"Can you believe this shit?" Dan guided the car into the bumper-to-bumper flow of Route 1A. "We're never going to make it. Angelo's gonna bolt before we get up there."
The exit to the Sumner Tunnel, the short way into town, was closed to all but taxi cabs and buses. It was a traffic-control measure that usually happened at the airport this time of night on Fridays. A trooper stood in the road with the lights of his blue-on-blue State of Massachusetts patrol car flashing and rain dripping from the bill of his cap. Using a flashlight, he'd funnel reluctant drivers onto the dreaded detour route. And there was no more reluctant driver than Dan at that moment.
"Goddammit." He banged the steering wheel, then banged it again for good measure.
"Calm down. There's nothing we can do about this. Where are we going?"
"Angie's worried about being seen with us. He's got us going way the hell out to some dive in Medford or Medfield or some goddamned place." He leaned forward and wiped the fog off the window with the sleeve of his jacket. When he had cleared a hole big enough, he craned his neck and peered up into the sky. "I don't like the way it looks out there."
I made my own porthole. All I could see were sheets of rain falling on us from out of a pitch-black sky. "This is supposed to turn to snow later."
"I know. What's the big discovery?"
This wasn't exactly the venue I had in mind for breaking the news, but it would have to do. I turned in my seat so that I could face him. "My friend Matt called earlier today."
"Finance guy Matt?"
"He found a copy of the schedule of pre-purchase adjustments, the one Ellen was looking for."
As I explained about the seven hundred thousand dollars and the three payments and Crescent and everything but the part about Ellen being involved, he was riding the brakes, inching into the traffic, and I was mainly talking to the back of his head. "You're not listening to me."
"I am listening," he insisted. "There were three big payments from Nor'easter to Crescent, which is really Lenny, and he used the money to buy the contract. That's your big news?"
"The payments to buy the contract came from Majestic, not Nor'easter. That's the big news, Dan. Lenny-or someone-figured out a way to get Majestic to pay for the whole thing. But to make it work, he needed a partner on the inside at Majestic, someone on the task force to approve his fake invoices to Crescent." I took a deep breath. "It could have been Ellen."
He hit the brakes abruptly, and we both slammed against the seat belts.
"Son of a bitch." For a split second I thought he was yelling at me, but his anger was directed at the driver of a panel truck who was maneuvering to merge from behind us. Dan deftly cut him off. "Who's saying that about her?"
"Matt." I shifted around in my seat. My jeans were starting to feel tight. "And me, Dan. I think it's possible that she was involved."
"This is a joke, right?" He glared at the driver of the truck in the rearview mirror. "I can understand that fucking pisshead finance guy thinking something that stupid. What is he, like twelve years old? But you, Shanahan, what is that? You're mad at me so Ellen's dirty, too?"
"Ellen and Lenny worked on the merger together. They were on different sides of the negotiation, but apparently they became close. That project lasted eight months."
He was stiff-necked, gripping the steering wheel and staring straight ahead. "That doesn't prove anything, for chrissakes."
"I've been working on this all afternoon, going over and over every detail. I went through it all again-the box we brought down from her house, her letters, her files, her documents. I watched that dating video about a dozen times, and I went through a whole pile of her mail that had been forwarded to the airport-"
"What did you expect to find?"
"Some kind of a clue as to her motives. Why she was involved in all this."
"She was involved because that cocksucker Dickie Flynn got her involved when he sent her that package."
"I think she was involved before she got that package. Think about it. She could have turned that package over to the feds, or Corporate Security. She didn't tell anyone what she was doing. She was sneaking around on other airlines. And I found something in her files. She requested and received extraordinary signature authority while she was on the task force."
"Under her normal authority, she couldn't have signed those Crescent invoices. They were too big. She made special arrangements so that she could."
"Can't you just believe that she wouldn't have done something like that?"
"But she did. I found the request and the approval in her files."
"I'm talking about the whole scam. I'm telling you she wasn't that kind of person."
I leaned back against the passenger door. "Dan-"
"I say she was clean, that she was trying to do the right thing, and you won't take my word on that. So what it comes down to is, you don't believe me. You don't trust me." He ran a nervous hand through his hair and stared through the wet windshield into the red blur of taillights. The combativeness in his voice had gone. He sounded almost plaintive. "You don't trust me."
The only sounds in the car were the blasting heater and the sluicing of the wet windshield wipers, steady as a metronome. I turned around to face front and wished like hell that we weren't stuck in traffic, that we could put some distance between us and this place we were in.
