Monday, January 18, 2016

The Trouble with Greed - Chapters 6-9

6

I returned to the parking lot and climbed into my Scout. The Scout is a thing of beauty. It’s hunter green with an Army tan interior. The original hardtop is white, though I had replaced it with a sailcloth soft top for summer. That was one of the only modifications; almost every other detail was original. And everything was in pristine condition.
With the sides rolled up, I listened to the radio as I cruised through town, the wind tugging at my hair and the sun threatening my skin. My gut told me my days at Sideline were over. At least, for the time being. And as Sideline had been my primary gig the last couple months, that left me without an income.
Whatever I might pick up from Front Range Bail Bonds or Skip’s would be infrequent and nominal. I needed to make the rounds again and get set up with some other agencies in town. It should be easier now that I had some working references and some experience to go with my state certificate, but it would still take time and legwork.
I needed to return home to put some things together first. While I was there, I would start looking into Karen Brickle. Sadie had given me some basic information she’d been able to obtain through coworkers and from Facebook. I had no idea what I might find, but Sadie was paying me, and since I had no other paying jobs at the moment, I thought it best to turn my attention to the case, if indeed it developed into a case at all.

I live in a rented three-bedroom, three-bath house located in a relatively quiet neighborhood just north of Front Range Community College. The neighborhood is mostly first-time homebuyers and couples just starting families. There are lots of kids that play in front yards and the street of the cul-de-sac I live on. I’d only moved in about two months ago, but I was getting settled, and I liked the neighborhood.
When I returned home this morning, I found a kid-sized volleyball net had been erected in my next-door neighbor’s yard, and several parents were out supervising a sizeable collection of swimsuit-clad children still too young to attend school. In the next yard over, a couple of sprinklers and a kiddie pool had been set up.
I also found a sleek, black Ford F-250 parked in my driveway.
I parked and waved to the neighbors as I went up the driveway. The tiny blonde woman from the movie theatre was sitting on the lowered tailgate, smoking a cigarette and swinging her legs. She was wearing jeans, black biker boots, a tank top, and a leather biker vest. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and in the harsh light of morning, she looked closer to sixty-five, but between the smoking and the suntan, her wrinkled, weathered skin would not be an accurate measure of her age.
“Didn’t think you’d be home so soon, princess.”
Being that she and I were in the same business, I didn’t find it surprising that she’d been able to find my address, though I knew it would have taken her some work to do so. What I found surprising was that she would bother. I was very curious to know what she wanted.
She lit a fresh cigarette with the stub of the last and tossed the butt onto the driveway with a dozen others.
“For my neighbors’ sakes, it’s a good thing I am. If I was any later, they’d all have lung cancer from the secondhand smoke.”
She exhaled a very deliberate plume of smoke as she eyed me seriously.
“You’re fucking hilarious,” she said.
“Oh, thanks, but you’re a great audience.”
“All right, all right,” she said on a stream of smoke.
“What are you doing here?”
“Not going to ask how I found you?”
“I figured that part out already. What I don’t know is why.”
“Smart, huh, princess? I always hated the smart ones.”
“And yet here you are.”
“That idiot cop told me he arrested you.”
I waved a hand in a futile effort to clear away some of the smoke and took a step back.
“Highlight of his career, I’m sure. If you don’t want to tell me why you’re here, you could tell me your name. I can figure out the rest from there.”
“That cop, he said you had a mouth on you.”
I could only imagine what else Brooks had told this woman about me, or what she’d been able to pry out of him.
“I certainly hope you have the sense to check your facts. You know how cops are about telling the truth.”
She actually chuckled at that. “Personally, I like a little sass. Don’t got much use for a woman as quiet as a doormat.”
“And what use have you imagined for me?”
She exhaled a huge cloud of smoke, appraising me through the haze.
“Turns out, I got a job opening.”
“Is that so?”
“What I hear, you got something going with Sideline. But I’d be seriously surprised if you were happy working for Cal Stevens.”
Whatever else this woman was or wasn’t, she had a remarkable acuity for sizing people up.
“I thought you might want a change.”
“Does your job come with a sign on bonus or paid vacation or something?”
She smirked. “I can offer you your choice of bonds, no doubt bigger fees than you’re making at the bottom of the totem pole over at Sideline.”
“Let me see what you’ve got.”
Her eyes flashed briefly then she pulled a business card out of her pocket and handed it to me. “Come on down to the office. You can look through the files, take whichever you want.”
My turn to smirk. “You came here to hire me. On the off chance I agreed, you’d want to put the files in my hands before I had time to change my mind. So you’ve got them with you. Let me see them.”
She sat smoking, staring at me for a long moment while she reached some internal decision.
“You know, that idiot cop sold you short. He didn’t mention anything about your smarts.”
“I’m shocked and devastated.”
“I’m sure.”
She put the cigarette between her lips and hoped off the tailgate. She went to the driver’s side and leaned in the truck with the help of the running board, coming out with a stack of files. She hefted them over and set them on the tailgate with a thud.
There was a concerning number of files. I didn’t believe for a minute this woman ran a half-assed operation. So I couldn’t immediately explain why she had so many current FTAs. The stack of files did explain why she’d made the effort to track me down, however.
I moved over to the tailgate and caught a face full of smoke. I coughed and waved a hand to dissipate the cloud.
“Either put that out or go stand over there,” I said, pointing to the street downwind of me.
She mumbled something under her breath as she moved away. All I made out was the word “princess.”
I opened one file after another, glancing at each one briefly, and arranging them into three stacks. When I was finished, I picked up one of the stacks.
“I’ll take these three for now,” I said. “All these deadlines are four to seven days away; they’re the most pressing.”
“What’s with the other stacks?” she asked, taking a few steps forward.
I put my hand on the larger of the two remaining piles. “This one is cases I’ll take, when I’m through with these, if they’re still available. The deadlines are more than a week away.” I touched the other stack, which held three files. “You’ll need to find someone else to work these. I don’t track murder suspects, or people with past murder charges.”
She blew out a stream of smoke. “You really are a princess, aren’t you?”
I pulled her card out of my pocket and read her name for the first time. Mary Margaret Lewicki.
“You go by Mary Margaret or something else?” I asked, indicating the card before I tucked it back into my pocket.
“Marge.”
“Okay, Marge. I see capture paperwork, current photos, and notes on the initial inquiries you’ve made in all the files. I’ll call you when I’ve got body receipts. Oh, and I want fifteen percent on all three of these.” I patted the files I held.
Marge scoffed. “You’re dreaming, princess. Standard ten percent.”
I smiled as I took a few backward steps up the driveway. “If you were in a position to negotiate, you wouldn’t be waiting for me to come home. I’ll be in touch. Be sure to pick up your butts before you go.”
I went inside, leaving her standing in the driveway.

