Mac Brewster texted me as I drove back from North Canton: “Meet me at Horvath’s coffee shop. Friday was my last day—I can talk now.”
It wasn’t a convenient time. No doubt Rachel Lance—or whatever the hell her name was—was racing back to her prosecutor husband, probably to tell him I broke into the house and assaulted her mother.
I’d have to deal with her later. Things were starting to fall together and I didn’t like what I was seeing.
I had no idea if Rachel/Rochelle was a first or second wife. Public folks like Dennis Lance always managed to keep their private lives hidden behind a curtain that only opened when they wanted it to be, trotting family members out at election time as little vote-getting minions. If Rachel was a second or even third wife, he’d managed something I seldom saw: A civilized divorce. There was no angry female around town who ranted and raved about what a bastard Dennis Lance was—and god knows, of all people, I would have heard it.
As I drove east on Highway 30, I began to think.
Whatever scenario I came up with, I couldn’t figure out who moved the body? How did they, if it was more than one person, dump a body in the middle of town, particularly during a festival?
Where did Jorge Rivera come into play in all this? Did Rachel hire him to scare me off? Or did Dennis? He would be the one who had inside knowledge on who was investigating the case. Could he have made an inadvertent slip during dinner conversation that started Rachel in search of an enforcer? And how was Rivera somehow tied to the police force?
If Dennis had no idea of his wife’s own questionable past, its exposure would certainly derail his campaign. Here he was, married to a woman who perjured herself ten years ago, who accused her father of sexual abuse so graphic it stunned the jurors and led directly to Brian Cantolini’s suicide. What if Dennis learned about it? What if it was Dennis Lance who killed Gina to get rid of a very uncomfortable liability?
He knew enough about the lowlifes in this town and could easily tie someone else to the murder. A police chief who was looking for every reason to keep his job might know just who to accuse, too. Someone who didn’t matter, someone who was a loser, whose life was as much of a waste as Gina Cantolini and who’s family didn’t have the money to pay for a high-powered defense lawyer… Someone like Mike Atwater.
But again, who put the body under the festival stage? Everyone would recognize Dennis Lance walking through the center of town, and knowing Lance, he couldn’t leave a burning building without shaking a potential voter’s hand first.
Hmmm. Some of it could be possible, but some of just didn’t make sense.
If Rachel killed Gina, or if Dennis Lance did it, it didn’t fit that either one of them moved the body. There had to be a third person, but whom?
I slowed the Volvo down as I came to the edge of Fawcettville. Maybe Mac Brewster could put some of these questions to rest.
Brewster was sitting at the back of the coffee shop when I arrived, eating a zserbó, a confection of three layers of sweet dough, filled with raspberry jam, ground pecans, and coated in dark chocolate.
I ordered a cup of coffee along with a box of half a dozen apricot kiflis to take home to Gracie and joined Brewster.
“So how does it feel to be set free from the work-a-day world?” I asked.
Brewster smiled as he attacked his zserbó with his fork. “You ever have one of these things? Great God Almighty, they are good. I haven’t felt this relaxed in years, Fitz—years.”
“Well, I’ll tell you right now that you’ll get bored soon and you’ll be looking for something to fill your days. I did at any rate. That’s how I ended up in this business.”
“Already got a job—head of security at the college. Regular hours and decent pay and everything. I just couldn’t stay at the FPD anymore, Fitz. Just couldn’t do it.”
“Tell me everything you know about Jorge Rivera. You probably heard about my little incident.”
“Yeah, you sure manage to attract the shit, don’t you?” Brewster took a sip of his coffee. “From what I hear, the chief told that reporter off the record that Rivera was a CI, and it somehow got into the story. Monroe was pissed, called the editor and everything.”
“I heard Rivera was working with the police to provide information about Jacob Poole and that motorcycle gang he’s part of. They’re supposedly bringing heroin into town.”
Brewster shook his head. “He wasn’t working with the police. That whole thing isn’t in local hands at all. He was working with the feds.”
Brewster took another bite of his pastry and nodded. “We all knew about the operation, but those CI’s were all tapped by the feds, not anyone who could be recognized here in town. He couldn’t have been very good. The last two or three buys Rivera set up fell through, from what I heard. Why?”
“Rivera was hired to shake me off the case—he told me so. After Ambrosi hires me to investigate Gina Cantolini’s death, Rivera starts following me around. The first time I visited Atwater at the jail, Rivera caught me coming out of my office and knocked me out cold. I catch him looking up at my office window with binoculars. I go to meet Jacob Poole at Lupe’s restaurant and he’s waiting for me outside. We get into it in the alley, he gets away from me and I hear a gunshot, but can’t find a body.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No, Mac! I checked at the hospital and everything. The next time Rivera takes a run at me, it’s in the parking lot at Memorial Hall, Saturday night. I get the best of him—again—and he tells me the powers that be want me off this case, but won’t give me a name. We meet at Puccini’s, he’s about to tell me who’s behind all this and the poor sumbitch gets shot in the head.”
“Then your office gets firebombed that same night? You sure manage to wade right into it, Fitz.” Brewster shook his head.
“Here’s what I want to know. Barnes seems to think that the bullet Rivera took and the firebombing was meant for me—and that it came from someone connected with the police department. Someone high up.”
“I think Detective Barnes is wrong.” Brewster was serious.
I shrugged. “I think so, too, Mac. For all the mistakes I made in the past, the last thing I’m going to do is go sniffing around Maris again. I’m happily married now, Mac. I’m not going to jeopardize that. And Monroe, well—”
“We all know the story of how Lt. Baker saved your bacon that night. Monroe knows not to go after you any more. He’s been on thin ice too long. He has no decision-making power any more, outside of signing expense reports and filling in duty rosters. The daily stuff, that’s all been shifted to the city manager. All Monroe does is to sit in his office and figure out who is wife is sleeping with now. I’ve heard the city manager has a drawer full of resumes of guys who want to be the new chief. That’s why things are so crazy. The prosecutor has been the one who’s been working with the feds on this heroin investigation.”
My ears perked up at that one. “Dennis Lance has been working with the feds?”
“Yeah. I mean, he’s not involved in daily operations, but he’s aware, you know? Why?”
“I owe you Mac. This time I really owe you.”
Can’t wait to see how it ends? The entire book is available for purchase on my website, www.debragaskillnovels.com or come back next week for the next chapter. Holy Fitz, the next book in the Fitz series is also available on my web site. The third book in the series, Love Fitz is available July 15.