Dan was sitting with his legs crossed on the top of my desk, fidgeting with a ruler. He looked as if he were in a life raft on a sea of papers. In a final spasm of manic frustration, we'd taken Ellen's neatly labeled files and binders and dumped them all onto the floor- and found nothing. With no place else to look, we'd gone over every inch of that massive desk, thinking the package might be concealed in some secret compartment. That idea had turned out to be as flaky as it sounded.
"I still don't know why you thought it would be here," he said for the fifth time. "She never kept anything important at the airport. I keep trying to tell you that."
"It was worth a shot," I replied for the fifth time, "before we schlepped all the way up to Marblehead again."
I was sitting on the floor in the corner in a zombie-like trance. I was so tired, my brain was beginning to seize up like an engine running without oil. I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten, and worst of all, the heat had kicked into high gear again and the temperature in the office was approaching critical. But I knew that if I let myself feel any of that, I'd never move from that spot, and I had to get Dan away from the airport. I had no idea if either of the Dwyers was on shift, but I didn't want to take any chances.
I checked my watch. Almost nine o'clock. "If we're going up to the house tonight, we'd better get moving."
A cell phone twittered and we locked eyes.
"Don't look at me," he said. "I don't carry one of those damn things." He jumped down from the desk, and I crawled over to the mound of papers, the apparent source of the ringing.
"Here it is." He pulled my backpack from under one of the piles and handed it over. I dug out my phone and punched up the call.
"I found you."
The sound of Bill's voice was like a rush of cool air in that arid desert of an office. The minute I heard it, I felt the muscles in my shoulders release and the tension flow out. In so many ways, he was exactly what I needed right then. "Can you hold on?"
"Is this a bad time?"
"No. Just give me a second." I covered the phone with my hand. "Dan, I'm sorry, I need to take this call."
He was scratching the top of his head with the ruler. It took him a moment, but he caught on. "Which means get the hell out of here." The ruler clattered onto the desk as he headed out the door and closed it behind him.
From the sound of the background noise, Bill was in his car. "I am so glad you called. Where are you?"
"I'm back in Colorado. What are you doing up there? Lenny's hysterical."
I started to move in a tight figure eight around the piles on the floor. "Did he call you?"
"Yes, he did, which means he's truly desperate because he never calls, even when he should. And who is this guy Angelo?"
I froze. "He mentioned Angelo?"
"He said you were trying to do an end-around and offer Angelo a deal without telling him. Lenny wants to approach the IBG International and make his own deal to bring him back to work. Should I let him?"
"No. Absolutely not. Jesus." I paced a little faster and my shoulder muscles started to bunch again. Angelo must have told Lenny that he'd talked with us, but why on earth-maybe to play both ends against the middle. "Bill, whatever you do, don't let Lenny make that deal. If anything, Angelo needs to be protected from Lenny. Protected from himself, too, it sounds like."
"Tell me who he is and why any of this is significant."
"I told you about Angelo. He's the ramper that Ellen fired before she died. Dan and I met with him tonight, and he told us that Lenny had Ellen killed."
"He told you what?"
"Little Pete killed her, but Lenny gave him the key to her house. Angelo actually saw it."
"Saw the murder?"
"No, the key." I was talking too fast, frustrated that he wasn't keeping up. "The night of the murder Little Pete came back to the airport and showed Angelo the key he used to get into Ellen's house, to get in the house and kill her."
"Where are you right now?"
"At the airport. Are you listening to me?"
"Alex, you have to get out of there. If any of this is true-"
"I need one more day, and I need you to approve my deal for Angelo. He told us who killed her, but he wouldn't tell us why. I need to know why-"
"You need to know?"
"Yes, I need to know." I kicked one of the piles of paper on the floor. "It has something to do with that package from Dickie Flynn and I think we can find the package if we have a little more time. And if we find the package, we get Lenny." Assuming there still was a package.
When I slowed down enough to notice, all I could hear was the sound of his breathing. And then I couldn't even hear that. "Bill, are you there?"
"Listen to me carefully," he said, his voice calm and steady. "Don't think about what you're going to say next. Just shut up and listen."
I stared up at the old yellow tiles in the ceiling. I couldn't believe how wound up I was-and how annoyed. I wanted him to be in a frenzy, too, to support my frenzied-ness. But he was so rational he was making me feel like a raving madwoman. I was losing perspective, which is exactly what he was about to tell me and exactly what I didn't want to hear. "I'm listening."
"If what you're saying is true-"
"It's all true, I know it-"
"I asked you to listen to me."
"I'm sorry. It's just… you sound as if you don't believe me."
"It doesn't matter what I believe. That's what I'm trying to make you see. If Lenny knows that Angelo talked to you, then it's not up to me how much time you have." He paused to let that sink in. "Do you understand now?"
I wiped the perspiration out of my eyes with the short sleeve of my T-shirt. He was right. If Lenny knew that Angelo had talked to us, then the Petes knew and that could not be a good thing for any of us- especially Angelo.
