She took a breath, slapped a smile on her face, and turned around. He was at it again, she thought, looking even more handsome than the last time she’d seen him. The man could clean up when he wanted to. He’d already proven that last Saturday night when he’d worn a tuxedo. He had on a navy blue blazer and khaki pants, and he was wearing loafers, not beat-up tennis shoes.
She couldn’t believe how rattled she was, and he hadn’t said a word to her.
Alec nodded to Aiden and smiled at her. “You’re looking better today.” She guessed the pleasantries were over when he turned to Aiden, abruptly dismissing her. “Your attorney hasn’t called Gil Hutton back yet. He told me he’s left two messages for him. I think maybe you need to talk to him again.”
“I’ll get right on it,” he promised. “Sam was on vacation, but I was sure he’d be back by now.”
Regan decided to go up to her office. Aiden and Alec followed behind. “I want Gil to hear from him by tomorrow afternoon. If he doesn’t, I’m going over to his office and look through those files myself.”
Regan was holding the elevator for them. Alec stood in front of her on the way up to the third floor.
“I talked to Lieutenant Lewis this morning,” Aiden said.
“That had to be fun,” Alec commented. “You’d better not mention my name, or it could be bad for Detective Wincott.”
“What does that mean?”
Alec explained. “It means that Lewis would ruin his chances for promotion if he found out I’m helping him.”
Aiden nodded. “He’s not going to find out from any of us, and certainly not from Sam.”
“So I guess the lieutenant doesn’t like you,” Regan said.
When he didn’t answer her, she poked him in the back.
He flashed a grin, then reached behind him and grabbed her hand. When he realized what he’d done, he immediately let go.
Aiden pretended he didn’t notice. “From what I understand, they really don’t have any leads. He told me they’re looking at Peter Morris.”
“That could be another dead end,” Regan said.
“They’re not just looking at him,” Alec said. “They’re looking for him.”
“He’s hiding?” Regan asked.
“Yes, but he can’t hide forever,” Alec said. “He’ll surface, and then they’ll get him.”
“But that could take forever.”
As it turned out, Morris was apprehended one hour later.
PETER MORRIS MADE TWO MISTAKES AND BOTH OF THEM WERE doozies.
His first mistake was to give in to temptation. He walked into a bar in downtown Chicago and started drinking hard liquor, and lots of it, which not only impaired his judgment but also gave him a false sense of security. The more he guzzled down, the more convinced he became that he was safe, and for the moment, untouchable.
The second mistake he made was to call Regan Madison. It took him several tries, and by the time he finally got through to her, he had worked himself into a froth.
Regan had told the operator to hold her calls and that she would be back in her office by three. Time got away from her, though, and when she and Alec reached her door, Detective Wincott was waiting. She assumed he was there to talk to her.
“Is there news?”
He shook his head. “I’m just here to pick up Alec. We’ve got a thing to go to. Sort of a going-away party for Alec,” he explained.
She noticed a policeman standing down the hall. Her phone rang. Wincott was turning to leave, but Alec lingered. She picked up the extension on Henry’s desk and answered. “Regan Madison.”
“This is your last chance to do the right thing.”
The anger shocked her. The words were slurred, but she still understood what he had said.
Alec saw the change in her expression, motioned to Wincott, and then went running to the phone in her office so he could listen in.
“Who is this?” she demanded.
“Peter Morris,” he answered. “Remember me?”
“Yes, I remember you.”
Wincott was moving away as he flipped his cell phone open.
“You’re a liar.” Morris drew the words in a long whisper.
If Morris wasn’t drunk, he was certainly well on his way, she thought. She could hear glasses clinking, music pulsating, and voices mumbling in the background. She was sure he was calling her from a bar.
“I’m not lying. I remember you.”
“I meant what I said. This is your last chance.”
His voice was chilling now. She heard him swallow, then the sound of ice striking the glass again.
“My last chance?” she repeated.
