Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (18 page)

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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We got back to Thrasher intact, and I found that I liked riding a motorcycle. I was almost disappointed to have it end. As Ramos punched the call button for the elevator, I checked my watch, surprised to find it was just after three-thirty.

“Shoot! I’ve got to go,” I said. “Tell Uncle Joey to call me if he has any questions. Okay?”

Ramos frowned, unhappy I was skipping out on him. “I really think you should come with me.”

“Why?” I asked. “You can tell him everything I know.” He hesitated, so I went in for the kill. “It will really help me out. Please?”

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To the bank. I have to talk to the manager about the case of the missing money I’m working on. If I leave now, I won’t be late getting home.”

Ramos shook his head. Manetto wasn’t going to be happy. It always made him mad when I did stuff like this. Why couldn’t I just work for Manetto, and not take all these side jobs? He could still hardly believe I worked with the police. Of course, it could come in handy down the road. Maybe the police had a record on Carter. Could I check that out? Manetto would be a lot more understanding if I agreed to do that.

“Sure,” I said. “But probably not until tomorrow. Bye.”

Ramos smiled, and stepped into the elevator. “See you tomorrow,” he said.

I wasn’t sure who won that round, him or me? I had a feeling it was him. I caught a fleeting thought from him before the doors closed, and reached up to touch my hair. Yes, it was a tangled mess, just like he’d been thinking.

By the time I got to the bank, I’d run my fingers through my hair enough times that it was presentable. Just not looking the best. I’d have to remember to stash a brush in my glove box for times like this.

Blaine stood when I entered his office, and motioned to the chair in front of his desk. His smile was brief, and I remembered the hostility I’d sensed from him over the phone. “Hi Shelby, thanks for coming. Have a seat.”

He was thinking it would sure be nice if I had something good to tell him. Especially since Rob Felt had called to say he was close to finding the money. Blaine wondered why I hadn’t told him anything. I was the investigator he’d hired. I should really keep him in the loop. Plus, he really didn’t want to pay Felt the finders fee. He’d much rather pay me for my time since it would be a better deal.

“How’s the case coming?” he asked.

I was still reeling from that bit of information and didn’t respond right away. “Um…good. I’ve made some really good progress.”

“Wonderful,” Blaine said, relieved and eager to hear my side of the story. “What have you found so far?”

“Just so you know,” I added, “Felt’s been following me everywhere. The leads I’ve had, everything I’ve done, he’s been right behind me. Yesterday he caught up with me and we sort of staked out a store together. I haven’t seen him since. Have you heard from him lately?”

“That’s funny you should ask. He called me just before I called you today, and said he was real close to finding the money. Do you know what he’s talking about? Is it true that he’s close?”

“He can’t be any closer than me,” I answered, hotly. “Let me tell you what I’ve found, and we can go from there. First of all, there’s an underwear shop called Novelty Creations that Keith’s Aunt Dottie owned, and where Keith was working prior to the robbery.

“The aunt died right around the same time Keith got arrested. Her daughter owns the shop now, so I’ve been following up with her. During the police investigation, the police checked out the shop, but they never found anything. They did confiscate two crates of underwear, but I don’t know exactly what happened to them. They may have been put up for auction or they’re still somewhere in the evidence room. The daughter has no record of them being taken, so it seems to be a dead end, although I’m not so sure.

“I did trace a couple of shipments that Keith sent to another underwear shop the year before he was arrested. This shop is called Betty’s Bra Bar, and it’s the store I staked out with Felt yesterday. Betty mostly sells bras, but I think something else is going on there. Every once in a while, she closes the shop and people go in. A few minutes later, they come out, and she opens the store again. I don’t know what’s going on there, but I think it might be tied to the stolen money.”

“How? You think the money might be in her shop?” he asked.

I sighed. “I’m not sure. All I have so far is the link to Keith Bishop. I can’t prove she has the money. But besides that, I think she’s doing something illegal.”

“Like what?” He was thinking she was probably a hooker.

“I don’t think she’s a hooker…if that’s what you’re thinking,” I quickly added. “Mostly because of the people she meets with. There’s something different about them. I just wish I could figure out what it is. Yesterday, I was watching the shop when Felt showed up. We saw three men go inside, and when they came out, he followed them. I haven’t heard from him since. It’s possible that he thinks they have the money hidden somewhere. But I don’t believe that. I think it’s got to be somewhere else.” I decided not to tell him about Betty meeting up with Dimples until I had a chance to talk to Dimples first. That was my next step.