"Listen to what I've found, then you can decide for yourself. Six days before she died, Ellen made a trip to Denver. I don't know if you remember her list of secret trips, but it was on there. It was the last destination."
He didn't respond, but I knew he remembered.
"She flew out and back the same day, and it looks as if it was a special trip to visit the archives. The archivist remembers her. She asked to see the pre-purchase adjustment schedule. When Matt went looking for the same documents a few days ago, they were gone. The original invoices with the signatures are also missing."
"That doesn't mean she took them."
"Come on, Dan-"
"Or if she took them, and I'm not saying she did, she took them to build the case against Lenny. That's what we've been saying all along. She took them to keep them safe."
"Then where are they? Where is the evidence?"
"We'll find it."
"Think about this. If she was on the inside working the scam with Lenny, then her signature would be on those invoices. Destroying them would be one way to cover up her own involvement."
"Give me one good reason why she would be involved in something like this."
"She was sleeping with Lenny."
He swung his entire upper body around to face me. If we'd been going any faster than four miles an hour, we might have swerved off the road into a ditch. "Bullshit, Shanahan, bullshit. I told you before that's crap."
"Molly pulled up Lenny's travel schedule from the past eighteen months. When we checked it against Ellen's list, ten of the fifteen cities matched. Ten. And one of the five that didn't was the last trip to Denver. She was in the same city with him ten different times. In secret."
His head canted to one side, slowly, almost like a door opening. The traffic was picking up and spreading out, and he had to pay more attention to the road. Maybe that explained why he didn't say another word for almost three miles-a long, slow three miles.
He finally broke his silence. "Was Lenny in Boston the night she died?"
"There's no record that he flew into Boston," I said, "but I think he was here. He could have driven."
"Why do you think that?"
I reached into my back pocket, pulled out an envelope, and opened it up. "I found this letter in her mail. It just came this week."
"What is it?"
I pulled it from the envelope. It was too dark to read, but I didn't have to. "This is a letter from a place called Maitre d' Express. It's a dinner-delivery service."
"Like Domino's Pizza?"
"No. They only do the delivery part. You can order from lots of different restaurants around town, and they bring it to your house. Inside is a credit card receipt and a letter saying that Ellen still has to pay for her last order even though she never took delivery."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"It was for the night she died."
He looked over at me but didn't say a word.
"The receipt was for one hundred fifteen dollars. Twenty-five was for the delivery from Boston to Marble-head. That leaves ninety dollars, which even by Boston standards is a lot for one meal. So I called Maitre d' Express and they had a record of the order in their computer. One appetizer, two salads, and two entrees from Hamersley's. At eight o'clock she called and cancelled, but it was too late. The order had already been made up, so she was charged anyway."
Shadows moved in and out of the car with the steady flow of headlights streaming toward us. I watched his face. He was working his jaw, but I saw no other sign that he was listening.
"Here's what I think happened that day. Ellen spoke to Lenny on the phone sometime during the morning. I don't know what was going on between them, but he must have talked her into seeing him that night at her house. Before she left work, she cancelled her trainer's appointment for that night at the gym, but according to her running log, she went running that afternoon along the Charles, so she wanted to get a workout in, but didn't want to keep the appointment that night. She got home around four and called this place to order dinner for the evening."
"And when Lenny showed up he killed her."
"One thing's for sure. Whoever killed her knew her. He had access to the house, probably a key, and the code for the security system. Or she let him in. No forced entry. He knew about her mother, knew enough about her and her life to make the murder look like a plausible suicide."
"Why would he kill her?"
"Could be that Dickie's package triggered something. Maybe there was some kind of blow-up between the two of them and they stopped trusting each other. Maybe she was accumulating the evidence to use against him. It's clear that Ellen had the evidence, not Lenny, and he's still looking for it, he and his pals the Dwyers."
At the end of our exit ramp, he took a right turn that put us on a poorly lit spur. I looked out the window at an industrial area of aluminum-sided warehouses and vast parking lots filled with eighteen-wheelers backed up to raised concrete loading docks. It was lonely and cold and desolate.
"The thing I don't get," I said, "is why she cancelled the dinner. What happened to her between four in the afternoon when she ordered and eight o'clock when she cancelled?"
He had nothing to say to that. Neither one of us said another word for the rest of the drive out.