"I'm bringing in the FBI," he said, "and I'm sending Corporate Security out. Tom Gutekunst will be on the red-eye tonight. He can be in Boston first thing tomorrow morning."
"Angelo's not going to talk to Corporate Security or anyone else. Don't you…" I paused for a moment to get the shrillness under control. He was right; I was wrong. He was being reasonable, and I was being stubborn to the point of petulance. But I couldn't let it go. "Don't you want to know what Angelo knows, which is why Ellen was killed?"
Big sigh. "What about Fallacaro? What if he goes with Gutekunst tomorrow?"
"If it's too dangerous for me, it is for Dan, too."
"Maybe so. But I'm not in love with Dan Fallacaro."
"I'm not going to bail out and leave Dan to finish this-" What did he just say? I switched the phone to the other ear. Maybe I wasn't hearing right. "What did you say?"
"I said that I'm in love with you, Alex."
My knees almost gave way.
"I am hopelessly…"
My hands trembled.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
"…pathetically in love with you."
I had to reach around, find the edge of the desk and lean back. He'd never even said that he loved me- needed me, wanted me, but never that he loved me, much less desperately loved me, and even though I'd been aching to hear it, I'd never asked him to say it because I was afraid of what I might hear.
"I don't want to lose you again. I don't want a life without you in it."
I tried to keep my thoughts from racing. I dropped my head all the way back and let his words roll over me. He was in love with me. And I couldn't stop smiling.
"I'm out here in Denver," he went on, "completely helpless while you're running around in Boston with some people who are apparently quite dangerous. All I want is for you to exercise some good judgment. Is that so much to ask?" The background noise was gone, and I knew that his car had stopped. Without the interference he sounded closer, as if he were there with me, whispering in my ear. "If you're worried about Fallacaro, then tell him to leave, too. But whether he goes or not, I want you out, Alex. I want you safe." He let out another long sigh. "Now I have to go. I'm late for a dinner, and I've been sitting outside the restaurant for twenty minutes."
"There's so much more to this that I have to tell you." But at the moment my head happened to be in the clouds and I couldn't remember what it was.
"Tell me tonight. I'll call you. Right now I have people waiting for me inside. But I'm not going to hang up until you give me your word. Will you go home tonight and wait for help?"
I would jump off a cliff for him right now. "Yes, I'll go home."
"But how about this? When Tom shows up tomorrow, I'll give him everything we've found out, but I'm going with him to talk to Angelo. And we have to go back up to Marblehead to look for that package."
"What about tonight?"
"I'll take Dan and we'll go home. Just don't let Lenny bring Angelo back."
The line began to pop and crackle, then grew into a steady stream of static, and I lost him for a moment. "Bill?"
"I heard you," he said, cutting in and out, "and I'm losing my battery. I'll call you later tonight, on the hotel phone."
"I'll be there. Bill…" He didn't answer. "Are you there?" Nothing. "I love you, too," I said softly, but the connection was gone.
Dan was in his office with his feet up on the desk. He had the computer keyboard in his lap, and he was scanning the monitor.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking the work schedule for tonight."
"You're looking for Little Pete."
"I just think it's a good idea to know where he is."
"And is he working?"
"Not according to the schedule posted yesterday."
I breathed a silent sigh of relief. "I'm sorry about kicking you out."
"I understand. You women all have your secrets."
"You should talk."
He allowed a little touch'e smile. "Can we get the hell out of here," he moaned, "before I melt? It's a long way up to Marblehead."
"I'm ready, but we're not going to Marblehead. I've got some things to tell you."
"Hey," he yelled as I headed back to my office, "what's all over your butt?"
"You've been sitting in something. Your ass is all white."
I twisted one way and then the other, trying to see behind me. Sure enough, there was something that looked like chalk dust all over my jeans. "I don't know." I tried to dust it off and got it all over my sweaty hands. "I think it's from that corner over by the window where I was sitting. There's been a pile of this stuff on the floor since the day I got here. It doesn't say much for our cleaning crews."
"I can't take you anywhere, Shanahan. You're a mess."
I went back to my office and loaded up my backpack. While I waited for Dan, I went to the corner to investigate the strange white residue on the floor, the stuff that had reminded me of rat poison on my first day in the station. I crouched down and rubbed a bit of it between my fingers. It felt grainier and heavier than chalk dust. There was no obvious source at the base of the wall or around the window. I stood up, wiped my hands on my jeans, and was starting to go when I saw more of it on top of my two-drawer file cabinet. My backpack hit the ground with a thud as I stood and stared straight up at the ceiling. It wasn't chalk dust.
"Dan." He didn't answer. "Dan," I yelled, climbing up on the cabinet, "Come in here."
"What?" he yelled back. "I'm coming."
He walked in just as I was pulling a brown envelope out through the space where the corner tile had been. More of the white stuff had fallen when I moved the tile. Acoustic tile shavings were in my eyes and stuck to the damp skin on my face. I had to blink several times before I could look down and see him standing next to the cabinet. I presented him with Dickie Flynn's package.
"You guys always said the ceiling was the best place to hide things."