“A friend of a friend of Sophie’s father,” she said. “And so far we know for a fact that Shields has taken huge amounts of money from these two women.”
“How do you know that?”
“With copies of the checks the women wrote. The bank keeps records, for heaven’s sake, especially when the deposits are so large.”
“But how did you get copies of the checks? No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
“Sophie’s dad has a lot of friends down here.”
“That’s not good.”
“I know, but I’m watching out for Sophie. It’s okay.”
“And who’s looking out for you?”
“Regan, stop worrying.”
“Where’s Sophie now?”
“She went back to The Murdock. We already have the names and addresses of the two women we can prove gave Shields money, but Sophie wanted to make sure there weren’t any others. So what do you think? We’ve made a good start, haven’t we?”
“I’d say so,” she replied, “but …”
“We haven’t seen Shields yet, but we know he’s inside his beach house because we’ve seen his bodyguards, Huey and Louie, on the beach. They’re wearing their uniform black suits and dark ties and sunglasses while they walk on the sand. They look like Feds.”
“‘Huey and Louie’?”
“I’ve got to call them something, don’t I?”
“I guess so. Do they stay out on the beach all day?” She could picture them melting in the hot sun.
“No, they have a schedule. During the day they come out every hour on the hour, and they stay outside ten minutes tops. Shields obviously isn’t feeling very safe if he has to have his bodyguards with him all the time. Sophie thinks he’s becoming paranoid because of all the horrible things he’s done.”
“But you haven’t seen him?”
“Thank God,” she whispered.
Cordie didn’t hear her. “Here’s the odd thing. Shields’s neighbor to the south is keeping tabs on the bodyguards—”
“How did Sophie get the neighbor to do that?”
“She asked. They’re very friendly down here.”
“Is the neighbor a man?”
Cordie laughed. “Yes,” she said. “Anyway, Huey and Louie have stopped patrolling. Something is definitely going on, but we can’t figure out what yet.”
“Are you finished with your news? Is it my turn?”
“Just one more thing. A woman has visited Shields twice now. Sophie swears she saw her at the seminar. I don’t remember her,” she said. “But Sophie is much better with faces than I am. Anyway, the woman is staying at The Murdock and we’re pretty sure she’s Shields’s next target.”
“He doesn’t waste any time, does he?” Regan kicked off her heels, crossed one leg over the other, and began to swing one foot nervously back and forth.
“No, he doesn’t. Sophie’s becoming obsessed about spotting him. She’s jogged on the beach behind his house a couple of times, but she hasn’t had any luck. We’re going to take one of the boats out tomorrow with our binoculars and see if we can spot him inside. The back of his house faces the ocean, and it’s all glass. If he’s in there, we’ll see him. Knowing Sophie, if she doesn’t spot him soon, she’ll jog right up to his front door and start pounding.”
Regan almost dropped the phone as she jerked upright in her chair. “Oh, no, she mustn’t do that.”
“All right, I’m finished. Now it’s your turn. Try to beat my news.”
“Okay. Remember that little exercise we did during Shields’s reception?”
“The make-a-list-of-the-people-you-want-dead exercise?”
“That’s the one.”
“What about it?”
“A madman got hold of my murder list and is now killing everyone on it.”
A long silence followed her announcement, and then Cordie said, “Okay, you win.”
“I thought I might.”
“Wait a minute. You are joking, aren’t you?”
Regan’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I wish to God I were. It’s true, though.”
Her friend didn’t say another word during Regan’s lengthy explanation of what had happened, but she did gasp, several times as a matter of fact, and when Regan was finished, she whispered back, “Who else did you have on your list?”
Regan told her and then said, “I was so certain there was a connection between Sweeney’s murder and Shields.”
“But now you’re not so sure?”
“I’m not sure of anything. Until we know, you and Sophie have got to stay as far away from him as possible.”
“No wonder we can’t find Shields, and no wonder his bodyguards aren’t patrolling the beach. I’ll bet the police have warned them, and they’ve all gone into hiding.”
A minute later, just as Regan was about to hang up, Sophie got back to the condo. Cordie shouted at her that Regan was on the phone. Sophie picked up the extension in the kitchen.
“Hey, guess what?” She didn’t give Regan time to answer. “Shields and his bodyguards have left the island, and no one, not even the police, know where they went.”
“How’d you find that out?” Cordie asked.
“A friend of a friend.”
“Are you going to tell her or should I?” Cordie asked Regan.
“I’ll hang up and, you can—”
“Tell me what?”
While Regan waited, Cordie repeated what Regan had told her. Sophie was shocked into silence.
“What are the police there saying?” she finally asked.
“Detective Buchanan is hoping that whoever sent the e-mail and the fax will try to contact me again. Detective Wincott agrees.”
“Okay, who’s Detective Wincott?”
“He’s in charge of the investigation.”
“And Detective Buchanan? Is he his partner or something?” Cordie asked.
“No, he’s my temporary bodyguard.”
“Dear God …”
“It’s okay, Cordie.”
“We’re coming home on the next flight.”
“No, Sophie, don’t do that. Since Shields has already left the island, you’re probably as safe there as any place.”
Cordie added, “She thinks Shields is somehow involved in what’s been happening because Sweeney was investigating him.”
“I admit, it’s not a firm connection,” Regan said.
“Sweeney hadn’t done anything yet, so how could Shields have known about him?” Sophie asked.
“I still think we should pack it up and head back to Chicago. We should be there with you, Regan.”
“No,” she replied. “Stay there and finish what you started. What you’re doing is important, and it sounds like you’re making great progress.”
“We are,” Sophie agreed. “But we’ll need to stay here another week, maybe even two. There’s so much cross-checking to do with names and dates, and now that I’ve got the hotel’s registration records that go way back—”
“Did a friend of a friend get those for you too?”
