She nodded. She knew where John was headed.
“At the dedication, you said that you ran the jogging path every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We believe Morris read the article and went to Conrad Park to wait for you. I don’t think he went there to kill you. I think it just got out of hand. He probably wanted to convince you to give him the grant. He must have been shocked when he realized he’d grabbed the wrong woman. Maybe that’s what triggered his rage.”
“You told me she fought him.”
“Yes,” Wincott said. “One of the workmen left his hammer. Morris saw it, picked it up, and killed her.” He looked at Alec when he added, “But it’s finished now. When the DNA results come back, we’ll have enough to put Morris away for three lifetimes.”
He stood and offered Regan his hand.
“John, I can’t thank you enough,” she said.
“Things should wrap up fairly quickly. The prosecutor’s office will be in touch with you and let you know where things will go from here.” He glanced at Alec. “I should be going.”
Alec didn’t follow him. He pushed the door shut so he could have a moment of privacy with her. He needed to say good-bye.
“Listen, Regan …” he began, and then stopped. He was suddenly tongue-tied.
“Yes?” She looked into his eyes and waited.
“You knew I was going to leave.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Okay then. I’m going home to pack up, and then I’m driving to Boston.”
“To see your family?”
He nodded. He sounded resolute when he muttered, “That’s right.”
“And then the FBI.”
“Right again. I’m moving forward.”
Did he know he was breaking her heart? “I understand.”
“Look … I shouldn’t have …”
She wouldn’t let him finish. If he told her that he shouldn’t have made love to her, she didn’t know what she would do. “I don’t have any regrets. You should go home now and pack.”
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Yeah, I should.”
She opened the door. “Remember, Alec, you’re moving forward.”
“That’s right. I am.”
“If you’re ever in Boston …”
SOMETIMES EXTRAORDINARY THINGS CAN HAPPEN ON THE MOST ordinary of days.
When Eric Gage opened his eyes early Saturday morning, he knew that today was going to be extraordinary. He couldn’t explain why, not yet anyway, but he believed that as the day progressed, he would come to understand.
Eric had learned not to question.
The answer came much quicker than he had anticipated. He got out of bed, put on his robe, and shuffled into the kitchen. He was standing at the sink pouring himself a glass of orange juice when he heard it. A whisper from behind. A hiss really, and though he tried, he couldn’t quite make out what the hiss was trying to tell him.
He didn’t look behind him. He didn’t need to, for he knew who was there in the kitchen with him. He closed his eyes and waited for the whisper to come again. Five minutes passed, then five more, and still the only sound he heard was the thunder of his heartbeat.
He began to doubt. Maybe he had imagined it. He decided to get on with his day and his chores. By six A.M. he had dressed in his old work clothes and had driven to his neighborhood QuikTrip to buy an extra-large cup of coffee.
By seven-thirty he had cleaned out the garage—a ritual he completed every Saturday—and had eaten his breakfast and prepared a tray for Nina. Then he showered and dressed in a brand-new black running suit with a narrow, white stripe down the outside of each leg. The lightweight jacket had a white cloverleaf logo on the breast pocket. The zippered pockets were the reason he’d purchased it.
There were two loaded guns in the bureau drawer. He put one in his right pocket. When he zipped the pocket closed, it was impossible to tell what was inside. He looked at himself in the mirror just to make sure. He worried he might need extra rounds, and so he opened the drawer and pulled out two more magazines and slipped those into his other pocket. He carried the second gun into the kitchen and laid it in the center of the table.
He was ready now, but ready for what?
The familiar and terrifying anxiety was building inside him. His hands became stiff and icy cold, and he had trouble drawing a deep breath. He knew what was happening. The demon was taking control.
He tried to stop it. He sat down at the kitchen table and began to rock back and forth, back and forth, but he couldn’t sit long. He jumped up. Maybe it wasn’t too late to change the future … maybe, he thought, there could be a new beginning. The burst of optimism was gone in an instant. He was walking toward the back hall when he heard it again. The whisper was right behind him. He couldn’t escape. He knew that now.