“Hmm…” Blaine said. “Well he must be okay since he called to tell me about his lead.”

“Did he say what it was?” I asked.

“No,” Blaine said. “He didn’t explain anything, except for saying he thought he knew where the money was. He also said that I shouldn’t believe anything you said because you have ties to some suspicious people with whom you could arrange to keep the money for yourself. He implied that these people would help you, for a fee of course, to launder the money so it couldn’t be traced back to you.”

“What?” That arrogant jerk was trying to set me up. “And do you believe him?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Blaine assured me. He was thinking that the only person who could do that around here was Manetto, and since he owned most of the bank, that notion was ridiculous. But Felt’s implication made sense if he thought I worked for Manetto. On one hand, Blaine couldn’t be too mad at Felt for that, but he would hate to have to pay him the finder’s fee. Especially now that he knew Felt was following me all this time.

“He wouldn’t have anything to go on without you,” Blaine continued. “I don’t know why he would say those things about you, but I’m sure they’re not true. I just wanted to give you a heads-up about what he told me. He might act like he’s being helpful, but I think he’d leave you high and dry in a flash if he could.”

“Yeah, I get that. I’ll just have to see if I can use his ‘helpfulness’ to get him off my back.”

“Good luck with that,” Blaine said. Now that he knew what was going on, he felt much better. “So…how many hours have you used up so far?”

“Let me see.” I checked the time-card app on my phone. “About eighteen.”

“That’s not bad. I’ll authorize another twenty hours. How does that sound?” he asked.

“Works for me.” I stood to leave, and Blaine extended his hand.

“Keep me in the loop,” he said. “I’d like to know if you catch a break, or if there’s anything at all I can do to help.”

“I will.” We shook hands, and after pulling away, I hesitated. “There is one thing you can do. If Felt calls you again, will you let me know?”

“I can do that,” Blaine agreed.

“Good. Thanks so much. I’ll see you later.” I left his office, working to get control of the anger simmering beneath the surface. And I had been concerned for Felt? Ha, that was a joke. And now he thought he knew where the money was? Is that why I hadn’t seen him today? I’d show him, that worthless piece of crap.

By telling Blaine that I was involved with Uncle Joey, he’d gone too far. I couldn’t let that go unchallenged. Thank goodness Blaine knew better than to believe him. Then I realized that as much as I didn’t want to talk to Felt again, it was the only way to find out his plans, but after that, sending him off on a wild goose chase would be sweet revenge.

I got in my car and tried to decide what to do next. My first thought was to find Felt and beat him up, but I should probably save that for later. I also needed to talk to Dimples about Betty, and find out what he knew about her. I could check on Doug Carter at the police station for Ramos at the same time, but now that Uncle Joey knew about him, he’d probably have more success finding him that I would.

My stomach chose that moment to growl, and I realized I’d missed lunch. I rummaged around in my purse until I found a granola bar that had probably been there for a few months. The wrapper was smudged, and the bar was smashed on one end, but I was too hungry to care.

The most important thing right now was probably Chris. I’d kind of ditched him this morning, and I was feeling a little guilty that I’d left without a word. I could go back to the courthouse and see how the trial was going. By now, if it looked like he wasn’t purposely losing the case, the bad guy might make his move. He’d probably forget about writing another note, and just go straight for the jugular. I’d better get over there and protect him.

In a state of growing panic, I started the car and took the quickest route I could find. Instead of wasting time trying to find a parking space, I parked in Chris’ garage. I jumped out, hurrying up the stairs, through the square, and across the street. Huffing and out of breath, I took a seat in the back of the courtroom, relief coursing over me to see that Chris was all right.

I relaxed into my seat and caught my breath, realizing the stress of the day was getting to me. Too much was going on, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it all. Was this how I wanted to live my life? Not really, but I couldn’t think about that right now. I needed to focus on helping Chris. I could figure everything else out later.

Calmer now, I closed my eyes and concentrated on listening to the thoughts swirling around in my brain. Picking and choosing which ones might mean something, and pushing out the others. I heard plenty about the case, along with others who were hungry, tired, and more than ready to go home.

Nothing threatening Chris. From what I could pick up though, it sounded like he was winning. Was anyone mad about that? I kept my mind open, and the constant barrage brought the beginning of a headache. Then I heard it. A woman’s familiar voice thinking,
why isn’t he losing? I thought for sure my note would work.
It was Kate!

