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Morgan Evans sat on a park bench, gazing over the grass past a shrubbery towards a distant pond without really seeing the grass or the bushes or the pond, the small group of children playing despite the cold or the man walking with a dog romping around him, chasing after the thrown ball and racing back with it.
Stupid. So goddam stupid. The double life he'd led for nearly eighteen years gone in a moment of total carelessness.
How the hell could he have been so stupid, so monumentally careless, as to confuse the two parcels, and given Joan the Christmas present meant for Vera? And Vera by now had undoubtedly opened the present meant for Joan, although he had heard nothing from her. Of course, she didn't know his Cascade address - at most she'd be working through the A - Z, phoning hotels to see if he had booked into any of them - and she wouldn't expect him to be in his office on Christmas Day.
He could have got away with the story that Vera was one of his senior employees if he hadn't signed the card 'To Vera - All my love always, Morgan.' With Vera, he could have tried the same story, only the card she had certainly opened by now was signed 'To Joan - All my love always, Morgan'.
Evans knew Joan had a quick temper - Vera's quiet nature and even temperament was what had drawn him to Vera, two years after he married Joan. Not that Vera was weak - far from it. She had a quiet strength, and the memory of it steadied him any time Joan threw what he could only call a temper tantrum. Though nothing matched the explosion - there was no other word for it - from Joan when she realized that her husband was unfaithful. At least she hadn't realized - yet - that Vera believed herself to be his wife.
He had thought himself so clever, one wife in Cascade and one in Seattle, an office in each town and regular trips between the two. Both wives were kept busy by their children, and he had used the children's welfare - "They mustn't miss their schooling" - as an excuse for leaving each family behind when he went to the other town. Though that had been getting harder, this last year or two, as the children grew up. His two sons by Joan were now sixteen and eighteen. Vera's son was fifteen, and her daughter, sixteen. Soon all would have left school - and then what excuse could he have used? At least - what excuse to avoid taking Joan to Seattle or Vera to Cascade; the children were now all old enough to be left to their own devices.
Shivering as the late December wind blew cold around him, Evans debated what to do. But he already knew. Perhaps his subconscious had known it was time to move on, and nudged him into making the mistake. It was time to abandon both families and move elsewhere. As well as the two bank accounts - one in each town, in different banks - that he maintained, and which he would abandon, leaving the money in them to his wives, there was the third one in yet another bank, in the name of Evan Morgan, that neither wife knew about, that he had been quietly adding to over the years. There was more money in it than in either of the others, and a man without ties could live off it very comfortably while he established himself somewhere.
He wouldn't start another business, he decided. Not yet, anyway - and when he did, if he did, it would be in a completely different field. Yes. Go to ground for a couple of years. It would be nice, for a while, not to have any major decisions to make; restful to have a nine-to-five job where someone else got the grey hair and the stress ulcer. He could give himself a reference - Evans chuckled to himself at the thought - and start working for someone else... It would mean a fairly large drop in income, but with only himself to support, that would be no great hardship. And he had to admit to himself that although there were certain benefits, he had begun to resent the one major downside to his life - the financial drain of maintaining two households.
Pity he didn't have quite enough stashed away to retire just yet.
His children... He still loved them, and would miss them - although come to think of it, Lewis was getting too rebellious for comfort, and he could see Martin heading the same way. A response to Joan's temper, perhaps? No, those two were a responsibility he could well do without. But he would definitely miss Dorothy and Mark, Vera's sweeter-tempered children. Joan and Vera, however... He wouldn't miss them at all. He had long since fallen out of love with Joan, and although he still had a mild affection for Vera, it wouldn't bother him if he never saw her again.
Only habit, and the convenience of not having to go hunting for a sexual partner, had kept him with them this long.
Yes, he thought. Even if this hadn't happened, it's definitely time to move on. Now... where to go? Not the east coast. He had enemies on the east coast who might well go after him if they knew he was back, even after twenty years. Certainly, if he went to New York, it was unlikely that anyone in Boston would know... but he didn't want to take the chance. He smiled calculatingly. He had always avoided the warmer states, telling both Joan and Vera that he didn't care for the heat. They would never think of looking for him in - say - Texas or New Mexico or perhaps Arizona. Or even Hawaii? Now there was an idea...
It was beginning to get dark, the thick layer of cloud that had blown in during the afternoon bringing nightfall early; the children were heading towards the park gate. The man with the dog had long since disappeared. Time to be moving. He could get a hotel room -
The bullet hit him before he had time to hear the sound of the shot. He was aware - for the briefest of seconds - of a sharp pain in his chest. His last thought was that his problems had been solved...
A passer-by in the half light, throwing a casual glance towards the figure on the bench, still sitting, leaning back with its head down, might have thought the man had simply fallen asleep, despite the cold wind and the rain that had begun to fall with the coming of darkness. Many people seeing him would simply have walked past, possibly believing him to be homeless, or thinking that it was his own fault if he had fallen asleep and got soaked.
Alex Gundorf, however, had a little more fellow-feeling than many. As his dog ran past the motionless figure, Gundorf stopped although he was anxious to get home out of the rain.
"Sir? Wake up. It's nearly dark, and you're getting very wet."
There was no response, and Gundorf reached out to shake the man's shoulder. When he did, the body slumped sideways, rolled off the seat and landed on the ground to lie, unmoving, in what looked to be a very awkward position.
Gundorf stared down at it for a moment, then reached a shaking hand into his pocket for his cell phone, and called 911.
"The man had been shot - one bullet, straight through the heart," Vince Avery of Homicide said, his tone somewhat disgruntled; it was early afternoon of the next day, and already the case was being passed over to Major Crime on the intervention of the Mayor. Captain Avery was being as helpful and co-operative as he could be, but it was quite clear to his three listeners that the man wasn't sure whether to be annoyed at the inference that his department was incapable of handing the case, or pleased that this apparently motiveless crime was out of his hands. "From the contents of his wallet, we identified him as Morgan Evans, a fairly prominent businessman, but the CEO of a company manufacturing health products is unlikely to have made business enemies. The motive wasn't theft - his wallet, containing several hundred dollars, hadn't been touched. The man who found him didn't see anyone nearby and hadn't heard anything, although the doctor who pronounced him DOA at the hospital thought he had been killed less than half an hour earlier; that it was probable he had been killed just two or three minutes before he was found."
Detectives Ellison and Sandburg glanced at each other. "Silencer?" Jim asked.
"Probably," Avery agreed. "We secured the scene, but a full search of the area had to be postponed until this morning - it's under way now, and I'll pass on to you anything we discover, though I imagine you'll want to do your own sweep. As of an hour ago, though, my men had found nothing."
Jim glanced at Simon. "Sandburg and I will go over there as soon as this meeting's over, have a quick look around. Then depending on whether Captain Avery's men do find anything this afternoon, we can carry on with the sweep tomorrow."
"When we informed Evans' wife of his death, her immediate reaction was, 'I hope he rots in hell'," Avery went on. "Turned out she had just discovered he had a mistress. She couldn't give us any details, though."
"How had she found out?" Blair asked.
"Apparently he had slipped up and given her the Christmas present intended for the other woman."
"Ouch!" Blair muttered.
"That was as far as we got - Christmas, his office is closed, so we couldn't contact any of his employees to find out if they knew of any problems, any threats he was receiving." Avery shrugged. "Though my money would be on the wife. She didn't seem the kind to let a little bit of infidelity slide."
"Almost too obvious, though, wouldn't you say?" Simon asked.
"How long previously was 'just discovered'?" Blair asked.
"Christmas present - Christmas Day. Early yesterday morning. Well, fairly early. They opened their presents after breakfast."
