He shrugged. “It’d be cruel, getting his hopes up and then disappointing him.”
“But I didn’t put Lewis’s name on the list.”
“There you go.”
REGAN FINALLY ASKED THE QUESTIONS THAT HAD BEEN NAGGING at her.
“Why are you leaving Chicago?”
“It’s a long story.” He didn’t go on.
“Where will you go?”
“Back to Boston. That’s where I’m from.”
“We have a hotel in Boston.”
“I know,” he said.
He didn’t offer any information, and she didn’t press him to explain. They both turned when the door opened. Detective John Wincott took a step inside, then bent down to pick up some papers he’d dropped. The perfectly round bald spot on the crown of his head was visible and shiny. Wincott’s partner told everyone in the precinct that Wincott was sensitive about his hair loss, so of course at every opportunity he was teased and tormented. One of Wincott’s least favorite nicknames was Friar Tuck, but fortunately, he had a good sense of humor.
He reminded Regan of a harried accountant, probably because he was carrying what looked like a ledger with papers sticking out every which way. Then she noticed the gun holstered to his side, and the possibility that he was an accountant went out the window.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“You still look half dead,” Alec told him after introducing him to Regan.
Regan thought the man was actually rather nice looking, but with the dark circles under his eyes and the gray complexion, he did look worn-out.
“Yeah, well, I missed my day at the spa this week,” Wincott said.
Alec laughed. “I forgot to ask. How’s the baby?”
Wincott turned to Regan to explain, “Our baby’s cutting teeth,” he said. “And she’s not happy about it, which means my wife and I aren’t happy either. Neither one of us is getting any sleep.”
“I hear whiskey helps,” Alec said.
“I tried that, but it only gave me a bad hangover the next morning.”
“You’re supposed to rub some on the baby’s gums. It numbs them.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing. Besides, what if she likes it? What if she develops a real taste for it? Before you know it, I’m driving my two-year-old over to AA. Too risky,” he said with a straight face.
Alec stood. “I told Regan you’re an adequate detective. Don’t make a liar out of me.”
“Don’t you want to sit in on this?”
He shook his head. “I’ve got some phone calls to make. I’ll be at my desk if you need anything,” he told Regan. “Okay?”
He was being very sweet, she thought. And looking worried about her. “Yes, okay,” she said.
Alec pulled the door closed behind him. He turned and bumped into Lyle Bradshaw. Wincott’s partner looked impeccable as usual. His striped tie had a perfect knot in it, his dark suit was wrinkle free, his shirt was immaculate, and his shoes, like always, looked brand-new. Standing next to him, Alec looked as though he’d just recently been mugged.
“Is she in the coffee room?” Bradshaw asked in lieu of a greeting.
“Yes,” Alec said. “Wincott’s with her.”
“Is he drooling?”
“I hear she’s a stunner.”
“Yeah? Where did you hear that?”
“The pool,” he said, referring to the open area where all the detectives worked. “She’s been the topic of conversation since you brought her in. I hear she’s got a gorgeous face and a body that just won’t quit.”
Alec was surprised by the spark of anger he felt. It came out of nowhere.
“She’s definitely out of your league, Lyle.”
Newly divorced, Bradshaw considered himself a ladie’s man. Women found him attractive and attentive, and he never lacked for female companionship, but Alec thought he was a little too arrogant for his own good, and on occasion he could be downright obnoxious. His only saving grace was his skill as a detective.
Bradshaw was opening the door to the coffee room when Alec called out, “Hey, Bradshaw.”
Alec was going to tell him not to hit on Regan but stopped himself in time. “Go easy on her,” he said instead. “She’s scared.”
Alec picked up his messages and went back to his desk. Lewis had doled out his cases to several other already overworked detectives, and in a childish attempt to punish him, Lewis had had his computer removed. The top of Alec’s desk was now completely bare.
If the other detectives hadn’t gotten stuck with his work, he would have thought Lewis’s behavior was funny. Alec sat down at his desk and used his cell phone to call his brother Nick.