I scanned the crowd, looking for a woman with red hair. Nothing matched. Maybe she was wearing a hat? Or her hair was pinned back. She had to be somewhere nearby.

Suddenly, the judge slammed down his gavel, adjourning court for the day. Everyone stood as the judge left, cutting off my view. I heard something about tonight, but lost it in the bustle of people leaving.

I rushed out the door and followed the crowd to the elevators. Most of them continued on to the stairs, and I hurried in that direction, figuring that if I couldn’t hear her in the crowd, I could beat the elevators and pick her up as she got out. I got as close to the middle of the crowd as I could, but couldn’t pick up her thoughts.

I continued out through the main doors and lingered nearby, listening to everyone who was leaving. Focusing outward, I heard her. She was off to the side, and halfway across the square. This time she was wondering why Chris hadn’t taken the bait. It wouldn’t have been that hard to lose the case. Was Chris in Manetto’s pocket? She never thought that would happen. Regardless of her feelings, she’d have to let her partner take care of him. Better do it tonight.

I spotted her about fifty feet ahead of me. She removed a hat, shaking out her fiery red hair. It fell down her back in all its glory. I clenched my teeth. Seeing her shot a wave of hot anger through me. As she neared the street, a black car pulled up, and she quickly opened the door to get in. Turning her head, she shot a glance in my direction. Finding my gaze pinned on her, she slowly smiled, stopping me in my tracks.
Gotcha.
Her thought blazed through my mind like a siren. Then she was gone.

 

 

Chapter 11

My hands started to shake, and I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. Gotcha? Had she been playing me this whole time? Did this mean she knew about me? I thought back to the shoot-out in Uncle Joey’s office the last time I’d seen Kate, and tried to remember exactly what I’d said.

Had I actually told her I could read minds? Oh no! I had. I remembered it was the only way I could think to distract her or Walter from shooting me. But I never thought she’d believed it. Maybe she hadn’t. Until now. I’d just confirmed it, and she gloatingly let me know with that one word.

I staggered, turning back to the courthouse, hardly seeing what was in front of me. Were any of her threats against Chris real? Or just meant to draw me out? I couldn’t risk Chris’ safety, no matter what. So that brought me to the big question. Why had she done it? What did she have to gain? Did she even care about the case? Was it all an act to find out the truth about me?

With these thoughts swirling through my mind, I entered the courtroom, hardly remembering how I got there. Chris and David stood at the table, talking in quiet tones, the only people left in the room. Chris glanced at me, his words coming to an abrupt halt, and his eyes widening with concern.

“Shelby…what’s wrong?” He hurried toward me. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s happened?”

“I…um…it’s Kate,” I sputtered. “I saw her leaving. She’s the one who’s been sending you those threats.”

Chris frowned. That didn’t surprise him, since it was something we’d already suspected. So why was I so upset? I should be happy to know who it was. What was wrong with me?

“Here.” David handed me a bottle of water. “Drink this. It will help.” He’d seen people in shock before, and I looked just like them. What was going on? What had me so rattled?

I took the water and noticed my hand was still shaking. The first swallow seemed to settle me down, so I drank a little more until I felt better. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I handed the bottle back to David. “Thanks,” I said. “That helped.”

“Keep it,” he said. He was thinking about the threats and figured that if I’d seen Kate here, it was a pretty safe bet that she was behind everything. “I wish we knew what her plans were.”

“Tonight,” I said. “I think she’s planning something for tonight.” David’s brows rose questioningly. “I…um…heard her talking on her cell phone to her partner. She said something about making her move tonight.”

“Oh,” David said. “Okay. That’s good to know.”

“What else,” Chris said. He glanced at me shrewdly. “Did she spot you? Is that what has you so upset?”

“Yes,” I said, latching onto his explanation. “I guess I blew it.” I’d never told Chris the whole story about what happened that day with Kate. He didn’t know I’d told Kate I could read minds. “Do you think the fact that I heard her will make a difference in what she has planned for tonight?”

“I don’t know, but probably not.” Chris didn’t think anything would change, since he figured I had listened to her mind, not a phone call like I’d told them. He glanced at David. “What do you think?”

“It doesn’t matter,” David said. “We’ll be prepared, either way.” He took this threat seriously since it was his job to keep Chris safe. At all costs, he had to make sure Chris arrived at the trial in one piece tomorrow. Even if that meant having a team watch him through the night. Nothing was going to happen to Chris on his watch.

“Good.” I relaxed, reassured that even if Kate didn’t mean it, Chris would be safe.