"Assuming the wife owned a gun, the kind of gun the public buys doesn't normally come with a silencer. Which means she'd either have to get a silencer or find a hitman. Getting the silencer is probably easier, but either way, the shooter then has to track down where Morgan went - all inside possibly six hours. I don't think it's possible given that time scale," Simon said.
"That's the problem," Avery agreed. "It's really only the timing that gives her an alibi, but it's a fairly good one." He stood. "Well, it's in your hands now; good luck."
The three watched him go. Simon sighed. "Just what does the Mayor have against Major Crime?"
Blair glanced at him. "Shouldn't that be 'Why does the Mayor think Major Crime can solve everything'?"
"Maybe you and Ellison should stop being quite so efficient!" Simon growled. "No, I don't mean that. You're good, with a great solve rate; that makes me look good, it makes the PD look good, which impresses the public - and the mayor is sitting there doing everything possible to keep the PD looking good, because that all reflects back to the person in the hot seat... namely the mayor. So he contacts the Commissioner, who takes a case from Homicide, which is perfectly capable of handling it, and adds it to our case load, which is already full. What's the status of your current cases?"
"The Stockton case has stalled; the last report we have on the guy has him boarding a plane for Mexico, and he seems to have taken all his paperwork with him - anything he didn't destroy. We're still waiting for a background report on Carl Lyndon, but that'll only confirm what we already know. Although the guy's certainly guilty, we won't get a conviction - he's on a one-way ticket to Conover. But at least that gets him put away where he won't be endangering the public ever again. We've got a lead on the arson case, a possible witness we were planning on interviewing today - "
"Give that to Conner."
"Right. And the jewel heist looks like an inside job, but there's not much we can do till the owner gets back from his winter vacation and can give us an inventory of everything that should be there. We've questioned the employees, but none of them will admit to knowing exactly what was in the cracked safe, just that the total value hit seven figures. Apparently Meyer didn't believe in letting his employees know more than they had to know - not even his shop manager."
"You haven't found Meyer yet?"
"No. He left for Europe, the evening before the heist, with no stated destination, just said that he'd be moving around. We did track him to Paris, but after that he dropped off the radar. Presumably he's still in France, otherwise he'd have been identified crossing one of the borders."
"When is the guy expected back?"
"All right, keep that one - "
"I don't think he'll be back," Blair said.
Simon look at him in silence for some moments. "Say again?"
"I was looking at the report again earlier today, and I don't think Meyer'll be back. He went off December tenth, and he's been out of touch ever since. That's over two weeks. A guy as jealous of his position as boss as he seems to be isn't going to head off for a full month, leaving his business in the hands of employees who have no record of what's there. If he does take a vacation, he'll phone in at least every day or two, keeping his finger on what's happening. And the timing? The blown safe is discovered the morning after he left? I think either Meyer stole the contents of his own safe, or else whoever did found him still in the office, took him away at gunpoint and killed him somewhere, then assumed his identity and used his ticket to go to Paris."
Jim and Simon looked at each other. "It's plausible," Jim said. "It might be a good idea for us to look into the firm's financial status. Wouldn't be the first time a guy has staged a robbery or a fire at his own business to get the insurance money."
"Okay, pass that one on to Reubens for the moment. It's a pretty routine check, but it'll be good experience for him. Anything else?"
"No, that's everything."
"So why are you still here in my office?"
"Because we're good at being in two places at once?" Blair suggested as Jim grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the door. As it closed behind them, Simon grinned for a moment - nothing would ever teach Sandburg fear of authority - then turned his attention back to the reports filling his in tray.
Avery was as good as his word. As Jim and Blair left Simon's office, Rhonda crossed to them carrying copies of the paperwork - such as it was. A short statement from Hans Gundorf explaining how he had found the body, an equally short one giving Joan Evans' reaction to the information that her husband was dead, and a statement from the doctor to the effect that the man was dead on arrival, with a bullet wound to the chest that, in his opinion, had penetrated the heart before exiting the body through the back.
"I don't think we need to speak to Mr. Gundorf," Jim said. "I doubt there's anything he can add to this."
Blair nodded. "We do need to speak to the wife, though. Do we need an actual autopsy?"
"There doesn't seem to be much doubt about the cause of death," Jim agreed. "A bullet through the heart is pretty unmistakeable. It'll have been reported to Dan; he can deal with it. He'll let us know if there's anything more. Let's have a quick look at the scene, then go and see Mrs. Evans."
Killed instantly, Evans hadn't bled much, his clothes had soaked up most of the blood and the rain had washed away much of the little that had dripped to the ground. The bench where he had been sitting was cordoned off, but Jim didn't need to go closer than the yellow police tape to know that there was nothing to see there.
He turned his back on the bench and studied the terrain in front of him. Several police about a hundred yards from him were crawling slowly away in a slightly uneven line, carefully studying the ground as they went. A solitary figure stood supervising; Jim recognized him as Detective Ramsey of Homicide.
Jim watched the crawling men for a moment, then looked past them to a neat shrubbery about another hundred yards away. It was the only possible place for someone to hide while waiting to take his shot. However, a shot of two hundred yards in what had to have been failing light called for considerable marksmanship, which made a hitman the most likely bet. He walked briskly towards Ramsey, Blair at his heels.
Ramsey glanced at him. "Jim. Blair." His voice was restrained, and both men knew there was some resentment there.
"Sorry about this, Bruce," Jim said quietly. "It wasn't our choice, and from what we know there was no reason for the Mayor to interfere and take the case away from Homicide."
"I know," Ramsey said. "But... well... " He shrugged.
"We'll make sure you get credit for the preliminary work," Jim went on.
"Now - I imagine you checked the shrubbery there?"
"Yeah, that was the first place we checked. Only bit of cover there is. Someone had been hiding there for a while, and I'd say the shot was fired from there. No casing, though, so there's a good chance the shooter picked it up. We found the actual bullet another hundred yards past the bench. Forensics has taken it. This - " he nodded towards the searching men - "is just so we can say we did a thorough search. We're not expecting to find anything."
Jim nodded. "Since we're here, I'll just take a quick look at the shrubbery, but I doubt I'll find anything you didn't."
Leaving Ramsey, they crossed quickly to the clump of bushes. Although the branches reached the ground around its perimeter, there was plenty of space under the branches in the middle, and it was easy to see where someone had knelt, watching the park bench and the man sitting on it, for some time before shooting.
"Why?" Blair muttered. "Why wait? Why not just take his shot as soon as he was in position?"
"Good question," Jim replied. His attention was drawn to a dog running after a ball a little way beyond the police marking tape. "There's your answer, Chief. There wouldn't be people sitting around at this time of year, but there very well might have been several people walking dogs - which would make him wait until it was late enough for them to have gone home. 'Course, that was taking the chance that Evans would move away - but a hitman worth his money is patient; he'll wait till he can be sure of getting his man."
"Doesn't say much for Zeller, then, does it?" Blair snorted.
"Zeller was good at his trade when he was younger," Jim said. "But as he got older, he clearly became unbalanced; and with Bartley, he had a deadline. When it seemed likely he wouldn't make the deadline, he just lost it - because he knew that if he failed, his employers would send someone else after him." He returned his attention to the shrub in front of him. "Our killer rested his rifle on this branch - see the mark here?"
Blair peered close, and nodded. "Just."
"He had plenty of time to get his target lined up, so the fact that it was getting dark wasn't going to matter much as long as the dark shape on the bench didn't move. Just needed a few seconds with nobody around - and all the dog walkers were going to be heading for home by the time the light started to fade. He probably guessed from the way Evans was sitting that he wasn't in any hurry to leave."
"That is so cold," Blair muttered.
"This was a premeditated killing, Chief. Premeditated killings are always cold."
They left Ramsey finishing the ground search and headed for the Evans house.
