“After we talk to Carl,” Kate said.
He finally relented but with conditions. “If I think he’s playing you, you’re out of there. Understand?” Before she could agree or disagree he continued, “And if I don’t like the way he’s talking to you, you’re out of there.” He let her go ahead of him, and when they reached the interrogation room, he added yet another condition. “And if I think he’s becoming belligerent or threatening . . .”
She turned around. “Let me guess. I’m out of there?”
“Would you like to know what I think?”
He grinned. “Not really.”
“You’re going to listen anyway. If he plays me, I’ll know it and I’ll tell him to knock it off. And if I don’t like the way he’s talking to me, I’ll tell him to stop. Should he threaten me, I’ll threaten back.”
The interrogation room was tiny. There was a small oblong table and four chairs, two on either side. The two-way mirror was on the wall opposite the door. Dylan pulled out a chair for Kate, but he remained standing as they waited.
Carl turned out to be a surprise. Dylan had made a couple of snap judgments about the man, but as soon as Carl walked into the room, he knew he was wrong.
Carl was extremely happy to see Kate, and before Dylan could stop him, he hugged her.
“Thank God you’re safe. This is all my fault, darling. I’m so sorry.”
She quickly disengaged herself and made the introductions. Once the formality was dispensed with, she sat down, and Carl took the seat across from her. She put her hand out and he clasped it.
“You look tired,” she said.
“I am tired. That’s why I went away. I need to rest and rejuvenate, but I’ve been so worried.”
Kate was sympathetic. “It must have been upsetting for you to find out that the police were looking for you.”
“Yes, it was most distressing.” His eyes welled up with tears. “But not nearly as upsetting as it was for Delilah. My fiancée worries about me, you see,” he added. “I should call her. I’m allowed one phone call, aren’t I?”
Dylan pulled out a chair next to Kate and sat down. “You can make as many phone calls as you want. You’re not under arrest.”
“Am I a suspect?”
“No,” Kate said at the same time.
“Depends on what you have to tell me,” Dylan explained.
“I should be arrested. I’m responsible for everything that’s happened to Kate.” He looked at her and summoned a weak smile. “It’s so good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you, too,” she said. “Would you like something to drink?” Oh my, she was sounding like Isabel again.
“A decaf latte would be lovely, but I don’t suppose there’s a Starbucks close by.”
“No, sorry, not yet.”
Dylan had had enough of the chitchat. “Tell me why you think you’re responsible.”
“Because it was my idea.”
“What was your idea?” His voice took on a sharp edge. He wanted some answers now.
“It was my idea to display Kate’s products at the event I was hosting. All of Charleston’s elite were going to be there. They wouldn’t dare miss,” he explained. “And I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to present her.”
“Still not getting it.”
“Though I know this is going to sound egotistical, it’s a simple truth that if I endorse a product, it skyrockets.”
He was right. It did sound egotistical.
“That makes you a very powerful man, doesn’t it? You can make or break a career.”
Carl shook his head. “I have never tried to destroy anyone. It would be vulgar. If I don’t approve of a product or a person, I keep silent.”
So he only used his power for good? Did he think he was Superman? Dylan suppressed a laugh.
“And what did you have to gain from this?”
“Satisfaction,” he said.
“What about the warehouse? Why didn’t you want Kate to know you owned it?”
“I’m only one of the owners,” he corrected. “But I do have controlling interest.”
“Answer the question.” Dylan was tired of being accommodating. He was about to tell Kate to leave, but Carl surprised him by beating him to the punch.
“Kate, darling, would you please give us a moment alone?”
She didn’t want to leave; she wanted to stay to make sure Dylan didn’t tromp all over Carl’s feelings, but she knew it would be rude to refuse. “Yes, of course.”
Both men stood when she did, and Dylan opened the door for her. She gave him a warning look as she walked past and whispered, “Be patient with him.”
The audio control for the interrogation room was on the wall in front of him. Dylan decided to turn it off.
Carl had resumed his seat and arrogantly gestured for Dylan to do the same.
“If Kate knew what I was about to tell you, she would be embarrassed, and so I would appreciate your discretion. In return I shall be completely frank with you. Now then, I didn’t want her to know that I owned the warehouse because I was going to offer it—through a Realtor, of course—at a substantially reduced price. I was trying to help Kate,” he explained. “She is the dearest lady, and what I have seen happening to her this past year has been heart-wrenching. She was on the fast track, you know, and she had such grand plans. She was going to move her company to Boston. She has so many connections there. Within a year, I guarantee you, her company would have become a giant in the industry. Within five years, her products would have been sold all over the world. She could have accomplished unparalleled success.”
He carefully adjusted the collar of his white shirt before continuing. “She won’t move her company now. She’s responsible, you see. Always responsible. Everyone comes before Kate. She will stay in Silver Springs because that’s the responsible thing to do. For a long while she stayed for her mother, and now she’ll stay for her sister. Isabel is the youngest, but of course you know that, don’t you? Kate will stay here for at least another two, perhaps three, years.
“I would love it if she stayed permanently and expanded her company from here. She could put Silver Springs on the map. It would probably take her longer to achieve international success from here, but with her drive and her determination I have no doubt she’ll get it . . . if that is what she wants. She’ll do magnificent things wherever she is, but this is where Kate belongs.”
“How did the other owners feel about reducing the price of the warehouse?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask them. I have controlling interest,” he explained. “And the others will do whatever I want them to do. Together we own several blocks, and now that the renovation is under way and the rebirth has begun, they know they’ll make a fortune. Silver Springs is a small community, and because it offers people a slower pace and a safer environment, it’s becoming the place to live and play. We want to attract local business, so helping Kate by reducing the price will be seen as goodwill.”
“I’ll need the names of the other owners.”
“Yes, of course.”
