Cold Springs Page 23


“Kitchen knife,” he said. “She had it in the sleeve of her sweatshirt.”

“Black levels eat in camp. They don't go anywhere near the cafeteria. Where'd she get it?”

“A staff member must've gotten careless, left it somewhere. I find out who, I'm going to grind them into rebarb. The point is, the Zedman girl is resourceful. And determined.”

“I just saw Olsen at the party. She said nothing about this.”

“She insisted we not make a big deal about it. Got three stitches and a tetanus shot and she wants to keep working with Zedman. The girl has spirit, amigo. I can see why you wanted to keep her.”

Hunter hit another button on his surveillance console, brought up a live shot.

It was like looking into a well—just a shaft of gray brick. Mallory was sitting with her back against the door, as if to keep anyone else from coming in. She was mumbling something. It could've been a lullaby, judging from her expression.

As if she knew they were watching, she stopped singing and looked straight up at the camera. Her eyes were like a marathon runner's in the middle of a course, just when the real pain was setting in.

“Has she eaten?” Chadwick asked.

“Been two days. We'll have to force-feed soon.” Hunter's tone was dry. Force-feeding was one of the extreme measures even he disliked. “I'm not saying we haven't dealt with worse . . .”

“Let me talk to her,” Chadwick said.

Hunter sat back in his huge leather chair. He stared at the only photo on his desk—his father, the Reverend Asa Hunter, Sr.

Hunter often professed dislike for his father, had run away when he was fifteen, joined the Air Force when he was seventeen. And yet there was the Reverend's picture—the implacable African Methodist Episcopal who had turned his son into the most biblically well-versed atheist in the world.

“I spoke with your friend at Oakland Homicide,” Hunter told Chadwick. “Sergeant Damarodas.”

“Since when is he my friend?”

“They identified two people's blood at the scene. Talia Montrose's. The other—smaller amount. They're assuming the attacker. DNA says chances are a billion to one the attacker was related to the victim.”

“Samuel Montrose?”

“Police are still looking for the younger brother, Race. They still want to talk to Mallory. Damarodas thinks she may have seen the murder.”

“You reconsidering giving him access?”

Anyone besides Chadwick probably wouldn't have sensed Hunter's uneasiness, it was so slight—as hard to see, as insubstantial as a tripwire.

“You know a guy named David Kraft?” Hunter asked him.

“A friend of my daughter's. Works at Laurel Heights now.”

“Damarodas talked to him—wanted to get some background on you, Katherine, that necklace they found. David Kraft said he used to date your daughter. He admitted that once, to score some pot, he took her to this place he knew—the Montrose house. He's the one introduced them.”

Chadwick flexed his fingers, which suddenly felt stiff and swollen. “There's no point bringing all that up now.”

“So I told Damarodas. Except, according to Kraft, your daughter took an instant liking to the dealer, Samuel. She dumped David Kraft pretty quick after that, but he claims Katherine and Samuel got involved—heavily involved. Romantically.”

On the surveillance screen, Mallory was serenading her knee, prodding it with her finger as if there were a tiny bug there.

“The night I told you about,” Chadwick said, “the one time I saw Samuel. I was taking Katherine home from the Oakland police station and she told me about him. She said she was in love. She was going to run away with him.”

“That's why you came to see me,” Hunter guessed. “You needed to get her out of there, bring her to Texas. And then, before you could, she committed suicide. That's why you're afraid of Samuel. You think he holds you responsible for her death.”

Chadwick said nothing.

Hunter leaned forward. “I don't like this, amigo. I don't like finding things out about you from a homicide cop.”

“Asa, I didn't tell anyone about Katherine and Samuel. Not even Norma.”

“And now the police are going after a student of mine to frame some poor black kid.”

“Frame?”

“The cops aren't buying the Samuel Montrose angle. They're not going to expend any effort to find the guy. Easy money is on Race.”

“Damarodas said that?”

“He didn't have to. Maybe I'm reading between the lines here, giving Damarodas too much credit, but the man sounded like he was warning me. Said he was coming down here—even gave me a date, a week from Monday.”

“You going to let him in?”

“Not if I can help it. Thing is, Damarodas hinted that John Zedman was throwing his weight around, having lunch with the chief of police, shit like that. I got the impression they're trying to cut a deal—drop accessory charges against Mallory if she provides testimony against Race Montrose. Damarodas told me Talia Montrose sold her house for twice what it was worth just before she died. Damarodas is pretty certain John Zedman worked that deal—paying her off for some reason. That's all being overlooked by Damarodas' superiors. I don't think the sergeant was completely happy with that.”

“We're agreed on that point.”

“So I'm asking you again—is there leverage the Montroses might've had on John Zedman? Anything he had to hide?”

“I don't know.” Chadwick held his eyes. “But Damarodas didn't have to wait so long to visit. He didn't have to warn you, either. It's almost like he's giving us time to find out.”