7

I fixed a cup of coffee and went upstairs to my office. Before I did anything else, I ran a search of Mary Margaret Lewicki. I quickly found that she was who she claimed to be. She’d been in the bail bonds business for close to forty years, and she and a man named Rick, who I learned was her husband, had owned Sure Bonds for more than thirty years. They’d operated out of the same storefront on Riverside Avenue since they opened, though they did not own the building.
A search of public records told me that Marge was fifty-five, she and Rick had been married close to twenty-five years, and that Rick had passed away about two years ago. According to his obituary, he’d died of lung cancer. (I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was.)
I hadn’t been in the bail bonds business long, but I hadn’t heard anything about her or Sure Bonds, which led me to believe hers was a small operation. Probably because it was near the end of the alphabet, it hadn’t been one I’d tried before I got on at Sideline. I made a mental note to ask around and see what people knew of her.
In the meantime, I turned my attention to other things. Probably out of habit, I opened the first of the new files.
Ruben Medera, twenty-six, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and worth more than five grand when I dragged him back to the pokey, the second-largest fee in the bunch. But after three minutes on the computer, I knew three things. One, finding Medera would be more difficult than I would like. Two, once found, capturing Medera would be more difficult that I would like. And three, if I managed to both find and capture Medera, I would have earned every cent of the five grand.
Medera was an ex-Marine who had been deployed overseas at least twice, according to his Facebook page. There were no notes in Marge’s file about why he’d beaten the snot out of some guy downtown, ultimately pulling a knife, but war messed people up, and none of those who participate in it ever came back the same. Marge did note this was Medera’s first arrest, however.
She’d accepted the deed to his condo as collateral, and the address was local. There were also local addresses for his mother and sister, and Marge also noted his three brothers were all Marines on active duty.
Of course, I would go to Medera’s place and look around, but he wouldn’t be there. Even in this urban setting, Medera wouldn’t be found unless he wanted to be. I would have to hope to get lucky and happen across him somewhere. Then I’d have to hope he was either injured or willing to come with me, because he could probably kill me in a fight.
I probably should have thought twice about taking Medera’s file, but I kind of enjoy the challenge of a hunt like this one, and I’d seen dollar signs when I’d looked at the bond agreement. Strange, because I’m typically not motivated by money, but I guess I’d been experiencing a moment of unease at the uncertainty of future income as the result of my now questionable status at Sideline and the lack of ready work with my other connections.
Robert Hapner, forty-two, had a slew of drug-related charges. His address put him smack in the middle of Timber Ridge Mobile Home Park. According to the paperwork, this was the third time Marge had bonded Hapner out.
The bond was fifty thousand, and Marge had written it accepting a classic 1931 Studebaker 54 R Roadster as collateral. I immediately wondered how a guy with a piece of vintage automotive history, perfectly and meticulously restored and maintained, according to Marge’s notes, also lived in a trailer park. Or why a guy would put a car like that up as collateral against a bond when he usually missed his court dates. But then, that just went to show these criminal types don’t have real sound thinking.
I logged into Sideline’s database and punched in Hapner’s name. I wasn’t surprised to find they had a record on him, too. Hapner had used Sideline to bond himself out of jail no fewer than four times in the last eight years. A real stand-up guy, this Hapner.
It looked like he was routinely arrested for drug-related offenses, primarily possession with the intent to distribute, with an assault charge thrown in every now and again just for fun. I double checked the notes Marge had already made regarding Hapner’s known addresses and associates, and I made a few others based on info I was able to pull from Sideline’s database. Hapner didn’t seem like he’d be hard to find, but according to everything I was reading, Hapner was hard to bring in; he never came in quietly.
I started to regret accepting the case. Even at fifteen percent.
The last of the files belonged to Jamie Vollmer, thirty-four, charged with solicitation and possession, like all her previous arrests, of which there were many. As far as I could tell she didn’t have a permanent address, and her list of known associates turned up basically bupkiss.
Marge had written the bond accepting a 2008 Kia Rio as collateral, a car worth little more than the standard recovery fee, certainly not the entirety of the bond. What the hell had Marge been thinking? She couldn’t have been thinking this woman always showed up for court, because even according to the Sure Bonds history, she did not. And Sideline’s database confirmed this.