“No,” he cried out.
“You know what you must do.”
He bowed his head and began to weep. “No, no, I can’t …”
The whisper turned into a scream. “You will do this.”
He stubbornly clung to the last threads of sanity. He squeezed his eyes shut and covered his ears in a weak attempt to block the terror from consuming him. “No, please, no, no,” he sobbed.
The rebellion was short-lived, and the demon won.
“Turn around and look at me. Open your eyes and look.”
He did as he was told, his movements wooden now. His acquiescence complete.
He stood there rigid as he waited for the demon’s next command. It wasn’t long in coming.
Nina’s eyes bored into his. “Kill her for me.”
ALEC WAS TRYING TO SQUEEZE ANOTHER SUITCASE INTO THEM of his car when a bright red 1968 Mustang convertible in mint condition came roaring around the corner. Gil was behind the wheel. The top was down; the radio was blaring, and the five or six thin strands of hair on his head were blowing in the breeze.
He pulled up alongside Alec’s car, double-parked, and turned the radio and the motor off.
“Have you handed in your badge yet?” he shouted as he smoothed his hair down with the palm of his hand.
“Not yet,” Alec called back. He shut the trunk and walked around to the passenger side of Gil’s car. “I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”
“I did know that,” he said. “But things have a way of changing, and I was hoping you might change your mind.”
“It’s the FBI, Gil.”
“You gave your word, huh?”
Alec shrugged. “Something like that.”
“You’re putting suitcases in your car. You’ve got to be leaving soon.”
Alec had the day off and was trying to cram as many things as he could into it so he wouldn’t have time to think about Regan. He wasn’t going to admit that to Gil, though. It would be all over Chicago by noon if he did, and so he said, “I’m just getting a head start.”
“What about your furniture and the other stuff in your apartment?”
“I’m taking my clothes and a couple of other things I want to keep, but the rest of the stuff is going to a friend.”
Gil was as intrusive as ever, but Alec didn’t mind as long as the questions didn’t become too personal. “His name’s Henry. He’s moving into my apartment next week. You don’t know him.”
“He works for Regan Madison, right?”
Alec laughed. “Is there anything you don’t know?”
“Yeah. Next week’s lottery numbers.” He looked up at the sky as he added, “And I don’t know if I’m going to make it home before the rain starts up again.”
“Was there a particular reason you stopped by?”
“I don’t have a cell phone.”
Alec nodded. “I know.”
“I don’t like them,” he said. “Needless expense now that I’m retired. If I did a lot of traveling, then it would make sense, but these days I rarely leave the neighborhood. I can walk to my favorite bars and restaurants. Finnegan’s is just a block away from my house.”
“I’m not going to argue with you. If you don’t want to carry a cell phone, then don’t.”
“I tried calling your apartment, but you didn’t answer. Guess you were out here.”
“Guess I was.”
“I could have called your cell phone, but the rain had stopped, and so I decided to drive over to say hello. I heard Wincott and Bradshaw arrested Sweeney’s murderer.”
“I also heard you were giving them trouble. You thought maybe they had the wrong man. Is that true?”
“Yes, I did give them some trouble, but it didn’t make any difference. They’re convinced Morris is their man.”
“The evidence backs them up.”
Alec nodded. Then Gil said, “I heard Wincott thought you were too close to it, if you know what I mean.”
“No, Gil. Explain it.” Now he was getting irritated.
Gil didn’t seem to notice. “You know, personally involved. So, were you?”
Alec didn’t answer. “Why all the questions?”
“I’m getting to it,” he said. “When I heard about the arrest and all the evidence they had, I thought that maybe you didn’t want me to keep looking into the Madison’s backgrounds, but then I thought, if Alec wanted me to stop looking, he would have called and told me so. You didn’t forget, did you?”
“No, I didn’t forget.”
“There’s nothing in her background to raise a flag, but I figured you already knew that.”
