Alec was too impatient to sit and wait. He paced the hall instead.
When Wincott jogged around the corner waving the file folder, Alec said, “Would you mistake Haley Cross for Regan?”
“Oh, come on. I wouldn’t mistake any woman for her.” He stopped, opened the folder, and held up Haley Cross’s photo. “Maybe from behind … the long hair, approximate height and weight. I guess it’s possible.”
“What’s possible?” Regan asked. She was standing in the doorway, but she stepped back when Wincott and Alec walked in.
Wincott answered her. “Mistaken identity,” he said. “Where’s the letter?”
A couple of seconds later, he and Alec were staring at the list again.
Wincott read the list and the note out loud. “‘You owe me for this one too’? So he’s making Regan take some of the responsibility, isn’t he?” Wincott said. “That’s what I think the note implies.”
“So, make the leap, John.”
“Okay,” Wincott answered. “He thinks Regan should have been there instead of Haley.”
Alec nodded. Then Wincott asked, “You think he was waiting in the park for Regan?”
“If he read the article in the paper, wouldn’t he assume she still runs there?”
“Are you saying he killed that woman by mistake?” Regan asked.
Alec turned to her. “Yes. I think he went there to kill you.”
THE POLICE HAD WITHHELD IMPORTANT DETAILS ABOUT HALEY Cross’s murder, and neither Alec nor Wincott wanted Regan to know what those details were. She was already scared, and the autopsy report alone was enough to make a hardened cop shudder.
Still, there was the possibility that one of those details might trigger a memory that could help them.
Wincott leaned against the office window, one ankle crossed over the other, with a bottle of water in one hand and the autopsy report in the other. Alec sat next to her on the sofa. Regan couldn’t understand how the two of them could look so relaxed while they took turns relating some of the horrific facts of the poor girl’s murder. When Alec told her what the killer had done to her legs, Regan became nauseous and could feel the blood rushing from her head.
Alec noticed the way she was gripping her hands together in her lap, a telltale sign that she was having trouble, and there were tears in her eyes, but she kept it together. He was proud of her, and had they been alone, he would have put his arms around her and told her so.
“You okay, Regan? You want to take a minute?” Wincott asked.
“No, I’m fine,” she said.
Alec opened the folder Wincott had dropped on the table and handed Regan the photo of Haley Cross. Regan was surprised at how peaceful the woman looked in death.
“Do you know her?”
She shook her head. “Was she a student at the university?”
“No,” Alec answered. “She’d already graduated.”
“She lived close to the campus,” Wincott explained. “And according to her friends, she regularly ran the park path.”
“Did she live alone?”
“No,” Wincott said. “She lived with a boyfriend. He was out of town on business the night she was murdered. Evidently she had told him she might go home to visit her parents while he was gone, so he returned to Chicago, and several days passed before anyone knew she was missing.”
Regan took a couple of deep breaths before looking at the photo again. “I don’t understand. Why would he do that to her legs? Why …?”
When she suddenly stopped, Wincott said, “The coroner said her death was due to a blow to the head. Evidently this sicko went for the legs after she was already dead.”
“She fought him,” Alec said. “There was skin under her fingernails, so they have DNA.” He took the photo from Regan and put it back in the folder.
Regan thought he looked worried about her, and so she gave him a quick smile to let him know she was okay as she stood and went to the credenza to get some water.
“Alec?” She held up the icy bottle.
She handed him the water, got another one for herself, and then circled the sofa to go to her desk. Lord, she was feeling old and worn-out all of a sudden. She pulled her chair out and sat down. Maybe going to Melbourne with Spencer wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The change of scenery might do her some good. She sighed then. Even as the thought came into her mind, she rejected it. She wasn’t going to run away, and if she went to Melbourne, that’s exactly what she would be doing.