"Mrs. Evans?" Jim asked when the door opened. "Detective Ellison, Cascade PD, and my partner, Detective Sandburg. Can we have a word?"
"If this is about that two-timing rat Morgan - "
"I'm afraid so," Blair said smoothly. "The investigation into Mr. Evans' death has been transferred to Major Crime, and while we've read the statement you made to Detective Ramsey, we would like to speak to you ourselves. May we come in?"
"All right," she said, albeit somewhat ungraciously. "I've found out a bit more anyway about what he was doing since I spoke to Detective Ramsey." She showed them into a room where there were already several other people; a woman who looked to be about forty, two obviously teenaged boys - one of them hovering protectively beside the woman - and a third, older, one who was probably still in his teens, as well as a teenaged girl who looked as if it wouldn't take much to make her burst into tears again. There was a quietly depressing feel to the room; even the undecorated Christmas tree in one corner looked subdued, and beside it was a waste paper basket that held what looked like the remains of decorations, as if the festive trappings had been pulled down and dumped.
Mrs. Evans said to the room, "These are Detectives Ellison and Sandburg. Detectives, let me introduce Mrs. Vera Evans from Seattle, son Mark and daughter Dorothy, and my two sons, Martin and Lewis."
Jim frowned, not quite understanding the significance of the introduction, assuming that Mrs. Vera Evans was a sister-in-law come to give support. Blair, however, drew a sharp breath. "He married you both?"
"Joan's the legal wife," Vera said, her voice flat. "Easy to work that out. He married me two years after he married Joan. I always wondered why he never wanted me to come to Cascade when he was working in the office here, but I never pushed it. However, after his Christmas present came with a card made out to 'Joan'... I know more about computers than he ever guessed. His computer was password protected, but he's not - he wasn't - " Her voice broke for a second. "He wasn't very imaginative when it came to passwords; it didn't take me long to figure out what it was. I checked the records of both offices for where he was staying here, thinking it would be a hotel - he always led me to believe he stayed at a hotel. I was surprised to discover he actually had a house here. Anyway, I came to confront him. Only to discover that the woman I assumed was a girl friend living in Cascade was actually his legal wife."
"I know our marriage wasn't perfect," Joan Evans said, her shoulders slumping. "Hell, I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect marriage. But I did think it was pretty solid. When I thought he had a mistress, I was furious. But to discover that she was a second wife... Like Vera, I thought he stayed at a hotel when he went to Seattle." She looked at the other woman. "I don't blame Vera. She wasn't to know, and she's even more of a victim than I am."
"Why did he go to Seattle?" Jim asked.
"His business has a branch there as well as the one here. He split his time between them."
"Right. And when did you get to Cascade, Ma'am?" Jim turned to Vera.
"About an hour ago." She gave a wry smile. "I came straight here, planning, as I said, to confront Morgan, give him an ultimatum... It took us about two minutes to realize the situation, and then Joan told me Morgan was killed yesterday. What happened?"
"That's what we're trying to find out," Jim told her. He turned to Joan. "What exactly happened here yesterday?"
"We opened our presents just after beakfast," she said. "I knew as soon as I opened the one from Morgan that something was wrong - it was an emerald necklace with matching stud earrings. He wasn't the most observant of men, but even he knew that I don't have pierced ears and I never wear green. Then I opened the card, and it there was - 'To Vera... '
"As soon as I said, 'Who's Vera?' I knew from the look on his face that he had a guilty conscience. I'm afraid I started screaming at him, and he got up and ran out. Moments later I heard the front door closing. That was the last I saw of him."
Jim looked at the boys he guessed were her sons, assuming that the one hovering at Vera's shoulder was her son. "Anything either of you wants to add?"
The younger one shook his head without saying anything. The older one looked for a moment as if he was about to speak, then glanced at his mother and muttered, "No. That was about it. Then Mom fastened the security chains on the doors so he couldn't get in again, and began to pull down all the decorations."
"So none of you went out yesterday?"
"No," Joan said. "Lewis wanted to go out in the afternoon - to meet some friends, he said - but I wouldn't let him. I was afraid he might try to find his father - and I wanted him clear of the bastard's influence."
"How old is Lewis?" Blair asked. "Nineteen?"
"Whatever influence your husband had on him is already well established. It's a known fact that the oldest son almost always tries to emulate his father." He was aware that the boy was scowling, clearly resenting being discussed, and turned to him. "You didn't feel you should stay and support your Mom? How did you feel about things?"
Lewis glanced at his mother. "I can see how Mom would feel hurt, but... "
"I could understand why he'd do it - have another woman; even admire him for getting away with it for so long. You're a man, surely you understand that?"
"God, you really are your father's son, aren't you!" Joan muttered.
Blair said quietly, "Sure, Lewis; once or twice I've dated two women at the same time, but there's a difference between that, not being serious about either one and each of them knowing it, and what your Dad did. He made a promise when he married your Mom, and he didn't keep that promise. And he cheated Vera and more than cheated your half-brother and sister. Think - how would you have felt this morning if you'd discovered that they were the legitimate ones and you'd suddenly discovered that - although he acknowledged you - you were basically a bastard?"
"But I'm not," Lewis said smugly.
Not even Jim could guess what was going through Blair's mind as he looked at Lewis for a moment longer before turning his attention to the bigamous wife. "What about you, Ma'am? How did you find out?"
"He'd left our presents, knowing we wouldn't open them till Christmas Day... You know, I feel so stupid - but I trusted Morgan. Looking back, I realize now that he was always away this time of year on alternate years. I really should have wondered why...
"Anyway, I looked at the card first, and it was 'to Joan, all my love...' and I knew... But I opened the thing, to see what he'd meant to give her. It was a sapphire necklace and matching brooch." She looked at Joan. "And while I have no problem with blue, I never wear a brooch. So even without the card, I'd have been suspicious." Her voice shook slightly, and Mark - in that moment appearing more mature than his older half-siblings - put his hand on her shoulder, offering silent support. "I don't get angry easily, but that was too much - so as I said, I hacked into his computer... We don't usually open our presents till after dinner, stretch out the anticipation so to speak, so it was quite late before I found out about this address. We left Seattle first thing this morning."
Blair glanced over at Jim, silently asking, "Anything else?" Jim shook his head, and Blair said, "Thank you. Will you be going back to Seattle now? We'll need your address there."
The two women looked at each other, then Joan said, "Vera, you're welcome to stay here until all this is sorted out. As I said, I really don't blame you, and... well... I think we can support each other until we know exactly what we're going to do."
"Why?" Lewis asked. "We don't owe them anything. They've got no legal rights - "
"LEWIS!" Joan took a deep breath and continued more quietly. "You're my son and I love you - but suddenly I don't think I like you very much. It's about time you learned that there's such a thing as moral rights, and as far as I'm concerned eighteen years of believing she was his wife gives Vera as much right as I do to whatever your father left."
"I don't want to cause trouble between - " Vera began.
"Lewis doesn't dictate what I do," Joan said. "This is still my house, not his, and I say you're welcome."
"Thank you," Vera said. She hesitated before continuing, "I... suppose I have Lewis to thank for pointing out... I don't really have any legal rights. I hadn't realized that."
"We'll manage, Mom," Mark said reassuringly. He raised his head and glared at Lewis. "Which is more than you could do without daddy's money. Brother." The scorn in his voice made a mockery of the last word.
As he started the truck, Jim said, "I'm as sure as it's possible to be that none of them were responsible for killing Evans."
"I think you're right," Blair agreed, "though I don't think there was much actual sorrow there. The only one who seemed to be really grieving was the daughter, though it might have been anger that was sustaining the two wives. I'd guess the Seattle one, at least, might well break down once she's alone in bed tonight. I'm glad Joan is being... well, civilized about the situation."
