“In part, sir.” She walked to the desk and laid a copy of the snapshot in front of him. “Can you tell us who the other man is?”
Choleric color crept up Gary Bystrom’s neck and onto his cheeks. “I have no idea. When was that taken?”
“In the neighborhood of ten or twelve years ago,” she murmured.
He shoved it away with an impatient gesture. “And you expect me to remember some guy I happened to exchange a few words with years ago? Sorry.”
“The conversation doesn’t appear to be casual.”
He stared incredulously at her. “You’re reading something into a piss-poor photo taken by who the hell knows? I might have been giving him some tips on where to go trout fishing. I’ll say this once more.” He leaned forward, his tone belligerent. “I do not recognize the man in the picture. Is that clear enough for you?”
Hard to imagine a guy with as much to lose as Bystrom assaulting one of his own detectives, but violence filled the air like a too-heavy cologne. Colin took a few unobtrusive steps closer. Not unobtrusive enough, apparently, as the movement drew another vicious look from his boss.
Jane didn’t even look at Colin. “I have further questions,” she said, voice steely. “Concerning your finances.”
“You owe me an explanation first,” he snapped. “What is this concerning?”
“This deposit slip—” she set the copy in front of him, beside rather than on top of the picture “—was in the possession of a murder victim.”
“What?” The single word was almost soundless.
“You are aware, sir, of the bones we’ve turned up in River Park.”
“Yes. A few scattered bones. Aren’t you making some big assumptions, Detective?”
“And what would those be, Chief Bystrom?”
Trying to stay impassive, Colin had trouble not letting his eyebrows climb. Jane Vahalik was good. Better than he’d realized. Interviewing and all but accusing the chief of police would intimidate anyone in the department, and she wasn’t so much as flinching.
“What makes you think murder was involved?” Bystrom asked, his voice dripping with skepticism and contempt.
“The fact that the body was buried in an overgrown part of a city park seems suggestive to me.” She paused. “The M.E. already believed a gunshot likely explained the way a rib had shattered.” She flicked an apologetic glance at Colin. “The bullet found this morning during further excavation seems conclusive.”
A nice tidbit she should have told him during their walk upstairs.
Bystrom seemed stunned. “I don’t understand. I know nothing more than I’ve been told or read in the newspaper about these remains. There is no connection to me.”
“And yet,” Vahalik said, “the young man carried these two items that very much point to a connection.”
He shook his head. Colin didn’t want the SOB’s bafflement to be genuine, but was unwillingly beginning to believe. There was definitely something wrong about the money—but maybe it really didn’t have anything to do with the murder of a teenage boy.
Except, goddamn it, the kid was carrying the evidence for some reason.
He tuned back in.
“You understand why we have no choice but to ask questions regarding the circled deposits to these accounts in your name and your wife’s name.” Vahalik walked around the desk to lay a folder in front of Bystrom.
Unmoving, he stared at it as if it were a coiled rattlesnake. “This makes no sense.”
He kept repeating that. Shaking his head frequently as the tip of Jane’s pencil moved from one line item to another. He had no explanation for any particular deposit. Why would he remember them? He insisted that he and his wife regularly bought and sold stocks and bonds.
“We are aware of that,” Vahalik said, slick as a patch of ice meant to take the chief’s feet out from under him. “These deposits don’t seem to correlate to any of those sales.”
He got quieter, more surly. Jane informed him that she would need copies of his income tax returns. The purple color in his face faded until, beneath the deep tan, he was turning gray. Colin began to worry about the possibility of a stroke or heart attack.
In the end, Jane straightened. “This copy is for you to study. I assume you have an accountant or tax advisor? Perhaps a broker? We’ll need to schedule a meeting with you and perhaps your wife. Bring whoever will be most helpful. Tomorrow at three o’clock?”
He mumbled something she took as assent.
“Thank you for your time, sir. I have every hope we can clear this up then so it won’t distract us from the investigation.”