Authors: Polly Iyer
“Robert believes in insurance. That means digging dirt on people who can advance his career. The governor appointed him District Attorney after a short time as an assistant DA. Appointed,” Dana stressed.
“You’re saying he had something on the governor?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Something to look into,” Clarence said. “’Course he’s been in this district over twenty years. Might be hard to resurrect someone who knows what happened in Charlotte. If the former governor is still alive, I doubt he’d own up to whatever dirty business Robert dragged out of the sewer.”
drained her wineglass. “We’re going to stay in Regal Falls to see how this plays out. Between email and my partner, everything is under control in Boston. I don’t want to get home and have to hop a plane back to North Carolina if something breaks loose. With that prick Minette—excuse me, honey, I know he’s the father of your children, but a prick is a prick—”
“You won’t get any argument from me.”
“With an unethical prick like Minette working against us, anything can happen.”
eece woke at the sound of the phone. Dana slept curled close, her soft curves molding into him as if they were one, her fragrance a natural aphrodisiac. He didn’t want to move. This had been the first time they’d slept the night at his house. Damn the phone. He looked at his watch. Seven thirty. He hadn’t slept this late in decades. He groped for the receiver. Dana’s eyes fluttered open.
Jeraldine didn’t bother to say good morning. “The woman who said you were a regular of Rayanne Johnson?”
“What about her?”
“Her landlady found her dead this morning. They’re issuing a warrant for your arrest.”
“But I’ve been with Dana all night.”
“Medical examiner said she’s been dead a few hours. Were you two up all night?”
“Of course not. The phone just woke us.”
“Can Dana verify you were sleeping all night?”
“What is it?” Dana asked.
Reece covered the receiver. “Did you wake up last night?”
“No,” Dana said, yawning. “In fact it was the best sleep I’ve had in months. A brass band couldn’t have woken me.”
He spoke into the phone. “Gotta go, Jeri. Thanks for calling.”
“You’re too calm, honey. What are you going to do?”
“I’m getting the hell out of here.”
“Don’t do it, Reece. It’ll look like an admission of guilt.”
Reece bounded from the bed and pulled his satchel from the closet. “I know how this works. Guilty until proven innocent, and as far as the world is concerned, I’m guilty. No, Jeri, I’m not spending another night in a cell while Minette concocts evidence. He has the dead woman’s affidavit. That’s enough.” He whispered into the receiver. “I can’t stay. I love you.” He hung up and went into the bathroom for his shaving kit.
“What was that all about?” Dana asked.
Reece told her.
“But you were here with me.”
“And you said you slept like a corpse. They’ll say I slipped out, and you didn’t know.”
“That’s ridiculous. You wouldn’t do that. What if I did wake up?”
“You didn’t. I won’t put you through this, and I don’t want you to lie. For all you know, I could have left and come back.”
She jumped out of the bed and grabbed her slacks, yanking them on as she followed Reece around the room. “You’ll look guilty if you leave.”
“And they’ll label me guilty if I stay. Don’t you see? Someone wants me out of the way. I don’t know why, but I’m not sticking around to find out.”
“I’m going with you.”
“No, you’re not. This is something I have to do myself.” He pulled her toward him. “You don’t get it. I can’t go back inside.” He touched her cheek. “I won’t make it this time.”
“You need me. You won’t be able to show your face. No one knows me.”
“They will. Your ex-husband will make sure your photo is in every newspaper, broadcast on every network. He has a hard-on for the two of us, so forget it. I need you to stay here and take care of the animals.”
“No. I’m coming. You have to stop at my house so I can pick up some clothes.”
“I don’t want you involved, Dana. You’d be an accessory to murder, and if things don’t work out right, you’d go to jail for a long time. I couldn’t stand that.”
“Don’t you understand? I’m already involved. Besides, I have my father’s pickup in the garage. It’s old but in great shape. No one will know what you’re driving. You take your pickup and you won’t make it out of the county. Even if you take mine. Dad’s car will give us some time.” She raised her voice. “You need me, goddamn it.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Stuff I haven’t gotten to yet. If you knew, you might think differently.”
“I know all I need to know. What’s in my heart.”
Reece didn’t want to take her, but he didn’t want to leave her either. He gathered the notes from last night, along with his notebook, and put them in his satchel. Then he punched some numbers into the phone. “Wilma, sorry to call you so early.”
“Reece? What is it?”
“I need to go out of town for a few days, maybe longer. Can you take care of the animals?”
“Sure. Nothing serious, I hope.”
Nothing a new life wouldn’t cure.
“No, nothing serious. A guy in Nashville wants me to build him a fireplace. I thought I’d tack on a few days’ vacation. Grand Ole Opry, and all that.”
“Have a good time. Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Thanks. I’ll put some cash in an envelope and leave it under the first pile of slate.”
“Not a problem, Reece. You can pay me when you get back.”
I get back
. “No, I’d rather do it this way. Thanks.” He hung up.
“Who was that?”
“The tech at the vet’s. She takes care of the animals when I go out on a job.”
“That means I’m going, right?”
He looked at her, so willing and eager. “I know I’ll regret this.”
were still in bed when the call came from her snitch in the courthouse. He saw the frown of disbelief on her face. She called Reece, listened, then slammed down the phone.
“Damn. He’s taking off. You know what that means.”
“I can’t blame him,” Clarence said. “It’s happened before; he’s not letting it happen again.”
