Bye Bye Bones (A CASSIDY CLARK NOVEL Book 1) (9 page)

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“And all the saguaros in the desert.” He extended his hand. “I’m Karl Marks.”

“And I’m not interested.”

“I love a pretty lady and I’m up for the challenge. Come on. Let me buy you one drink.”

Putting my hands on my lap, I looked the man directly in the eyes of piercing steel he wore as a mask. Not a good mask if you were trying to avert the clear presence of malevolence.

“My name is Amy Goodwill.”

“You’re not from around here, are you, Amy?”

“Now, how the hell do ya’ll know that? Every man in this place has guessed I’m a Texas foreigner. I’m from Lubbock.”

The self-anointed stud-muffin whispered in the waitress’s ear. She reappeared with a cheap bottle of champagne. Offering my best fake smile, I accepted the glass he poured with very few bubbles. Those few bubbles were big. Very cheap champagne.

“What do you do, Karl?”

“I do a mean dance and can bring down the bedroom walls, but I think you want to know what I do for a living. I’m an international software designer.”

First lie.

“International? That must be exciting.”

“I just got back from Japan,” he said with a rictus smile. Almost a sneer.

Youkoso irasshai mashita,”
I said.

“I didn’t catch that.”

“I just offered you a traditional Japanese greeting of welcome.”

“Oh. Not geared that way. I know English and software. Get picked up by English speaking chauffeurs, wherever I land.”

This cat and mouse exchange went on for twenty minutes. I was getting nowhere.

“You’re something, Karl. Almost delightful.”

“Let’s get out of here. Show me some of that good will, Ms. Goodwill.”

Did women really do that anymore? Maybe at one of the casinos where the handsome man flashed a lot of chips. Not in this dive. Not with the fat guy. Of course, I had to remind myself I was dressed like a tramp out for fun.

“Your house?” I asked.

“My home is being remodeled. Beautiful granite counters. Travertine floors. Not an option.”

Lie. His home would never be remodeled. It would be bulldozed in order to turn a scant profit on the dirt.

I gave him my best look of puppy-sad eyes, flashing to bad eyes, saying nothing.

“I have a cabin on Mt. Lemmon.”


“Well, to be honest, I own it with a couple of other guys. But it’s empty this weekend.”

That had to be a lie. The spring weather was warmer than usual. Anyone with any means already sought out the cool temperatures nearby at Mt. Lemmon. Three owners would be scrambling to get their due time in the fresh pine-filled mountain air.

“We’ve both had way too much to drink to drive up to Summerhaven. That’s crazy.”

Did I hit a nerve?

Another one of my unwanted drink-buying fans stepped in to vie for my attention. I gave it to him. Fully.

Karl Mark’s face reddened, then the crimson color spread down to his neck and what must have been a pumping heart under his too-tight shirt.

He leaned in to my face. “I gotta go. How about I get your phone number and address?”

Red flag. My address?

I slipped him the number to the disposable cell phone I had purchased earlier that day.

,” I said.

How long would it take to receive a call from the snake that took after any reptiles he might have sold?

Chapter Nineteen
JESSICA SILVA WALKED toward her desk, intent on getting updates on another breaking news story. One more near drowning and it was only the first of May, but this child wasn’t out of the woods. His parents had been partying with neighbors. No one saw him slip under the sheet of illuminated water as the adults focused on the fire in the kiva and the waning ice in their cocktails.

Michael Scores stood. “I’m sorry I keep lashing out at you, Jessica, and for no good reason. It’s my own insecurities acting up when I see you come up with these amazing stories. You are such a rising star. I know you’ve had it rough with your debut photos splayed all over the Internet.”

Jessica didn’t flinch but her fingers dug into her thighs.

“Thanks, Michael, but it hasn’t been rough at all. I’ve raised almost $72,000 for my causes around town without even trying. I guess that old adage is true. Bad press is better than no press. By the way, another new suit?”

“Nice, huh?”


IN THE MIDDLE OF AIRTIME, Michael Scores made his move with his story.

“Tucson women are panicking and rightfully so. We have a hunter in our midst. We don’t know who's imprisoning these women or if, indeed, they have been killed. Confused? So am I! Take a look at these three women's photographs. Do you know where they are?”

Three women’s faces appeared, in full color. Scores, off camera, straightened his tie and planted a grin aimed toward Jessica Silva.

“Apparently our police department doesn’t know anything.

“Three local women are missing but there’s not a word about them except a quick ten second report in the media.

“Women in our city need to be extremely cautious. A predator is out there.”

Scores’ story ended with him looking down at his hidden mirror. He was there to play the fame game. Jessica Silva knew there were more than three missing women.

The Chief of Police had confided the details, imploring her not to release the story. With the slight crackle of a dry throat, Chief Manning told her they needed time to gather more information before a media frenzy induced a citizen panic. As a reporter, Jessica knew her job was to report the news. Not speculation. She worked and lived in the small city of Tucson. But she wouldn’t ruffle any feathers, especially those of the Tucson Police Department.

At home, Jessica immersed herself in the splendor of her backyard. While she missed the gorgeous sunset while working, nighttime was the right time for the fragrant spring flowers of jasmine and citrus trees. Cold nights were long gone. For a moment, she considered skinny dipping but didn’t have the energy. She looked up at the night stars that ranked Tucson as one of the most popular observatory-enriched cities in the country. Brilliant stars. She was quick to find Jaxon’s favorite constellation, Orion, whose belt pointed to her favorite, the Seven Sisters, or Pleiades. Funny how they found that out on their third date. With one deep breath of joy and appreciation, she retreated to her chaise lounge and pulled up Michael Scores’ home page on her phone.

Scores posted scant information, not even including the names of the missing women. The city would be rumbling, if it weren’t already, she mused.