Angelo DiBiasi's white stubble crept down the soft roll of flab at his throat. His worn cotton T-shirt covered a narrow chest, which ballooned into a big, hanging gut that kept him from pushing in close to the table. With one eye almost shut, he cocked the other at me as he spoke to Dan. "Why'd you go and bring her for?"
"Don't start with me, Angie. I told you I might bring her."
"And I told you not to-"
"Which just goes to show you're not in charge here. You're the one who's sitting at home on your butt with no job, and she's the one who can bring you back, so be nice."
Dan's tone had an urgent edge, as though he was running out of time and patience, even though we'd just arrived. We were at a fluorescent island of a truck stop by the side of the highway. It had stools at a long counter and ashtrays on every wobbly table.
When Angelo looked at me again, it was with eyes that were puffy and red-ringed, the kind you get from lying awake at night. Or crying. Or both. I offered him my hand across our sticky Formica table and introduced myself. "I'm sorry about your wife, and I hope we can work something out."
He switched his cigarette to his other hand and returned the gesture. His fingers were long and thin in my hand, the only part of him that seemed delicate.
"Let's get this over with." He let go and turned back to Dan. "I don't want to be seen with the two of youse." He took a quick tobacco hit, then moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue. "You bring something in writing describes this deal?"
"We don't have a deal yet," Dan said, "which is why we're talking."
"That's not what you told my wife. Why'd you have to go and call her anyway? You got no right calling and bothering her with my business." His chest puffed out and his back stiffened, and he looked like an old rooster as he shook his head full of white hair. "What you did, a man should never do to another man."
Dan stirred his coffee. "I'm sorry I had to bother Theresa, but since she's the one who's sick, I thought she had the right to know there was a way for you to get your job back. You didn't tell her." He lifted the cup to his lips, had another thought, and put it back down without drinking. "And besides, you've got a strange- idea of what's right. She starts chemo in two weeks and you're out boosting TV sets, getting yourself fired and losing your medical benefits."
"I was taking that TV home for her," he sputtered, "so she'd have it to watch when-" He stopped abruptly and turned toward the window. It was a big picture window that looked out over the parking lot, where snowflakes were beginning to drift down into the rain puddles. His cigarette was wedged tightly between his thumb and index finger. We sat in silence and watched as he smoked it all the way down to the filter. As soon as he stubbed out the butt, he started a new one. "Tell me again," he said wearily, "what you want and what you got."
Dan put both elbows on the table. "I don't know what it is you know, Angie, but my boss went to a lot of trouble to try to talk to you before she died, so I've got to think it's big. You give me what she was looking for, and we'll bring you back to work. No termination, no hearings or arbitration, none of that shit. You just come back tomorrow like you never left."
"You're talking about the boss killed herself, right. Not this one." He nodded in my direction without looking at me, and I couldn't tell if he was genuinely confused or yanking Dan's chain.
"I'm talking about Ellen Shepard."
"How am I supposed to know what she wanted? I never even met her."
"Don't waste my fucking time, Angie. I'm not in the mood."
Angelo sat back and kicked one leg out, stretching as if he had a sore knee. "Why should I tell you anything? I can get the same deal from Big Pete without being no snitch."
"If Big Pete's going to bring you back, it means he's doing it through Lenny, and if Lenny wants to bring you back, he has to wait until after arbitration. Those are the rules, Angie, and who knows how long a hearing might take? Yours probably won't take much longer than what?" Dan checked with me. "Six months?"
"I once had a guy who waited a whole year," I offered helpfully.
"I'll take a little time off." Angelo glanced nervously from Dan to me and back. "Now's a good time anyway."
"Right," said Dan, "and at the end of your 'vacation,' maybe you're at work with full back pay. Then again, maybe you wait six months and never come back. Hard to say what happens with an arbitration panel. But let's say you do get back. Do you know what's waiting for you here?"
Angelo stared, his breathing growing shallow between drags.
He'd been close to the edge from the beginning, and now I saw perspiration forming on his upper lip.
"If you come back off Lenny's deal, Angie, I'm going to make you my own personal rehabilitation project. I'm going to see to it that you never have time to think about stealing again because you'll be working your ass off."
Dan edged closer, pushing the ashtray out of the way. Angelo's eyes shifted back and forth, trying not to focus on Dan but unable to look anywhere else.
"I'll sit guys down to make sure you've got work to do, Angie. You won't have a second to yourself, and if you try to steal from me again, I'm gonna catch you and that's going to be it. You'll be out on your ass for good."
"Nothing in the contract says I can't make you do your job."
