Page 31 of Smoke in Mirrors

“I’m not the patient type.”

Thomas adjusted the focus a hair. “I’ve noticed.”

She paused a beat. “I take it you are the patient type?”

“I don’t believe in rushing around unless there’s a really good reason and, in my experience, there rarely is.”

“Hmm.”

She fell silent for a while but he could tell that she was fidgeting.

“It will be dark soon,” she said eventually. “Might be hard to drive home if this fog gets any heavier. How long do you intend to stay out here?”

“Long as it takes.”

She lowered the glasses. “You don’t plan to stay out here all night, do you?”

“You’re free to leave anytime,” he said mildly. “It was your idea to come out here with me.”

She groaned. “I’m whining, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, but that’s okay. You’re good at it.” He continued studying the view through the lenses. “I wonder why Rhodes has the shades down on all the windows.”

“The shades?” She raised her binoculars again and aimed them at the house. “You’re right. They are all down, aren’t they? Well, your brother keeps his shades down, too.”

“Yeah, but I think it’s because he’s depressed and he likes to spend a lot of time on his computer. Rhodes didn’t look depressed to me and we know he’s not on the computer because he’s got a client in there. Which leaves one other likely possibility.”

“What’s that?”

He lowered the glasses. “Wouldn’t surprise me if Rhodes was the kind of therapist who sleeps with his female clients.”

“You don’t think much of him, do you?” she said.

“ ‘Never trust a guy who wears yellow contact lenses’ is sort of a Walker family motto.”

She thought about that. “Probably as good as any other family motto.” She broke off suddenly. “There she is.”

“Who?”

“Alex’s client. She just came out the front door. She’s headed for her car.”

“A woman?” He snapped up the binoculars. Tendrils of fog lay heavily in the driveway but there was still enough light left for him to make out the stiff-shouldered, tawny-haired woman getting into the tan compact.

“Elissa Kern,” he said. “Think he’s screwing her?”

“As a highly trained academic librarian, I refuse to leap to conclusions without supporting evidence. But I must admit that scenario would certainly explain the covered windows.”

“Damn. Poor Ed Stovall.”

“The police chief? Why are you feeling sorry for him?”

“Because I got the impression he’s lusting after Elissa in his own anal-retentive way.”

“Oh.” She lowered the glasses. “That would be sad, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, but it’s not our problem, luckily. We’ve got our own problems.”

He watched Elissa’s compact disappear into the fog. Then he switched the binoculars back to Alex.

Rhodes waited on the porch until Elissa’s car was gone. Then he turned and went inside the house. Thomas was just about to suggest that it was time to call off the surveillance and start thinking about dinner when the front door opened again.

Rhodes came back out onto the porch, dressed in running clothes and a windbreaker. He locked his front door, went to the porch railing and did some stretches. When he was finished he loped down the steps and set off.

“No wonder he’s in such excellent condition,” Leonora murmured.

“A man his age ought to think twice about running. Hard on the knees.”

“His knees don’t seem to be giving him any trouble.”

“Knees are tricky. You never know when they’ll go out on you.” Thomas dropped the small binoculars into the pocket of his jacket. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

She glanced at him with a startled frown. “Where are you going?”

“Long as I’m in the neighborhood and the neighbor in question isn’t around, I thought I’d seize the moment.”

“To do what?”

“Check out his house.”

“What? You’re going to break in?” Her voice rose on the last two words. “Are you crazy? What if Alex returns unexpectedly? He could have you arrested.”

“He just left for a run. He’ll probably be gone at least half an hour. Maybe longer. I’ll only be inside for a few minutes.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Don’t watch, if it bothers you.” He started off through the trees.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” She hurried after him. “If you insist on doing this, I’m going in with you.”

He heard her muffled footsteps on the damp ground and came to a halt, turning to confront her.

“No,” he said.

“You can’t stop me, Thomas.” She halted. “We’re partners, remember?”

The fierce stubbornness in her voice warned him that he wasn’t going to be able to keep her from following him. He could always come back later when she wasn’t around.

“All right, forget it. It’s a bad idea, like you said.” He reached for her arm. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“I know what you’re thinking.” She stepped hastily out of reach, spun around on her heel and started toward the cabin. “You plan to come back some other time and do your little breaking-and-entering routine without me, don’t you?”

“Damn it, Leonora, wait.” He caught up with her. “I agree with you. This is too risky.”

“But that won’t stop you, will it?”

He thought about picking her up and putting her over his shoulder. Somehow he didn’t think she’d go along with that plan.

What the hell was a man supposed to do with a woman like this? He looked around. The oncoming night and the fog provided excellent cover. Chances were they were safe enough for the moment. If they went in and got out fast they should be okay.

“All right,” he said. “We’re here. Might as well do it.”

She surveyed the windows. “How do we get inside?”

He reached inside his jacket, removed the small tool kit he carried on his belt and opened it. He selected two of the gleaming picks.

“With these,” he said. “Now you watch out for Rhodes.”

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