I had absolutely no interest in writing bonds myself, mostly because I thought the idea of letting known criminals back out onto the streets was stupid, but also because the entire process gave me a headache. So I couldn’t claim to understand the finer aspects of that part of the business, but I couldn’t understand accepting a car as a collateral. Yes, cars are easier to liquidate, but they are infinitely harder to locate, and you can’t sell a car you can’t find. At least with a house, or some other kind of real estate, you know exactly where it is. So if you can’t find your fugitive, you can at least locate your collateral.
Anyway, I checked DMV records on the car and found it registered to Jamie Vollmer. I made note of the address they had on file, which differed from the one on her Sure Bonds agreement, which differed from the address listed in her arrest report, which differed from every previous address in either Sure Bonds or Sideline’s records. When I checked property records, I found none in Vollmer’s name.
The address listed with the DMV belonged to someone named Janet Taylor, purchased five years ago. The address on Vollmer’s Sure Bonds agreement was an apartment complex, and according to Marge’s notes, a call to the property management there found Vollmer was no longer a tenant and that she had left no forwarding address. The address on her arrest report was owned by William Tolliver, and a bit of searching turned up his name in association with one of her previous arrests; Tolliver was a john.
I added some notes from the Sideline database, as Vollmer had also used their services in the past, then I closed the file. Vollmer would be a pain in the ass to track down, and the deadline was four days away. I didn’t have high hopes. Hell, I might have stood a better chance of tracking down the Marine.
I put the FTA files aside for the moment and turned my attention to Karen Brickle. I started with a public records search, but came up blank. Karen Brickle did not own any property or have any birth, marriage, divorce, or death certificates on file in Larimer County.
I checked the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies and found Karen Brickle did indeed have a current nursing license, and that she had no discipline against that license. It had originally been issued in Ohio in 2007, and was also valid in Washington State and Utah.
I Googled her name, but nothing really interesting came up, just lots of social media and people-finder hits. When I narrowed the search to Colorado, I got a hit for the Boulder Daily Camera. The article, published in February, detailed the disappearance of a high school teacher named Theresa Walling. Walling, a mother of two adult sons, reportedly went missing shortly after a public argument with her ex-husband, Frank Walling. According to a police spokesman, Frank Walling was a person of interest in Theresa’s disappearance and had been cooperative with police. Karen was mentioned because she had organized a search party, and volunteers were asked to coordinate with her.
I searched for more articles on Theresa Walling’s case, but the news had fizzled out quickly, and the single follow-up article I found just rehashed the details of the first. I Googled Theresa Walling’s name, but didn’t get much more information. So I turned to public records.
Theresa had no birth certificate on file in Boulder County, but she had a marriage license, a divorce degree, and she was listed on her sons’ birth certificates. She also owned a house in Boulder. It was the same one she’d owned since 1995, so I assumed she’d gotten it in the divorce.
In the spirit of thoroughness, I also searched records for the husband, Frank. His name was listed on the same marriage certificate, divorce degree, and on the birth certificates of the same two boys. He had a more recent marriage certificate, and he owned a second house, also in Boulder. He’d purchased the house the same year of the divorce, 2008, and remarried in 2012.
I wasn’t sure what that got me, so I returned to Karen. I ran her name through a credit check and discovered the first obvious sign something was amiss. Her credit history only went back seven years. According to Sadie, Karen was in her thirties.
I turned to Facebook. It became immediately clear Karen spent a great deal of time on Facebook, and that her privacy settings were rather liberal. According to her profile, she was thirty-five years old. Which meant “Karen Brickle” was not her real name. No one’s credit history begins at the age of twenty-eight.
Returning to the credit report, I also found there were only addresses for Karen in Colorado. There was nothing in Washington State, where she currently held an active nursing license, or Ohio, where her nursing license had been issued.
There weren’t a lot of reasons to change your name. And I really couldn’t think of any that were innocent. Maybe Sadie was on to something with this Karen Brickle thing.
I returned to Facebook and scanned Karen’s page. Most of her attention lately had been focused on Theresa Walling’s disappearance and the incompetence of the Boulder Police Department. From a few of her posts, I pieced together that Karen and Theresa had been neighbors. Karen was certainly passionate and outspoken, and she was fixated on the idea that Frank Walling, Theresa’s husband, had something to do with Theresa’s disappearance. Almost too fixated.
My gut told me Sadie’s sense that something was off about Karen was right. I could only hope and pray that whatever this thing with Karen turned out to be, it had nothing to do with Theresa Walling’s strange and unexplained disappearance, because that was the kind of thing that could get messy in a hurry. After the trouble I’d found myself in the last few weeks, I was keen to avoid all things messy.