“To save yourself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m not going to keep chasing you. It took me precious weeks to get past your assistant and finally talk to you, and what good did it do me? You wouldn’t listen. You already had your mind made up. I told you that if we could only get together, sit down and talk, I could convince you. If you had just stopped and listened to me, none of this would have happened. You could have stopped it.”
“You know what.”
She decided to pretend she knew what he was talking about. “All right. Tell me how I could have stopped it.”
She looked at Alec. He nodded to her.
“I tried to get to you, but you left.”
“At Liam House.”
She nearly dropped the phone. Her breath caught in her throat. “You were there?”
“I just said I was.”
“Did you follow me?”
“Then how did you know …?”
Impatient, he answered. “She told me.”
“Who? Who told you?”
“Emily. She said her name was Emily when she answered the phone. She told me where you were.”
She was so stunned she fell back against the desk.
“Do you know how long I stood out there in the rain waiting for you to come outside?”
“No, I don’t know how long you waited.”
“I want the money,” he snarled. “And you owe me, now don’t you?”
“Why do I owe you?”
He didn’t answer her but said, “It’s gone too far. If you don’t give me the money, you’ll be sorry. You get it ready. You hear me? I want cash, not a check. We’ll meet tomorrow. I’ll let you know when and where.”
“And if I don’t have the money ready when you call?”
“Someone’s going to get hurt.” His words trailed off into a slurred mumble.
Regan heard a crash, and then the line went dead. Alec was suddenly there by her side. She started to speak, but he put his hand up for silence and then nodded toward Wincott.
The detective had his back to them as he was talking on his cell phone, but when he turned around he had a big grin on his face.
“We got him.”
IT WAS ALMOST TOO EASY. WHILE PETER MORRIS WAS SHOUTING threats over the phone and sloshing his drink down his shirt, two policemen walked up behind him and grabbed him.
Morris wasn’t too drunk to lawyer up. As soon as he was handcuffed and read his rights, he started screaming for an attorney.
He did a lot of talking about not talking to anyone about anything. A confession would have been nice, but they really didn’t need it. The evidence nailed him. Morris, as it turned out, was a collector. Hidden behind a block of insulation in the attic of the run-down house he rented was a mildewed shoe box tied with a bright pink ribbon, and inside that box were his trophies, a bloody hammer with a workman’s initials burned into the handle, Haley Cross’s driver’s license, and Detective Benjamin Sweeney’s wallet.
Lieutenant Lewis was ecstatic. As far as he was concerned, it was an open-and-shut case. After hearing about the evidence, he insisted that he be the one to call Aiden and give him the good news.
Wincott drove back to the hotel to tell Regan what they’d found in Morris’s house. He called Alec and asked him to meet him in the lobby.
Alec was in a mood. He had wanted to sit in on the interrogation with Morris and his attorney, but Lewis wouldn’t let him get near him. Wincott didn’t think it was such a good idea either, considering Alec’s frame of mind.
Wincott was waiting for Alec in front of the elevators. “Are you finished packing, or have you even started yet?” he asked when he spotted Alec striding toward him.
“He didn’t confess, did he?”
“So I guess that’s a no on the packing?”
“Answer me, John,” he snapped.
“No, he didn’t confess. Swears he’s innocent. It was shocking. I’ve never heard any suspect say that.”
Alec ignored the smart-ass remark. The elevator doors opened, and he stepped back to let Wincott go in first.
“Where are all the security guards? I haven’t seen a single one since I walked into this building.”
“The extra men who were sent over from the security company are probably on other jobs now, and the regulars are just being more discreet. You know, blending in. Now that we’ve got our man—and we do have the right man—the hotel’s security staff doesn’t need to have such a loud presence.”
The doors opened on Regan’s floor. “I don’t like this,” Alec muttered.
“I know. You wanted a confession, didn’t you? But you know what? If he had confessed, you still wouldn’t believe he was the right man for this.”
Alec shrugged. “You could have gotten me in there. All I wanted was to ask a couple of questions.”
