She gestured toward a wad of papers that appeared glued into a block. “I’ll work on separating those, but what little I’ve seen so far appears to be class notes, quizzes. This kid was in school somewhere.”
That information didn’t tie to the rest of Colin’s speculation. If the kid were in school, damn it, where?
Duane nodded. “Good work, all. You know what to do.”
Vahalik and her sidekick took their cue and headed for the door. Duane glanced at Colin. “Let’s step outside.”
Colin raised his eyebrows but went. They stopped under the overhang of the building.
“This is a political hot potato,” Duane said bluntly. “The account number belongs to Bystrom’s wife.”
Forgetting this wasn’t shirtsleeve weather, Colin gazed, unseeing, across the parking lot, his thoughts racing. It wasn’t so much the amount deposited. The Bystroms’ lifestyle suggested they were loaded. This amount could have been from a small inheritance, money moved from a CD that had come due, who knew what. The bigger question was why a murder victim thought the deposit slip held any significance.
“You want me to get a warrant.”
“Can we justify it?”
Colin rolled his shoulders and thought some more. This could be career suicide. Duane waited.
“I’ll need a copy.”
“Linda already emailed it to you.”
Colin grunted. “Coward.”
Duane gave him a puckish grin. “This is why you have the office with the best view.”
Colin laughed, thinking of the brick wall he looked out at. “That’s gotta be it.”
“What are you going to do?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Not exactly the truth. Of course they had to pursue every lead in a murder investigation. If he were going to step out on a limb already cracking under his feet, though, he needed some backing.
It was no stretch to decide the time had come to find out where Mayor Noah Chandler stood and what he was made of.
* * *
WITH COPIES OF the photograph and the deposit slip folded and tucked in the inside pocket of his suit jacket, Colin waited outside the mayor’s office a few hours later.
He knew Chandler in a superficial way. As he’d told Brian Cooper, he had gained the impression that the new mayor wasn’t all that impressed with his police chief. Which didn’t mean he’d give Colin the go-ahead to rake through Bystrom’s financial dealings.
Colin managed a surreptitious look at the time by checking for messages on his phone. Nothing from Nell. At least today she wasn’t alone. Her brother was supposed to have picked her up at ten and they were spending the day together. He wished that let him feel easy about her, but it didn’t. She was still out and about. Vulnerable.
Despite his best intentions, last night Colin had opened the front door the instant he’d heard Nell’s car, and she’d come in for a cup of tea. The scrape on her cheek had scabbed over but served as a graphic reminder of her close call. She’d admitted to having a few panic attacks on the drive from her parents’ house when she thought one set of headlights was behind her too long, but she’d followed his advice and realized after a turn or two that no one was following her.
Her face had momentarily glowed when she told him that her brother had come home to see her. The glow dimmed when she repeated the highlights from the private talk she and Felix had had.
Her perplexity made him ache with self-doubt. If he’d let her go on the way she had been, her life wouldn’t have been threatened.
Except he wasn’t so sure that was true. He had stumbled on her. Someone else could have just as well. All he had to do was remember her terror the night he confronted her to know that she carried that fear with her at all times. Answers might allow her to let go of the fear.
And what? Go back to her life as Nell Smith? He was having trouble imagining that. Maddie—Nell, damn it—had filled his world since he’d caught that fleeting glimpse of her on television. Look at him, nerves jumping under his skin only because he didn’t know where she was or what she was doing right this minute.
At least she’d agreed to let him take her out to dinner tonight. He had a plan for afterward he thought she’d like.
“Captain McAllister?” the assistant said pleasantly. “The mayor will be glad to see you now.”
Colin nodded his thanks and stood. No one had exited Chandler’s office. Colin hoped keeping him waiting hadn’t been some cheap power play.
The mayor’s office was more stripped down than Colin had expected. A couple of impressive paintings by local artists decorated the walls. The desk was a nice one, but it didn’t appear custom-made the way the desk installed by Chandler’s predecessor had. When Noah Chandler himself stood and came around the corner of it to greet Colin, he wore black slacks and a roll-neck sweater rather than a business suit. Heavy boots, too, which bore traces of dried mud.