She thought about calling Sophie and Cordie. Talking to her friends always made her feel better, but if she let them see how upset she was, they’d become even more worried about her than they already were. And if the subject turned to Alec—which of course it would—she would definitely lose it. Turning into a crybaby for a little while was all right when she was with her friends, but not here, and not now.
Alec watched Regan from the sofa. Her eyes were sad and distant. She was pale and her brow was furrowed.
Lyle Bradshaw walked into the office. He looked as though he was on his way to a wedding, all dressed up in a dark pinstriped suit and a white shirt with French cuffs. His bold red tie provided the only spot of color. As usual, not a hair was out of place. In comparison, Alec looked as though he was getting ready to clean a garage.
Wincott observed from the other side of the room. Lyle was looking at Regan, and Alec was looking at Lyle looking at Regan, and from the expression on Alec’s face, he wasn’t happy.
“The letter and the envelope are on Henry’s desk,” Wincott said to break the staring contest.
“We aren’t going to find any of his fingerprints.” He made the comment on his way to the desk.
“You still have to bag it and get it to the lab,” Alec snapped.
Lyle didn’t seem to notice Alec’s hostile tone. Wincott did. He diffused the situation by taking the two men into the outer office to discuss the new developments in the case.
As soon as she was alone, Regan switched on her computer and tried to answer a few of her e-mails. Anything to keep her mind occupied.
Henry poked his head in the door to say good-bye. She suggested he take Monday off, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “What if another letter comes, or something else happens? I want to be here … you know, in case you need me.”
He was such a sweetheart. “Okay,” she said. “But sleep in and come in late.”
“I’ll try,” he promised. He turned to leave and then said, “We can’t tell anyone about the new list or about the woman.”
“I know that.”
“I was kind of surprised with everything happening and so many people involved that someone hasn’t leaked the story to the papers.”
“I don’t think any of the security force knows the particulars,” she said.
“Sophie would kill both of us if another newspaper broke this story. Okay, I’m leaving. See you tomorrow.”
“Henry, be careful.”
The door had barely closed behind him before it was flung open again, and Aiden came rushing into the room.
“Spencer and I just heard about the letter. Alec told me about the woman who was murdered. My God, Regan, that could have been you.”
“Yes, I know,” she said softly.
“Listen, Spencer and I aren’t going anywhere until this lunatic is caught. Maybe I should call Walker and tell him to come home.”
“Oh, please, don’t do that. You know how he attracts attention. The press will be following him around, and if any of those reporters get wind of this …”
“All right,” he said.
“Make him stay away,” she insisted. “I wish you and Spencer would get as far away from me as possible, and I wish you’d take Cordie and Sophie and Henry with you. None of you is safe as long as you’re around me. If anything ever happened to you or …” Her voice broke.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he repeated. “And you need to stop worrying about us. You’ve got enough to think about, and you’ve got to stay strong.”
“I’m doing okay, and you don’t have to worry. I’m not going to crumble.”
They continued to talk for several more minutes. Aiden paced around the room until he calmed down. He seemed to need her reassurance that she was well protected, that Alec and John would catch the lunatic, and that she would be okay.
He was walking toward the door when she said, “A long time ago, you taught me that Madisons face problems, and it’s time I face some of mine.”
“The police should handle …”
“I’m talking about our family and our business, Aiden.”
He turned around and walked back to her desk. “Okay. It’s time you face what problems?”
“Letting you and Spencer make decisions for me. That has to stop. What I do with the family funds is every bit as important as what you do. Investing those funds to make the world better is actually more important.”
He leaned against the desk and folded his arms across his chest. He knew she was right.
“And one more thing …” she said. “Giving back to the community, taking on projects that make a difference … when you see where the money goes, it’s a reminder of why we’re here. The way I see it, it’s my job to help you boys stay on track.” She smiled as she added, “You might say I humanize you.”
He conceded. “Okay, we’ll increase your budget for next year. I can convince Spencer and Walker to double it.”
