“I’m coming,” Kate answered.
“Try to be nice to him, Kate. He’s Jordan’s brother,” she reminded her. “You could show him a little affection.”
A little affection? If she only knew, Kate thought. Affection had reached a whole new plateau in Boston.
Kate joined the men and apologized for making them wait, but neither seemed to have noticed. They were busy sharing war stories about their departments.
Hallinger had spread his notes on the coffee table.
“Nate was telling me the FBI and ATF are both involved in the investigation now, which is no big surprise,” Dylan said.
“And that means it’s a real circus downtown,” Nate said. “Each agency wants to run the show. They’re all stepping on each other’s toes, and more are on their way.”
“And no one wants to share information until they’ve finished their reports,” Dylan interjected.
Kate knew Dylan was simplifying the situation, but still, so many people thinking they were in charge complicated the situation and made the detective’s job much more difficult. Assuming he was still part of the investigation.
“Where does that put you, Detective?” she asked.
“I guess you could say I’m at the bottom of the food chain,” he answered, smiling. “And please, call me Nate.”
She nodded. “What will you do?” she asked.
“This is his investigation no matter how many agencies get involved,” Dylan added.
The two men had quickly become allies, and Kate thought she understood why. Their jobs put them in the trenches and in the line of fire, and neither one of them appreciated outsiders coming into their neighborhoods and taking over. It seemed to be a territorial thing.
“The FBI’s going to give me the most trouble,” Nate remarked. “They’re all arrogant know-it-alls.”
Kate looked at Dylan to see how he was reacting to Nate’s comments. He was smiling.
“Did you mention to Nate that you have two brothers who are FBI agents?”
Nate flinched. “No kidding. Look, I’m sorry I . . .”
Dylan put his hand up. “It’s okay. Nick and Alec are both arrogant know-it-alls on occasion.”
“What do you know so far? Are there any leads? Any suspects?” she asked.
“It’s already been determined that the explosive was placed inside a basket of flowers. The investigators can usually pinpoint the origin of the explosion,” he explained. “The basket was on the ground in front of a table toward the back of the tent. Your table,” he added matter-of-factly.
Kate didn’t show any outward reaction to the news. She simply nodded. “I remember the flowers. They were beautiful. I didn’t see who delivered them,” she added, knowing that was Nate’s next question. “I went inside the gallery for just a few minutes, and when I came back to the tent, there they were.”
“I just drove back from the airport,” Nate said. “I offered to pick up this hotshot expert named Sutherland. He leads the eastern national response team,” he explained. “Which is actually part of the ATF. As it turns out, he’s a real decent guy. He gave me some useful information. This is all off the record because he’ll still go through the site with trained dogs and whatever else it takes, but he told me he knows who it is. He said he’s been after this guy for a long time.”
“He knows who the bomber is?” Kate felt an instant of relief.
“His signature,” he corrected. “He knows his signature.”
She didn’t know what he was talking about. She looked at Dylan, and he quickly explained. “Every bomber has a signature. They’re creatures of habit,” he said. “Maybe it’s the materials he uses, always the same, or maybe as in this case, where he hides it. This guy likes to hide the explosive in a basket, sometimes more than one.”
“Flower baskets,” Nate interjected. “They call him the Florist.”
“Lovely,” she whispered.
“He likes to blow things up in a big way. He’s partial to buildings, but he’s done cars and houses. The thing is, no one’s ever inside. He seems to go to great lengths to avoid hurting anyone.”
“Until now,” Dylan said.
Nate glanced at Dylan who nodded and then said to Kate, “You’ve got a good fire department in this little town. They know what they’re doing, and one of them noticed the similarities and called Charleston PD to find out who was in charge of the Charleston investigation. That’s when I found out you were at the warehouse.
“No easy way to say it,” Nate said. “Someone tampered with the gas line, but Kate, that wasn’t enough to cause the damage done. We checked it out and discovered it was—”
She realized at that moment what he was telling her. “Another bomb,” she finished.
