Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Two--Chapter 6

Ellmann and I were lying together in the dark. I could tell by his slow breathing he was dozing, near sleep. I was alternating between lying with my eyes closed, wishing myself to sleep, and staring at the ceiling, thinking about the dozens of questions bouncing around in my head. Ellmann rolled onto his side and pulled me closer, wrapping an arm around my middle and laying his head on my good shoulder.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
“I’m just wondering what’s more important than losing your house.”
“You said the grandmother was protecting Dillon.”
How would Danielle Dillon benefit from Grandma Porter losing her house? How did losing the house protect Danielle?
“That’s just a feeling,” I said. “And it doesn’t really track.”
“Don’t doubt your instincts. No one has instincts as good as yours.”
Much to his dismay, most of the time.
“Thanks. But I might be wrong this time.”
“I’m not that lucky.” He yawned. “You know, the grandmother kinda reminds me of you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her trying to protect her granddaughter. It’s like you protecting your brother. You’d do anything for him—and you have. Giving up your house for him seems minor, by comparison.”
He was right. I’d sacrificed my childhood to keep Zach safe from our abusive father. I’d suffered horrendous injuries ensuring Zach was never on the receiving end of any of those beatings. I’d given up a good career and six-figure income to keep Zach on the straight and narrow. I sheltered him as much as possible from our mother’s disease and the subsequent fallout brought on by her manic lifestyle. Once, I’d killed for him. By contrast, losing my house was insignificant.
But I still didn’t see how Grandma Porter could protect Danielle by losing her house. What was Grandma’s motivation? And what was the end goal?
Maybe losing the house was a byproduct. Grandma had been adamant not to help me. It was clear she didn’t want Danielle found. Why not? Equally clear was that Danielle was hiding. No way Amerson sent so many people after her to turn up nothing if she wasn’t. Everyone’s assumption up to this point had been that she was hiding from us, from the bond company, or maybe from jail.
Continuing to use my brother as an example, what would motivate me to keep Zach hidden? What reason would I have for wanting to keep him hidden so badly I’d give up my house?
When phrased like this, the answer seemed obvious. If my brother’s safety were in jeopardy, I’d give up everything to keep him safe. I knew this only because I’d already done so. But Danielle Dillon’s safety was not in jeopardy because of any recovery agent, the bond company, or jail. She was hiding from someone else.
Suddenly it was very clear to me I had no idea what was really going on. I needed to know more about Danielle Dillon.
I began to ease away from Ellmann, and he shifted.
“What’s up?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I have to get up.”
He lifted his arm off me, and I scooted out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
Not the controlling type, he could only be asking for one reason. Whatever he thought he knew about the Conrad murders and the serial killer responsible for them scared him. He’d come over tonight to keep some kind of eye on me. He didn’t want me sneaking out of the house while he was sleeping.
“Don’t worry,” I said, pulling on sweats. “I’m not leaving. Get some sleep.”
He groaned and rolled onto his stomach, his feet hanging off the end of the queen-size bed even though he was now lying diagonally. I stopped beside the bed and leaned over him, kissing his neck and shoulder. His back was exposed, and even in the dark, I could see the scar on his left shoulder. During the same gunfight in which I’d been shot in the leg, Ellmann had been shot there. Fortunately that bullet went clean through. His injury—miraculously—had been minor. After four weeks of light duty and rehab, he’d been released back to work, having recovered one hundred percent.
“Please, don’t worry about me so much,” I whispered and stood up.
“Could I talk you into coming back to bed?” he asked.
“You’re half asleep, and I’d be poor company. Something’s bothering me; I need to do some digging.”
“I’m willing to bet I could provide adequate distraction.”
I was certain he could, and it sounded inviting, but if I got distracted, I might lose my current train of thought regarding Dillon. And time was running out.
“Get some sleep,” I said again and left.
I went into the office and switched on a lamp, then I pulled Dillon’s file out of my bag. I dropped it to the desk and sat down. For the first time since receiving it, I read the thing front to back. It didn’t really contain the details of Dillon’s life I was looking for. And it only listed the charges against her; it didn’t give details about the case.
I used my laptop to log into Sideline’s database remotely, then I searched for Danielle Dillon’s case file. I found it and began reading. In May of this year, Dillon had been arrested for assault, battery, and property destruction. She’d gotten into a physical altercation with a man named Jeremiah Vandreen outside his place of business, First National Bank, on Harmony and Timberline. Vandreen reported she’d been waiting for him when he left work and began attacking him when he got to his car. After basically beating the snot out of him, she proceeded to damage the car, an expensive Porsche. She’d done several thousand dollars’ worth of damage by the time the police got there. She’d attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended within a few blocks.
She didn’t say a word at any time upon being arrested. At twenty-eight, this arrest was her first as an adult. The report made mention of several arrests as a minor, but those records had been sealed when she turned eighteen. It would take a lot more digging to discover what those arrests had been about. And I wasn’t sure it was relevant.
I ran a quick credit check on her, finding very little. There was a bank account, opened when she was seventeen, and while the account was still open, no transactions had been processed in several years. There was only one credit card to her name, but it had a zero balance and no charges had been made for almost four years. She didn’t own a home or a car, and she wasn’t listed on a lease anywhere, ever. Something I know about people is this: everyone lives somewhere and everyone spends money. The fact that I could find no traces of her doing either led me to one conclusion: she wasn’t going by the name “Danielle Dillon” at present. And if I had to guess, she hadn’t for quite some time.
I opened Google and searched her name. Nothing of relevance came back, aside from a hit for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. I opened the article and read it. It gave the account of the arrest of Martha Porter, Danielle Dillon’s grandmother, after fatally shooting a man named Wayne Dillon sixteen years before. There weren’t many details. I searched the archives for the name Martha Porter and found additional articles, which reported Porter had been acquitted at trial. Very few details helped shed light on the circumstances of the murder or the reason for the acquittal. Also, I was unclear on her exact connection to Wayne Dillon, because the paper made no mention of their relationship.
Back in the Sideline database, I searched both “Martha Porter” and “Wayne Dillon.” There were no results for either. But that only meant Sideline had never handled any of their bonds or investigations. It didn’t mean there was nothing to find.
I’d lost track of time until Ellmann came into the office. A look at my watch told me I’d been working for several hours.
Ellmann leaned over the chair behind me, his hands on the armrests, and kissed my neck.
“How’s the digging coming?” he asked between kisses.
“As usual, I only have more questions now.”
“Is that something still bothering you?”
But I didn’t care quite as much now. What he was doing to my neck caused little currents of excitement to shoot through my body. And it was hard to think straight.
“That’s too bad,” he said, standing up. “Guess I’ll leave you to it.”
I quickly stood and threw my pen on the desk.

“It’s going to have to wait.”

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