"Yes. I rather liked the Seattle family."
"I definitely liked Mark," Blair nodded. "Lewis, on the other hand... "
"If he is 'his father's son' like Joan said... strikes me Evans could very well have made quite a few enemies just by riding roughshod over their feelings - though that's a poor reason for killing the man."
"Doesn't have to have been just their feelings, Chief. The man doesn't seem to have had much in the way of morals."
"Well, he was 'moral' enough to go through a marriage ceremony with Vera, even though it wasn't legal," Blair pointed out.
"Maybe she just wouldn't put out without a wedding ring," Jim suggested.
"Well, yes, but then he carried on with the charade for eighteen years. If he only 'married' her to get a roll in the hay, I'd have expected him to walk out on her inside six months."
"Though shifting between the two had to have kept his lust 'fresh', so to speak."
Blair frowned. "I'm not sure. Okay, I was seeing it from the other side, but it always seemed to me that once the 'freshness' of a new affair was over, Naomi didn't feel any urge to continue with it - though she stayed on friendly terms with at least some of the guys who fell for her, I don't think she ever slept with any of them again, once she'd moved on. But... Jim, you've lived most of your life in a male-bonded society - the army, the police. I'm sure you've seen guys who were incapable of staying faithful to their wives, who would never dream of letting a male friend down, right?"
"Well, I've seen one or two who were the other way. Had an odd sense of morality where women were concerned, but a man didn't dare turn his back, know what I mean? Could be Evans was like that."
Jim was silent for some moments. Finally, he said, "We'll need to interview the people he worked with. Depending on what we discover, we'll maybe have to speak to the ones in the Seattle branch too."
"We won't be able to see them till after the holiday."
"I know. Gives the perp that much longer to disappear."
"You don't think we're going to solve this case, do you." Blair sounded somewhat dispirited.
"If I'm honest - I think we'll be very lucky if we do."
They hadn't expected to speak to any of Morgan's staff until the second or third of January. Next morning, however, a civilian entered the bullpen, and after exchanging a few words with Detective Bryant, whose desk was nearest the door, crossed to stand at Jim's desk.
Jim glanced up. "Can I help you, sir?"
"Detective Ellison?" At Jim's nod, he went on, "I'm Barry Outram. I'm - I was - Morgan Evans' manager - well, under manager - here in Cascade. I thought you might want to see me?"
"Yes, we do, Mr. Outram. Thank you for coming in. We're trying to build up a picture of Mr. Evans' life, see if that gives us any clues as to why he was killed. Blair!"
Blair looked up from the report he was reading, and Jim beckoned him to join them as he said, "Let's take this to an interview room."
As they went, Jim introduced the two men.
They settled into seats in the first vacant room they came to, Blair wondering - not for the first time - why these rooms had such uncomfortable seats.
"As I said, we're trying to discover as much as possible about Mr. Evans," Jim began. "When did you hear about his death?"
"Last night. I was visiting family in Vancouver over Christmas, got home about eight last night. It didn't make the Canadian news, but I hadn't cancelled my morning paper - it's delivered, left in my mailbox - and when I read about Morgan's death... Have you any idea yet what happened?"
"Only what's in the paper," Jim said. "Can you tell me - did Mr. Evans have any enemies?"
"Not that I knew of," Outram said.
"No. I don't deny there's competition - every business has that - but our products have a good reputation. I've worked for him since he started here, and all that time Morgan's been respected by everyone in the trade."
"Staff relations?" Jim asked.
"Are very good. He always gives credit to any member of staff who comes up with an idea for a new item - some bosses don't. He's always been flexible about allowing paid time off for anyone with - say - a family problem, and encouraged both me and my Seattle counterpart to do the same, things like that, so morale is excellent. I just don't understand why anyone would want to kill him."
Blair decided it was time to join in. "Mr. Outram, do you have much contact with the Seattle office?"
"No," Outram said. "Morgan was the liaison between the two offices. He didn't encourage us to get to know our counterparts. In a way, the two offices were competing against each other - sounds silly, doesn't it? I think we were both trying to prove to him how much more efficient we were than the other one. In the long run that meant greater efficiency, and that could only be good for the business." He hesitated. "How's Joan - Mrs. Evans - holding up?"
"How well do you know her?" Blair asked. "Personally, I mean, not just as the boss's wife that you know about, but didn't know."
"We've met a few times. Nice lady, though she has a bit of a temper. I have to admit I don't care for the older boy, though."
"Why not?" Blair was careful to keep his voice casual.
"I'm... not sure. There was just something about his attitude, any time I met him. Let's just say I wouldn't want to work for him."
"Mmm. Second generation wealth?" Blair suggested.
"No," Outram said, but he sounded doubtful. "Maybe third generation, though."
"Can you tell us anything about Mr. Evans himself?"
"Well, Morgan came here from the east coast - Boston, I think, though he never said much about it - about twenty years ago, and opened a small health food store. No, it'd be twenty-one years, come to think of it; he married about a year after he started here. Their twentieth anniversary was back in August; I remember Morgan gave Joan a beautiful Waterford Crystal vase - had to have set him back at least fifteen hundred.
"He worked behind the counter to start with, and I was just his assistant, back then. But he had to have had some money behind him, because he started expanding the store even before he married - the guy in the shop next door wanted to retire, and Morgan bought the place, put a door in the dividing wall, and that doubled the size of the store. We'd always made up some of the things we sold to our own recipe - inside another year he began to expand that side of things as well, and it wasn't long before we were selling what we made to other stores. That was when he decided to open a branch in Seattle. He promoted me, left me in charge and went off to Seattle for several months to find suitable premises and get things started. Joan stayed here - Lewis had been born by then, and because Morgan would be staying in a hotel... well, they decided that living in a hotel with a baby wasn't something they really wanted to do."
"And he found somewhere suitable, and after that split his time between here and Seattle?" Blair asked.
"Yes; about a month at a time in each. I'm not sure where Andy Dodds - the Seattle manager - originally came from; but he's been there for at least sixteen years, just as I've been manager here for eighteen. I imagine Joan will leave things as they are for the moment, but Andy and I will have to work more closely than we've been doing."
Jim and Blair looked at each other. "It's not likely to be as simple as that," Blair said.
"Why not?" Outram asked. "Unless Morgan split the company, and left one branch to each of the boys... but considering their ages, Joan would have to run everything for them for several years - "
"Even that wouldn't be a problem," Jim said. "The media sharks haven't got hold of the story yet, but they will, and when they do... "
"Story?" Outram asked.
"Mr. Evans had a wife in Seattle as well as one in Cascade," Blair said.
Shock showed clearly on Outram's face. "A wife... God. Poor Joan!"
"Yes," Blair said. "Also poor Vera. Joan at least was the legal wife. Vera has lost everything, discovered her children are illegitimate... She's totally dependent on Joan's generosity. Fortunately for her, Joan has accepted that she didn't know, couldn't have known, that she was a victim, and probably won't be vindictive. Not when she's offered Vera hospitality until they can work something out."
Outram nodded slowly. "She has a temper, but no, Joan's not a vindictive person."
"I'm surprised the reporters haven't turned up yet to interview the widow," Jim said. "They're not usually this sensitive. When they do - and they will - the Cascade ones will visit his Cascade home; the Seattle ones will undoubtedly visit the Seattle home. They'll find it locked up, decide the family has come to Cascade because this is where Mr. Evans was killed, and then... "
"But why?" Outram asked. "Joan was a good wife to him... "
"It might have been spending so long in Seattle, with Joan staying here with her children. Wanting to have marital advantages in both towns," Blair suggested. "Only Mr. Evans could have explained why."
"You don't think Joan...?"