“Yes, and you’re the only connection between the two,” Hallinger answered. He could see the bewilderment in her eyes. “So now we’re wondering . . . who wants you dead?”
They gave her a couple of minutes to absorb the information. Nate was relieved she wasn’t falling apart. He hadn’t thought she was the type to become hysterical, and he was right. On the surface she was calm and in control.
Kate was screaming inside. She was thinking about the mess her life was in on every possible level, and said, “I don’t need this now.”
Dylan smiled. “When exactly is it a good time to get blown up?”
She realized how crazy her comment was. “I didn’t mean . . . oh, never mind.”
“We’re early into the investigation,” Nate said. “And the leads could take us in a hundred different directions, but for your safety, we have to assume that you’re the target and take the necessary precautions.”
“What do you suggest?”
Nate looked at Dylan. “How long are you here?”
“For as long as it takes.”
“I’ll need a weapon.”
“I know. I’ll clear it with Bob Drummond, the chief of police here in Silver Springs. He’ll check you out, of course, and he’ll want to talk to you. I’ll warn you, he’s tough, and because he’s getting ready to retire, he doesn’t care who he offends. He’ll give us a hard time, but—”
“Wait a minute,” Kate said. She felt like the world had just gone into warp speed. “This is crazy.”
Nate turned back to her. “Can you think of anyone who has a vendetta against you? Is there anyone who would profit if you were out of the picture, like a partner in your company?”
“I don’t have a partner. I do have life insurance, but my sisters are the beneficiaries. The face value is quite small. The only person I can think of who would like to get rid of me is Reece Crowell.”
Nate nodded. “Dylan told me about him.”
“This has to be a mistake,” she said. “I’ve been away for almost a year, and I just got home. I haven’t been here long enough to make enemies.”
Kate’s back was beginning to throb. She had been sitting on the edge of the easy chair, too nervous to relax. Dylan didn’t seem to be having any trouble, though. He looked very comfortable with his arm draped over the back of the sofa and his ankle crossed over his knee.
“Who owned the warehouse?” Dylan asked.
“I’m told it’s a corporation,” Nate answered. “I don’t have names yet.” He asked Kate, “How did you find out about it?”
“A Realtor called me. She showed me several spaces, but that warehouse was perfect for my needs.”
“How’d the Realtor know you were looking for a bigger space?” Dylan asked.
“Carl Bertolli suggested she call me.”
“That’s interesting,” Dylan said.
“He asked you to get to the reception early,” Nate said. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” she said. “No, wait. Actually my aunt Nora took a phone message, and I just assumed it was from Carl, but now that I think about it, that can’t be right because when I arrived and was walking toward the tent, Carl called me on my cell phone and asked if I would please hurry and help set up. He seemed surprised that I was already there.”
“He could be checking to make sure she was there,” Nate told Dylan.
“Did you interview him?”
“Sure did,” he said. “And let me tell you, that was no easy job. He’s quite emotional.”
“He didn’t know anything, didn’t see anything, and he says he was on his way to pick up the guest of honor. I checked that out with the limo driver, and he verifies the time. I’ll be talking to Carl again after the feds and the ATF get finished with him.”
“They’ll have to find him first,” Kate said.
“Find him?” Nate repeated.
“Isabel told me that Carl called earlier today and told her he was going away. He does that,” she quickly added so they wouldn’t jump to any crazy conclusions. “When life becomes too stressful, he goes into seclusion. When he comes back, he’s refreshed.”
“I’m not going to wait until he’s refreshed, whatever in God’s name that means. I’ll find him,” Nate said.
“How often does life become too stressful for Carl?” Dylan wanted to know.
“Three or four times a year,” she said. “You might want to talk to his fiancée,” she suggested then. “Carl doesn’t go anywhere without telling her. She has a business to run, so she can’t take off as often as Carl can.”