“When the police nail him, darling, which they will, he’ll be charged with two murders. If he crosses the state line, the feds will be on his case, and if Dana goes with him she’ll be charged as an accessory. Guar-an-damn-teed. God, I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Nothing we could do. Someone, maybe more than one person, is intent on Reece taking another fall, and the son of a bitch is doing a damn good job of tightening the noose.”
“You know where he’s going, don’t you?”
Clarence rubbed his hand across her back and up into her neck. “Yes, and so do you. Back to New England to find a murderer.”
“Maybe Reece can do what no one else has been able to. He sure has incentive now, doesn’t he?”
“Well, we’d better help him out.” Clarence kissed her and rolled out of bed, heading for the bathroom. “You know him better than anyone—who’s he going to?”
“He doesn’t have many choices. There’s his brother Carl, but I doubt Reece will go there other than to get some facts after all these years. Carl defended Reece at the trial and seemed shaken when the verdict came in guilty. He didn’t believe it could happen to someone innocent. So much for justice, I remember him saying. When Reece got out of prison, Carl was taking over from his father and probably felt guilty because he ran the family business. Reece is still bitter about his father turning his back on him, so I doubt he’ll be hotfooting it back to Maine. That leaves Frank Vance. They were close in prison.”
“You mean was Reece his bitch?” Jeraldine swung her legs over the side of the bed and massaged her forehead. “I honestly don’t know, honey. I never asked because it was none of my business. I know something happened early on, but frankly, I didn’t want to know. I’ve heard enough about what goes on inside prisons, even warned Reece to watch out. I used to lie awake worrying. Then I had to stop because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. If that was what he had to do to survive, well, maybe he was.”
Clarence wiped his freshly-shaved face with a towel. “It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it, considering how you described Reece when he went inside and how he came out a different man? But you can be damn sure if you know where Reece is going, the cops will too. He better be careful.” Clarence sat beside Jeraldine on the bed, took the phone, and punched in a number. “Get an address for Frank Vance.” He filled the secretary in on the particulars, then made a reservation for a flight to Boston—for Jeraldine.
“For a while. I want to check out some things. If Reece is going to be charged with murder, now’s the time for me to look into it, while it’s fresh and people remember what happened. Won’t do any good after Minette muddies the waters, which I’m sure he’ll try to do.” Clarence snorted. “I don’t like that man.”
“Me either, especially after what Dana said about him. I hoped you’d stay.”
“I think we have ourselves two murderers. If the same person killed this Howe woman, he’d have used the same M.O. to frame Reece for yet another murder. He’s hammering the last nail in Reece’s coffin real good. If a second person did it the same way, he couldn’t be sure he’d have it right. Besides, killing someone by slicing the carotid artery is a messy affair. Too many chances for something to go wrong.”
“I agree. Whoever killed Rayanne didn’t think he needed to plant evidence. The murder would implicate Reece solely by the nature of the crime, even though it’s not enough for an arrest. The bogus witness did that. This second one feels different.”
Clarence nodded. “Right. When I started digging around in Boston, calling the people involved, Karen Sitton’s killer must have freaked. He threw the blame on Reece down here, but he only made me more determined to find him, because I know Reece didn’t do it.”
“Then Minette gets involved, and his star witness is dead, leaving her affidavit and her testimony a motive for Reece to kill her.” Jeraldine shivered. “Brr, this sounds like
all over again, doesn’t it? Minette’s prosecution witness twenty years ago in Charlotte disappears, and now another witness can’t renege on her testimony when she realizes she’s an accessory to murder. Dead people tend to be silent.”
“Yup. The affidavit is still good, dead or not.” Clarence felt that tingle up his spine that he got when on the verge of figuring out a kink in a case, similar to an arthritic’s bones prognosticating rain on a sunny day. “My money’s on Minette. I doubt he killed her himself, but I wouldn’t put it past him to hire someone. Proving it won’t be easy. I wish I could figure out his motive.”
“Who knows with men like Minette? Revenge, maybe? His ex-wife is having an affair with the accused, a man he threatened because he wouldn’t build him a goddamn fireplace. A man I beat in court. People have killed for a lot less. Or maybe he knows he’s gone as far as he can go professionally, and he’s looking for that one last big chance. Nail Reece for two murders, then run for governor or senator. Who knows?”
“When you get back to Boston, pull in a few markers and see if you can find someone who knows about Minette’s case in Charlotte. I doubt we’ll get anywhere, but there might be a pattern. Meanwhile, I’ll dig around here, see what I can find out. Why did the latest victim lie and say Reece and Rayanne Johnson were lovers? You can bet money’s involved. Robert Minette’s money.”
“Okay, darling. Whatever you say.”
“I love it when you’re subservient. Come here.” He pulled Jeraldine onto the bed. “We have a little time. Cross-examine me.”
ana threw a few pairs of jeans into an overnight case, along with a couple of tops, a sweater, toiletries, underwear, and tennis shoes.
“Not bad,” Reece said, checking his watch. “Under five minutes.”
“Smart-ass.” She grabbed her cell phone.
“Leave it. It has a GPS tracking system. Might as well leave a note where we’re going.”
She threw it on the bed. “Good thinking.”
“I learned a few things in Hotel Norfolk, along with reading thrillers.”
She bussed him on the lips. “I’ll close up the house.”
“I’ll start the truck, see how it sounds, but first—” He pulled her to him and kissed her hard. “I needed to do that.”
She touched his face, and they stared at each other for a long minute. He captured her hand, kissed the palm, then let it slide from his as he turned and went into the garage. Her insides sparked. Gathering herself, she checked to make sure all the lights were off and went into the garage from the kitchen. Reece was behind the wheel.