Turning my head, I found Benjamin Clancy. Like Detective Graves, Clancy’s eyes held the knowledge of what I’d done to eliminate Nathan Barker as a threat to my wife. Unlike Graves, Clancy had helped cover up my involvement, staging the scene of the crime and another unrelated scene to cast blame onto a dead man who’d paid for his own crimes with his life and wouldn’t pay further for mine.
My brows rose in silent inquiry.
“I need a minute.” He gestured to the hallway beyond him without waiting for my agreement.
“Lead the way.”
I followed him to a library, taking in the shelves of books that lined the walls. The room smelled of leather and paper, the color palette a masculine blend of cognac and evergreen. Four distinct seating areas and a fully stocked bar invited guests to get comfortable and linger.
Clancy shut the door behind us and sat in one of the two club chairs facing the unlit fireplace. I took the other.
He got right to the point. “Mrs. Stanton left behind over twenty-five years’ worth of handwritten journals and a backup computer drive with electronic journal entries. She asked that I pass them along to Eva in the event of her death.”
Keeping my curiosity to myself, I said, “I’ll make sure she gets them.”
He sat forward, setting his elbows on his knees. Ben Clancy was a big man, his biceps and thighs thick with muscle. He wore his dark blond hair in a severe military cut and his eyes had the flat, cold lethality of a great white shark—but they warmed when he looked at Eva, like the loving glance of a very protective older brother.
“You’ll need to judge the best time to give them to her,” he said. “And you may decide she should never see them.”
“I see.” So I’d have to go through them. It made me uncomfortable to think of doing so.
“Regardless,” Clancy went on, “you now have a new financial responsibility that you’ll have to take over on Lauren’s behalf. It’s not inconsiderable, but you won’t have any trouble managing it.”
I’d stiffened at the name he used, then grown more alert as he continued.
Nodding, he said, “You started researching her story after the Tramells died.”
“But you’d cleaned most of it up.” Out of the entire conversation thus far, that was the one thing that made sense.
“What I could. I dug into her past when Mr. Stanton became serious about their relationship. When I confronted her, she told me what I’m about to tell you—none of which is known to Mr. Stanton. I’d like to keep it that way. He was happy. Who she was didn’t affect him, so he doesn’t need to know.”
Whatever it was, Clancy had been swayed. Whether I would be, remained to be seen.
Clancy paused a moment. “You’ll get more out of the journals. I haven’t read them, but Lauren’s story is certainly more compelling than the dry facts I’ll give you.”
“I understand. Go ahead.”
“Lauren Kittrie was raised in a small town on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. Her family was poor. Her mother abandoned her and her twin sister with their father, who worked as a hand on a local ranch. He was a busy man, not much interested in or capable of raising two beautiful headstrong girls.”
Sitting back, I took a page from Eva’s book and tried to picture two teenage Monicas. The image was more than striking.
“As you can imagine,” he continued, “they got noticed. Toward the end of high school, they’d caught the attention of a group of wealthy college students from Austin. Punks, with a dangerous sense of entitlement. The leader was Jackson Tramell.”
I nodded. “She married him.”
“That was later,” he said flatly. “Lauren was savvy about men from the outset. She wanted out of the life her parents had, but she knew trouble when she saw it. She rebuffed him, many times. Her sister, Katherine, wasn’t as smart. She thought Tramell could be her ticket out.”
Unease caused me to sit back. “How much of this do I need to hear?”
“Against Lauren’s advice, Katherine went out with him. When she didn’t come home either that night or the next day, Lauren called the police. Katherine was discovered by a local farmer in his field, barely conscious thanks to a toxic combination of street drugs and alcohol. She’d been violently assaulted. Although it wasn’t proven, it was suspected that multiple individuals were involved.”
“Katherine was in bad shape,” Clancy went on. “The hallucinogenic drugs in her system combined with the physical trauma of gang rape caused permanent brain damage. She needed round-the-clock care for an indefinite period of time, something their father couldn’t afford.”