“It’s okay,” she said with a small smile. “It’s a lot to take in.”
“It’s not that. It’s just . . .” He couldn’t express it. The emotions were still swirling. He needed to let them settle. “So what went wrong?” he asked. “After all these years, how did they find you?”
“They didn’t find me,” she said. “I found them.”
Matt was about to ask a follow-up question when another set of car headlights began to skitter across the wall. They slowed a beat too long. Matt raised his hand to quiet her for a moment. They both listened. The sound of an idling engine was faint, but it was there. No mistake.
Their eyes met. Matt moved toward the window and peeked out.
The car was parked across the street. The headlights went off. A few seconds later, so did the car engine. Matt recognized the car right away. He had, in fact, been in that car just a few hours earlier.
It belonged to Lance Banner.
LOREN BURST back into the interrogation room.
Cingle was checking out her own nails. “Lawyer’s not here yet.”
Loren just stared at her for a moment. She wondered what it must be like to look like Cingle Shaker, to have men fawn over you, to know you can pretty much do what you want with them. Loren’s mother had a bit of that, but when a woman looked like Cingle Shaker, what must that be like? Would it be a good thing or bad? Would you start to rely on those assets to the detriment of your others? Loren didn’t think that was the case with Cingle, but that just made her more of a threat.
“Guess what we found on your office computer?” Loren asked.
Cingle blinked. But it was enough. She knew. Loren took out the photograph of Charles Talley. She also took out a few choice stills from the video. She put them on the table in front of Cingle. Cingle barely glanced at them.
“I’m not talking,” Cingle said.
“Would you nod?”
“I’ll start talking. You can nod along if you like. Because I think it’s all pretty obvious now.” Loren sat down, folded her hands, and put them on the table. “Our lab guys said these photographs came from a camera phone. So here is how we figured it played out. Charles Talley was a bit of a sicko. We know that. He has a criminal history rather rich in violence and perversion. Anyway, he meets up with Olivia Hunter. I don’t know how yet. Maybe you’ll tell us when your lawyer arrives. Doesn’t matter. Either way, for whatever sick reasons, he gets off on sending a photograph and video to our mutual bud Matt Hunter. Matt brings the pictures to you. You, because you’re good at what you do, find out that the guy in the pictures is Charles Talley and that he is currently staying at the Howard Johnson’s by Newark Airport. Or maybe you figure out that Olivia Hunter is staying there. I don’t know which.”
Cingle said, “That’s not right.”
“But it’s close. I don’t know the details, and I don’t really care why or how Hunter came to you. What is clear is that he did. That he gave you the picture and the video. That you found Charles Talley. That you both drove to confront him at the hotel. That Talley and Hunter got into a fight. That Hunter ended up injured and that Talley ended up dead.”
Cingle looked away.
“You have something to add?” Loren asked.
Loren’s cell phone rang again. She pulled it out, flipped it open, and said, “Hello.”
“It’s your friendly neighborhood Lance.”
“Guess where I am.”
“In front of Marsha Hunter’s house?”
“Bingo. Now guess whose car is parked in her driveway.”
Loren straightened up. “You call for backup?”
“They’re on their way.”
She snapped the phone closed. Cingle’s eyes were on her.
“That about Matt?”
Loren nodded. “We’re about to arrest him.”
“He’s going to freak.”
Loren shrugged, waited.
Cingle bit down on a fingernail. “You got it wrong.”
“You think Charles Talley sent those pictures to Matt.”
Cingle shook her head very slowly.
“Then who did?”
Loren sat back. She thought about the photograph, the one of Charles Talley. He had his hand up, almost as if he were embarrassed to have the picture taken. He hadn’t shot that picture of himself.
“Doesn’t matter. We’ll have Matt in custody in a few minutes.”
Cingle stood. She began to pace. She folded her arms. “Maybe,” she started again, “the pictures are a big setup.”
“Come on, Loren. Use your head here. Don’t you think this is all a little too neat?”
“Most murder cases are.”
“You find a dead man, you check his love life. You find a dead woman, you check her boyfriend or husband. It’s usually just that simple.”
“Except Charles Talley wasn’t Olivia Hunter’s boyfriend.”
“And you figured that out how?”
“I didn’t figure it out. Matt did.”
“I’m still waiting for the how.”
“Because the pictures are fakes.”
Loren opened her mouth, closed it, decided to wait her out.
“That’s why Matt came to my office tonight. He wanted to blow up the pictures. He realized that they weren’t what they appeared to be. He figured it out when it started to rain.”
Loren leaned back and spread her hands. “You better explain from the beginning.”
Cingle grabbed the photograph of Charles Talley. “Okay, see the window here, the way the sun shines through it . . . ?”
LANCE BANNER’S CAR stayed parked across the street from Marsha’s house.
“You know him?” Olivia asked Matt.
“Yes. We went to school together. He’s a cop here in town.”
“He’s here to ask about the assault?”
Matt did not reply. That made sense, he guessed. What with Cingle’s arrest, the police probably wanted to file a full report. Or maybe Matt’s name, as a victim or a witness, had gone out over a police radio and Lance had seen it. Maybe this was simply more harassment.
Either way, it really wasn’t a big deal. If Lance came to the door, Matt would send him away. That was his right. They couldn’t arrest a victim for not filing a timely report.