Wincott shook his head. “We’re doing everything by the book, and that means no one is going to touch him.”
“And you think I would?”
Wincott smiled. “Of course you would. You’d have his face smashed into a wall the second he said her name. Face it, Alec. You’re too involved in this … personally involved.”
Alec didn’t like hearing that. “If I’m so damned personally involved, why did you ask me to meet you here?”
“Because I figured what you need is closure.”
Alec looked incredulous. “Closure? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I thought to myself that maybe, if you heard me telling Regan about all the evidence we had and the motive and opportunity, well then, you’d be able to close the door on this investigation and move on.”
“It was too easy.”
“Sometimes that’s just how it ends up. Easy.”
“The evidence …”
“I know. Someone else could have planted the evidence in Morris’s attic. That’s what you were going to say, right?”
“Morris is good for this. Physically he’s big enough and strong enough to lift Sweeney and hang him the way he did, and he fits the description Regan gave us.”
Alec knocked on her door. “Hundreds of men fit that description.”
She opened the door, and in a flash, Alec took it all in. She was barefoot and wearing running shorts and a top that didn’t quite cover her navel. She looked really good.
Wincott nodded to her and walked past.
“I just heard the news,” she said.
“Who told you?” Alec asked. For the first time in the last three weeks, he didn’t head for the comfortable sofa.
She closed the door. “Lieutenant Lewis called and told me, and then Aiden called. Why aren’t you smiling, Alec? Aren’t you happy about this?”
“He thinks it’s too easy,” Wincott said. He sat down in the easy chair and leaned forward.
Alec stood in the middle of the room with his hands in his pockets and frowned at him. “Listen, the results of the DNA aren’t in, I say we keep up the protection.”
“You aren’t convinced that Peter Morris is the man who killed …?”
She stopped when he shook his head. “No, I’m not convinced.”
“He doesn’t want to be convinced.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alec asked.
“It means it’s crunch time.” He gave a barely perceptible nod toward Regan.
Alec’s jaw was clenched tight as he glared at Wincott.
Regan wasn’t certain what was going on. “John, do you think we have the right man?”
“Yes, I do. Evidence doesn’t lie.”
“Unless it’s planted.”
“A strand of Morris’s hair was found embedded in the hammer.”
“Do you know how easy it would have been to plant that evidence? All someone had to do was take a hair from his brush,” he said as he slowly paced.
“He had a motive,” Wincott told Regan. “He owed the wrong people a lot of money, and he was counting on the grant to bail him out. When you turned him down, he went after you. He admitted he went to Liam House and waited for you. The evidence is going to bury him. Morris was desperate … and losing it. He picked up Regan’s cell phone and that folder with her murder list and thought that maybe if he did something nice for her …”
“I’d give him the money? My God …”
Wincott nodded. “I had a nice long talk with Emily Milan. She admitted she told Morris where you were.”
“Did she know she was talking to Peter Morris?” Regan asked.
“Yes, but she claims she had no idea what he wanted,” Wincott answered. “She also admitted she’d gotten into your computer so she could read all your e-mails. She said she only did it so she could keep current.”
“I’m amazed she’d own up to that. She’s the one who printed the picture of Sweeney and put it on Aiden’s desk. She also forwarded it to your other brothers.”
Wincott smiled. “The pair of handcuffs I pulled out made her real chatty. She suddenly wanted to cooperate.”
“Where is she now?” Alec asked.
“She was fired, of course,” Wincott said. “And security escorted her out of the hotel. I doubt she’ll be asking for a recommendation.”
“Are you still convinced he killed Haley Cross because he thought it was me?”
“Yes,” Wincott said. “Like I said before, it was rainy and dark, and Cross was about your height, maybe a little taller, and had dark hair like yours. If he came up behind her, it would be an easy mistake to think she was you. And you let Morris know where you would be,” he said. “You know, that article and photo from the paper Henry cut out and framed?”