After Elmira stuck me in one of the interview rooms, I was given ample time to collect my thoughts and memorize the scuffs and flaws on the walls around me. The table in front of me had numerous scars and battle wounds from interviews that went south. I lost track of time pacing like an animal, and finally settled on lighting a cigar and practicing blowing smoke rings.
With no way to track the time, as I’d left my watch in the office, I began to measure things by the length of the cigar. About half through it, Coleman came in by himself — no Elmira. Coleman had been the Chief of Police since shortly after his predecessor died. The previous Chief had been a useless, corrupt asshole. Coleman and I were friendly when the badges were put up.
He sat across from me and watched me for a few moments.
“Amazingly, Dorothea Henry is going to make it,” Coleman said.
“Thank God. Is she talking?”
Coleman shook his head. “She’s not awake yet. Might be some time. We’re looking for the boy, we’ve got eyes on Audrey in case somehow this folds back onto her. Ron, I’m going to tell you straight — you’re looking like a suspect in the O’Donnough murder to a lot of people on high, and the thinking is that you did it to cover for Audrey.”
“I imagine you aren’t supposed to tell me that,” I said.
“Whatever happens here, you gotta start laying low after this, Ron. At least until the Governor’s term is up, and someone else is at the top. Maybe they won’t hate you so much. Maybe you won’t accuse them of being part of Salt Marsh.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But he was.”
Coleman shrugged. “Salt Marsh is gone now. The city is safer — aside from the residual fires we have to put out because of them.”
I didn’t say anything. Coleman didn’t follow up. About a third of the remaining cigar burned as I puffed at it, and Coleman looked like he was working up how to say what he wanted to say.
The door opened, and the District Attorney himself walked in. If my relationship with Don Pierce was anything, it was random. On some days, he enjoyed having me around when a crime got caught in my web, but on many, he got annoyed when I started crawling on his web and shaking things up.
“We’ve just been all over your office, Ron,” Don said. “Looking for evidence of your involvement.” He dropped a stack of papers on the table. They were my notes on Salt Marsh. A handful of photographs slid just so out of the top folder. Photographs I’d recovered from Salt Marsh, of some of their victims. Coleman slid the top one out.
It was a young girl who’d killed herself shortly before I came back from Korea. She’d been one of Boyd Boatman’s prizes, an unnamed victim of the trafficking. I didn’t know her, and I doubted Coleman or Pierce did.
“You left a lot out of what you gave me, Ron,” Pierce said.
“A lot of sensitive information,” I said.
If they had those files, they had a lot more — they had nearly everything. I’d been keeping meticulous copies of almost everything in my parents’ house, in my old bedroom, in case of something like this. When I’d been investigating the rape of Roseanna Vance, someone broke in and stole a few photographs I’d taken for a client. Since then… I assumed my office wasn’t safe.
“I’m the District Attorney,” he said. “This is the sort of thing I build cases on, Ron.”
“Boatman is dead. Martin is in jail for life. Who else is there?” I asked. “You both always tell me to let Salt Marsh go. Those are old files, kept around in case.”
“Why are the photos so blurry?” Coleman asked.
I didn’t tell him they were copies I’d made by taking photographs of the originals. Again — the break-in had shaken me. I wasn’t sure how the person got in, or why, but I was damn sure to keep everything in the office disposable until I knew it was safe again.
I just shrugged.
“Ron, you know very well there are other people involved in Salt Marsh that got away,” Pierce said.
“Not that I can prove,” I said. “What does this have to do with Ellen Henry?”
“Nothing,” Pierce said. “I’m just very annoyed by your continual need for our trust and understanding, while you show us none in return. You can go — I’ll have your files returned after I’ve sorted through them all. Stay in town. I might still charge you with obstruction.”
At that, I stood up and flicked a last bit of ash into the tray on the table and headed out the door, shouldering past Pierce and Coleman. Neither moved to stop me, and I continued through the precinct without obstacle. Standing outside on the steps, I took several small puffs from my cigar. The day was rapidly ending, the setting sun blocked by the heavy clouds rolling in. A fat raindrop hit my shoulder. I knew by the time I got back to the office I’d be soaked through. But I also knew that was just another thing to happen to me, without me making any positive moves.
Everything in this case so far had been things happening to me, or to Audrey. Things I reacted to, rather than actively acting. It had already been old — now it was well past rotten. The next day would be different, and I’d come out swinging.
Anderson cringed at the jingling bell when he walked into the accountant’s office. The man was preparing to leave for the day, ready to get back to his family. Anderson sat at the open chair across from his desk without a word and studied him for a long moment. The accountant, Murphy Dwyer, was tall — the nickname Stretch made sense for him. His red hair poked out from the sides of the hat he’d just put on. Anderson waited for the other man to speak. He was in a unique position, knowing more about Murphy than the man would ever suspect.
“May I help you?” Murphy asked.
“I’d like you to help me with some finances,” Anderson said. He extended his hand over the desk, leaning forward. Dwyer took it. “My name is Anderson.”
“That’s all you go by? Murphy Dwyer.”
“I’m an artist, we’re allowed to do that sort of thing,” Anderson said. “As it is, I take in a great deal of cash. I need to… arrange for it to appear correctly on the books. Don’t want to run afoul of the tax man.”
“How much cash are we talking?”
Anderson opened his jacket and took a small folded paper from the inside pocket. He slid it across the table to Dwyer, who unfolded it with an amused expression. That vanished as his eyes scanned over the figures Anderson had written down.
“What sort of art do you do, Anderson?” Dwyer asked.
Anderson smiled. “Many kinds. Are you interested?”
Dwyer nodded slowly, never taking his eyes from the page. “I’m guessing that a great deal of this comes in under the table?”
“Of course,” Anderson said. “Otherwise you would know who I was.”
Dwyer nodded again. “All right, we can clean this up. You understand that I’ll have to collect a percentage as a fee for this sort of work?”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. The better you do, the more you make — and the more I have, legitimately. I also may call on you from time to time to hire others for me — lawyers, plumbers, whatever services I need that you might be able to recommend a good person for.” He extended his hand a second time.
They shook, and a lasting business relationship was born.