8

My driveway was clear of tiny blonde women, Ford pickup trucks, and cigarette butts when I emerged from the house. The kids were taking a snack break next door; they were all sitting in the yard, eating popsicles. Well, mostly eating. They were also wearing some.
I climbed into the Scout and motored off. As I drove, I dialed Sadie. She answered on the second ring.
“Hey, girl. Dig up any skeletons yet?”
“Not exactly,” I said. “Know what Karen’s work schedule is like for the next few days?”
“No. But I can find out. I’ll call you back.”
I made a right onto Shields Street and cruised north. Ruben Medera’s condo was located in nice area near Shields and Prospect Road. I turned into the lot and searched for the number I needed, noticing parking places weren’t marked.
I found Medera’s place and eyeballed the cars in the lot. I had no way of knowing which cars belonged to which units, so I wrote down information for the six vehicles parked closest to Medera’s door, knowing it was a long shot.
No one answered when I rang the bell, and I couldn’t see any movement through the curtains on the window. I knew he wasn’t in there, but there was a chance something in there might give me some kind of clue as to where he was.
The capture paperwork I had in my bag authorized me to enter and search the condo. I could have scared up some kind of property manager with a master key, but to save time I just used my bump key and let myself in.
The place was a bachelor pad, but it was tidy. The minimal furniture was new, and neither expensive nor cheap. There was no overall decorative theme and few personal affects. I guessed Medera had moved in here recently.
It was a two-story, two-bed, two-bath setup, with the living spaces downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs. Only the master suite looked occupied. The bed was made, and the floor was clean. Dirty clothes were in the hamper, shoes lined up neatly on the closet floor, and towels hung up in the bathroom.
Not only had Medera likely moved in recently, he just didn’t have a lot of stuff. What he owned filled less than half the closet and only two drawers in the dresser, though it could have all easily fit into one. The same was true of the bedside table and the medicine cabinet and drawers in the bathroom.
From my search I also learned Medera had a girlfriend. A third dresser drawer held a few of her clothing items; one bedside table was hers, as was a drawer in the vanity, where she had a bit of makeup, a few hair items, and a couple pieces of jewelry. There were two toothbrushes on the sink and girly stuff in the shower.
Whoever Medera’s girlfriend was, I could find no picture, no name, nothing to identify her.
There was a small desk in the second bedroom, but I’d noticed a laptop computer on the bar in the kitchen. There were very few things in the desk drawers, and absolutely nothing of help. Medera obviously didn’t use this room or the desk.
Back in the kitchen, I tried the laptop but it was password protected. Which was a real shame, because I had found absolutely no personal papers in the house, so I guessed all of his bills were delivered electronically. A phone bill or a credit card statement would have been extremely useful. Medera didn’t even have a landline phone so I couldn’t check caller ID.
A quick peek in the fridge and cupboards told me Medera hadn’t spent a lot of time here lately. I could only guess when he might be coming back.
I rummaged in the drawers for a spare key. Most of them were empty, and none of them held any keys. So I locked up and headed for his mother’s house.
I didn’t think he would be there, either, but in my experience mothers typically knew where their children were, even when, or perhaps especially when, they were in trouble. I could believe Medera to be an exception to this rule, though. He came from a military family and was now in some kind of trouble. He may very well stay away from his family, either because he’d be ashamed or because he’d want to keep his trouble away from them.