"No, Mr. Outram," Jim said. "We've spoken with them, and we're satisfied that neither family was responsible. From what you've told us, we needn't look for an employee with a grudge or a business rival. Which leaves us with no motive."
"No obvious motive," Blair said.
"Right. No obvious motive," Jim repeated. He stood, handing over his card. "If you think of anything else, please phone me. Thank you for your information, Mr. Outram."
"Not that it told you much," Outram muttered as he, too, stood.
"Even negative information is useful," Blair murmured as he gathered up the papers he'd used to take notes. "It can save us wasting time following up a line of enquiry that is going to lead nowhere."
"Do you suppose Joan would mind if I visited her?" Outram asked. "I feel I should, to offer my condolences if nothing else, although under the circumstances... "
"You might try phoning first," Blair suggested.
"Yes. Yes, I'll do that," Outram agreed as he turned towards the door.
They followed him, saw him onto the elevator, and went back to their desks.
When the phone rang, Jim reached for it without raising his eyes from the report he was studying. "Ellison."
"Joan's been shot!" It was an almost hysterical cry.
It took only a second for Jim to understand. "Is this Vera?"
"Have you called an ambulance?"
"Yes - then I th-thought that you... "
"Where are you?"
"At her house... "
"Is someone applying pressure to Joan's wound?"
"Yes - Mark is."
Jim nodded. Yes, that fitted the opinion he had formed of the Evans children; Mark, the youngest, was the most sensible, most practical one.
"Don't touch anything. Detective Sandburg and I will be straight over."
He put the phone down and stood, turning to Blair. "Let's go, Chief. Joan Evans has been shot."
They arrived as Joan was being lifted into the ambulance. Jim parked behind it and got out. As he moved to join Vera, who was standing watching as the ambulance doors closed, Blair joined him.
Vera was shaking as she watched the ambulance pulling away, lights and sirens activated. As it disappeared, Blair gently urged Vera back into the house.
The four teenagers were sitting around a table in the kitchen. Dorothy was pale-faced and trembling, but otherwise seemed a little less shell-shocked than the previous day. Mark, blood on his cuffs although he had obviously found time to wash it off his hands, sat grim-faced but self-possessed; Martin was shaking and clearly fighting tears. Only Lewis was apparently unconcerned, but Jim read in him a hidden tension. It probably wouldn't take much to break the boy, he knew, and when he broke... From what he had seen of Lewis Evans, Jim expected that when he broke, it could very well be with anger and violence.
Blair urged Vera into a chair.
"Where were you when this happened?" Jim asked. It was a general question, aimed at nobody in particular.
"We were in the living room." Somehow neither detective was surprised when it was Mark who answered. "Mom and Aunt Joan - she told us to call her that - were talking about what we should do." He cast a disgusted glance at his older half-brother. "Lewis wanted Aunt Joan to claim everything, tell us to get lost. Martin, Dorothy and I were just listening. I think all three of us trusted our mothers to come to a fair agreement. Whatever Lewis thinks, none of this was our fault.
"And then the glass in the window shattered, and Aunt Joan gave a sort of gasping cry and I could see the blood on her blouse... " He took a deep breath. "We were all shocked. I don't think any of us moved for a second or two, then I grabbed a cushion - it was the only half-way suitable thing I could see - and applied pressure to the wound, and Mom grabbed the phone. She called 911, then I realized she'd picked up the card you'd left - it was beside the phone - and was calling you as well... "
Vera nodded. "Thank heavens Mark's sensible and p-p-practical. The p-paramedics said that if he hadn't d-d-done anything, Joan would have b-bled out before they arrived."
"When you phoned, you said Joan had been shot. If the window just shattered, how did you know that? How did you know she hadn't just been hit by a piece of glass?"
"W-we w-w-weren't near the w-window," Vera said. "The house is electrically heated, with an electric f-fire as a f-focal point in the living room, and w-we were sitting around the f-fire."
"Did any of you hear a shot?" Jim asked.
Silence for a moment, then a mumbled chorus of "No."
Jim glanced at Blair, sure that his partner was on the same wavelength. It sounded very much as if the person who shot Morgan Evans had also targeted Joan Evans, again using a rifle equipped with a silencer.
"I don't like this," Jim said. "It's beginning to look as if someone is targeting the entire family. At least, the Cascade family." He looked at Lewis. "We've spoken to Mr. Outram, and he couldn't think of anyone who might want your father dead. Can you think of anyone, anyone at all, who might have a grudge against both your parents?"
The boy shook his head. "No... No, I can't." He sounded a little subdued as he glanced towards Vera. "Yesterday... Yesterday, I'd have said... But Aunt Vera phoned for an ambulance, and Mark... "
"You th-thought we resented you?" Vera asked.
"In your place, I would have," Lewis admitted. He was silent for some moments, gazing at the floor. Finally he raised his head and looked at Vera. "Mom was right," he said. "The only person at fault was Dad. There's no reason why we can't settle things amicably."
"Thank you," Vera murmured. She looked at Jim. "We... We should g-get to the hospital, see how Joan is."
"I'd like a look around, if I may," Jim said. "I understand that you will all want to go, and Lewis and Martin will certainly need to go since she's their mother, but if Mark stays he can show us around, and when we're finished we'll bring him to the hospital to join you."
After the others had left, Jim turned to Mark. "I'm sorry to keep you - I realize you must be quite worried too, even though you only met Joan such a short time ago. But it had to be you or your sister, and frankly, you seemed the more mature one."
Mark smiled ruefully. "Since I was about ten, I've had to be the man of the house when Dad wasn't there. Mom's great, don't get me wrong, but she can't really cope with a crisis - "
"I noticed the stammer," Jim said.
"Yes, she gets that when she's stressed. And Dorothy's even worse when it comes to dealing with anything unexpected.
"When Mom discovered that Dad... had another woman, yes, she decided to have it out with him, but it was anger that decided it for her, kept her going. If Aunt Joan hadn't invited us to stay, hadn't been so reasonable about it, I was the one who would have found us a hotel, contacted our lawyer to discover what our legal situation was... I was surprised that Mom reacted as quickly as she did when Aunt Joan was shot.
"I have to admit one of the things that worried me was whether Lewis would tell us to get out, once Aunt Joan was out of his way. I was prepared to fight him over it, because it wasn't his decision and the house isn't his, but now I don't think I'll have to. I wish Aunt Joan hadn't been shot, but one good thing came out of it; Lewis has stopped being... well, defensively aggressive."
"Yes, he certainly seemed more reasonable today," Blair agreed.
"Now, can you show us the living room, and where everyone was sitting," Jim went on.
It was easy to see where Joan had been sitting; a comfortable-looking armchair was bloodstained, and a bloodstained cushion lay nearby, where it had been dropped when the paramedics took over.
"Mom was sitting on the couch here - " Mark indicated the end nearest the armchair. Anyone sitting in it would have had her back to the window. "Dorothy was sitting beside her, and I was at the other end. Lewis was in the other armchair, with Martin sitting on the arm."
Jim stood at the side of the bloodstained armchair and studied the window. Then he moved slowly in front of the couch to the other armchair, and nodded. Joan had been unlucky to sit in the one part of the room that could be seen clearly from a reasonable distance, and a big clump of evergreens near the wall of the garden offered a hiding place. He had little doubt that when he checked that clump of bushes, he would find signs that someone had hidden there waiting his chance. So... Joan wasn't necessarily the prime target. If Lewis or Martin had been in that chair, he would have been the one shot at; Jim was sure of that.
Which all came back to the same question - who hated the Evans family enough to do this?
"One thing Lewis hinted at would have made sense... if Vera had known beforehand about Joan," Blair said.