Now that I knew he was going to be all right, it was time to figure out my next move. I had to tell Uncle Joey what was going on. He was the only one who could protect me from Kate. If she knew about me, then I probably wasn’t safe. She could use me, and I had no doubt it would be a hundred times worse than anything Uncle Joey ever did.

I also knew that as much as I hated it, I couldn’t tell Chris that Kate knew my secret. It would just make him worry, and I had to think about his safety. “I have to make a phone call. I’ll be right back.”

Chris didn’t like that I was leaving, but I hurried out of the room before he could stop me. The hallway was empty, so I quickly called Uncle Joey’s number. He answered after the second ring.

“It’s Kate,” I blurted. “I saw her here at the trial.”

“What?” Uncle Joey said. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But there’s more. I think this whole thing has been a set up. The threats against Chris, everything.”

“Why would she do that?” he asked.

“She was trying to find out if my secret is true.” I tried to keep my voice steady, but it was hard. “Don’t you remember? At the shoot-out in your office, I told Kate and Walter what I could do. They didn’t believe me at the time, but I think Kate’s been thinking about it ever since. Today proves it.”

“But how did she find out? Wait…maybe you’d better come over here and explain.” After a short silence, he continued. “How long ago did she figure this out?”

“About ten minutes. Why?”

“And she left? You saw her leave?” he asked.

“Yes. In a black car…with a smug smile on her face,” I added.

“And you’re still at the courthouse with Chris and David?”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “I’m out in the hall where they can’t hear me, but I’m still here.”

“Okay, good. Stay there. In fact, go back into the courtroom with them. Give the phone to David, and I’ll tell him what to do.”

“Do you think she’ll come after me here?” I asked.

“I would,” he said. “And knowing her, she’s got something planned. She’s probably waiting for you outside. At least you’re relatively safe in the courthouse. Security isn’t the best, but at least they don’t allow guns.”

“Except for the security guards,” I said. “One’s coming toward me right now, and I don’t like the way he’s looking at me.” Without taking time to listen to his thoughts, I hurried the few steps back to the courtroom, and shoved open the doors.

Chris and David both jerked in surprise. “There’s a security guard out there,” I said. “I think he’s coming after me.”

Chris’ brows furrowed. What the hell? What did a security guard want with me? Why was I so rattled? David took up a protective stance in front of us. Manetto had told him to trust me at the beginning of this job, so he didn’t question what I said was going on.

A squawking noise came from the phone, reminding me that Uncle Joey was still on the line. I thrust it at David. “He wants to talk to you,” I said.

He took the phone. “This is David.” As he listened, his eyes narrowed. “Yes sir.” He disconnected, and handed the phone back to me. Before I could question him, the door opened.

The security guard poked his head in, giving us a friendly wave. “Sorry folks. It’s after five, and I need to lock up.”

“Sure,” Chris said. “We were just leaving.”

“Appreciate it.” As the security guard held the door open for us, I scanned his mind. He was thinking that I was acting weird, like I had something to hide, and he’d better keep an eye on me.

I sagged in relief. He wasn’t a bad guy. He was just doing his job. As we walked toward him, David was getting ready to hit him in the head and take his gun. Alarmed, I grabbed David’s arm. “Stop!”

All three men froze, glancing at me like I was nuts. I smiled and gave a little laugh. “I think I left my phone back there.” I smiled at David, and motioned with my head toward the security guard, hoping he’d get my message. “He’s good. He’ll wait.” I moved my gaze to the security guard. “Right?”

“Sure,” the guard agreed. “Not a problem.” He was thinking something was wrong with me. As I turned up the aisle to get my phone, I heard him whispering to Chris and David. “Is she okay?”

“It’s been a long day,” Chris replied. “Sometimes being in court stresses a lot of people out. But she’ll be fine. We’ll take care of her.” He knew I had the phone in my hand. What was going on?

“Okay. Good,” the guard answered.

By now, David was convinced the guard was for real, and relaxed his stance. How did I know the guard was okay? I must have picked up on something…like he didn’t have shifty eyes. And the thing with the phone was brilliant. Oh, well. It didn’t matter. He was just glad he hadn’t knocked the guy out.

I pretended to look for my phone on one of the benches, then with a flourish, I held it up. “Here it is! I found it!” I smiled with giddy pleasure, and hurried back to join them. “Thanks for waiting. You know how awful it is to lose your phone. I’d have to go without it for a whole night. And then hope someone would turn it in, and then have to come back tomorrow to get it. I can’t imagine how awful that would be.”

