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“When exactly did she hook up with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Within the past eight months?”

Norm thought a moment. “Yeah, so?”

“Esme seduced Chad Coldren. She set up a liaison with him at the Court Manor Inn. But she wasn’t bringing him there for sex or because she was lonely. She brought him there as part of a setup.”

“What kind of setup?”

“She wanted Chad to see his father with another man.”

“Huh?”

“She wanted to destroy Jack. It was no coincidence. Esme knew your routine. She learned about your affair with Jack. So she tried to set it up so Chad would see what his father was really about.”

Esme remained silent.

“Tell me something, Norm. Were you and Jack supposed to meet Thursday night?”

“Yeah,” Norm said.

“What happened?”

“Jack called it off. He pulled into the lot and got spooked. He said he saw a familiar car.”

“Not just familiar,” Myron said. “His son’s. That’s where Esme screwed up. Jack spotted the car. He left before Chad had a chance to see him.”

Myron stood and walked toward Esme. She remained still. “I almost had it right from the beginning,” he told her. “Jack took the lead at the Open. His son was there, right in front of you. So you kidnapped Chad to throw Jack’s game off. It was just like I thought. Except I missed your real motive. Why would you kidnap Chad? Why would you crave such vengeance against Jack Coldren? Yes, money was part of the motive. Yes, you wanted Zoom’s new campaign to succeed. Yes, you knew that if Tad Crispin won the Open, you’d be heralded as the marketing genius of the world. All that played into it. But, of course, that never explained why you brought Chad to the Court Manor Inn in the first place—before Jack had the lead.”

Norm sighed. “So tell us, Myron. What possible reason could she have for wanting to hurt Jack?”

Myron reached into his pocket and pulled out a grainy photograph. The first page of the wedding album. Lloyd and Lucille Rennart. Smiling. Happy. Standing side by side. Lloyd in a tux. Lucille holding a bouquet of flowers. Lucille looking stunning in a long white gown. But that wasn’t what had shocked Myron to the core. What shocked him had nothing to do with what Lucille wore or held; rather, it was what she was.

Lucille Rennart was Asian.

“Lloyd Rennart was your father,” Myron said. “You were in the car that day when he crashed into a tree. Your mother died. You were rushed to the hospital too.”

Esme’s back was rod-straight, but her breathing was coming out in hitches.

“I’m not sure what happened next,” he continued. “My guess would be that your father had hit rock bottom. He was a drunk. He had just killed his own wife. He felt washed-up, useless. So maybe he realized that he couldn’t raise you. Or he didn’t deserve to raise you. Or maybe an arrangement was reached with your mother’s family. In return for not pressing charges, Lloyd would give Lucille’s family custody of you. I don’t know what happened. But you ended up being raised by your mother’s family. By the time Lloyd straightened himself out, he probably felt it would be wrong to tear you out by the roots. Or maybe he was afraid that his daughter wouldn’t take back the father who’d been responsible for killing her mother. Whatever, Lloyd kept quiet. He never even told his second wife about you.”

Tears were streaming down Esme’s cheeks now. Myron felt like crying too.

“How close am I, Esme?”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“There’ll be records,” Myron said. “Birth certificates, for certain. Probably adoption papers. It won’t take the police long to trace.” He held up the photograph, his voice soft.

“The resemblance between you and your mother is almost enough.”

Tears continued to flow, but she was not crying. No sobs. No hitching. No quivering facial muscles. Just tears. “Maybe Lloyd Rennart was my father,” Esme said. “But you still have nothing. The rest is pure conjecture.”

“No, Esme. Once the police confirm your parentage, the rest will be easy. Chad will tell them that it was you who suggested you go to the Court Manor Inn. They’ll look closely into Tito’s death. There’ll be a connection there. Fibers. Hairs. It’ll all come together. But I have one question for you.”

She remained still.

“Why did you cut off Chad’s finger?”

Without warning, Esme broke into a run. Myron was caught off guard. He jumped over the couch to block her path. But he had misjudged her. She had not been heading for an exit; she was going into a bedroom. Her bedroom. Myron hurdled back over the couch. He reached her room, but he was a little late.

Esme Fong had a gun. She pointed it at Myron’s chest. He could see in her eyes that there’d be no confession, no explanations, no talk. She was ready to shoot.

“Don’t bother,” Myron said.

“What?”

He pulled out his cell phone and handed it to her. “This is for you.”

Esme did not move for a moment. Then, with her hand still on the gun, she reached out and took the phone. She pressed it against her ear, but Myron could hear just fine.

A voice said, “This is Detective Alan Corbett from the Philadelphia Police Department. We are standing outside your door listening to every word that has been said. Put down the gun.”

Esme looked back at Myron. She still had the gun aimed at his chest. Myron felt a bead of sweat run down his back. Looking into the barrel of a gun was like staring into the cavern of death. Your eyes saw the barrel, only the barrel, as though it were growing impossibly larger, preparing to swallow you whole.

“It would be dumb,” he said.

She nodded then and lowered the gun. “And pointless.”

The weapon dropped to the floor. Doors burst open. Police swarmed in.

Myron looked down at the gun. “A thirty-eight,” he said to Esme. “That the gun you killed Tito with?”

Her expression gave him the answer. The ballistics tests would be conclusive. She would be prosecutorial toast.

“Tito was a lunatic,” Esme said. “He chopped off the boy’s finger. He started making money demands. You have to believe that.”

Myron gave a noncommittal nod. She was testing out her defense, but it sort of sounded like the truth to Myron.

Corbett snapped handcuffs onto her wrists.

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