"Jesus fucking Christ, Danny." He stubbed out his butt, jamming so hard, stale ashes spilled onto the table. "I don't got enough problems without you threatening me all over the place?" He lowered his head, squeezed his eyes shut, and massaged his temples with the heels of his hands, turning his entire face crimson in the process. Between the cigarettes, the sick wife, pending unemployment, and Dan's pressure, I feared for the guy's vascular health.
"Angelo," I said, "here's another way to look at it. Your wife starts chemotherapy in two weeks."
He nodded, eyes still shut.
"Take our deal and your benefits will be restored tomorrow. Take Lenny's deal and you're going to have to sit out for six months, maybe longer, with no benefits and no guarantees. How are you going to pay the bills in the meantime?" His hands slipped around to cover his eyes. "Do you want your wife worrying about that when she's trying to get well? Your wife's peace of mind means a lot to you, I can tell. Tell us what you know, come back to work, and give her that peace of mind. It would be worth more to her than a TV."
He looked at me through bloodshot eyes. "Full back pay?"
"All my benefits, including flight bennies?"
He slumped back in his chair and studied the ceiling as he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. When he finally sat forward, Dan and I leaned in, too. In that moment before he began, as we all stared at each other, I knew that this was as close as we'd been to the truth-any truth-about Ellen Shepard's death, and I could barely hold still. I watched Angelo's face and everything seemed to slip into slow motion as he opened his mouth and said, "I want a better deal."
"A better deal?" I couldn't believe I'd heard right.
"I want to retire today, but I want the last two years of my salary and full benefits, including my pension."
"Are you out of your fucking mind?" Dan spoke for both of us.
"You got me in a position where I got no choices, Danny. I got forty-one years in, and I ain't walking away with nothing."
"You got yourself in this trick bag and you got some balls trying to use it to jack us up."
"Listen to what I'm saying to you." He looked around the diner and lowered his voice. "That lady boss of yours, the other one, she was right. I do know something. And if she knew it, too, that's why she's dead. So I'm askin' you, if they killed her, how long do you think I'd last down there on the ramp?"
Dan and I exchanged a glance. No one else was in the diner with us except the kid who was working the counter and doing his homework. I could hear the squeaking of his highlight pen as he marked his textbook. A prickly wave danced up the back of my neck and crawled underneath my hair. "Angelo." My heart was pounding in my throat, and I was surprised that my voice didn't waver. "Do you know that Ellen was murdered, that she didn't kill herself? Do you know this?"
He nodded. "I know too much for my own good."
"You miserable motherfucker. All this time you didn't say any-"
I laid my hand on Dan's arm. "Tell us what you know, Angelo, and I'll get you whatever you want." I looked into his eyes and I knew, no matter what Big Pete had promised him, that he was scared, that he loved his wife, and he wanted to get this over with. Even so, he held out as long as he could, until the corner of his mouth began to quiver. "There's two parts to this story," he said finally. "There's who killed her, and there's why. I'll give you the who tonight. You get me my deal and I'll give you the rest."
Dan pulled away from me and sat back, arms crossed tightly across his chest. I nodded to Angelo and he began.
"Big Pete, Little Pete, and Lenny-used to be Dickie, too, before he kicked the bucket-they was all involved in this thing happened here a few years back, and it turned out that she somehow knew this secret and was gonna blow the whistle."
"What secret?" I asked. "Was it the IBG vote?"
"I ain't sayin' what it had to do with until I get my deal, but it wasn't that. That was nothing. What I will tell you, certain people weren't where they said they were the night when she got killed."
The prickly feeling came back, only this time I felt it across my whole body.
"It so happens that night I was down at the employee parking lot taking care of some personal business. While I was there, Little Pete comes flying up in that big truck his pop bought for him. He's coming back to work in the middle of his shift, which was stranger than hell because once he's gone he never comes back."
"What time?" I asked.
"Was he drunk?" asked Dan.
"He'd had a few, but I've seen him a lot worse. I gave him a ride up to the line so he could find Big Pete. On the way up, he was jumpy, like he needed a drink. He couldn't stop yapping about how big changes was coming because of him and everything was going to get back to normal."
"What did you take that to mean?" My throat was tightening.
