ADAM YATES TRIED to maintain his cool.

They were back outside now, on the Friedmans' front lawn. That had been much too close a call. When that Friedman cuckoo had started yammering about never ever telling, well, it could have ended right there- Yates's career, his marriage, even his freedom. Everything.

Yates needed to take control.

He waited until he and Loren Muse were back in the car. Then, calmly as he could, Yates asked, "So what was that all about?"

"Candace Potter is still alive," Muse said.

"Pardon me?"

"She's alive and well and married to Matt Hunter."

Yates listened to Loren's explanation. He felt his insides tremor. When she finished he asked to see the autopsy. She handed it to him.

"No photos of the victim?"

"It's not the whole file," Loren said. "It's just the pages that concerned Max Darrow. My guess is he somehow learned the truth- that Candace Potter hadn't been killed all these years ago. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the real victim was an AIS female."

"Why would Darrow have checked that now? I mean, after ten years?"

"I don't know. But we need to talk to Olivia Hunter."

Adam Yates nodded, trying to take this in. It was impossible for him to fathom. Olivia Hunter was the dead stripper named Candace Potter. Candi Cane. She had been there that night, he was sure of it.

It was likely now, very likely, that Olivia Hunter had the videotape.

That meant he had to take Loren Muse out of the equation. Right now.

Yates glanced at the autopsy report again. Muse drove. The height, weight, and hair color matched, but the truth seemed obvious now. The real victim had been Cassandra Meadows. She'd been dead all along. He should have figured that. She wouldn't have been smart enough to vanish.

Len Friedman had been right when he talked about the honor of thieves. Yates had counted on that, he guessed, which in hindsight was beyond stupid. People in that business respect confidentiality not out of any sense of honor but because of profit. If you get a reputation for talking, you lose your clientele. Simple as that. The only thing was, Clyde Rangor and Emma Lemay had found a way to make even more money. Ergo the "honor of thieves" nonsense went right out the window.

Yates didn't do it a lot, but over the years, he'd cheated on Bess. Yates never really considered it a big deal. It was beyond compartmentalizing- beyond the usual "sex was one thing, making love another." Sex with Bess was fine. Even after all these years. But a man needs more. Check all the history books- that one is a given. No great men were sexually monogamous. It was as simple and as complicated as that.

And in truth there was nothing wrong with it. Do wives really get upset if their husband occasionally watches, for example, an X-rated film? Was that a crime? An act worthy of divorce? A betrayal?

Of course not.

Hiring a prostitute was really no different. A man might use pictures or 900-lines or whatever as outside stimuli. That was all this was. Many wives understood this. Yates might even be able to explain it to Bess.

If that was all it had been.

Rangor and Lemay- they should rot in hell.

Yates had been looking for Rangor, Lemay, Cassandra, and that damn tape for ten years. Now there was a twist. At least two of them were dead. And Candace Potter was suddenly in the mix.

What did she know?

He cleared his throat and looked at Loren Muse. First step: Remove her from the case. So how to handle this...? "You said you knew Matt Hunter?"


"You shouldn't do the interview with his wife then."

Loren frowned. "Because I used to know him?"


"That was in elementary school, Adam. I don't think I've spoken to him since we were ten."

"Still. There's a connection."


"So the defense can use it."


Yates shook his head.


"You seem like a decent investigator, Muse. But every once in a while, your naivete is absolutely startling."

Her grip on the wheel tightened. He knew that his words had stung.

"Go back to the office," he said. "Cal and I will take over this part of the investigation."

"Cal? Was he that lug in Joan Thurston's office this morning?"

"He's a damn good agent."

"I'm sure."

They fell into silence. Loren was trying to think of a way out of this. Yates waited, knowing how to work this now.

"Look, I know the way," Loren said. "I'll drive you to Hunter's house and stay outside in case-"


"But I want-"

"Want?" Yates cut her off. "Who do you think you're talking to, Investigator Muse?"

She fumed in silence.

"This is now a federal investigation. Most of this case, in fact, seems to lead back to Nevada. Either way it clearly crosses state lines and certainly pissant county lines. You're a county investigator. You get that? There's county, then state, then federal. I'll demonstrate this with a bar graph, if you'd like. But you don't give the orders here. I do. You'll go back to your office and if I deem it appropriate, I'll keep you informed of what is occurring in my investigation. Do I make myself clear?"

Loren fought to keep her voice steady. "You wouldn't even know about Olivia Hunter being Candace Potter if it wasn't for me."

"Oh, I see. Is that what this is about, Muse? Your ego? You want the credit? Fine, it's yours. I'll put a gold star next to your name on the board, if you like."

"That's not what I meant."

"That's sure as hell how it sounded to me. Naive and a glory hound. Quite a winning combination."

"That's not fair."

"That's not..." Yates laughed. "Are you kidding me? Fair? How old are you, Muse, twelve? This is a federal investigation into murder and racketeering and you're worried about my playing fair with a lowly county investigator? You'll drive me back to your office immediately and"- enough stick, a little carrot-"if you want to participate in this investigation, your current assignment will be to find out anything you can on that other whore, the black one she roomed with."

"Kimmy Dale."

"Yes. Find out exactly where she is, what her story is, everything you can. You will not talk to her, however, without talking to me first. If you don't like it, I'll have you removed from the case. Understood?"

She responded as if there were nails in her mouth: "Understood."

He knew that she would take it. Loren wanted to remain in the loop. She'd settle for marginalized, hoping she'd make it back onto the center stage. Truth was, she was a damn fine investigator. Yates would try to steal her away when this was all over. He'd flatter her and let her have all the credit and then, good as she was, she probably wouldn't look too closely at the details.

At least that was what he hoped.

Because so far, those who had died had not been innocent- they'd been trying to hurt him. Loren Muse was different. He really didn't want her harmed. But as old a philosophy as it was, in the end, if it comes down to us or them, it is always us.

Loren Muse pulled the car into the lot and got out without a word. Yates let her huff off. He called Cal Dollinger, the only man he trusted with this sort of information. He quickly explained what he needed to. Cal did not need much detail.

Adam flashed on a painful memory- the hospital when Sam had meningitis. What he left out of the story he'd told Loren was Cal's part in the nightmare. Cal, too, had refused to leave the hospital. Adam's oldest friend had pulled up a stiff metal chair and stayed outside Sam's door for three straight days, not saying a word, just sitting there on guard, making certain that if Adam needed anything, he'd be ready.

"You want me to go alone?" Cal asked.

"No, I'll meet you at the Hunters' house," Yates said, his voice soft. "We'll get the tape. Then we end this." Copyright 2016 - 2023