Alec nodded. “Yes, I did. What about the brothers?”
“None of them have a criminal record, and none of them have ever been arrested.”
“I already know that, Gil.”
“Walker’s had some trouble. He’s the most well-known in the family because he’s a big-time race car driver. I hear he’s good too. Anyway, people know he’s got money. He doesn’t keep a low profile like the others, and you know how some people are. They see it; they want it. The money, I mean.”
“You said he had some trouble?”
“He’s had his share of fender benders, but there were only two bad accidents, one with fatalities. Walker wasn’t responsible for either one, though. He was luckier than some of the others because he walked away from both without a scratch. Now, the first accident happened up in Wisconsin. I couldn’t find anything there.”
“What about the other one?”
“That was the real bad one. It happened down in Florida, but the man who the witnesses say caused the accident died at the scene. His insurance company settled with the families. Like the accident in Wisconsin, lots of people with injuries, some real, some bogus.”
“But Walker wasn’t responsible for that one either?” “No,” Gil said. “I’m waiting to hear back from the officer who was first on the scene. Maybe he can tell me something I don’t already know. After I talk to him, I’ll hunt you down … unless you want me to stop now. Do you?”
Alec’s answer was immediate. “No, don’t stop. Keep looking.” Gil took off a minute later, and Alec went back inside to finish up, but his mind wasn’t on what he was doing. He kept thinking about Regan. Was he having trouble letting go? Was that why he wanted Gil to keep searching? Maybe if he had had an active role in the investigation, he wouldn’t feel so frustrated now.
He picked up a box and carried it down to the car. Why couldn’t he accept that they had arrested the right man? He sighed and shook his head. He knew why. Because it was just too frickin’ easy.
SUNDAY TURNED OUT TO BE A MISERABLE DAY FOR A RACE. THE weather had gone from chilly and damp to beastly hot and damp. The air was as thick and humid as a rain forest.
Sophie, Cordie, and Regan had been in the park for well over an hour, but had spent most of that time huddled together in a shelter, squeezed in like sardines with at least fifty other people while the rain poured down. There wasn’t any privacy, and it was too crowded to talk anyway.
As soon as the rain let up, they got into line to sign in and pick up their numbers.
Sophie had already told them her good news, but Cordie and Regan wanted to hear all the details again. Besides, they knew Sophie was dying to rehash her victory.
“Come on, Sophie. Start at the beginning,” Regan said.
She didn’t have to be coaxed. “Okay. So after my article—my exceptionally well-written article—was in the paper, women started coming out of the woodwork. All of them are begging for a chance to testify against Shields. Unfortunately, we’ll never know if he had anything to do with Mary Coolidge’s death. There’s no hard evidence, but the prosecutor told me she has enough to put him in prison for a long time. She’s going after the bodyguards too and thinks she can convince a jury that they were coconspirators in extortion and fraud.”
“What about the money?” Cordie asked.
“After Shields is found guilty, and he will be,” she said, “Mary’s daughter will be getting what’s left of her mother’s money.”
“I’ll bet she’d rather have her mother back,” Cordie said.
Regan patted Sophie on the shoulder. “Sophie, we’re so proud of you.”
“And we’re proud of you too, Regan,” Cordie said. “Sophie and I haven’t slept for weeks worrying about you. You kept it together, though.”
“Not always,” Regan said.
“Now that the police have arrested the man who killed the detective and Haley Cross, are you able to get back to normal and breathe again?”
“How can things ever be normal? Because of me, two people are dead.”
“You can’t blame yourself for Morris’s actions. He’s obviously very disturbed. There was no way for anyone to predict that he would become violent.”
“Cordie’s right,” Sophie said.
“We’ve heard all about the man they arrested, and we’ve heard all about the evidence and how they found it, but you haven’t said a word about Alec. Do you miss having him around?”
Regan didn’t answer. She didn’t really need to. Tears were already gathering in her eyes.
Cordie handed her a tissue. “What happened?”