He rolled his eyes. “Hell with that. I’m not planning to die young.”
“But you’re leaving.” She sniffed as she opened a file drawer and pulled out the necessary papers.
Resigning turned out to be more complicated than Alec had anticipated. There were all sorts of forms to fill out and a long conference with the commander, who was determined to talk him into staying. What Alec had naively estimated would only take a couple of minutes dragged on for over an hour.
By the time he got back to the office, Lewis had worked himself into a fury. He was on the phone, but the second he spotted Alec making his way across the room, he jumped up and angrily motioned for him to come in.
Alec was halfway there when his cell phone rang. He knew it couldn’t be Lewis’s assistant calling him yet again because he’d just passed the man on the steps.
Gil was calling. The second he heard Alec’s voice he exclaimed, “Say it isn’t so.”
Alec was impressed. “How did you find out so soon?”
“You know me. I’ve got my sources. It’s true then? You’re really leaving the department?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’m about to go in and tell Lewis. I’ll call you later.”
He ended the call and walked into Lewis’s office. The lieutenant tenant had a white-knuckle grip on the receiver. Alec shoved his hands in his pants pockets and patiently waited until he ended the conversation.
“Yes, sir,” Lewis said, his voice a tight whisper.
The call finally ended. As Lewis slammed the phone down, Alec casually asked, “You wanted to see me?”
“You know damn well I want to see you,” Lewis shouted. “I’ve been waiting for over an hour. My reasons have changed, however.”
He stood there glaring at Alec for what seemed like a full minute. Alec wasn’t fazed. He simply stared back.
The vein running down Lewis’s forehead began to pulsate.
“And you didn’t think you owed it to me to give me your notice first? I had to find out about it over the phone from my superior?”
By the time he finished his question he was bellowing. The vein in his forehead was going wild. Alec couldn’t stop staring at it. If Lewis had a heart attack and suddenly stopped breathing, would Alec give him CPR? Hmm … definitely a tight call, Alec thought.
He continued to contemplate the philosophical dilemma while Lewis ranted and raved.
“Do you know what that made me look like? Emmett is furious with me,” he said, referring to the area commander.
Alec shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he drawled. He’d be damned before he’d apologize for making the jerk look bad.
Three more weeks with Lewis calling the shots suddenly seemed like an eternity, and Alec wondered if he could make it. He could barely stomach looking at the man. Lewis looked and acted like a freak. Vain to a fault, he always had a deep tan, no doubt from the tanning bed it was rumored he slept in at night. His exceedingly bright white capped teeth made his scowl all the more garish.
“I gave three week’s notice,” Alec said. “But if you’d like me to leave now, that’d be fine with me.”
“You’ve put me in a hell of a spot.”
“Emmett told me I had to talk you into staying. He seems to think you’re an asset. Needless to say, I don’t share that opinion.”
Alec shook his head. “My mind’s made up.”
Lewis slapped his palms down on his desk and leaned forward. “You know what your problem is, Buchanan? You’re not a team player.”
If the goal of the team was to make Lewis look good, then no, Alec decided, he wasn’t a team player.
“Do you want me to stay for three more weeks, or do you want me to leave now? It doesn’t matter to me.”
“You stay,” Lewis snapped. He sat down heavily behind his desk and began to push folders around, obviously trying to give the impression he was a busy man. He opened one and closed it. Reaching for another, he said, “You can clean out your files. Give whatever you’ve got pending to me, and I’ll distribute them to my loyal detectives.”
Alec wanted to ask who those men might be, but he didn’t think it was a good idea to antagonize Lewis, who could and would make his life miserable.
Without looking up, the lieutenant said, “For the next three weeks, you sit at your desk. You can do the phone work for Wincott.”
“Phone work for Wincott? What exactly does that mean?”
“It means you can answer the damn phone, and if Wincott needs any help, you’ll help,” he said. “From your desk.”
The urge to punch him was getting stronger. Alec was leaving when Lewis asked, “Do you have another job lined up?”