They had, as promised, taken Mark to the hospital to rejoin the others waiting for news of Joan, but it was too soon for the doctors treating her to give them a prognosis. Now they were on their way back to the PD, taking with them the bullet Jim had found half-embedded in the wall behind the armchair. None of the family had realized that the bullet had gone right through Joan's body. Luckily the pressure Mark had applied to the entry wound had forced Joan back against the chair, and that had acted to apply some pressure to the exit wound he hadn't known was there.
Jim had been right about the evergreen bush in the garden; he found the marks where someone had knelt in wait, and marks in the grass showing the path the shooter had taken as he left, going over the wall into the garden next door and then over the wall of that garden onto the road.
Forensics could go and check out the garden, though Jim didn't think there was anything to find. There was little point in their checking inside the house, since the shot had been taken from outside.
"Yesterday, if I'd had to point a finger at any of them trying to kill off the 'other' family, it would have been Lewis," Jim said. "Today... no. I think now that yesterday Lewis was just posturing. Being - what was it Mark said? Yes, defensively aggressive. No, I don't think this has anything to do with Evans' bigamy. It's got to be something else, and the only thing I can think of is that Evans somehow got involved with the Mob, and offended someone at the top - this is beginning to look too much like a Mob execution of the entire family of someone they consider a traitor. I think we need to have another word with Outram."
"It mightn't be anything recent," Blair said thoughtfully. "Didn't Outram say Evans had moved here from the east?"
"Boston," Jim agreed. "And yes - the Mob doesn't forget, no matter how long it takes. If he moved from Boston all the way to here to get away from Mob vengeance... "
"Witness protection? He might have changed his name," Blair suggested. "That would make it pretty difficult - "
"But not impossible, given the resources the Mob has. I think we should get Simon to have a word with the local FBI guys. If it turns out that Evans was in witness protection, they need to get the rest of the family to safety."
They spoke to Simon, who agreed to contact the FBI office, then went to see Barry Outram, but the man was unable to give them any more information than he already had. On their return to the station, Simon called them into his office.
Both accepted it, and Simon poured three mugs. He took a mouthful, then said, "Agent Mulroney said he wasn't aware of anyone in Cascade being in witness protection."
"He'd be bound to say that, wouldn't he?" Jim asked.
"Maybe it's in the records somewhere but nobody brought it to his attention when he took over here," Blair suggested. "I mean, after twenty years... "
"The FBI knows perfectly well that two hundred years wouldn't be long enough for the Mob to forget a perceived wrong," Jim said quietly. "By that time, the family they were targeting wouldn't have a clue... "
"But Evans wasn't even married when he left the east coast!" Blair exclaimed. "Joan wouldn't have known anything about any 'perceived wrong' and his kids certainly wouldn't!"
"That's not the way the mind of organised crime works," Jim said. "Someone betrays them, the man's family is destroyed, down to the youngest infant. It's making a point, telling the rest of their people 'This is what happens if you betray us. If you care for your family...'. The young rebel who gets caught up in it can't get out, even if he has second thoughts - not without risking everyone he loves. Think about Brother Marcus. Who'd expect someone of his background to become a monk? But they found him. Though what's surprising me here is that the gunman is picking them off one at a time. I'd have expected a machine gun when Joan was targeted, aimed at shooting down everyone in the room."
"That brings us back to a personal grudge, then," Blair said.
"And yet Outram said - "
"No, wait," Blair interrupted. "Evans had no enemies here - at least that Outram knew of. But what if he left Boston because he'd made a serious enemy there? He knew what he'd done, knew why whoever hated him, and set out to not make the same mistake on the west coast.
"After all, 'personal grudge' is a very loose definition; someone could be mortally insulted by something the rest of us would laugh off - even something meant as a joke, taken the wrong way." Blair was frowning thoughtfully. "There's no enmity greater than that between two people who have been close friends, and fallen out."
"Chief, you and I have had some pretty serious disagreements - "
"Yes, but we've always worked through them. What, you think I don't understand why you sometimes react like a jackass? But you can get a situation where the circumstances are such that both believe themselves to be in the right, and words have been said that neither can forgive. You get that sort of disagreement inside families, even - usually linked to someone feeling slighted over what she was left in Grandad's will. Sometimes the rest of the family don't even know why Auntie Jean has stopped speaking to them. But that doesn't mean Auntie Jean wants to kill the sister who got the grandfather clock she wanted, and that Grandad had implied she would get.
"And if Evans left Boston because of a family dispute, or a permanent falling out with a friend, there's probably no way we could find out.
"If it was something more serious, though... Is there any way we could check back to twenty-odd years ago in Boston?"
"Not unless he was involved in something pretty serious," Jim said. "And if he was, there's a strong possibility that he changed his name when he moved - even if he wasn't in witness protection."
"I can contact Boston and see if there was anything fairly serious went down approximately twenty-one years ago," Simon said, "but if there was, linking it to Evans' death won't be easy." He looked at Jim. "You've not been... aware... of anything?"
"No," Jim said. "I wasn't aware of any distinctive scents at either place the killer lay in wait, and I couldn't see anything other than a faint mark - at both sites - where he'd rested his rifle on a branch. But... I know I said I'd expect a hitman going after the entire family to have taken advantage of them all being in the one room, but the way Evans and Joan were taken down is almost too professional a job to be just a grudge attack. Evans in particular - the shot was taken from two hundred yards away, in the half light. Joan - it was taken at an angle, which is probably what saved her life - as it is, she was very seriously hurt, and still might not survive.
"We spoke to the occupants of the house next door, the one where the perp went through the front yard, and they saw and heard nothing."
"So there are no witnesses to either shooting?" Simon asked.
"We still need to knock on some neighbors' doors around the Evans house, but I'm not optimistic," Jim said.
They spent the rest of the day knocking on the doors of neighboring houses, and - as expected - came up blank. Everybody they spoke to expressed shock and horror at the incident, but nobody had seen or heard anything.
Both were tired when they finally arrived back at the loft, having stopped on the way to pick up Chinese. They ate quickly, hurried through the little washing up there was, and settled down in front of the television.
"I'm just trying to think how it must feel to trust someone - really trust him on a personal level - and suddenly discover that everything you thought you knew about him was a lie," Jim said, breaking a short silence.
"It can be devastating," Blair said quietly. "You have to keep telling yourself that it wasn't you, it was him - or her. He was the one who lied - totally convincingly."
"That sounds like the voice of experience," Jim said.
"It was years ago," Blair said. "I was just a few days past my seventeenth birthday; Donna was at least ten years older, a TA at Rainier. I was flattered that she seemed to be going out of her way to be friendly, and it wasn't long before she told me she was falling in love with me, wanted to sleep with me. Totally unethical, of course.
"Maybe it wasn't even a total lie to start with. 'Course, how many people fall in lust, and call that 'love'? Even think it is love, because they don't know the difference? A couple of the other students tried to warn me, said I wasn't the first one Donna had dated - but when I asked her, she said that yes, of course she'd dated in the past, but none of them had been the 'one'. Later, of course, I realized she hadn't actually said that I was, either, she just implied it."
"Bastard!" Jim muttered.
"We had three months together, and I trusted that implication. Then she began to make excuses for not being able to go out or have me over to her place, and... well, I'd seen how Naomi operated when she wanted to move on. I got the message faster than Donna'd expected, I think. I decided not to try to warn her next sucker - realized it would seem too much like sour grapes, the dropped boyfriend having a little word with his replacement."
"Where's Donna now? Do you know?"
"Well, I know where she isn't. She picked my 'replacement' badly. Shee thought he was using Eric; in fact, Eric was using her, blackmailed Donna into giving him a much higher grade than he deserved, then, just at the end of term, registered a complaint about sexual harassment anyway. Told the Chancellor everything, and that he wasn't the first - and persuaded three or four others to come forward too. I wasn't one of them - when the shit hit the fan, I was in the middle of getting ready for a trip to visit the Yanomamo with Eli, and didn't have time to deal with the hassle."
