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Consumed

Consumed

Page 25

“I don’t want you calling Sister ever again,” he repeated. “Not about me. Are we clear?”

After a moment, Moose looked away. “Yeah. Fine.”

“Good, now, you want a cig?” Danny asked. “I just opened this pack.”

As he held out the Marlboros out, he knew Moose was going to take one. And the guy did, but not before he made Danny wait there for a while.

Danny shared his Bic. “So we gonna light this place on fire or what.”

“Chief’s not going to let you work this drill.”

“He’ll get over it.”

Right on cue, Tom Ashburn’s SUV pulled up behind the truck and the Charger, and Anne’s brother got out of it like he was prepared to hop into an octagon and break someone’s head.

Oooooor maybe he won’t get over it, Danny thought.

* * *

“I can explain,” Anne said as she got to her feet. “I, ah . . .”

Don came in and walked around the desk. As he looked down, Soot shrunk back into the crate, ducking his head and letting out a soft growl—which might have been threatening if the dog hadn’t been shaking like a leaf.

“Poor kid,” Don murmured. “Poor damn thing.”

“Look, I didn’t mean this to happen. This morning. I mean.” She cleared her throat. “What I’m trying to say is that I called the vet to check on him, but they’d let him go to the city pound and I was worried he was going to be put down. I had to go on the way here or risk—”

“What’s his name?”

“Soot. You know, ’cuz he’s gray.”

Don backed away. “So about those emails you sent last night.”

Anne looked at dog. Looked at her boss.

Don’s face was utterly composed. And when she seemed confused, he raised an eyebrow. “The three emails you sent. At ten p.m.? Or were you sleep-typing.”

“Right.” She pushed her hair back. “So, ah, yes, you have to agree that there’s a pattern. Six fires in the last two years. All in that same zip code with an unusual amount of office equipment at the scenes. It’s an arson cluster.”

“Or it’s a bunch of abandoned buildings in a bad area of the city known for drug deals and gang territory disputes. I’m not sure we need to call 60 Minutes yet,” he said dryly.

“Did you read my report?”

“Twice. While I was on the StairMaster this morning.”

“There was too much plastic noted in three of the reports on those other scenes.”

“So?”

“If the buildings were abandoned, what’s all that office equipment doing in them?” She shrugged. “Looters are not picky and very thorough. They take everything that isn’t nailed down, but in half of those sites, there is forensic evidence suggesting things like cell phones and computers were in those buildings. Why?”

“Previous use. Recent abandonment.”

She shook her head. “The blaze I was in last November? There were old cubicles and office stuff on the first floor, granted. But when the collapse happened, I remember getting hit with a laptop from above—and it was MacBook. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I’m beginning to wonder, though, given what I observed yesterday—especially in light of the debris noted on those reports. What if someone’s using these fires as a way of disposing of the goods? Or the information in computers? Or for some other reason.”

Don shrugged. “You hear hooves, don’t think zebras. But keep digging.”

“I intend to.”

Her boss turned away. “Departmental meeting in an hour.”

Anne hustled around the desk. “Wait, I’m sorry, I have to be clear here. I’m not fired for bringing him in? I mean, Soot?”

“I just told you about a departmental meeting. You think I’d can you in front of the whole team?”

“Well, it might be a good way to reinforce—or establish—a no-dogs policy.”

Don looked over her shoulder, in Soot’s direction. “If it were a cat, it’d be different. I don’t like cats.”

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