Page 82 of The Innocent

“We need to find Olivia,” Dollinger said. “And I do mean we. If other agents arrest her . . .”

Yates finished it for him. “She may talk.”


“So we call her in as a material witness,” Yates said. “Tell them to keep an eye on the nearby airports and train stations but not to do anything until they notify us.”

Cal nodded. “Already done.”

Adam Yates considered his options. “Let’s head back to the county office. Maybe Loren found something useful on that Kimmy Dale.”

They had driven about five minutes when the phone rang. Cal picked it up and barked, “Agent Dollinger.”

Cal listened closely.

“Let her land. Have Ted follow her. Do not, repeat, do not, approach. I’ll be on the next plane out.”

He hung up.


“Olivia Hunter,” he said. “She’s already on a plane to Reno.”

“Reno again,” Yates said.

“Home of the deceased Charles Talley and Max Darrow.”

“And maybe the tape.” Yates made a right up ahead. “All the signs are pointing west, Cal. I think we better get to Reno too.”

Chapter 51

THE TAXI DRIVER WORKED for a company called Reno Rides. He pulled to a full stop, shifted in park, turned around, and looked Olivia up and down. “You sure this is the place, ma’am?”

Olivia could only stare.


An ornate cross dangled from the taxi’s rearview mirror. Prayer cards wallpapered the glove compartment.

“Is this 488 Center Lane Drive?” she asked.

“It is.”

“Then this is the place.” Olivia reached into her purse. She handed him the money. He handed her a pamphlet.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said.

The pamphlet was church-affiliated. John 3:16 was on the cover. She managed to smile.

“Jesus loves you,” the driver said.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll take you anywhere else you want to go. No charge.”

“It’s okay,” Olivia said.

She stepped out of the taxi. The driver gave her a forlorn look. She waved as he departed. Olivia cupped a hand over her eyes. The sign of tired neon read:


Her body began to quake. Old reaction, she guessed. She had never been in this place, but she knew it. She knew the dirty pickups that littered the lot. She knew the men trudging in mindlessly, the low lights, the sticky feel of the dance pole. She headed toward the door, knowing what she’d find inside.

Matt feared prison—going back. This, right in front of her, was her prison.

Candi Cane lives another day.

Olivia Hunter had tried to exorcise Candace “Candi Cane” Potter years ago. Now the girl was back in a big bad way. Forget what experts tell you: You can indeed wipe away the past. Olivia knew that. She could jam Candi in some back room, lock the door, destroy the key. She had almost done it—would have done—but there’d been one thing that always kept that door, no matter how hard she pushed, from closing all the way.

Her child.

A chill scrambled down her back. Oh, God, she thought. Was her daughter working here?

Please no.

It was four P.M. Still plenty of time before the midnight meeting. She could go somewhere else, find a Starbucks maybe or get a motel room, grab some sleep. She had caught a little shut-eye on the plane out here, but she could definitely use more.

When she first landed, Olivia called FBI headquarters and asked to speak to Adam Yates. When she was connected to the office of the Special Agent in Charge, she hung up.

So Yates was legit. Dollinger too, she supposed.

That meant that two FBI agents had tried to kill her.

There would be no arrest or capture. She knew too much.

The last words Clyde had said to her came back: “Just tell me where it is. . . .”

It was starting to make some sense. There were rumors about Clyde making tapes for blackmail. He’d probably blackmailed the wrong guy—either Yates or somebody close to them. Somehow that led him to poor Cassandra. Did she have the tapes? Was she in them?

Standing there, reading the sign about the $4.99 EAGER BEAVER BUFFET! Olivia nodded to herself.

That was it. It had to be. She started walking toward the front door.

She should wait, come back.


She got a curious look at the door. Women do not come to these places alone. Every once in a while a man might bring a girlfriend. The girlfriend would be trying to show she was hip. Or maybe she had lesbian tendencies. Whatever. But women never came in alone.

Heads turned when she entered, but not as many as you’d think. People reacted slowly at places like this. The air was syrupy, languid. The lights were down. Jaws remained slack. Most patrons probably assumed that she was either a working girl on her downtime or a lesbian waiting for her lover’s shift to end.

The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” played over the sound system, a song that had been an already aged classic when Olivia had danced. Retro, she guessed, but she had always liked the track. In this place, the lyrics were supposed to be a sexy come-on, but if you listened closely, Phil Oakey, the lead singer, made you feel the pain and shock of having your heart broken. The title wasn’t repeated with lust. It was repeated with shattering disbelief.

Olivia took a seat in a back booth. There were three dancers onstage right now. Two looked off at nothing. One worked a customer, feigning passion, inviting him to jam dollar bills into her G-string. The man complied. She took in the audience and realized that nothing had changed in the decade since she’d worked rooms like these. The men were of the same variety. Some had the blank faces. Some had the glazed smile. Some tried a cocky look, a swagger in their expression, as if they were somehow above it all. Others aggressively downed their beers, staring at the girls with naked hostility, as if demanding an answer to the eternal question, “Is that all there is?”

The girls onstage were young and on drugs. You could tell. Her old roommate Kimmy had two brothers who OD’d. Kimmy wouldn’t tolerate drug use. So Olivia—no, Candi—took to drinking, but Clyde Rangor had made her stop when she started stumbling onstage. Clyde as a rehab counselor. Weird, but there you have it.

The grease from the awful lunch buffet took to the air, becoming more a skin coating than a smell. Who ate that stuff? she wondered. Buffalo wings dating back to the Carter administration. Hot dogs that sit in water until, well, until they were gone. French fries so oily it makes picking them up a near impossibility. Fat men circled the dishes and piled their Styrofoam plates to dizzying heights. Olivia could almost see their arteries hardening in the dim light.

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