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There was a brief pause and then she said, “Lloyd is dead, Mr. Bolitar. So is Jack Coldren. Let it lie.”

“I’m not out to damage your husband’s reputation. But it is becoming clear that somebody either forced Lloyd to sabotage Jack or paid him to do it.”

“And you want me to help you prove that?”

“Whoever it was may have murdered Jack and maimed his son. Your husband sent Jack a postcard asking for forgiveness. With all due respect, Mrs. Rennart, don’t you think Lloyd would want you to help?”

More silence.

“What do you want from me, Mr. Bolitar? I don’t know anything about what happened.”

“I realize that. But do you have any old papers of Lloyd’s? Did he keep a journal or a diary? Anything that might give us a clue?”

“He didn’t keep a journal or a diary.”

“But there might be something else.” Gently, fair Myron. Tread gently. “If Lloyd did receive compensation”—a nice way of saying a bribe—“there may be bank receipts or letters or something.”

“There are boxes in the basement,” she said. “Old photos, some papers maybe. I don’t think there are any bank statements.” Francine Rennart stopped talking for a moment. Myron kept the receiver pushed against his ear. “Lloyd always did have a lot of cash,” she said softly. “I never really asked where it came from.”

Myron licked his lips. “Mrs. Rennart, can I look through those boxes?”

“Tonight,” she said. “You can come by tonight.”

Esperanza was not back at the cottage yet. But Myron had barely sat down when the intercom buzzed.

“Yes?”

The guard manning the front gate spoke with perfect diction. “Sir, a gentleman and a young lady are here to see you. They claim that they are not with the media.”

“Did they give a name?”

“The gentleman said his name is Carl.”

“Let them in.”

Myron stepped outside and watched the canary-yellow Audi climb the drive. Carl pulled to a stop and got out. His flat hair looked freshly pressed, like he’d just gotten it “martinized,” whatever that was. A young black woman who couldn’t have been twenty years old came out of the passenger door. She looked around with eyes the size of satellite dishes.

Carl turned to the stables and cupped his big hand over his eyes. A female rider decked out in full gear was steering a horse through some sort of obstacle course.

“That what they call steeplechasing?” Carl asked.

“Got me,” Myron said.

Carl continued to watch. The rider got off the horse. She unstrapped her black hat and patted the horse. Carl said, “You don’t see a lot of brothers dressed like that.”

“What about lawn jockeys?”

Carl laughed. “Not bad,” he said. “Not great, but not bad.”

Hard to argue. “You here to take riding lessons?”

“Not likely,” Carl said. “This is Kiana. I think she may be of help to us.”

“Us?”

“You and me together, bro.” Carl smiled. “I get to play your likable black partner.”

Myron shook his head. “No.”

“Excuse me?”

“The likable black partner always ends up dead. Usually early on, too.”

That stopped Carl a second. “Damn, I forgot about that.”

Myron shrugged a what-can-you-do. “So who is she?”

“Kiana works as a maid at the Court Manor Inn.”

Myron looked at her. She was still out of earshot. “How old is she?”

“Why?”

Myron shrugged. “Just asking. She looks young.”

“She’s sixteen. And guess what, Myron? She’s not an unwed mother, she’s not on welfare, and she’s not a junkie.”

“I never said she was.”

“Uh-huh. Guess none of that racist shit ever seeps into your color-blind cranium.”

“Hey Carl, do me a favor. Save the racial-sensitivity seminar for a less active day. What does she know?”

Carl beckoned her forward with a tight nod. Kiana approached, all long limbs and big eyes. “I showed her this photo”—he handed Myron a snapshot of Jack Coldren—“and she remembered seeing him at the Court Manor.”

Myron glanced at the photograph, and then at Kiana. “You saw this man at the motel?”

“Yes.” Her voice was firm and strong and belied her years. Sixteen. She was the same age as Chad. Hard to imagine.

“Do you remember when?”

“Last week. I saw him there twice.” Twice?

“Yes.”

“Would that have been Thursday or Friday?”

“No.” Kiana kept up with the poise. No ringing hands or happy feet or darting eyes. “It was Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest.”

Myron tried to process this tidbit. Jack had been at the Court Manor twice before his son. Why? The reason was fairly obvious: If the marriage was dead for Linda, it was probably dead for Jack. He, too, would be engaging in extramarital liaisons. Maybe that was what Matthew Squires witnessed. Maybe Jack had pulled in for his own affair and spotted his son’s car. It kinda made sense.…

But it was also a hell of a coincidence. Father and son end up at the same hot sheets at the same time? Stranger things have happened, but what were the odds?

Myron gestured to Jacks photograph. “Was he alone?”

Kiana smiled. “The Court Manor doesn’t rent out a lot of single rooms.”

“Did you see who was with him?”

“Very briefly. The guy in the photograph checked them in. His partner stayed in the car.”

“But you saw her? Briefly anyway.”

Kiana glanced at Carl, then back at Myron. “It wasn’t a her.”

“Excuse me?”

“The guy in the photograph,” she said. “He wasn’t there with a woman.”

A large boulder fell from the sky and landed on Myron’s head. It was his turn now to glance at Carl. Carl nodded. Another click. A big click. The loveless marriage. He had known why Linda Coldren stayed in it—she was afraid of losing custody of her son. But what about Jack? Why hadn’t he left? The answer was suddenly transparent: Being married to a beautiful, constantly traveling woman was the perfect cover. He remembered Diane Hoffman’s reaction when he asked her if she’d been sleeping with Jack—the way she laughed and said, “Not likely with ol’ Jack.”

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