“So you reduced the price because it was a smart business move.”
“Yes, but also because I knew Kate was in financial trouble.”
Dylan sat back. “Oh? How did you know that?”
Carl ran his fingers across the smooth surface of the table while he thought about the question. “I’m not sure how I knew,” he admitted. “Someone told me. Yes,” he said, nodding. “Someone must have told me, and now you’ll want to know who that person was, and for the life of me, I can’t remember. There have been so many cocktail parties and dinners, and people tell me things—in the strictest confidence. I hear things, often secondhand, and everyone knows how much I love Kate. I boast about her company all the time so I can get people talking and buzzing about her lovely candles and her body lotions. My Delilah adores them. Her signature perfumes are divine, and there’s a new one coming in December that I believe is the most divine of all. It’s called Sassy.” He bit his lower lip to restrain his emotion.
Dylan had never questioned anyone quite like Carl before. He was prone to digression, but Dylan was determined to keep him on track. “If I were to ask you to write the names of the people who knew you owned that warehouse . . .”
“Impossible,” Carl said. “I’ve been heavily promoting the area. I swear I’ve told half of Charleston and Silver Springs and Savannah—”
“I have many friends,” he explained. “I spend a great deal of time there.”
“Have you ever met any MacKennas in Savannah?”
“Not that I recall. I believe Kate and her sisters are the only MacKennas I know, but then I do meet so many people and I don’t always catch the names.”
“You still haven’t explained what makes you responsible for the explosions.”
“Consider the circumstances,” he said. “I invited Kate to my estate, and I insisted she bring her products, and boom, she’s nearly killed. And through a Realtor I encourage her to look at my warehouse, and boom, she’s nearly killed again. I own both properties, you see. I am responsible. I just don’t know how or why. I’m hoping you’ll be able to figure that out.”
The only thing Carl might be guilty of was telling everything he knew to anyone who would listen. Someone used him for information.
“What’s your financial situation?” Dylan asked.
“Dismal at the moment. Abysmal. I’ve completely over-extended myself. But it’s temporary,” he assured him. “I’m building a gallery on my property—which will be magnificent when it’s completed—and I’ve sunk the rest of my money into this latest project. But I have no doubt the return will be well worth the risk.”
Dylan was a little surprised by Carl’s candor. He was an unusual character and a complete contradiction. On the one hand he was pretentious and arrogant, and on the other he was straightforward and considerate. One thing was certain, he wore his heart on his sleeve for everyone to see, so there was little pretense when it came to his feelings.
“How did you meet Kate?” Dylan asked. It seemed such a curious friendship to him.
Carl smiled. “I met her at the hospital. It was several years back. She was there with her mother, and I was visiting my sister, Susannah. Kate was in high school, but she was already a beauty. And such a presence. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Oh, yes.” He understood perfectly.
“She could start pulses racing even back then. My sister actually introduced us. Kate was waiting for her mother to come out of X-ray, and my sister was waiting to be taken in, and they began to chat. They became dear friends in no time at all. Susannah was two years younger than Kate,” he thought to add. “Kate told her about the candles she was making with all the strange scents, and she asked Susannah if she would give her opinion of some of them. My sister was thrilled. Kate made her feel very important.
“Susannah was ill for quite some time—in and out of the hospital so often she called it her home away from home.” He paused with a melancholy smile at the memory. “Kate’s mother went into remission, so Kate didn’t need to come to the hospital anymore, but she never forgot Susannah. She visited her often, and even after she started college, Kate would make a point of seeing her when she came home for vacations. And no matter where she was, every week, she would send a little something to Susannah. A candle, a special lotion, a flower . . . a gift to tell her she was thinking about her. Each time Kate started working on a new product, she would call to get her input. I know Kate didn’t really need Susannah’s opinion, but she asked for it just the same. It gave Susannah something to look forward to, especially in her last days when she was so weak.” Carl’s voice cracked when he said, “We lost Susannah in September. But Kate, my dear, dear Kate, still hasn’t forgotten her. She told me she wanted to do something special in her memory, and so she’s developed a special perfume that will be named after my sister. Susannah was her given name, but we called her Sassy.”
Dylan wasn’t about to let Kate walk into the Smith and Wesson building to sign any papers until he was absolutely certain she would be safe. Figuring out all the details and coordinating security measures with Nate and the Charleston PD, the FBI, and the Savannah PD would not only take time but would also be a logistical nightmare, and that meant that the three o’clock meeting this afternoon would definitely have to be rescheduled.
One solution would be for the attorney to bring the papers to Kate. The Silver Springs police station would have been a good location, but anywhere away from the heart of Savannah and the MacKenna brothers would have been acceptable.
Unfortunately, the location for the meeting couldn’t be moved. When Dylan got Anderson on the phone and suggested other arrangements, the attorney was most apologetic as he explained that a change of venue wouldn’t be possible.
“I must follow Compton MacKenna’s instructions. He insisted that the meeting take place at Smith and Wesson. He liked to direct every facet of his affairs. He signed his new will in the conference room on the second floor, and that is where he wanted the transfer of his estate to take place. He even went so far as to assign seating. Kate must first listen to his advisors and his accountants as they explain how Compton accumulated his fortune, and when they are finished, she can sign the papers.”
“Is that a mandatory condition?”
“I’m afraid so, yes.”
“What was his reason for setting it up this way?”
“There were several reasons,” Anderson said. “He expected Kate to follow in his footsteps, and he therefore believed that his advisors would guide her in future decisions that would increase his fortune. It is not a condition of the will, however, that Kate continue to employ them, and as her attorney I will strongly recommend that she fire the lot.”
Before Dylan could ask why, Anderson continued. “I also believe Compton wanted to impress her, to brag, if you will. In his mind Kate was a prodigy, his prodigy.”