“No,” Sophie said. “I just asked, and they handed them over.”
“We are making progress,” Cordie said. “And, Sophie, you did want to talk to that woman who’s staying at The Murdock, and you better do that soon before she finds out Shields has left. This is the perfect opportunity, and we both want to know what Shields promised her.”
“Wouldn’t it be something if she would help us?”
“We could nail him.”
“Call me with updates, okay?”
“Wait, Regan. Are you going to be okay?” Cordie asked.
“I’ll be fine.” She looked at her empty desk and decided to lie to ease Cordie’s anxiety. “I’ve got so much work to do. I won’t have time to worry, and I’m perfectly safe in my office.”
“Okay,” Cordie said. “No matter what, we’ll be home in time for the country club charity thing, but that’s two full weeks away.”
“By then, the police will probably have the madman behind bars,” Sophie said.
Regan hoped she was right. By the time she finally hung up the phone, Alec had stopped watching the television. She stood, stretched, and then told him about some of her conversation with her friends.
“The police down there verified that Shields and his bodyguards have left the island. Do you think Cordie and Sophie will be safe?”
“Yeah, I think they will be, as long as …”
“As long as what?”
He decided to be blunt. “As long as they stay away from you.”
REGAN WAS REACHING HER BREAKING POINT. TWO FULL WEEKS had passed since she had received the photo of Sweeney, and her nerves were becoming more and more frayed. One day dragged into another and another. She thought she was going to go stir-crazy being cooped up inside the hotel. Detective Wincott would check in periodically and let her know how the investigation was going. The police had ruled out any connection between Shields and Sweeney, which meant that the killer was still out there, and still unknown. Waiting for something to happen was making her anxious and irritable.
Keeping busy helped, and since she was caught up with work, she decided to tear her office apart and reorganize. Behind one long wall were file cabinets crammed with papers, and all of them needed to be cleaned out.
Regan really got into the task. Some of the files had already been transferred to discs, and those files could be shredded. Other files needed to be consolidated, and she was determined to see that was done too. There was a system to her reorganization, but she was the only one who knew what it was. There were stacks of file folders and papers all over her office floor. It had become an obstacle course from Henry’s office to her desk, but she felt she was making headway.
She wasn’t making any headway with her brothers, however, and she was developing a real love/hate relationship with them. Spence had been delayed in Melbourne, but he called her at least three times a day just to check in and make certain she was doing okay. Walker was also calling. His messages always had the same theme. He wouldn’t give up on the idea of her traveling with him until this situation was resolved.
After two weeks of the constant phone calls, Regan decided she was through placating them. She asked Henry to screen her calls and not put Spencer or Walker through.
Aiden was also making her nuts. She wanted to have a long talk with him. She had had it with his constant interference, and she was determined to make him listen to what she had to say. Then she would go to work on the other two. She didn’t care if it was bad timing or not. She was sick and tired of all three of her brothers trying to run her business and her personal life, and if she wanted anything to change, she would have to start with the most aggressive brother, Aiden. If she could just get him to stop interfering, then the other two, like dominos, would follow his lead.
That was the plan, anyway … if Aiden would stand still long enough to listen. He had canceled a business trip to stay in Chicago and was looking in on her a hundred times a day, and yet he just couldn’t find the time to sit down and have a conversation. He knew where she was every second, and when he couldn’t personally look in on her, the security guards he’d hired kept tabs for him. She knew he was worried, and in this instance, she understood why he was being so overly protective. What she found amazing, however, was the way he could vanish whenever she asked for a few minutes of his time.
Emily sent a message through Henry that Aiden simply didn’t have time to listen to Regan’s petty complaints. Henry had been furious when he conveyed it.
“I’ve finally figured out her plan,” Henry said. “She wants you out of here, and she’s going to do anything and everything to make that happen.”
“She does know I’m Aiden’s sister, doesn’t she?” She was teasing to let Henry know she wasn’t upset.
“Of course she knows, but when she started, she didn’t know who you were. She was rude and obnoxious. Since she can’t fix the past and she knows you don’t like her, she’s got to make you look incompetent. That way, Aiden won’t listen to you about anything, including your opinion of her.”
Before Regan could say a word, Henry continued. “She’s after your brother. She wants to marry him, and you, Regan, are messing with her plans.”
“Aiden will figure out what she’s doing, and he would never have said ‘petty complaints.’”
Aiden was deliberately avoiding Regan, though, giving her time to cool down. He had to have known how furious she was about her car—she still couldn’t believe he’d had the audacity to have it towed away—but he also knew that if he waited long enough, she would eventually get over it and let it wash over her the way she let everything else these days.
She knew what the problem was. She loved her brothers and would do anything for them. She went to great lengths to keep them happy, even to the point of trying to change who she was.
When she was growing up, Aiden had always been the one she went to with her problems, probably because he was the oldest and more of a father figure. He was also the most rigid. He couldn’t stand to see her cry—which she seemed to be able to do at the drop of a hat back then—but over the years she’d tried really hard to learn to hold her feelings in. Sometimes, though, they bubbled to the surface.
Regan took after the Hamilton side of the family. They were all emotional twits, at least that was what Spencer had told her. The Madisons, on the other hand, were stoic and very disciplined. They were also workaholics like Aiden and Spencer. No one knew what side of the family Walker took after, but it was theorized that he was a throwback to a great-great-uncle who began to sow his wild oats when he hit puberty and didn’t stop until he was on his deathbed. It was rumored that he was propositioning a young, pretty nurse when he took his last breath.
At the moment, Regan didn’t want to be related to anyone. The conditions of the will had put her in a no-win position with her brothers, and just as Alec had said, the stress would do her in if she didn’t find an outlet.