“That’s good to hear,” she said. “And I’ll do something for you. I’ll stop fighting you on a settlement for Emerson.”
He headed for the door. “Emily’s taking a week off,” he said. “When she gets back, she’ll be looking for another position.”
Regan tried not to cheer. Aiden paused at the door and asked, “Is there anything else you want to talk about?”
“That’s it for now,” she said.
She wanted to tell him about Alec, to pour her heart out to her brother, but she didn’t. Why would she? It was just one night. Alec was making that perfectly clear. Just five more days and she’d never see him again … unless they caught the lunatic before then.
Regan tried to fill those days with work to keep her mind occupied. Since their projects for the season had been completed, she and Henry continued to clean out old files and reorganize the office.
Each day, Alec came on duty as usual, but things weren’t the same as they had been. He was cordial and friendly, but he was keeping his distance. There was no more teasing, and he avoided any situation where they would get close to each other. When a discussion became too personal, he changed the subject. He was acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened between them. Did he already regret their night together? If she’d had the nerve, she would have asked him that very question.
Regan wasn’t sure if she had caught a virus or if the stress had made her sick, but she started throwing up one evening after Alec walked her to her suite. She had a horrible night. By noon the following day, she was feeling better.
She met Aiden late that afternoon to give him the signed contracts. He was waiting at a corner table in the atrium. Regan ordered iced tea and sipped it while she half listened to him talk about the new hotel.
“Are you paying attention?”
“Are you still sick?” He sounded suspicious, as though she were trying to pull a fast one by getting out of bed too soon.
“No, I’m fine.”
“According to Alec, you sure didn’t look fine last night.”
“Excuse me? How would he know what I looked like?”
Aiden shrugged. “He heard you were sick. I’m not sure who told him,” he said, “but he came back to the hotel, and he spent the night.”
“In the hotel? Alec stayed in the hotel?”
“Didn’t I just say he did? He stayed in your suite. He slept on the sofa.”
She was astonished. And all she could think about was how horrible she’d looked with her hair hanging in her eyes and her pasty complexion. Had he been there when she was throwing up? Lovely, she thought.
“Aiden, why did you let him see me looking half dead?”
He smiled. “I didn’t have much to say about it.”
She decided to change the subject. “I ran into Paul. He told me he’s cutting back on his hours.”
Aiden nodded. “He’s tired of so much traveling, and he needs to be home more with his family.”
“So you’re okay with his decision?”
“Yes. I told him he can have any job he wants. We don’t want to lose him.”
She was handing the contracts to Aiden when she looked up and saw Alec walking toward her. He stopped to talk to the officer assigned to her for the day to get a report. She didn’t want him to catch her staring at him, and so she hastily turned around.
Now Aiden was watching her. His cell phone rang, but he ignored it.
“You should answer that.”
He picked up the phone, turned the power off, and then tucked it into his pocket.
“Did you want to tell me something?” he prodded.
She bowed her head. “I did something stupid.” She made the confession in a whisper.
“What did you do?”
I fell in love. And how stupid was that? She didn’t say what she was thinking, though. “I’m tired, that’s all. I need a vacation.”
Her brother was far more astute than she realized. He looked at Alec who couldn’t seem to take his eyes off Regan, and then he looked at Regan again.
The two of them looked miserable.
“He told me he’s going into the FBI.”
Startled, she looked up. Aiden was smiling. She didn’t pretend not to know whom he was talking about. “Yes, he is. And what is so amusing?” she asked, frowning.
“I was wondering how Alec will feel when Walker hires someone to do a background check on him.”
Her eyes widened. “He wouldn’t …”
Aiden shrugged. “He hired someone to check out Dennis, and you weren’t serious about him.”
“Aiden, he’s leaving.”
“Yes, I know.” He stood then and said, “Here he comes.”
She practically overturned her chair when she bolted to her feet, and if Aiden hadn’t grabbed her glass, it would have crashed to the floor.