“Damn.” He started to cry. “Cal hurt Emma Lemay. Punched her hard in the kidney. That was his warning. We walk in and I think we’re just going to talk and he starts off by spinning Lemay and pounding her back like a heavy bag. Rangor, it doesn’t bother him. He beat that woman silly anyway. Better her than him, you know?”
Loren was nearly in the parking lot now.
“So Rangor pisses in his pants. Literally, I mean. He’s so scared he runs to his cabinet to get the tape. Only it’s gone. The girl, he says, the one in the video. Cassandra, her name is. He says she must have stolen it. He says he’ll get it. Cal and me, we figure we got the fear of God in him now. He’ll do what we say. Next thing we know, Rangor and Lemay and that Cassandra girl, they all disappear. Years pass. I still think about it. I think about it every day. And then we get that call from the NCIC. Lemay’s body’s been found. And it all comes back. Like I always knew it would.”
“Adam, it’s not too late.”
“Yeah, it is.”
She pulled into the lot. “You still have friends.”
“I know. I called them. That’s why I’m calling you.”
“Grimes is going to bury the tape.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If it gets out, it destroys my family. It’ll destroy those other guys on the tape too. They were just being johns, you know.”
“You can’t just bury the tape.”
“Nobody needs it anymore. Grimes and his guys will arrange it for me. They just need you to cooperate.”
And then she realized what he was about to do. Panic seized her.
“Wait, Adam, listen to me.”
“Cal and I will die in the line of fire.”
“Adam, don’t. You have to listen.”
“Grimes will set it up that way.”
“Think about your kids—”
“I am. Our families will get full benefits.”
“My father, Adam.” Loren had tears on her cheeks now. “He killed himself. Please, you don’t know what this will do—”
But he wasn’t listening. “You just have to keep it to yourself, okay? You’re a good investigator. One of the best. Please, for my kids.”
“Dammit, Adam, listen to me!”
And then he hung up the phone.
Loren Muse put the car in park. She stepped outside, crying, shrieking at the skies, and in the distance, she was sure that she could hear the rumble of a gun blast.
THE DOOR TO BACKROOM B OPENED. Olivia waited.
When Kimmy walked into the room, the two women just stared at each other. They both had tears in their eyes. Just like a few hours earlier.
But this was nothing like that.
“You knew,” Kimmy said.
Olivia shook her head. “I thought.”
“You acted like you didn’t remember Max Darrow. He was one of your clients in the old days. But the main thing is, everyone figures Darrow put that post online. But he wouldn’t have known that it’d draw me out. Only a good friend, my best friend, would know I’d still be checking up on my child.”
Kimmy stepped into the room. “You just left me, Candi.”
“We were supposed to go together. I told you my dreams. You told me yours. We always helped each other out, remember?”
“You promised me.”
“I know I did.”
Kimmy shook her head. “All these years, I thought you were dead. I buried you, did you know that? I paid for your funeral. I mourned. I cried for months. I did things to Max for free—anything he wanted—just to make sure he tried to find your killer.”
“You have to understand. I couldn’t tell. Emma and I—”
“You what?” Kimmy shouted. The sound echoed in the stillness. “You made a promise?”
Olivia said nothing.
“I died when you died. Do you know that? The dreams. The hope about getting out of this life. It all died when you did. I lost everything. For all those years.”
“How . . . ?”
“. . . did I find out you were alive?”
“Two days after that girl comes to my door, Max comes over. He said that he sent her—that she wasn’t really your daughter. He’d just sent her to test me.”
Olivia tried to make sense of that. “Test you?”
“Yeah. He knew we were close. He figures I know where you are. So he sets me up. He sends me some girl pretending to be your long-lost daughter. Then he watches me, sees if I’m going to call you or something. But all I do is, I go to your grave site and cry.”
“I’m so sorry, Kimmy.”
“Imagine it, okay? Imagine when Max comes to my house and shows me the autopsy. He tells me the dead girl had some kind of freak condition and couldn’t possibly have kids. He tells me you aren’t dead and you know what I did? I just shook my head. I didn’t believe him. I mean, how could I? Candi would never do that to me, I tell him. She’d never just leave me behind like that. But Max shows me the pictures of the dead girl. It’s Cassandra. I start to see the truth now. I start putting it together.”
“And you wanted revenge,” Olivia said.
“Yes. I mean . . . I did.” Kimmy shook her head. “But it all got so crazy, you know?”
“You were the one who helped Darrow find me. You had the idea about posting on the adoption Web site. You knew I’d bite.”
“So you set up that meet. At the motel.”
“Not just me. If it was just me . . .” Kimmy stopped and just stared. “I was just so hurt, you know.”
Olivia nodded, said nothing.
“So, yeah, I wanted payback. And I wanted a big payday too. I was the one getting the new life this time. It was finally my turn. But once Max and Chally flew out to Jersey”—Kimmy shut her eyes and shook her head as if she might jar something out—“it all just spun out of control.”
“You were trying to hurt me,” Olivia said.
“So first, you went after my marriage with that call to my husband’s phone.”
“Max came up with that, actually. He was going to use his own camera phone, but then he realized it’d work even better if he could use yours. See, if something went wrong, Chally would be the guy on the camera phone. He’d be holding the bag. But first he needed Chally’s help.”