“So I guess I’m in,” he said.
Nick laughed. “Hi, Alec. By in, I assume you mean the FBI?”
“You already knew, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I did. Ward called to tell me about five minutes after you were accepted into the academy. Your test scores were impressive.”
“Better than yours?”
“If they were, do you think I’d admit it?”
“Probably not. Tell Theo, will you?” Alec asked. He didn’t know if he’d have time to track down his oldest brother.
“He already knows. Ward called him too. Have you made up your mind about buying my town house? Laurant’s been out looking every Sunday with a realtor. The town house is great for a bachelor, but with the baby, it’s too crowded, and Laurant wants to get pregnant again.”
Alec smiled. Nick had hit the jackpot when he’d married Laurant. She was such a sweetheart, and perfect for his brother. She was so laid-back and easygoing, which was exactly what Nick needed when he came home from work. Theo often described Nick’s job as a real pressure cooker. He and his partner, Noah Clay-borne, worked for a special branch of the FBI. They were called in when the search for a missing child had gone cold. It was a hard, tear-you-up-inside kind of job.
“I am going to buy your town house,” Alec said. “Even if I don’t get assigned to the Boston area …”
“Ward says you will.”
“He’d say anything to get me to sign up,” he said. “Ward doesn’t make the decision, but even if I don’t end up in Boston, I’ll still keep the property. It’s a good investment.”
“Hold on,” Nick said. “I can barely hear you. I’ve got two conversations going at the same time.”
“Who’s talking to you?”
“Where are you?”
“In Dallas,” he said. “We just finished up a case. This one went well.”
Noah was suddenly on the line congratulating him. “They’re gonna work your butt off at the academy, but you’ll do fine. When are you leaving Chicago?”
“Not for at least three weeks, maybe four,” he said. “If you still want to see a Cubs game, you better get here soon. I’ll need a little notice to get tickets from Gil.”
A second later Nick was back on the cell phone reminding him that their sister Jordan was still planning a trip to Chicago.
“I know, but she won’t commit to a date. I won’t be able to start packing until my job ends here. I’ve got a new assignment that’s going to take up most of my time for the next three weeks, but then I’m done. If Jordan waits too long, she’ll get stuck helping me pack.”
“What’s the new assignment?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Nick laughed. “That bad, huh?”
A young cop dropped a fat file on Alec’s desk and turned to leave. Alec motioned him to stay. “I’ve got to go, Nick.” He flipped the cell phone closed and put it back in his pocket. “What’s all this?” he asked.
“Forms you need to fill out. H.R. sent them over.”
“No, sir. I never kid.”
“I’ve already filled out papers.” He silently added, damn it.
“No, sir. You filled out some of the forms, but not all of them.
They said they’d need these back by the end of the day.”
“It’s harder to get out of this place than it is to get in.”
“That’s what a lot of criminals tell us,” the cop responded dryly.
Alec decided he might as well get it over with, opened the folder, and started filling in the first form. It took him close to an hour to finish up, but only because he kept getting interrupted. A detective had gotten a photocopy of Sweeney’s blackmail book and was reading out loud from it.
Alec had just signed the last form when he looked up and saw Bradshaw motioning to him. He picked up the folder to take with him, intending to drop it off on his way downstairs. Bradshaw was waiting by the steps.
“Are you finished with Regan?” Alec asked.
“For now,” he answered. “Wincott took her upstairs to his favorite sketch artist.”
“That shouldn’t take too long.”
Bradshaw snorted. “You don’t know Tony, do you? He’ll keep her for the rest of the day if he has to, until she tells him it’s a perfect likeness. You’ll need to stay with her. I just got a call from Lewis’s kiss-ass assistant. He told me that Regan’s brother and her attorney are headed over here.”
“She’s not a suspect. Did you explain that to her?”
“Of course I did,” he said. “I came close to asking her out too, but I controlled myself.”
“Jeez, Bradshaw. Try to stay focused.”
