“The number you requested is listed to a Marsha Hunter at Thirty-eight Darby Terrace, Livingston, New Jersey.”
He stared at the mug shots of Charles Talley. That same damn knowing smirk, the one he’d seen in that picture on his cell phone. Matt had the falling sensation again, but he held on.
Cingle said, “You know him, don’t you?”
“I need you to do me a favor,” he said.
“I don’t do favors. This is my job. You’re being billed for this, you know.”
“Even better.” He looked up at Cingle. “I want you to find me everything you can on Charles Talley. I mean, everything.”
“And what would I be looking for?”
Good question. Matt wondered how to play it.
“Just tell me,” Cingle said.
Matt took out his cell phone. He hesitated, but really, what was the point in trying to keep it a secret anymore? He flipped it open, hit the camera function, and pressed the back arrow until the photograph of Charles Talley, the one taken in that hotel room, came up. It was the same man, no question. He stared at it for a moment.
His words were slow, deliberate. “Yesterday I got a call from Olivia’s camera phone.” He handed it to her. “This was on it.”
Cingle reached for the camera phone. Her eyes found the screen. Matt watched them widen in surprise. Her eyes shifted back and forth between the mug shots and the image on the small display. Finally she looked up at him.
“What the hell is this?”
“Hit the forward button,” he said.
“The one on the right here?”
“Yes. It’ll take you to the video that came in right after the picture.”
Cingle’s face was a mask of concentration. When the video finished she said, “If I hit this replay button, will it run again?”
Cingle did. She played the short video two more times. When she was done, Cingle carefully put the camera on the desktop. “You have an explanation for this?” she asked.
Cingle thought about it. “I’ve only met Olivia once.”
“I can’t tell if that was her or not.”
“I think it is.”
“It’s hard to make out the face.”
Cingle gnawed on her lower lip. She reached behind, grabbed her purse, started rummaging through it.
“What?” he asked.
“You’re not the only one who’s technically savvy,” Cingle said.
She pulled out a small handheld computer, not much bigger than Matt’s phone.
“A Palm Pilot?”
“A high-end pocket PC,” she corrected. Cingle pulled out a cord. She plugged one end into the phone, one end into the pocket PC. “You mind if I download the picture and video?”
“I’ll take them back to the office. We have all kinds of software to blow the images up frame by frame, enhance them, make a solid analysis.”
“This stays between us.”
“Understood.” Two minutes later, the pictures were downloaded. Cingle handed the phone back to Matt. “One more thing.”
“Learning all we can about our friend Charles Talley may not get us what we need.” She leaned forward. “We need to start drawing lines. We need to find a connection between Talley and . . .”
“Olivia,” he finished for her.
“You want to investigate my wife.”
She sat back, recrossed the legs. “If this was just a run-of-the-mill hot-sheet affair, it would probably be unnecessary. I mean, maybe they just met. Maybe they hooked up at a bar, I don’t know. But Talley is tailing you. He’s also sending you pictures, throwing it in your face.”
“Meaning there’s something more here,” Cingle said. “Let me ask you something and don’t take offense, okay?”
She shifted in her chair. Her every move, intentional or not, came across as a double entendre. “What do you really know about Olivia? Her background, I mean.”
“I know everything—where she’s from, where she went to school—”
“How about family?”
“Her mother ran off when she was a baby. Her father died when she was twenty-one.”
“So her father raised her alone?”
Cingle kept going. “Where did she grow up?”
Cingle wrote it down. “She went to college there, right?”
Matt nodded. “She went to UVA.”
“What do you mean, what else? What else is there? She’s worked for DataBetter Associates for eight years. Her favorite color is blue. She has green eyes. She reads more than any human being I know. Her guilty pleasure is corny Hallmark movies. And—at the risk of making you vomit—when I wake up and Olivia is next to me, I know, know, that there is no luckier man on the planet. You writing this down?”
The door to his office burst open. They both turned toward it. Midlife stepped in. “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No, that’s okay,” Matt said.
Midlife looked at his watch, making a full production out of it. “I really need to go over the Sterman case with you.”
Matt nodded. “I was just about to call you anyway.”
They both looked at Cingle. She rose. Midlife unconsciously adjusted his tie and patted his hair.
“Ike Kier,” he said, sticking out his hand.
“Yeah,” Cingle said, managing not to roll her eyes. “Charmed.” She looked at Matt. “We’ll talk.”
She looked at him a second longer than necessary and spun toward the door. Midlife moved out of her wake. After she left, Midlife took her seat, whistled, and said, “Who in heaven is that?”
“Cingle Shaker. She works for MVD.”
“You mean she’s a private dick?”
Midlife laughed at his own joke. When Matt didn’t join in, he segued it into a cough and crossed his legs. His gray hair was neatly parted. Gray hair works on lawyers—a full head of it anyway. It gave them a certain gravitas with jurors.
Matt opened his desk drawer and pulled out the Sterman file. The two talked for three hours about the case, about the prelim, about what the DA might offer. They had just about talked themselves out when Matt’s camera phone rang. He checked the caller ID. The screen spelled out: “Unavailable.” Matt put the phone to his ear.