Lupe Medera lived near Poudre Valley Hospital. When I arrived, she was outside, dressed in shorts, tank top, and wide-brimmed visor, mowing the lawn. She was five feet tall and had classic Spanish features. Her thick, black hair was tied up on top of her head, and she wore no makeup. She was in her fifties, but she didn’t look it, and she was absolutely beautiful.
She stopped the mower and smiled as I walked up, her face warm and inviting.
“Good afternoon!” she said in Spanish-accented English. “It’s beautiful, no?”
I couldn’t help but smile and nod my head in agreement. “It is.”
She removed the bag from the mower and dragged it over to a waiting trashcan. It was overflowing with clippings and too heavy for her to carry. She struggled to lift it.
I helped her lift and dump the bag. She smiled at me.
“Thank you.”
“Sure,” I said.
I pulled one of my generic fugitive apprehension cards out of my pocket and handed it to her.
She set the bag on the lawn near her feet and accepted the card.
“You must be here about my son.”
“Yes, ma’am. I am.”
She smiled again and retrieved the bag, carrying it over to the mower.
“Do you know I have four sons? And one daughter.” She laughed. “We were just sure she would be a boy, too. We had a boy name all ready for her. Imagine our surprise.”
I smiled. “And your delight, surely.”
I liked Lupe Medera, and I sincerely hoped her son didn’t break her heart.
She beamed at me and nodded. “We were very excited, yes.” She said something in Spanish and shook her head. “My goodness, we spoiled her. So did her brothers.”
“She’s very lucky.”
“She is, yes.” She reattached the bag to the mower and stood. “All of my sons are Marines. Their father was a Marine.”
“It’s a lot of work to raise five children,” I said. “And it must be hard having four sons in the Marine Corps.”
“I’ve been blessed. All four of my sons have come home, and they’re healthy.”
“That is a blessing. I’m glad to hear it.”
                  “Thank you. All five of my children are good people.”
“I don’t doubt it. But even good people get into trouble.”
She said something else in Spanish and sighed. “That’s true, isn’t it? And now he’s gotten himself into more trouble. That’s why you’re here.”
“Ruben missed his court date. I need to find him so he can reschedule. I’m not looking to make things worse for him.”
“He would never hurt someone without a reason,” she said. “A good reason.”
“I’m not here to question your son’s character, Mrs. Medera. I’m not even here about the charges pending against him. My only concern is that he missed his court date, which is a violation of his bond agreement. Nothing more.”
She looked at me for a moment then seemed to decide I was telling the truth. A bit of her defensiveness was gone then.
“If he violated the agreement, he did so willingly. Ruben has always been very deliberate, very meticulous. He would know you would come looking for him, so he wouldn’t come here. He wouldn’t involve me. He has always been very careful to keep his problems away from the people he loves. I’m sorry, I don’t know where he is.”
I got the distinct impression loyalty was paramount in the Medera family. I wanted to ask Mrs. Medera for names, phone numbers, and addresses of all Ruben’s friends and associates in the Fort Collins area, wanted to ask her about his girlfriend, because I had a feeling the girlfriend would lead me straight to him, but I sensed that would do more harm to my efforts than it would benefit them. Instead, I took a step back.
“My number’s on the back of that card. You could give it to Ruben, if you hear from him.”
She looked at me. “You’re not going to ask me to call you myself if I see him?”
I shook my head. “No. Tell him I only want to help; I’m not looking to jam him up.”
I thanked her and turned to leave.
“I will tell you this,” she said, causing me to turn back to her. “Ruben never would have missed court unless he had a good reason. He’s a good boy; he does the right thing, follows the rules, takes care of his responsibilities. But he’s not afraid to break the rules, if it’s warranted. You understand?”
I felt something vaguely like annoyance forming in my belly.
“Yes, I do.”
I was beginning to understand Medera all too well.
“Thank you, Mrs. Medera. And thank you for your family’s service.”
She smiled and nodded, then turned her attention back to the mower.

