Page 42 of The Innocent

“To each his own then.” He sighed. “We done with the small talk now?”

“Guess so.”

“Fine. So what happened to this nun, Loren?”

“We don’t know yet.”

“Come again?”

“Did you know her?”

“I don’t even remember what Lance told me her name was. Sister Mary Something.”

“Sister Mary Rose.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died.”

“I see. So how do I fit in?”

Loren debated how to play this. “How do you think?”

He sighed and started to walk past her. “Good night, Loren.”

“Wait, okay, that was dumb. Sorry.”

Matt turned back to her.

“Her phone logs.”

“What about them?”

“Sister Mary Rose made one call we can’t figure out.”

Matt’s face showed nothing.

“Did you know her or not?”

Matt shook his head. “No.”

“Because the log shows that she placed a call to your sister-in-law’s residence in Livingston.”

He frowned. “She called Marsha?”

“Your sister-in-law denied receiving any calls from anyone at St. Margaret’s. I also talked to that Kylie girl who rents from her.”

“Kyra.”

“What?”

“Her name is Kyra, not Kylie.”

“Right, whatever. Anyway, I know you stay there a lot. I know, in fact, that you stayed there last night.”

Matt nodded. “So you figured—drumroll, please—that I must be the one this nun called,” he finished for her.

She shrugged. “Makes sense.”

Matt took a deep breath.

“What?”

“Isn’t this the part where I get all angry and say it only makes sense because you have a bias against an ex-con, even though he’s served his time and paid his debt to society?”

That made her smile. “What, you just want to skip the indignation? Move right to your denial?”

“It would speed things up,” he said.

“So you don’t know Sister Mary Rose?”

“No. For the record, I don’t know any Sister Mary Rose. I don’t even think I know any nuns. I don’t know anybody connected with St. Margaret’s, except, well, according to Lance, you went there, so I guess the answer would be: only you. I have no idea why Sister Mary Rose would call Marsha’s house or even if indeed she called Marsha’s house.”

Loren decided to shift tracks. “Do you know a man named Max Darrow?”

“Did he call Marsha too?”

“How about a straight answer, Matt? Do you know a Max Darrow from Raleigh Heights, Nevada, yes or no?”

Jolt. Loren saw it. A small one—the smallest of tells on Matt’s face. But it was there—a slight widening in the eyes. He recovered in less than a second.

“No,” he said.

“Never heard of him?”

“Never. Who is he?”

“You’ll read about him in the paper tomorrow. You mind telling where you were yesterday? I mean, before you got to Marsha’s house.”

“Yes, I do mind.”

“How about telling me anyway?”

He looked off, closed his eyes, opened them again. “This is beginning to sound more like a full-fledged, suspectlike interrogation, Detective Muse.”

“Inspector Muse,” she said.

“Either way, I think I’ve answered enough questions for tonight.”

“So you’re refusing?”

“No, I’m leaving.” Now it was Matt’s turn to check his watch. “I really have to go.”

“And I assume you’re not going to tell me what you’re up to?”

“You assume correctly.”

Loren shrugged. “I could always follow you.”

“I’ll save you the time. I’m heading to the MVD offices in Newark. What I do once I’m inside remains my own business. Have a pleasant night.”

He started down the stairs.

“Matt?”

“What?”

“This might sound weird,” Loren said, “but it was good seeing you. I mean, I wish it were under different circumstances.”

He almost smiled. “Same here.”

Chapter 24

NEVADA, MATT THOUGHT. Loren Muse had asked him about a man from Nevada.

Twenty minutes after leaving Loren on his stoop, Matt was in Cingle’s office. He’d spent the drive running the interrogation through his head. One word kept coming back to him:

Nevada.

Max Darrow, whoever the hell he was, was from Nevada.

And Olivia had been checking a Web site for a newspaper called the Nevada Sun News.

Coincidence?

Yeah, right.

The offices at MVD were silent. Cingle sat at her desk, wearing a black Nike sweat suit. Her hair was swept back in a long ponytail. She hit the power button to boot up the computer.

“Have you heard anything about the death of a nun at St. Margaret’s?” he asked.

Cingle frowned. “That the church in East Orange?”

“Yes. It’s also a school.”

“Nope.”

“How about anything involving a man named Max Darrow?”

“Like what?”

Matt quickly explained the questions from his old classmates Lance Banner and Loren Muse. Cingle sighed and took notes. She said nothing, only raising an eyebrow when he mentioned finding a computer cookie leading to a stripper Web site. “I’ll look into it.”

“Thanks.”

She swiveled the computer monitor so they could both view it. “Okay, so what do you want to see?”

“Can you blow up the still shot of Charles Talley that came in on my cell phone?”

She started moving the mouse and clicking. “Let me explain something quickly.”

“I’m listening.”

“This enhancement program. Sometimes it’s a miracle worker, sometimes a total piece of crap. When you take a digital picture, the quality is dependent on the pixels. That’s why you get a camera with as many pixels as possible. Pixels are dots. The more dots, the clearer the picture.”

“I know all this.”

“Your camera phone has a pretty crappy pixel reading.”

“I know that too.”

“So you know that the more you blow up the image, the less clear it becomes. This software program uses some kind of algorithm—yeah, I know, big word. Put simply, it guesses what should be there based on whatever clues it comes up with. Coloring, shading, ridges, lines, whatever. It’s far from exact. There’s a lot of trial and error. But that said . . .”


Tags: Harlan Coben Thriller
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