SCHLEP MET ME at my makeshift office in the back of a used bookstore that I visited way too often. I was welcome as long as there were no author book signings or the Alcoholics Anonymous group that met there once a week.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“You saw the news. Manning is pissed but the reporter has a point. The public should know what’s going on. I’ve been begging Manning to conduct his own press conference.”

“I heard the broadcast. The anchor is trying to get some notoriety the old-fashioned way, by scaring people to death. But I agree with you. Why the plug on the media?” Schlep asked.

“Politics, as usual. The mayor and his reelection. All this nonsense being bad for tourism. Sucks.”

“What are you thinking, Cassie?”

“Sometimes I do my best thinking when I’m not thinking. Which happens a lot these days.”

“But, if it were up to you?”

“Hell, I don’t know. That verdict isn’t in. The FBI is silent because they have nothing. And they still refuse to consider that the congresswoman’s disappearance may be related to our cases. That works for me. They stay out of our way.”

“I don’t understand why the FBI isn’t more involved with these other missing persons,” Schlep said.

“Something called politics. They have priorities. Top of their list is terrorism and protection, cyber-attacks, public corruption and civil rights. This includes an adult’s right to disappear.”

“You sound like Manning. They also investigate serial killers, gangs, online predators and kidnappings.”

“Bingo. We have no evidence of any of those things. The civil right to leave life behind trumps all. Except for the good congresswoman, of course.”


I folded my head into my palms and mumbled, “Asinine.”

“What happened on your rendezvous with the pervert?”

I tossed the disposable cell on the table. “If this phone rings, and it will, it’s our guy. I’ll need to get into motion.”

“God, Cassie. Tell me you have a plan.”

“Nope. Not this time. I don’t have a fucking clue where I go from here.

“I need you to go over the photos we have from Marks’ home. Pour over them. And any extraneous evidence, including the drug paraphernalia they found.”

“Consider it done,” Schlep said.

“I don’t think he’s anything close to suffering from Erotomania. It’s more like he has a Casanova condition. He wants to stick his dick into some place warm and moist. I wish I could offer him some warm superglue.

“Meanwhile, something else. Run all the ownerships for cabins in Mt. Lemmon.”


“Look for those that may not have occupants. Maybe cabins for sale.”

The magic disposable phone rang. Only one person had that number. I scribbled down the address Karl Marks gave me to
cabin. Schlep already had an answer for me This time he was wrong.

“There are no matches to our Marks’ guy listed as an owner, but several are owned by LLC’s. Just a call to the Corporation Commission. At any given time, there are around sixty cabins for sale.”

“Lord. I had no idea they had sixty cabins up there,” I said, as I grabbed his Realtor data sheet on Mt. Lemmon homes listed for sale.

I hadn’t given the specific address to Schlep. But there it was. On the For Sale list.

“I don’t think you’re going to like this, but I ran into Chief Manning today outside a coffee shop,” Schlep said.

“You’re right. I don’t like it already.”

“He asked me what we had and I told him you were working the Marks’ angle.”

“No way. I need some space on this one,” I admonished.

“I don’t like the idea of you going up there by yourself.”

“Up where?”

Schlep stood, not quite formidably, with his entire five-foot-four frame. “You know where. A cabin at Mt. Lemmon. Which one, Cassie?”

I ignored the question. “I have my Glock and my wits. I’ll be fine. Meanwhile I need you to work this new case of ours.”

“Boring. Seriously? A stake-out on a loose cannonball of an ex-wife? If we wanted that business, we’d have them lined up outside our door.”

“Then hire out any surveillance. God, we’ve worked five cases at a time, Schlep. Loosen up and get with it. We have a new client and my gut tells me he needs us.”

“Your gut is good enough for me.”

“And your mind is good enough for me.”


I TEXTED BACK Karl Marks. I would meet him at his cabin. After I asked Schlep for the full search report, I didn’t share the exact address.

“I don’t like it,” Schlep said. “Did he even ask you what you do for a living?”

“Hopefully he saw me all dolled-up and thinks he knows exactly what I do. The man lives with venery in his floppy balls.”

Schlep shook his head, trying to shake off my crass remark. “What about that new case?”

“I sent you the file and some of my notes. Giles versus Vickery. I’ll call you later. Need to run.”

Chapter Twenty
THE CABIN PROVED easy to find on Upper Loma Linda Road. Every interior light appeared to be glowing, if not glaring, from inside.

Conspicuous by its absence was the for sale sign at the driveway. I saw it clearly in the exterior photographs on the MLS information page. I had learned that the home was built by Cozzetti, which meant it was first class with a price tag to match. Not what I could afford for a cabin.

Several large prickly pear plants marked the driveway entrance on both sides. Using my flashlight, it was easy to spy the for sale sign stashed behind a dense and tangled mass of the cacti.

An unexpected and unwelcome chill ran through me. Not a Cassidy thing, I thought.

Listening to my instincts, I called Schlep before proceeding up the drive. My call went to voicemail. Good. The kid had a life, after all.

“Hey, Schlep. I’m at the cabin. I’m leaving you the address. A prudent thing to do, you know. Yeah. I know. You already asked me for it. But, on the off chance I don’t call you in an hour, I might need back-up.”

An hour was about the amount of time I calculated I needed to get a feel for this man and survive being alone with him should things go south.

Casual enough? No way. Schlep would correctly ascertain the hesitation in my voice to be the uneasiness I felt churning in my stomach.

I wished there was a delete button for voicemails. Schlep would hear my heebie-jeebies.

Adjusting my long red wig, I lacquered my lips with red gloss as thick as Silly Putty, and breathed. I thought I was profiling this guy in his own environment. Clearly, with the real estate sign stashed, and the enormity of the house, this was not exactly owner-occupied.

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