Dean set his coffee cup beside the sink, the liquid no longer warm. He kissed Tara softly and held his forehead to hers. The scent of lilacs and jasmine enveloped him. Her cheek in his hand, he looked into her misty, green eyes. “I will be back.” He turned, hugged Margo and kissed her cheek. “Take care of each other, please.” In the women’s silence, Dean strode out the French doors into the back yard and disappeared from sight.
He spoke softly into the telephone as he waited for a cab to arrive. The driver’s English was good enough to understand the destination: Airport. Dean stepped out in front of Terminal D twenty-six minutes later. A quick glance at his watch let him know he would be pressed to get started in Crawford before nightfall, but knew the cover of darkness would protect some of what he would do.
Salisbury twitched as the telephone rang even though he knew it would not ring more than twice. As if on cue, Reaper’s voice came through in a crackle of static and wind, “Speak.”
“I am ready.” Paul made a conscious effort not to straighten the papers on his desk, still convinced he simply could not find the camera.
“Meet me at Seville’s. Eight minutes.” Before the line went dead, Paul heard the squeal of the Testarossa’s tires. He scooped the papers from his desk into his brief case and headed for the door. Walking along the balcony he mused, If he did not own the town, someone would have arrested him long before now. I wonder how long before he gets someone else killed.
Tara mashed the talk button and tossed the receiver onto the couch beside Chloe. She wondered how a cat could pull off a look of true exasperation, but knew if there was one to do it, it would be Chloe. “Where the hell is he?” Chloe closed her eyes. Tara did not take it to mean Don’t bother, despite the body language being clear to the cat.
The laptop was still on the dining room table. Tara flipped it open and tapped into the database. She needed to see what was on the server. If Reaper will not answer, I will find out myself. She scrolled through the disconnected reports Dean had uploaded. With more questions than answers, she clicked on the tab with Bevan’s name. Why is there only one report? He was there nearly three weeks.
A pallor replaced the bronze of Tara’s face. Her respiration grew shallow until she began holding her breath. Her fingers trembled as she closed the connection and emptied the cache. She nearly fell when she kicked the table leg as she stood from the computer. When she stopped before the mirror in the hall, she steadied her breathing, smoothed her hair and tried on a smile.
“Be convincing,” she whispered to her reflection. The second attempt was far more credible. At the end of the hall, she rapped lightly on the door. “Margo?” She leaned closer to the door to listen. She heard Margo pull on the covers and cross the room before she straightened up.
“I was just lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. I am being horrid company. Come sit with me?” Margo reached out for Tara’s hand. They crossed the room to the window seat, and Margo looked out across the neighbor’s back yard.
In the sunbeams, Margo looked like she had just stepped from a salon chair. Tara would have never guessed she was curled in the scattered blankets on the bed. “There is no reason for you to think you need to be acting any certain way, Margo. I am the one who should be better company. Can I do something for you? Do you need something?”
“Yes and yes.” Margo looked directly into Tara’s eyes. “I need the truth, and you can find it.” Tara closed her eyes in preparation. Margo knew that feeling.
“Tell me what you know about Crawford, Bev, Dean and the operation.” Tara spoke evenly and calmly, thinking she had not given away what she knew. Margo was far too astute to miss the change in her voice.
“You already know who did this, don’t you?” When Tara nodded, Margo grabbed her by both arms and shook her. “You must tell me!”
“Before I can, I have to know a few things. What day did Bev find out he was going?”
Not sure why it mattered, Margo thought carefully. “It was the day after Uncle Cecil’s birthday, so that would make it the 12th. What difference does that make?”
Tara was watching the muscles in Margo’s forehead and around her mouth. She knew Margo was telling the truth and was unsure as to why it would be important. “He left the following morning. That was on Thursday, right?”
“Well, yes, but why are the days important?” Tara was still watching Margo’s face.
“You talked to him on Tuesday night. It was the night of the first. He told you he had fixed Dean’s problem, and he would be the first one out.” She leaned in and began to speak more slowly. “He would be leaving that night. That he would be home in the morning.”
Margo was growing impatient, and her expression showed it. “You know he did. He always calls after he reports. But Bev did not come home.” The sentence trailed as her expression changed. Hardly two seconds passed. Her pupils constricted, and her gaze shifted away from Tara’s face. Her voice dropped. The words breathlessly fell from her lips, “Reaper did.”
She jumped up and dug through the enormous purse to emerge with a business card. “Go talk to her. Use the number I wrote on the back. It is a paging service. Answer no matter what number comes up. She will know the part we don’t have. But you’d better hurry.” She looked at the anniversary clock on the dresser. “Dean left here two hours ago. That is a big head start.”
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