She gave Nate the name and phone number and added, “She’s a lovely woman but a bit . . . high-strung, I guess you could say, so please try not to scare her.”
“She’s high-strung, and she’s engaged to Bertolli?” Nate shook his head. “Now that’s a pair.”
“I think you’re wasting your time with Carl,” she said. “He couldn’t have seen anything, and if you knew him as well as I do, you’d realize what a kind, sensitive, decent man he is. He’s done so much for this community.”
“Tell me about the man who called you to come to the warehouse. Had you ever heard his voice before?”
“Would you recognize it if you heard it again?”
“There was so much noise in the background I could barely hear him. I don’t think I could—”
Isabel interrupted by calling Kate’s name from the stairs.
“Uh-oh,” Kate said. “Detective, would you like something to drink? A soft drink, iced tea, water . . .”
“Iced tea would be nice.”
“Excuse me for interrupting.” Isabel was standing in the foyer smiling at the men. Kate noticed she’d put on lip gloss and had taken the time to brush her hair.
Kate excused herself and went to her sister.
“Did you want something?” Kate asked when Isabel continued to stand there staring. Had Kate been that transparent around a good-looking man when she was seventeen?
Isabel took a step toward the living room. “Detective Hallinger? Everything’s all right, isn’t it? Kate said that Dylan told her you’re here to tie up some loose ends. There isn’t anything more, is there?”
“I told you everything was all right,” Kate said.
“Kate’s helping the detective with his investigation,” Dylan said. “Nothing for you to worry about, Isabel.”
“That’s right,” Nate confirmed.
“Now will you stop worrying,” Kate ordered.
“Who could blame me for worrying? You’re so accident-prone . . .”
Kate didn’t give her time to get worked up. “Detective Hallinger would like a glass of iced tea.”
“He would? I’ll get it for him.”
Kate followed her into the kitchen.
Dylan was making suggestions when she joined them again. She started for the sofa where Dylan was sitting and, deciding it would be better to keep her distance, changed her mind and headed back to the chair.
“You do understand why I’d rather Kiera and Isabel didn’t know about this, don’t you?” she asked. “They’re leaving Silver Springs tomorrow morning.”
“Dylan filled me in, and I agree,” Nate said. “We’ll keep this quiet for now.”
Isabel carried the iced tea in, handed it to Nate, and then told him it was a pleasure meeting him, and said good night. She shocked Kate when she kissed Dylan on the cheek. “I hope you’ll stay in Silver Springs awhile,” she said.
Nate called as she was leaving the room, “Thanks for the tea, Isabel. That was very thoughtful of you.”
She turned and beamed with pleasure.
“You don’t have to stay upstairs all evening,” he told her, thinking she was doing so to give them more privacy.
“Oh, I have a few phone calls to make.”
“Let me translate that for you.” Kate laughed. “She’s going to be on the phone for hours.”
Nate waited until Isabel was out of earshot, and said, “She’s a sweetheart. She reminds me of my first truelove, Mary Beth Durstweiller.” He shook his head and grinned. “She broke my heart.” He became serious again and returned to the business at hand. “Okay, Kate. You said you hadn’t been home all that long.” He was flipping his notepad to find a clean page.
“So it shouldn’t be too difficult to retrace your footsteps and tell me where you went, who you talked to . . .”
Kate thought it was going to be easy and quick to recount her activities from the time she’d returned to Silver Springs. Why, it wouldn’t take more than ten, maybe fifteen, minutes.
Her estimation was off by an hour. Nate kept making her go back and start over. She knew he was hoping she’d remember something that would lead to some answers.
No such luck. The only lead was still the same. Reece Crowell.
Nate then wanted to talk about her company. She hated doing it, but she had to tell him about the financial mess she’d found. He was extremely interested in the terms of the loan.
“You don’t seem too upset,” Dylan remarked.
“I was very upset at first . . . I had no idea my mother . . .”