He didn’t offer any more information, and Lewis didn’t press. Alec went to his desk and began to sort through his files. John Wincott came rushing across the room. He and Alec went way back. They had gone through the police academy together and had become good friends, but they hadn’t worked together until recently. Wincott used to be able to drink him under the table. Alec thought maybe he still could.
“Man, do you look bad.”
Alec wasn’t exaggerating. Wincott looked as if he hadn’t had any sleep in a decade. There were fat bags under his eyes and deep creases running down the length of his cheeks. He was only a couple of years older than Alec, but at the moment he looked ancient.
Wincott ignored the comment about his appearance.
“Did you get my message about the e-mail Regan Madison received?” Alec asked.
“Yes,” Wincott answered. “And I’ll be happy to talk about it in a minute. First, I want to ask you something. Is it true? You’re leaving the department?”
Alec nodded. “Yes.” His chair squeaked when he leaned back. “I was going to call you and tell you, but I guess Gil beat me to it.”
Wincott sat on the edge of Alec’s desk. He glanced beyond Alec’s shoulder to the lieutenant’s office. “I can’t blame you. I’d get out if I could.”
“I was ready for a change.” That response was becoming the pat answer. Alec decided he’d stick with it and wondered how many times he’d say it in the next twenty-one days.
“A change, huh? A change where?”
“I’m hoping Boston. I’m kind of homesick.”
Wincott lowered his voice and leaned toward Alec. “There’s a nasty rumor going around that you’re heading to the FBI.”
Alec smiled but didn’t confirm or deny it.
Wincott went on, “You have to come over for dinner before you leave Chicago. It’s gonna upset Suzie when she hears. My wife’s had the hots for you for years.”
“Is she still screaming my name when you’re having sex?”
Wincott laughed. “How the hell would I know? I can’t remember the last time I had any. There’s always at least one kid in bed between us, and now with the baby getting up every couple of hours, the only thing I want to have is sleep.”
“Spoken like a true married man,” Alec said.
Wincott grimaced. “Back to Sweeney,” he said. “We’re discovering that a lot of people wanted him dead, so I won’t be running out of suspects. We’ve been going through his stuff. No one can find his wallet. Hey, guess what? Sweeney kept a diary.”
Alec raised an eyebrow. “That’s a girly thing to do. I didn’t think Sweeney was the dear-diary type.”
Wincott laughed. When he smiled, he looked ten years younger. “It wasn’t that kind of a diary,” he said. “The idiot kept notes on all the people he was going to blackmail. I’m not speculating about that. He wrote it all down. Guess who was in the notebook with the drug dealers and the pimps?”
Wincott leaned in again. “Lewis.”
Alec perked up. “No kidding.”
“That’s right. Sweeney was going to take pictures and send them to his wife.”
“What kind of pictures?”
“Lewis with his mistress.”
Alec shook his head. “Now, that’s shocking.”
“I don’t think it’s so shocking,” Wincott argued. “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to see Lewis take a fall.”
“I think it’s shocking that he could get two women to have sex with him.”
“One woman’s built like an ironing board but has some money, which is why he married her, and the other one doesn’t have any money but from what I hear, she’s loaded in other areas, if you know what I mean.”
“Who else was in there?”
Wincott told him about some of the other deviants Sweeney was already blackmailing. “He even had a ledger of the cash he was going to be taking in and the amounts he was going to charge, kind of like a bank account. Who would write all that down?”
“He must have thought he’d never get caught.”
“Like I said, we’ve got a lot of suspects, but we’re narrowing it down. It looks like one of three drug dealers didn’t want to pay Sweeney’s bills. Maybe he was already shaking them down.”
“What about Regan Madison? How does she figure in this?”
“Don’t know,” Wincott said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet. I had to go back to the crime scene and I got stuck there. We did find her cell phone.”
Alec straightened. “Yeah? Where’d you find it?”