Bradshaw grinned. “That’s hard to do around her.”
“Who called the brother and the attorney? Do you know?”
“No,” he said. “They’re going to have a conference with Lewis.”
They simultaneously turned to look at the lieutenant. They could see him through the glass clearing the clutter from his desk.
“He’s getting ready for company,” Alec said.
“Important company,” Bradshaw added. “The Madisons have money.”
Money. That was what it was all about with Lewis, Alec thought, as he headed to the front desk to drop off the papers. On his way back, he ran into Melissa and said hello to her. She grunted her reply. When she was past him, she stopped and called out, “Hey, Buchanan.”
“Tell Regan that when I was working on her piece of crap computer, I removed her from the loop and I forgot to put her back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She’s got a couple of stations hooked on in network.”
“Melissa, I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She looked vexed. “Do you know anything about computers?”
“Apparently not as much as you’d like me to know, so just explain in layman terms.”
“There are a couple of other people reading her e-mails.”
“Now, how hard was that to say?”
She ignored his sarcasm. “There are a bunch of computers over there at the hotel, and they’re all on the same network. Think of her e-mail like a ball. Yeah, like a ball. When she gets a message, the ball bounces to other stations. Her assistant gets her messages the same time she does. It was set up that way to save time,” she explained. She squinted at him and asked, “Are you getting any of this?”
He wasn’t going to let her irritate him. “You said that there were a couple of people reading her e-mails. Her assistant is one. Who’s the other ball breaker?” he asked with a straight face.
“The ball bounces, Buchanan. It doesn’t break. And it’s someone else in-house.”
“Can you track it to a specific computer?”
“I already did. I don’t remember the computer ID, but it’s in one of her brother’s offices. I can’t remember which one. It’s all in my notes, which I sent to Wincott. Ask him.”
“Send me a copy of your report.” She was walking away when he stopped her again. “Regan might not know someone else is reading her mail? Is that possible?”
She shrugged. “She might not know.”
Alec turned the corner and spotted Regan through the glass in the door. She was sitting at a computer with the sketch artist at her side. She must have sensed that he was watching her because she suddenly turned and looked at him. And then she smiled. And he smiled back.
Tony tapped her on her arm to get her attention again. Regan reluctantly turned to the screen. Tony was a hard taskmaster. He was an older man who looked like a comedian she’d seen perform at a comedy club a couple of months ago. For the first five minutes or so, she kept expecting him to tell her a joke. Tony didn’t have much of a sense of humor, though. After he shook her hand, he announced that he was a perfectionist and told her that they would work together for as long as necessary to achieve a perfect likeness of the man who had chased her in the park.
It was a surprisingly difficult undertaking. Until she sat down with Tony, she thought she had a good picture of the man in her mind, but that wasn’t the case. Several times she had to close her eyes and try to visualize him again. Being exact about the shape of his nose, his eyes, and his chin was extremely challenging.
When they were finished, she believed the sketch was a good likeness, but it wasn’t perfect by any means. And when Tony removed the glasses and the beard, the man’s appearance completely changed. She didn’t have a clue if that was accurate or not.
Alec was waiting for her outside the sketch artist’s workroom. She handed him the printout and said, “Tony thinks the hair and the glasses and the beard could all be props.” She handed him the second printout of Tony’s drawing. “This is what he might really look like.”
“Does he look familiar?”
She shook her head. “He’s very … ordinary, isn’t he?”
He nodded. “So this might be the …” He started to say bastard and then substituted, “… crazy we’re looking for. He’s nondescript and will blend in with a crowd.”
“Maybe not,” she said. “He was big, as big as you, and just as muscular. His size alone might make him stand out. I don’t know.” She took a breath and then said, “If he’s the man who stole my phone, and if he’s the man who killed Detective Sweeney, and …” She was too disheartened to go on. “I think Detectives Wincott and Bradshaw are finished questioning me, so I’ll head back to my office. If you or the other detectives need to speak to me, just call or stop by.”