"So Donna got what she deserved?"
"Yeah. I'm not sure if she was kicked out or given the 'option' to leave quietly, but whichever it was, she wasn't back the next semester, and in the years since, I haven't seen any papers she's written, so my guess is that word got around and she found himself rejected everywhere in the anthropological world. But all my 'friendships' after that - and I had plenty of them, had a reputation for being a friendly guy - were shallow. It took me a long time to trust my heart to anyone again. It took a repressed, anal cop with trust issues of his own to find a way through the barrier I'd built."
Jim slipped his arm around Blair's shoulders. "Sometimes I wonder why you still trust me," he said. "You've forgiven me for some pretty crappy behaviour."
"Like I said; I understand you."
They had no sooner reached the bullpen in the morning than Simon called them into his office.
"Boston got back to me late last night - they've no record of a Morgan Evans ever being reported to them, even as a missing person."
"Well, that always was a long shot," Jim said philosophically. "We're no worse off than we were."
"It could confirm that he changed his name," Blair suggested.
"Yes, but what did he change it from?" Jim asked.
"Vera said he didn't have much imagination. How about Evan Morgan?"
"Odd you should say that," Simon commented. "Boston did say they'd had an Evan Morgan reported as a missing person, twenty-one years ago, but there was absolutely no trail. No credit card use, no money drawn from his bank account, though there was less in it than one would have expected - a lot had been drawn out some months previously, but not just before he disappeared. He'd left his car behind. At the time they'd suspected murder, but there was nothing more than circumstantial evidence to support the theory."
"Yeah, I'd expect someone thinking of walking out on his responsibilities would want to empty his bank account first," Jim said. "I'd guess that's just a coincidence."
They went back to their desks. A few minutes later, Blair's phone rang.
"Detective, it's Mark Evans."
"Mark! How's Joan?"
"The doctors are 'cautiously optimistic' that she'll be okay. We haven't seen her - only Lewis and Martin are being allowed in. Only to be expected - Mom and Dorothy and I aren't actually related to her, only met her a couple of days ago...
"But... it could be just coincidence, and I know it's not your jurisdiction, but my Gran phoned from Seattle this morning."
"Yes?" Blair motioned to Jim to listen.
"She lives just across the road from us - moved there from Tacoma when a suitable house came on the market about two years ago, wanting to be near Mom after Granpa died. She was keeping an eye on the house for us while we were away. Anyway, last night she went over about ten, made sure everything was all right, locked up and went home, then sat reading for a while. She went upstairs to bed about midnight, and when she opened the bedroom door she saw light flickering outside. She looked out the window - our house was on fire. She called 911 then went over, so she could tell the fire department there was nobody inside - and discovered that someone had barricaded the door. Even though it opens inwards, nobody inside the house would have been able to get out that way.
"With Dad being killed, and then Joan shot... Well, it seemed to me as if someone was maybe trying to kill us, too, not realizing we weren't there."
"Where are you now?" Blair asked.
"At Joan's house. We're all here - Lewis and Martin will be going back to the hospital in a few minutes - "
"Mark, tell everyone to get some clothes packed, and all of you, get out of there. Make sure you're not being followed. Go to a hotel, and stay there. In a word, hide."
"So you don't think I'm being silly?"
"I think you could very well be right; for some reason someone is targeting your entire family. Call us once you're booked in and tell us which hotel; we'll get the Patrol cops to keep an eye on it. Now let me speak to Lewis."
He could hear a distant mumbling, then "This is Lewis, Detective."
"Do you by any chance have any timers for your lights?" Blair asked.
"I think there are three somewhere in the kitchen."
"See if you can find them, and set one to switch on the television around 8pm, and off again a couple of hours later. Set the others to switch upstairs lights on around ten, and off again at about eleven. I've already told Mark what you should all do. Listen to him. Don't go near the hospital today - phone in to see how your Mom is, yes, but don't go to the hospital. We need to keep you all safe, and the best way to do that is for you all to stay out of sight and away from your house."
"But Mom... "
"I'm sure would rather not see you for a couple of days, knowing you were safe, than be told someone had killed you," Blair said bluntly.
He hung up, then turned to Jim. "What do you think? Surveillance on the house tonight?"
"Yes," Jim replied. "Whoever is targeting them seems to be working to a fairly tight timetable. Evans on Christmas Day; Joan two days later; he had plenty of time after that to drive to Seattle, torch the Evans house there that night and get back here for today. I'd guess his plan is to burn the house here tonight or at latest tomorrow, though I wonder why he didn't burn this house first, before going to Seattle. Wipe out the entire family inside a week."
"Maybe, after Evans himself, the aim was to get the two wives first, with the children a lesser target? The odd thing, though, is that our killer seems to know more about the family than either wife did until just two or three days ago," Blair said.
Jim nodded slowly. "You're right," he said. "As if he's been watching Evans for a while - long enough to register the pattern of his movements. All he needed to do to find out about the two wives - and where he lived in each city - was follow Evans for a couple of months.
"Meanwhile, I'll contact Seattle PD, see if they can give us any more info than Mark did."
He reached for the phone.
It took several minutes for him to reach the detective dealing with the case.
"Yes - Ellison, Cascade PD. I understand you had a fire last night, possibly arson? I don't have the address - we got the info from the son of the house - but the family is called Evans. Apparently his grandmother lives nearby, raised the alarm, then went to the house and saw that the front door was barricaded?"
"I'm Detective Ridley. Before I confirm or deny anything, can I ask you what your interest is in this?"
"We think it's linked to a murder and attempted murder here. Mr Evans was killed on Christmas Day, one bullet through the heart. My partner and I were given the case on the 26th; we went to his house here to speak to his wife, and discovered that he had two 'wives' - one in Seattle as well as one here."
"Exactly. The two wives had just found out they were being two-timed - with a branch of his business in each city, he'd been splitting his time between Cascade and Seattle for years - and the Seattle family came here early on the 26th to confront Evans and what Mrs. Seattle Evans thought was her husband's mistress. The two wives came to an understanding quite quickly; when we spoke to them, they were on surprisingly friendly terms. Mrs. Cascade Evans invited the Seattle family to stay with her while they discussed what their future was. Then the next day, someone took a pot-shot at Mrs. Cascade Evans. Thanks to some fast action by the Seattle family, who kept her from bleeding to death, she's still alive but in a critical condition.
"Then a few minutes ago, Mark - of the Seattle family - phoned to tell us about the fire; his grandmother had just called to let them know about it."
"Mmm. I'd agree with you, there certainly seems to be a link," Ridley said. "I can confirm that this was arson - we put in a sniffer dog first thing, and it led us straight to a back window. It had been broken, and an accelerant poured in, then lit. Both front and back doorways were blocked by several metal bars wedged across them - nobody could have escaped through either door, though escape via a window was still possible. This was definitely meant to kill. Because of that, we haven't let the press know yet that the house was empty."
"We think the perp has probably returned to Cascade by now, possibly planning on targeting Mr. Evans' two sons here. Since he's already torched the Seattle home we suspect he might very well try the same thing here. We'll be maintaining surveillance on the house, just in case. Thanks for your help - we'll keep you informed of what's happening here."
Because they didn't expect anything to happen before at least midnight, Jim got Patrol to watch the Evans house until ten, when he and Blair took over. After the Patrol car left, Jim quietly moved a greater distance from the house - far enough that no perp, no matter how suspicious, was likely to consider their vehicle any kind of danger to him.
