Seconds Away Page 56

Chapter 45

We didn\'t wait for Rachel to extricate herself from the Taylor household. She was a big girl. She\'d figure that one out on her own. Besides, I had things to do before I met up with her.

’’Well?’’ Ema said. ’’What did you find?’’

’’I have to think this through.’’

Ema shook her head. ’’Seriously, do you know how annoying it is when you say stuff like that?’’

’’Yeah,’’ I said, ’’I guess I do.’’

’’So think it through while talking to me.’’

I didn\'t really want to, so I told her what I\'d seen in the plainest ’’just the facts’’ language. Her mobile phone buzzed. Ema looked down at the screen. ’’It\'s my mom.’’

Still felt so weird her ’’mom’’ being one of the most glamorous women in the world.

Ema picked up the phone with a sigh and spoke with lots of ’’I\'m fine, Mom’’s before hanging up and turning to me. ’’Your uncle is with her. They both want us to go home pronto.’’

That was okay by me. I wanted to be alone for a bit. I wanted to sort through this and consider my next step closely. Most of all, though, I wanted Ema to be someplace safe and away from me. I had already gotten one friend shot. I did not relish the idea of putting another in jeopardy.

So Ema and I went our separate ways. I got home, still lost in my thoughts. I had figured out what had happened in the Caldwell household. Most of it, anyway. I was having trouble making all the pieces fit. There was, I knew, only one way to get the answers I needed. It was going to involve putting myself in more peril. I didn\'t relish that either. There was a fine line between being daringly brave and foolishly suicidal. I wasn\'t in the mood to find out just how fine.

But what choice did I have?

When I got home, I headed into the basement and texted Rachel: Are you out of there?

Rachel: Just leaving Troy\'s now.

Good. I didn\'t even bother to reply. Knowing she wouldn\'t be there, I quickly dialed Rachel\'s home phone. As I did, the front door opened, and Myron entered. ’’Mickey?’’

I put my hand over the phone. ’’One sec,’’ I called back.

On the third ring a man picked up and said, ’’Hello?’’

’’Mr. Caldwell, this is Mickey Bolitar.’’

’’Oh, hello, Mickey. Rachel isn\'t here right now.’’

’’I wasn\'t calling for her.’’

’’Oh?’’

’’I know what happened to your ex-wife and daughter.’’

There was an odd tightness in his voice now. ’’Then you should tell the police at once.’’

’’You mean, like Chief Taylor?’’

’’Yes, of course.’’

’’Well, sure, I guess I could tell him, but we both know he\'d just cover it up.’’

There was a pause. I could hear Mr. Caldwell\'s breath through the phone.

’’What are you trying to say here, Mickey?’’

’’You and I need to meet,’’ I said.

’’Come by the house then.’’

’’I\'d rather meet somewhere else. Do you play basketball, Mr. Caldwell?’’

’’That\'s an odd question.’’

’’I\'ll meet you by the outdoor courts in the center of town,’’ I said. ’’Oh, and wear basketball clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt.’’

’’Why?’’

’’Because this time,’’ I said, ’’I want to make sure you aren\'t armed.’’

Chapter 46

Rachel kept buzzing my phone. I kept ignoring it.

From a tree about a hundred yards away, I saw Mr. Caldwell pull up in his BMW. The court lights were on, but no one was playing right now. He came out of his car carrying a basketball. I guess that was meant to give me comfort. He wore, per my request, basketball shorts and a T-shirt. It might be possible to hide a gun somewhere, but I doubted it.

We met up at half court. Henry Caldwell looked exhausted. There was enough baggage under his eyes to qualify for an airline surcharge. His hair had a wispy quality to it, as though a strong wind could blow it off his head.

’’What do you want, Mickey?’’

I was standing on the diving board now. Might as well just jump right in. ’’You were there when your ex-wife was murdered. I want to know what happened.’’

He looked at the basketball in his hands. ’’How do you know I was there?’’

’’Rachel said she heard voices, both male and female. One was you. One was your ex-wife.’’

There we stood, center court, him holding a basketball. I probably had four or five inches on him. He looked up at me with his dark eyes. ’’Are you wearing a wire, Mickey?’’

’’A wire?’’

’’Yes. Is anyone else listening in on this? Are you recording it? Lift up your shirt.’’

I lifted it so he could see that I didn\'t have a microphone or recording device.

’’How about your cell phone?’’ he asked.

Uh-oh. ’’What about it?’’

’’Some people leave it on so others can hear on the other end of the phone.’’

I took my cell phone out of my pocket, secretly pressing the end button as I did, and then I handed it to him. Mr. Caldwell glanced at the screen. I wondered whether he saw all the texts and missed calls from his daughter. If he did, he didn\'t say anything. All he did was take the back off my phone, pry out the battery, and hand it back to me.

’’Start talking,’’ he said.

’’Look, Mr. Caldwell, I saw the police report.’’

’’How did you see it?’’

’’That\'s not really important.’’

’’Did you break into Chief Taylor\'s house?’’

’’Mr. Caldwell . . .’’

’’Answer me.’’

’’Your ex-wife had gun residue on her hand,’’ I said.

’’Excuse me?’’

’’Gun residue. That means she pulled the trigger.’’

His face lost color.

’’What? Are you out of your mind?’’ His voice was full of bluster. Not rage, not anger bluster. It sounded phony, like lines he was reading off a script. ’’Those two goons fired the shots.’’

I shook my head. ’’No, sir, your ex-wife did.’’

He opened his mouth to say more, but nothing came out. His shoulders slumped;his eyelids looked heavy.

’’Your ex-wife committed suicide,’’ I said.

Tears started to fill his eyes. When he lowered his head, I saw the police car slowly cruise up behind him. My pulse started speeding up.

’’Is that Chief Taylor?’’ I asked.

’’Yes.’’

’’You called him?’’

’’You left the file open on his desk. He put it together himself.’’


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