"Nothing. The kid's always spoutin' off about something. But he kept pushing, so I asked him, does he know this on account of his pop telling him? Because everybody knows that's the only way the kid ever knows anything is it comes from his pop, right? I tell him this and it pisses him off. He says his pop didn't know nothing about it, that he and Lenny had a scam going." Angelo lowered his eyes and blew out a long stream of smoke that scattered the wisps of ashes off the table. "Finally, he couldn't keep it in no more and he just comes right out and says it. The dumbfuck bastard sits right in my tug and tells me he just killed the lady boss."
Dan's fist slammed down on the table, dumping over Angelo's coffee cup. Angelo bounced back and out of the chair. I shot straight up. My chair flew back and tipped over as the hot liquid spread across the tabletop. Dan was the only one who didn't react. He sat there frozen, his arm still flat against the table, his fist squeezed so tight it was shaking. Hot coffee soaked the sleeve of his cotton shirt. I looked at him and he looked back. "Son of a bitch," he said. "That fucking son of a bitch killed her. I knew it."
I pulled a wad of napkins from the chrome napkin holder and dropped them into the spilled liquid. I lifted Dan's arm out of the mess and handed him a wad. Eventually, we settled back into our seats and I asked Angelo, "What else did he say?"
"I told him he was full of shit. To prove it." He glanced nervously at Dan. "He showed me the key to her house."
"Where did he get the key?" I asked.
"Lenny gave it to him."
The table was covered with wet, sepia-colored mounds that looked like sand dunes and smelled like stale French roast. The smell of cold coffee was making me sick, and I could barely put two thoughts together, but I tried. Ellen must have set up the date to meet Lenny at the house. Lenny gave the key and the security code to Little Pete and sent him in his place. So they both killed her. "Does anyone else know what happened that night?"
"No. Big Pete made sure of that after he found out. He was so mad, I thought he was going to kill that kid. He had me drive Little Pete home."
"So Big Pete knows everything."
"What about the package?" I asked.
"Dickie Flynn's package in the ceiling."
"I don't know nothing about no package."
"Tell us, Angelo," I asked, "why they had to kill her."
He shook his head.
"Will you tell the police?"
"I ain't saying dick to no cops, and I ain't telling you no more." He stood up and slipped his jacket on.
Then he leaned over the table and lowered his voice.
"Get me my deal and I'll give you what you need. It's time it all come out, anyway."
The windshield wipers in Dan's car were fighting a losing battle with the blowing snow. The car shuddered against another strong blast of wind. We were idling in the parking lot of the diner, waiting for the heat to kick in. Both of us were staring straight ahead. After a while I noticed that the window was fogged and we couldn't see anything. I tried to block out everything but the facts, because everything but the facts scared me to death.
"It's pretty strange," I said, blowing on my fingers, "that Angelo was willing to tell us that Ellen was murdered, that Lenny set it up, and that Little Pete did it. But he won't tell us why."
"He thinks he's got more leverage on the why. It's how he thinks he's going to get his deal."
"That's what I'm saying. He's telling us without telling us that the motive for Ellen's murder is bigger than the murder itself. What do you think it is?"
"I don't know and I don't give a fuck." Dan wasn't wearing his gloves, and his hands looked like bones wrapped around the steering wheel. "I'm going to kill Little Pete. And when I'm done with him, I'm going after that other prick Lenny. I'm going to wrap my hands around his fucking pencil neck just like-"
"We have to go to the police, Dan."
"Are you deaf? Angie just said he wouldn't talk to the police."
"They'll make him talk. That's what they do. I don't want the two of us to be the only ones who know what he said."
"The police already gave up on this, remember?" He put the car in reverse, wedged his arm behind my seat, and twisted to look behind him. He screeched backward, stopped quickly, and slid on the quickly icing concrete.
"Where do you want me to drop you off?" he asked, glowering at me through the dark.
"Drop me off?"
"You can do what you want. I'm going to the airport."
"Wait." I grabbed his arm, trying to think fast as he was about to put the car in gear and set in motion something that could only end badly. "I'll make a deal with you. I won't call the police until we find Dickie's package if you promise to stay clear of Little Pete."
"You don't think there is a package anymore, remember?"
"I don't know if there is or not, but let's keep looking."
He stared straight ahead, grinding his teeth and tapping one finger on the wheel. "I already looked everywhere I could think of for that package."
"We haven't really looked at the airport."
"It's not there."
"We haven't looked. You want to make sure that Lenny gets nailed for this, don't you? If there's evidence against Lenny, it's in the package."
He tapped a few more times, started to nod slowly, then put the car in gear and swung out onto the highway.
"Deal," he said, just before he hit the gas.