Vision in Silver Page 44

Or it could be the man who needs to find a bag of jewels, Burke thought.

A one-two rap on the door before it opened partway and Kowalski leaned into the office.

“Pardon the intrusion, Captain, but there’s a Captain Felix Scaffoldon from the Toland police calling for Lieutenant Montgomery. He says he’s from the Crime Investigation Unit. He’s holding on line two.”

“This should be interesting.” Burke wagged a finger at Kowalski to indicate the officer should come in. Then he picked up the phone. “This is Captain Douglas Burke.”

A pause before a too-hearty voice said, “Guess your man on the desk hasn’t had enough coffee yet. I asked for Crispin James Montgomery.”

“Lieutenant Montgomery is taking a couple of days’ personal leave. I’m his commanding officer. What can I do for you?”

“It’s important that I talk to him. Could you give me his home and mobile phone numbers?”

“Talk to him about what?”

“It’s private.”

“Then give me your number, and I’ll give him the message when he calls in.”

“You said he’s taking personal time.”

“He is. But he’s a diligent officer, so he’ll call in.” Tucking the phone between shoulder and ear, Burke tore off a sheet of paper from a pad and wrote Call Pete. Custody. ASAP. He handed the paper to Kowalski, who looked at it and hurried out of the room.

Burke could feel the hostility coming through the phone line.

“Look,” Scaffoldon said. “I need to verify Montgomery’s whereabouts for the past forty-eight hours.”

He waited a beat. “Why?”

“Damn it, Burke!” Heavy breathing before Scaffoldon continued with more control. “He’s a person of interest in the suspicious death of Elayne Borden.”

“He couldn’t be. Lieutenant Montgomery hasn’t been off duty enough consecutive hours to make the trip to and from Toland.”

“You said he’d taken personal time.” Scaffoldon had latched on to those words.

“Which began after his shift ended yesterday.” Burke got tired of dancing. “He’s taking personal time because his daughter arrived for a surprise visit.”

“She . . . She’s there? How?”

The surprise in the voice wasn’t genuine. Scaffoldon, or someone he’d talked to yesterday, suspected Lizzy was in Lakeside.

“She had a ticket and got on a train,” Burke said.

“No.” Scaffoldon’s denial bordered on vehemence. “Celia Borden, Elayne’s mother, told me Montgomery had been making threats, that Elayne feared he was going to forcibly try to take her daughter. If the girl is there, it’s because Montgomery took her and Elayne was killed when she tried to stop him.”

“Montgomery couldn’t have made the trip,” Burke insisted. “If I were you, I’d be looking at the man who moved in with Elayne shortly after Lieutenant Montgomery moved out. He’s an unsavory character living under an assumed name.”

“What name?” Scaffoldon asked warily.

“Nicholas Scratch.”

Silence. Then, “Do you know who Nicholas Scratch is?”

Burke heard fear as well as hostility in Scaffoldon’s voice. “No. That’s the point. If I were you, I’d see what kind of alibi he has for the time of the murder.”

“You impugn . . .”

While he waited for Scaffoldon to regain some control, he looked toward his door, waved Kowalski and Pete Denby into his office, then held a finger to his lips to indicate he wanted them to be quiet.

“You have no proof, none at all, that Nicholas Scratch was associated with Elayne Borden, let alone living with her,” Scaffoldon snarled. “You’re trying to smear a man’s reputation by connecting his name to a murder inquiry.”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing by trying to drag Lieutenant Montgomery into this? My man is a seven-hour train ride away from the crime scene. Your man is in the same city. I know who I’d be talking to.”

Silence.

“Mrs. Borden has custody of the child,” Scaffoldon said. “We’ll arrange a police escort to bring the girl back to Toland. If she was with her mother in the train station, she’ll need to make a statement.”

If the first gambit doesn’t work, try another, Burke thought. “Once again, you’ve been given inaccurate information. Lieutenant Montgomery has custody of his daughter. She will be staying here. We’ll take Lizzy’s formal statement later today, and I will send you a copy of the transcript. Good—”

“Wait! What about the bear?”

Burke gave the three men listening to his every word his fierce-friendly smile. “The bear?”

“Mrs. Borden mentioned a stuffed bear. The girl’s favorite toy. Took it everywhere. Is it there?”

“Most of it,” he replied pleasantly. “Little girls can be careless, and Wolves have sharp teeth.”

Scaffoldon sucked in a breath. “It was destroyed?”

“It lost an arm and a leg but is otherwise intact.”

A hesitation. “Where is it now?”

“I tucked it out of harm’s way here at the station and was going to have it mended as a surprise for Lizzy. But I can box up the pieces and send it to you if you think it will help your investigation.”

“No,” Scaffoldon said sharply. Then his voice shifted to something that might be mistaken for courtesy. “There’s no need to do that.”

“If you change your mind, you just let me know.”

“Montgomery is the only one with a motive to kill Elayne Borden. If you try to shield an officer who already has a serious blotch on his record, you’re going to step on some important toes, Burke. That won’t be forgotten.”

“You ever do a tour of duty in the wild country, Scaffoldon?”

“It’s a punishment assignment,” Scaffoldon snapped. “No sane police officer volunteers for it. So, no, I’ve never done that kind of tour.”

“I have. Twice. Learned a lot from the experience. That’s why I’m not intimidated by government officials or businessmen with deep pockets . . . or motivational speakers claiming to come from a wealthy family who conveniently lives on another continent. I’ve seen some of what’s out there in the dark. Those are the toes I don’t want to step on.”

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