Hunter's gaze shifted to the monitor. He tapped his knuckle on Mallory Zedman's forehead. “I don't like this, Chadwick. This kid would sell us south in a minute. When you talk to her, you tell her I'm going to save her sorry butt anyway. She's going to go through the program. She's got no choice about that.”

Chadwick managed a smile. “Thank you, Asa.”

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“She wants to tell you something, fine. But don't make it into a deal. This is about compliance to authority, not co-opting.”

Chadwick studied the unrelenting face of Reverend Asa, Sr., and wondered if that were a quote from him. He said nothing.

“Keep to the weekly schedule. I gave you a pickup in Menlo Park Thursday. Kindra Jones goes along with you—we'll treat it as standard time on the job. But you'll have the day in the Bay Area, just in case you wanted to do anything. Understood?”

“You're the best, Asa.”

“I'm flying down to the Playa Verde campus for a couple of days,” Hunter said, “but you've got my number. You find out something, I'm the first one to know. Are we clear on that?”

His tone was even, but the set of his jaw, the veins standing out like a root system on his bald scalp, made Chadwick think of the afternoon, long ago, when Hunter had thrown his knife at a live oak tree, over and over, until his hand blistered and the bark of the tree erupted in wet white splinters.

“We're clear,” Chadwick promised.

As he left, three people were staring at him—Hunter, the Reverend and the glowing apparition of Mallory Zedman, singing him a soundless lullaby.

11

Her left wrist was cuffed to the picnic table.

Olsen sat next to her, a large trail of Mallory's spittle glistening on the shoulder of her fleece jacket.

It was too cold, too late in the afternoon for anyone else to be using the deck. Deer grazed the hillside. Mesquite smoke scented the air. The junipers crackled as ice expanded in the joints of their branches.

Chadwick sat across from Mallory, slid her a plate of food.

She scowled at the turkey and dressing. “What is this—Thanksgiving?”

“Yes. You need to eat.”

She shoved the plate back toward him. “Like I've got a ton to be thankful for. Thank you, Chadwick. Thank you, Miss Bitch-sitting-next-to-me-with-the-plastic-handcuff-collection.”

“Mallory,” Olsen warned.

The girl turned away.

Olsen removed her wristwatch and set it on the table next to the plate of food. “Ten minutes. That's all you have to be here.”

“He ruined my goddamn life. He slept with my mother, made Katherine kill herself. He brought me here. You helped him. Why the fuck should I listen to you?”

The deer on the hillside raised their heads. Their hindquarters twitched.

“Set aside the anger,” Olsen told her. “Put it away for ten minutes and listen.”

Mallory grabbed the fork from her dinner plate. She wedged it under the handcuff and tried to pry it loose, but the fork was cheap plastic. The tines snapped. She threw what was left at Chadwick.

“Ten minutes without an outburst,” Olsen said. “Starting now.”

Olsen looked at Chadwick, and he realized that her deadline—the maximum time she would tolerate—was an edict meant mostly for him.

He told Mallory about the police investigation into Talia Montrose's murder—the bloodstains, Sergeant Damarodas' visit, the fact that Race and she were both wanted for questioning. Mallory kept her eyes on the mist curling up from the turkey.

“Dr. Hunter will protect you if he can,” Chadwick told her. “But we need to know what you saw that night. What you did.”

“Nothing. I didn't do anything.”

“Who killed Mrs. Montrose?”

“I don't know. I don't want to.”

“Mrs. Montrose's killer was probably related to her,” Chadwick said. “Was it Race?”

“No. Goddamn you. No.”

“One of his brothers?”

Her face darkened. “You mean Samuel. Race told me . . . Race swore Samuel was gone. Like, permanently gone.” She yanked on her handcuff. “Anyway, why the hell do you care? You'd love them all dead.”

“Three minutes, Mallory,” Olsen promised.

“Just lock me up,” Mallory murmured. “Fuck you.”

The watch kept ticking. It had a transparent face, exposed gears that reminded Chadwick of his father's repair shop.

He wondered if the closet in the Mission house was still full of old clock parts. He remembered Katherine playing hide-and-seek there, surprising him by leaping out of the woodwork, smelling of dust and oiled copper, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“Mallory, did your father ever say anything about Samuel?”

The question drained the color from her face. “No. Why would he?”

“Your dad bought Talia Montrose's house. He gave her a lot more money than it was worth. Maybe he was paying her to go away—to get Race away from you. But I think there was more to it than that. I think someone in the Montrose family was blackmailing him.”

Mallory's attention seemed to be focusing on smaller and smaller things—the design in the paper plate, the grain of the table.

“Talia Montrose should've had a large amount of money on her when she died,” Chadwick said. “The police found nothing. When we picked you up in Rockridge, you had over six hundred in cash.”

“Race got it.”

“Where?”

“He just said . . . I don't know. I don't remember what he said.”

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