“Yeah,” the guard said, thinking I was way too attached to my phone. “I’m glad you found it.”

At least he was being sympathetic. Chris was a little embarrassed by my act, and he hoped David didn’t think I was…a silly woman? I raised my brows, a little hurt. David thought I was brilliant. Why couldn’t Chris be more like that?

We exited the room, and the guard locked the doors behind us. “Have a good night,” he said, grateful to leave us behind. He continued down the hall, and we turned in the other direction toward the elevators.

Chris was dying to ask me what the hell was going on, but gritted his teeth instead, knowing he couldn’t say anything in front of David. I wanted to tell him to quit swearing so much and chill out a little. But of course, I couldn’t say that either. Which was probably a good thing.

Leaving the elevator, we walked through the lobby toward the outside doors. Telling us to wait, David left my side and stopped at the security desk. After exchanging a few words and showing him a card, the guy at the desk jumped up and unlocked a door behind him. A moment later, he returned carrying a gun in a waist holster. David thanked him and clipped the gun to his belt before coming back to join us.

“How did you do that?” Chris asked.

“Special permit,” David said. He didn’t explain further, even though he knew we were both wondering how he got it. “It’s nice to have some protection for the walk back, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I said fervently. “It’s great.”

David smiled, glad it helped me feel better. He took Manetto’s orders to protect me seriously, and kept his attention on our surroundings for any kind of threat. He was good, and I did feel safer with him by my side.

We made it to Chris’ office without incident, and David left to make a phone call, which I knew was to Uncle Joey. Chris shut his office door and rounded on me. “What’s going on? Why did you freak out back there?”

Since I didn’t want to tell him about Kate knowing my secret, I had to improvise. “I called Uncle Joey about Kate, and he thought we might be in danger. While I was talking to him, the security guy came down the hall, and I thought maybe since he had a gun, he was working for Kate. I know it sounds crazy now, but it could have been true.”

Chris frowned, thinking my logic was more on the paranoid side, but then again, reading minds made my life complicated. He sure wouldn’t like it.

“David thought he was a threat,” I said defensively. “David was going to hit him, and once I realized the guard wasn’t a bad guy, I had to make up that part about my phone to stop him.”

“Yeah, okay.” Chris shook his head. He could see why I had to stop David from hitting the poor guy. All of a sudden, the whole situation made him chuckle. Watching me march up the aisle to look for the phone when it was in my hand, and then act like I’d just found it…yeah, that was pretty funny. He knew I’d just heard that, so he changed the subject.

“So…why are you so afraid of Kate?” he asked.

“I’m not afraid of her,” I said. “I just don’t like her. For good reason too, I might add. Plus, I thought she was gone, and now she’s back.”

Chris furrowed his brows, thinking he’d missed something. “We know Kate’s the one behind all of this,” he reasoned. “But why? Is it because…of revenge against Manetto? This case really isn’t about Manetto, but if Adam Webb was convicted of paying someone off, it could lead back to him. But that would be a whole different trial, and it’s kind of a stretch.”

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed. “But that must have something to do with it. Remember, she was also thinking about a partner. So we know she’s not working alone. There must be more to it.”

Yeah, and I knew what it was…my secret. Guilt washed over me. I wanted to tell Chris, but I was afraid he’d think I’d been stupid to tell Kate in the first place. Plus, he’d be mad that I didn’t tell him about it before. Maybe I could say that I told him, and he just doesn’t remember. That could work. Only, it was a little too late for that. I should just tell him and get it over with.

I took a breath, but right before I could speak, my phone rang. “It’s Uncle Joey,” I told Chris. “I’d better answer.” Chris sent me a pained look and sat down at his desk.

“Hello?” I said. 

“Can you come to my office?” Uncle Joey asked. “I need to know what’s going on. Everything. Now.”

“I think so,” I said. “I just need to finish talking to Chris, and I’ll be right over.”

“Good,” he said, and disconnected.

“I need to go and explain things to Uncle Joey,” I said. “But David will be here, so you should be okay. Are you staying long?”

Chris pursed his lips, not liking how I jumped when Manetto called. It also bothered him that Manetto had interrupted our conversation. He had a feeling I was about to tell him something important. “I think I’ve got everything prepared for tomorrow, but I need to go over it a few times.” Checking his watch, he added. “Probably a couple of hours. I should be home around eight.”

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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