9 

My next objective was to start working through the list of addresses I had for Jamie Vollmer, and I wanted to start with the one listed with the DMV. I cruised south on College Avenue. Traffic is never good in Fort Collins, but this morning I made good time.
Jamie Vollmer’s address listed with the DMV was in a neighborhood west of College Avenue. This is a more expensive neighborhood; the houses are bigger, the yards are smaller, the cars are nicer.
I spotted two cop cars on my way through the neighborhood, one from the Fort Collins Police Department and the other from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. I knew the only reason they could afford to live in this neighborhood was because their spouses also worked; a cop’s salary alone could not support living here. To that end, I wondered how Vollmer could afford it, if she did indeed live here; her credit history indicated she hadn’t had a job for most of the last ten years.
I found the house and parked, jotting down nearby license plate numbers. This was a trick Blue had taught me. It didn’t always pay off, but when it did, it tended to break a case wide open.
I climbed out of the truck and went to the door. A well-dressed, attractive forty-something woman opened it. She had blonde hair and long legs, and with one look I knew she was comfortable being admired.
“Can I help you?”
I handed her another generic business card. “My name is Zoe Grey. I’m a bond enforcement agent. I’m looking for a woman named Jamie Vollmer.”
The woman seemed slightly surprised and mildly confused. “I have no idea who that is. My name is Jan Taylor. This is my house.”
She was also guarded, so I wasn’t ready to totally believe her.
“I see,” I said. “How long have you owned the house?” Pleasant classical music drifted out of the open door, and behind Taylor I could see the place was opulent.
“Oh, I’ve been here about five years.”
I heard a car behind me and saw Taylor look at it over my shoulder. I glanced back as an Infinity sedan turned around in the cul-de-sac and parked across from us.
I held up Vollmer’s latest booking photo. “Do you recognize this woman?”
Taylor looked at the photo then shook her head. “No. Is that her, the woman you’re looking for?”
“What kind of car do you own, Ms. Taylor?”
The abrupt change in direction surprised her. It was mild and brief, but it was the first genuine reaction she’d had. “A Mercedes. Why? What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Do you also own a Kia Rio? Or have you owned one in the past?”
“No. Now, really, what’s this all about?”
Taylor was losing patience, ready to go on the offensive now. I wouldn’t get any further with her.
I pointed at the card she held. “My number’s on the card. Thanks for your time.”
She didn’t even glace at it. “Of course.”
I walked off the porch as the man from the Infinity cut across the street and started up the driveway. He nodded politely to me as we passed one another, but I saw a flash of fear on his face. I heard Taylor greet him from the door. The man, dressed in a tailored suit, looked vaguely familiar, and I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d been afraid of.
As I returned to the Scout, Taylor invited the man in and they disappeared when she closed the door. I added the man’s plate number to the others on my list and left. I’d just turned onto College when my phone rang.
“Hey, Sadie. What’s the word?”
“Looks like Karen works tonight, has tomorrow and Saturday off, then works Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. If you’re planning to break into her house, I expect a full report.”
“Naturally. You’re financing this exercise in madness, after all.”
“Condescend to me now,” she said, “but just wait until it turns out that I’m right.”
“Actually, you may be right about her.”
“Ha! I knew it! What did you find?”
“Nothing concrete, and I don’t want to speculate.”
“But your Spidey senses are tingling.”
“I don’t have Spidey senses.”
“I want an update. Tomorrow at the latest. Even without anything concrete, I want to know what you’ve found.”
“I hope you don’t become a pain in the ass to work for.”
She totally ignored me. “I also work tonight, and I’m in charge. Shall I make sure our target stays and works her whole shift?”
“Target? You’re enjoying this a bit too much. But yes, that would be helpful.”
“Got it covered. Don’t forget about my report. It needn’t be typed; a verbal report would suffice.”
Now she was just having fun. So I hung up.

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