“Laurel wouldn’t have believed you,” he said with a dismissive wave of his fork. “She’d have taken it as an insult that you thought anyone could manipulate and use her that way. Maybe I could ask Emma to feign interest in meeting him.”
“That would work. She knows what Linton looks like.”
Blake pushed aside his empty plate and reached for his wine. “If this is Linton, it was damn ballsy of him to take the risk of inserting himself into Laurel’s life.”
I nodded. “And it speaks of someone who isn’t willing to walk away from whatever he’s doing. He has a real purpose. An objective. Maybe he wasn’t bullshitting us; maybe he really does intend to write a book, I don’t know. And I hate that I don’t know.”
“I’ll ask Emma to see if Laurel will let her meet him. It’s possible that—” He stopped talking as his cell began to ring. Picking it up from the table, he said, “It’s Emma. Speak of the devil …” He swiped his thumb over the screen and then answered, “Hey.” His body went rigid. “What? You’re fucking joking.” He ground his teeth. “Right. I will.”
As he ended the call, I asked, “What now?”
Blake drummed his fingers on the table. “The PI who watches Ricky Tate’s house just called Emma.”
I grabbed the edges of the table. “They saw him going inside?”
“No. They saw Joshua going inside.”
Blake wasted no time in calling Rossi to ask him to wait outside Joshua’s house and pick him up the moment Joshua arrived. The plan was for Rossi to then bring him straight to the Vault and escort him to Blake’s office for a little chat.
I agreed with Blake that the likelihood of Joshua coughing up much information in front of me was slim. The guy lived to piss me off. Still, I wanted to hear every word that he had to say; wanted to observe his expressions and body language.
Fortunately, there was a security camera inside Blake’s office that would allow me to watch the conversation remotely on his cell phone using a nifty little app. Small and oblong in shape, it looked nothing like a camera and fit nicely on one of the shelves. Usually, Blake only ever switched it on when he left the office. That was a relief, considering we’d fucked there a few times.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise when Blake revealed that he knew Joshua so well because the asshole went regularly to B3. They’d even fought once, and Blake claimed to have beat Joshua almost to unconsciousness. I would have loved to have seen that.
Blake left me in the security office with Greg. Slouched on a chair, twirling my ankle, I kept my eyes glued to the screen of Blake’s cell phone. When Joshua finally entered Blake’s office, I sat up straight.
Blake remained in the chair behind his desk, sprawled casually. “Hello, Joshua.”
“What the hell’s going on, Blake?” Joshua rolled back his shoulders. “I didn’t make it more than two steps up my driveway before Rossi came over, insisting I get into his car.”
Blake said nothing. Didn’t move. As I watched Joshua’s eyes flicker nervously, I had to wonder if he was on the receiving end of one of Blake’s icy stares. The camera was angled in a way that I could only really see the back of Blake’s head, but I had a perfect view of Joshua’s face.
Finally, Joshua took in a long breath, and his muscles lost some of their rigidity.
“Sit down,” said Blake. It wasn’t an invitation. It was an instruction.
Joshua jerkily took the seat opposite him. “What’s this about, Blake?”
“Ricky Tate, to be specific.”
Just like that, Joshua wiped all emotion from his face.
“I heard you paid his mother a visit.”
“I’m a cop,” said Joshua, unnaturally still. “I visit a lot of people.”
“No, you were off duty.” Blake tilted his head. “Why were you there?”
“What does it matter?”
“I’ve been looking for Ricky for quite some time now. I’d like a little chat with him. Sadly, he’s very much in the wind.”
Joshua squinted. “You think he’s the one giving Kensey trouble.”
“I think it could be several people. Like you, for example.”
I swear, Joshua’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “What?”
“You have a long history of bullying and harassing Kensey. You vandalized a vehicle that once belonged to her. You failed to investigate an incident when she was held at knifepoint, which might leave a person to wonder if the mugger was actually you.”
“Can you honestly tell me that you don’t seem a likely suspect? If we were talking about someone else who’d done those things, wouldn’t you be suspicious of them?”
Inclining his head, Joshua briefly closed his eyes. “Okay, yes, I can understand why you might look at me for this. I’ve been a shit to her, sure, but I’ve never done anything like that. And except for that one time when I was a teenager, I never physically hurt her.”
There was a short silence. “And what ‘one time’ would that be?” asked Blake, tone filled with lethal intent.
Joshua’s smile was self-mocking. “She didn’t tell you about that, huh?”
“You’re going to tell me.”
“I … Look, I wasn’t in a good place mentally at the time. My grandmother had just told me that my mother was filing for a divorce and—”
“What did you do?” Blake demanded.
Scrubbing a hand down his face, Joshua inhaled deeply. “Grabbed her by the throat and tried to shove her against a wall.”
Now it was Blake who sat unnaturally still. “How old was she?”
“I don’t remember, it was a long—”
“How old was she?”
“F-fifteen,” Joshua stammered. “She broke my nose, if that makes you feel better.”
“It doesn’t,” Blake clipped, leaning forward. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t put you through a world of pain right now.”
“I don’t have one.”
“No, because there isn’t one. And that correct response just saved you from a beating you deserve. You’re going to tell me everything I want to know, Joshua. Don’t fuck around. Poking at the hornet’s nest wouldn’t be wise of you. Now, what led you to Ricky Tate?”
Joshua sighed. “When I was in the bakery, the owner asked if I’d had any luck finding out who’d vandalized Kensey’s car; said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was the odd guy who went there a few months ago, talking about Kensey. Bill described him, and I remembered hearing that someone with a similar description once turned up outside her school and caused a scene.”
“And this description immediately led you to Ricky Tate? You must have already known his name. How?”
“I heard my father talking about him with my uncle.”
I blinked, not expecting that response.
“Your father and uncle?” Blake echoed, no doubt as surprised as I was.
“My uncle was reeling off information about the kid like his name, address, full description, and background. Apparently, my father had asked for the details.”
“Why would Maxwell have given a shit about anything that went on in Kensey’s life?” asked Blake, taking the question right out of my head.