Surveillance was always pretty boring, but this night it seemed particularly so. Everything was very quiet. One or two cars drove past, one of them pulling into a driveway several houses past where they were sitting, its occupants hurrying to get into the warmth of their house, but otherwise there was very little activity. Most people in this neighborhood, it seemed, were happy to sit at home on this cold December night, probably enjoying television. There were, as both men knew, some good films being shown.
They sat quietly, Blair keeping Jim grounded while he concentrated sight and hearing on the distant house that they were watching. Another car drove past them, and pulled to the curb, several houses up from the Evans' house. Nobody got out of it.
"Now that's interesting," Jim said. "There's only one person in that car. What's he waiting for?"
"Maybe come to pick up someone, but he's early?" Blair suggested.
"You don't really think that, do you?" Jim asked.
"No. It could be our perp, waiting for the Evans kids to go to bed."
The upstairs lights in the house switched off, and Jim said so.
"If that's the perp," Blair murmured, "he'll give them maybe half an hour to fall asleep, then make his move."
"I think so. But we need to catch him in the act... If he uses the same MO, he'll block the doorways first. That'll give us time to reach him before he actually lights his fire." Jim turned at least half of his attention to the suspect car.
Over the next half hour, lights went out in most of the neighboring houses. Only one or two windows remained lit by the time the driver finally got out of the car they had been watching. He opened the trunk, lifted out what looked to be a fairly heavy bundle, resting one end on the ground as he took something else out, closed the trunk again and then, balancing the bundle on one shoulder and carrying what Jim recognized as a gallon container of gas, walked towards the Evans' house.
They waited long enough for Jim to be sure that that was his destination, got out of the truck, careful to close the doors quietly, then ran down the sidewalk until they were at the house next door. They climbed over the low wall into the front yard, following almost exactly the same line that the shooter had used to escape by, just two days earlier, and paused at the wall separating the two gardens.
Their suspect was carefully wedging metal bars across the doorway, spacing them so that nobody could possibly squeeze through the space between two of them. They glanced at each other, and without a word, silently climbed over the wall and moved across the grass, Jim pulling his gun as he went.
"Cascade police!" Jim snapped.
There was a clatter as the perp dropped the metal bar he was about to fit into place. He swung around, clearly prepared to run.
"Don't even try!" Jim snapped. "Face down on the ground. Now!" He raised his gun threateningly.
The perp obeyed; Blair moved forwards and grabbed one wrist, snapping on the handcuff, and frowned slightly as he realized how slim the wrist was; then he pulled the other hand around, and fastened it, too.
"You are under arrest on suspicion of attempted arson, and on suspicion of murder and attempted murder," Jim said. The one they could prove. For murder and attempted murder they had no actual proof, although he was as sure as it was possible to be that this was the killer, and so he included that charge.
Jim pulled the perp upright, then stiffened, his eyes meeting Blair's.
Their captive was a woman.
Blair called for a Patrol car to stand guard over the house that night, and they left the metal bars and container of gas where the woman had placed them; they would get photos in daylight. Once the Patrol car was in place, they marched the woman to the truck.
She stared at it, then back the way they had come. "How could you possibly watch that house from here?" She sounded startled.
"We left the truck here," Blair said, "but there is a very convenient, very thick bush in the front yard where it's easy for someone to hide... "
Ah! It couldn't be used as evidence, of course, but Jim was aware of the woman's heart rate speeding up. She very clearly knew exactly where Blair was meaning.
Nobody spoke as they drove to the PD. They handed her over to the officers on duty to be booked, giving them the details, and left, both tired and wanting to get home to bed.
Next afternoon, after a busy morning, they went to interview their captive. She had given her name as Anna Morgan, with a permanent address in Boston; and when they joined her in an interview room, it was to find her accompanied by an attorney they knew - one appointed by the court. Darren Westgate would, they knew, do his best for his client, but - unlike some of the defence lawyers they had met - he would not try to get a blatantly guilty accused found innocent.
"Ah, Miss Morgan," Jim began. "Perhaps you would like to tell us why you were caught fixing metal bars across the doorway of a house at 3946 Crescent Road."
She glanced at Westgate, and muttered, "It was supposed to be a practical joke."
"And this joke included a can containing gasoline?" Jim asked.
"I was going to start a fire outside - the joke was when someone opened the door intending to put it out, and couldn't get out."
"What about a fire at a house in Seattle, when both front and back doors were blocked in exactly the same way?" Jim asked. "An officer from Seattle has already visited the house at Crescent Road and confirmed that the metal bars and method of fixing them were the same as at the Seattle house."
"What?" she gasped. "How can you know about - " She broke off, clearly understanding that she was incriminating herself.
"You made a mistake there," Jim said. "The house was empty; the family was here in Cascade, and were told about the fire; they in turn told us. Coming so soon after the shooting of Morgan and Joan Evans, there had to be a link. Tell me - why did you target the Seattle house before the one here? If you'd attacked this one first, then gone to Seattle, you might have escaped, undetected. We'd have been looking for an arsonist and killer here, and Seattle wouldn't have had any warning."
She glanced at Westgate, who shook his head sadly. "You were caught at the scene here, Miss Morgan. If the police knew of a link to a fire and it's been confirmed that the MO was the same, they do have probable cause to assume you set that fire."
"What did you have against the Evans family anyway?" Blair asked quietly. "Was it something that happened in Boston twenty-one years ago? If it was, that only involved Mr. Evans."
"Those women were both guilty!" she cried. "They married him, didn't they? Their children should never have been born!"
"What did Mr. Evans do?" Blair asked, his voice still oddly sympathetic. The very gentleness broke her where Jim's more abrasive tone wouldn't have.
"His real name was Evan Morgan," she said. "Or perhaps it wasn't. It was the name he used in Boston. He was a charming con man. Twenty-two years ago, he married - a naive rich girl, who believed his lies. He stayed with her for almost a year, then disappeared - along with almost all her money. He'd been steadily withdrawing it from the bank from the day they married . He didn't even know that she was pregnant when he left. Pregnant, and destitute, and she'd never had to work... Her parents were dead, she didn't know where to turn... She ended up working two jobs for minimum wage. It was hard for her, and when I was born it was even harder. I grew up knowing how my father had treated her... and when she died five years ago, I promised myself that I'd find him and kill him for what he did.
"It took me until three months ago to track him down And what did I find? He had two bigamous wives and four more children. They were benefiting from the money he'd stolen from Mom..."
"You were quite sure Morgan Evans was the same man?" Blair asked.
"It never occurred to you to confront him, tell him you were his daughter?"
"I wanted nothing to do with him. All I wanted was to see him dead, and his strumpets and their bastards dead with him!" Her voice was vicious.
"Miss Morgan - did you never think that the only person at fault was your father?" Blair murmured. "He cheated the two women he 'married' on the west coast. Neither of them knew, until this week, that he had another 'wife'. Now you're telling us that neither of them was legally married. Don't you think that's revenge enough on two women who trusted the man as much as your mother did?"
"May I have a private word with my client?" Westgate asked quietly.
Jim nodded, and he and Blair left the room; a few minutes later, the door opened, and the cop on duty leaned out. "Mr. Westgate's ready for you."
When they went in again, Westgate said quietly, "My client wishes to plead guilty, but is asking for temporary insanity to be considered as a mitigating factor."
"I think Joan and Vera would be happy to settle things amicably between them," Jim said that night over dinner. "But Anna poses a problem. Legally she's entitled to his entire estate, if she is indeed his only legitimate offspring, but because she killed him... "
"I wouldn't like to be the lawyer sorting out that case," Blair said.
"Oh, I don't know," Jim replied thoughtfully. "By the time it's sorted out, a good part of the money will be in the lawyer's pocket."
"True," Blair agreed. "Do you ever think that we're in the wrong job?"
Jim looked at him. He looked back. They thought about it for a moment.
"Nah," they said in chorus.