“In the bushes behind the dump Sweeney called home. We’re running what’s left of it for prints, but I don’t figure we’ll find any. The basement was wiped clean. Only prints around were Sweeney’s. The killer had to know what he was doing, and he was strong, real strong. Had to be,” he added, “to lift Sweeney’s body up like that with the rope. Oh, and by the way, we got the autopsy report. He was dead before he was stripped and hung.”
“How was he killed?”
“Asphyxiation,” he said. “So now I’ve got to wonder why the killer went to all that trouble to strip him and hang him. Bradshaw thinks it was for drama,” he said, referring to his partner.
“What do you think?”
“I think he was showing off for his fantasy girlfriend … you know, trying to impress her.”
“The girlfriend being Regan Madison?”
Wincott raised his eyebrows. “I hear she’s a real looker.”
Alec didn’t comment. Wincott didn’t seem to notice.
“You know how those sickos are. Bradshaw thinks maybe he saw her someplace and got fixated on her. He’s going to talk to Matlin about it,” he added, referring to the psychiatrist on staff.
“Good idea,” Alec said. He then filled Wincott in on his interview with Regan and told him about the man who had chased her to her car. He also mentioned her theory about Sweeney and Dr. Shields. “She’s sure she lost her phone when she fell.”
Wincott was trying to work it out in his mind. “Okay, so he found the phone, saw it had a camera built in, and decided to have a little fun with it. Her e-mail address was there. All he had to do was take the picture and then push a button.”
“Still doesn’t explain the connection to Sweeney.”
Wincott agreed. “And I don’t see a drug dealer having that kind of fun. I can see one of them killing Sweeney, but …” He stopped shrugged, and then said, “Not making any sense yet.”
“What did you mean when you said you were running prints on what was left of the phone?”
“He’d smashed the phone to pieces while he was still in the basement. Crime team found a couple of tiny pieces on the workbench.”
“And of course no prints on the hammer.”
“Nope,” he confirmed. “Not a one. Listen, I appreciate you working this with us. There’s going to be a lot of legwork. Since that e-mail was sent to Regan Madison, we’re going to have to check out anyone who’s connected to her. Maybe there’s a vendetta from a jilted lover or an unhappy employee. I can use all the help I can get. Be kind of nice finally working together and me getting to tell you what to do. I’m gonna like that.”
“Yeah, well, before you get all worked up about adding me to your team, there’s something you need to know.”
“What’s that?” Wincott happened to look up, and then muttered, “Ah, hell. Lewis is motioning to me.”
“He’s gonna tell you he wants me out of the loop. I can make phone calls for you, but that’s about it.”
“Wincott,” Lewis shouted from his doorway. “I want to talk to you.”
“Prick,” he mumbled.
“Keep me posted,” Alec said.
Wincott nodded. Alec could hear him sigh as he threaded his way around the desks to get to Lewis.
“YOU’RE BACK IN.”
Lewis made the announcement from the doorway of his office. “Buchanan, did you hear what I just said? You’re back in.”
Alec didn’t bother to stand. He simply turned in his swivel chair and asked, “Back in what?”
Lewis strode forward. “I just got off the phone with the superintendent of police. That’s right,” he said. “The superintendent.” His chest actually swelled like a blowfish when he repeated the news.
“And?” Alec prodded.
“Did you have any idea who Regan Madison was when you interviewed her?”
Alec wasn’t in the mood to play guessing games. He’d been in the middle of doodling on his blotter while he watched the second hand circle the clock on the wall. It had been only a couple of hours since Lewis had taken his cases away from him, but he was bored out of his mind. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stomach sitting there and knew that Lewis expected him to show up at eight every morning and do nothing for nine frickin’ hours. If Lewis had wanted to drive him nuts, he couldn’t have picked a better punishment. Three weeks of sheer boredom. Like it or not, he was going to have to deal with it.
“Well, did you?”
“Okay, I’ll bite. Who is she?”
“A Hamilton,” he said. He all but smacked his lips as he said the name.
Lewis stood in front of Alec’s desk and planted his sweaty palms on Alec’s blotter. “She’s Regan Hamilton Madison.”