his ragged notepad again and began to search his pockets for his pen. “And where were you?”
“At the reception.”
“You sound like I’m supposed to know about a reception.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I thought I had told you about that when I was explaining the connection between Sweeney and Shields.”
He didn’t look happy with her. “Why don’t you tell me about it now?”
She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten about the man in the parking lot, but then, in her defense, she had been bombarded first by the e-mail and then Detective Buchanan, the technician, and Detective Connelly. And all in the past hour.
She explained as quickly as possible all about the reception she and her friends had attended at Liam House. “Sophie had signed us up for Shields’s weekend seminar, and I know I told you that Shields runs two seminars a year in Chicago.”
“What were you hoping to accomplish?”
“It was apparent to all of us that Detective Sweeney wasn’t going to do anything about Shields, and so we decided …”
She shrugged. “To do his job for him.”
His frown indicated he didn’t like hearing that. “And how were you going to do his job?”
“We decided we would investigate Shields and hopefully we would get enough evidence to give to the prosecutor. Sophie was doing the investigative work, and Cordie and I went along to be supportive. Actually, we were going to try to find a way to break into his computer so we could get the names of the other women who’d attended past seminars. We thought we could match his deposits with—”
He stopped writing. “You do know that isn’t legal, right?”
“Of course, I know that,” she said. “We didn’t break into his computer. We just wanted to. That was the plan anyway.”
The woman was honest to a fault. “It sounds like a half-baked plan.”
She agreed. “Yes, well, Sophie did come up with it, and she does tend to rush in without thinking things through. She believes things will work out, and the fact is, they usually do.”
Regan folded her arms and began to pace in front of the windows while she thought about that awful night. “I remember I had my cell phone with me. We were late,” she said. “But then whenever Cordie and I go anywhere with Sophie, we’re always late. Anyway, the reception was in full swing by the time we arrived, and Shields was there speaking to the group. He’s such a fraud and very full of himself. I wasn’t impressed, but judging from the reactions of the people around me, they were dazzled by him. There was this exercise he had us do that was absolutely insane.”
“What about your cell phone?” he said, trying to keep her on track.
“I should have remembered to turn it off, because it rang right in the middle of Shields’s talk. I hurried out to the hallway to answer it before one of his bodyguards tried to take it away from me.”
“Two of them. He calls them his assistants, but they’re his bodyguards. Real musclemen.”
“Okay,” he said. “So you think you left your phone in the conference center?”
“No,” she said. “I’m sure I put it back in my purse. I think it dropped out when I fell.”
Alec was trying to remain patient. “And when did that happen?”
“When I went to get the car,” she said. “It was raining, and so I told Cordie to find Sophie and wait by the front door and I would drive up to get them. I was running along the path to my car, and I thought I heard someone calling my name. The wind was up, though, and it was raining hard, so I wasn’t sure. I turned to look behind me, and there was this man …” It all seemed such a long time ago. “Everything happened so fast. When I turned, I wrenched my knee.”
“And you’re just now mentioning this?” He was irritated and making sure she knew it.
“I just didn’t think … I didn’t connect. I was lucky I got away from him.”
“He chased you?”
“Yes. You don’t think …”
“Think what?” he asked when she hesitated.
“Maybe Shields hired him. Maybe he was waiting outside the conference center because he knew I was inside, and maybe he was there to scare me, which he certainly did.”
“You’re really hooked on your idea that Shields is behind it all, aren’t you?”
“It makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“I’m not going to guess yet because I don’t have enough information to form an opinion, but when I do, I’ll let you know. Now, I want to know exactly what happened from the minute you stepped outside Liam House.”
“I just did tell you everything that happened.”
“Tell me again.”
She went through it again just as he’d instructed. “When I fell, everything spilled out of my purse, but at the time, I thought I’d shoved it all back in. I must have left the phone on the ground. I was desperate to get into my car and lock the doors,” she said. “He was holding up something and yelling at me to stop, but I didn’t. There was something all wrong about him.”
“His face,” she said. She rubbed her arms to ward off a sudden chill. “It gives me the shivers to think about it. I called the police,” she added. “And I went to the police station nearby to make a report.”
“That was good. Now tell me. What about his face?”
“Rage,” she said. “I’ve never seen rage like that in anyone’s eyes. And then the oddest thing happened.”
“It might be my imagination. I was in pain because of my knee and soaked from the rain, but when I was inside the car, I looked, and he was standing under the streetlight, still staring at me. I was crying,” she admitted. “And I think he could see me crying. His expression changed.”
He cocked his head. “Changed to what?”
“Sympathy,” she said. “I think he felt sorry for me.”
THE TIMING COULDN’T HAVE BEEN BETTER. ALEC WAS ON HIS WAY back to the station for round two with Lieutenant Lewis when the call came in on his cell phone. Ward Dayborough, the FBI agent who had been relentlessly recruiting him, was on the line welcoming him into the Bureau.
Ward was all but gloating. “I knew I’d get you,” he boasted. “Tenacity,” he said then, drawing the word out in his deep southern accent. “I have a butt-load of tenacity. How many years did it take me to get you interested?”
The question obviously didn’t require an answer because Ward, still high on his conquest, continued on. “Training’s going to be tough, but I’m not worried about you. You’ll do just fine. Your scores on that test were phenomenal. You’ve got seventeen weeks ahead of you at the academy,” he added. “No matter how much law enforcement experience you’ve had, you’ve still got to do the full seventeen weeks.”
“Are you trying to get me to change my mind?”
“No, no, of course not.”
“When do you want me to start?”
“New sessions start every two weeks, but I went ahead and slotted you to start two months from now. That’s eight weeks from today. I figured you would need time to pack up everything and tie up loose ends there in Chicago and get a little time off.”
“Yes, that’s good,” Alec said. “Eight weeks will give me time to get organized.”
Like that’s ever gonna happen, he thought to himself as he hung up. Though he was extremely organized in his professional life, he was extremely disorganized at home. He was considered the slob of the family. When he was a boy, his room always looked like a cyclone had hit. He’d gotten better about all that, though. He’d hired a cleaning crew to blitz his apartment every other week. One of the women even did his grocery shopping and made sure his refrigerator was stocked with all his favorite foods. She was an expensive luxury, but one he’d hate to do without.
She couldn’t go with him to the academy, however, and for those seventeen weeks, he was going to have to shape up. That seemed tougher to him than any obstacle course.
Alec felt good about his decision. He knew he was going to miss Chicago, and he had absolutely no guarantee that when he graduated from the academy, he’d be assigned to the Boston office. Ward had told him it was as good as guaranteed, but Alec wasn’t banking on it.
He decided to stop by Human Resources and give his notice before seeing Lewis. The woman behind the desk was a real sweetheart who had been with the department for close to twenty years. She wore such thick bifocals her eyes looked milky and twice their size.
She smiled and shook her head the minute she spotted him. “Oh, no.”
“Oh, no, what?”
“You can’t put in for a transfer. I mean, you could, but it’s not going to go anywhere. Lewis has made it abundantly clear that he needs you in his department.” Her voice softened as she added, “Which means he wants you under his thumb. I’m sorry, Alec. I think just about everyone knows what a worm he is, but he’s got seniority and his wife has connections, if you get my drift. We’re not going to be able to get rid of him unless he really screws up.”
“I understand. You are going to get rid of me, though. I’m giving my notice today. What papers do I need to fill out?”
She became teary-eyed. “I hate to see you go. You’re one of the good ones.” She pulled a tissue out of the box she kept on her desk and dabbed her eyes. “It’s like the old song Billy Joel sings. You know, only the good die young.”