Stay Close

Page 25


“It was Mardi Gras?”
Erin nodded. “It pretty much fits for every missing guy you have. I mean, some of the guys were reported missing later—days or even weeks—but when I go through the file, none vanished before Mardi Gras. I’m not saying I can prove they all disappeared on that day—or in some cases, past midnight that night—but it all works into that nice little theory of yours.”
“So it isn’t a particular day or month,” Broome said.
“It is not.”
“Whatever is going on,” Broome said, “and we don’t know what that is—it could be murders or runaways or who knows, but whatever is going on…”
Erin nodded. “It starts on Mardi Gras.”
Broome’s cell phone rang. He checked the caller ID and saw it was from the station. “Hello?”
“Detective Broome?”
“A photograph just arrived at the station. I think you’re going to want to see it.”
HARRY SUTTON’S LAW OFFICE OFFERED up the perfect Atlantic City view. In the distance—and by distance he only meant three blocks east—you could see the aging albeit still somewhat grand hotels along the Boardwalk. But between those high-rises and his shabby office building was pretty much a vast wasteland of decay. Whatever wealth or beauty the hotels and casinos gave off, they were self-contained and not the least bit contagious. There is no trickle down. If the hotels are flowers, they remain stuck in the middle of the weeds.
It wasn’t just that Harry liked the sex, gambling, and action of this city, though there was no doubt all of that was intoxicating. It was that these people—the native population if you will—were also powerless. In his white-shoe-lawyer days, Harry had helped the most powerful, those who had the game of life ridiculously rigged for their benefit from birth, yet still needed to cheat. The people here were the direct opposite. They had been born with nothing going for them. The only luck they knew was bad. They wouldn’t know a break unless it involved a bone.
What they needed, what they deserved, was to know what it was like—at least once in their lives—to have someone on their side. To be respected. Just once. Nothing more. Forget guilt or innocence. Forget right or wrong. Whatever else happened in their mostly pathetic lives, Harry Sutton would make sure that they knew that feeling at least once.
That was why Harry Sutton had stayed in Atlantic City.
That and he loved the sex, gambling, and action.
The phone rang. He picked it up himself and said, “Harry Sutton, Attorney at Law.”
“I need to see your client again.”
It was Broome.
“Stop wearing me down with the charm and get to the point,” Harry said.
“I need to see her right away.”
Harry didn’t like the panic in the cop’s voice. “I don’t know if that’s possible.”
“Make it possible.”
Sutton was used to cop impatience and intimidation. It didn’t faze him much, but something odd was happening here. “What’s wrong?”
“There have been new developments.”
“Such as?”
“There may be other victims.”
“I don’t see how that involves my client.”
“I got a photograph in the mail.”
“From whom?”
“I don’t know. It came in anonymously. Look, just trust me here. I need to know if she recognizes anyone or anything in it.”
Sutton hesitated.
“You notice I’m not making any threats. I’m not, for example, telling you that I could probably track her down now and go to her house and tell her neighbors. I’m not saying I’m going to get a composite sketch of her in all the papers, stuff like that.”
“Well, it’s reassuring to hear that you’re keeping your word.”
“I don’t have time for games, Harry. We could be dealing with a serial killer here. I’m doing my best to keep her out of it. She came back to do the right thing. Let’s let her finish the job.”
“I can call and ask her,” Harry said.
“A lot of things are breaking so I need to stay close to the precinct. Can you bring her down here?”
“To the precinct? You’re joking, right?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“No, it won’t. We’ll meet you at the Heritage Diner.” It was only a block from the precinct—not perfect but it would be okay.
“I need her here pronto.”
“Then let me go so I can call her,” Harry said. “If you don’t hear back from me, let’s assume we’ll meet at the diner in half an hour.”
Harry hung up the phone and dialed Cassie’s cell phone. She answered on the third ring. “Hello?”
He heard noises in the background that strongly indicated that she wasn’t driving home. “Where are you?”
“At La Crème.”
Harry Sutton wasn’t surprised. Broome had seen it too. Something other than righting a wrong had called her back here.
“I was about to call you,” she said.
“I want to tell Broome something important.”
“Well, this will work out fine then.”
“Why? What’s up?”
Harry Sutton explained about Broome’s call and his desire to meet at the Heritage Diner. “Is that okay for you?” he asked.
“I guess so,” Cassie said. There was a brief pause. “Do you have any idea what’s in this photograph?”
“No, but Broome clearly thinks it’s important. He said something about a serial killer.”
Some men laughed in the background. Harry held on to the phone and waited.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll meet you at the diner in fifteen minutes.”
Harry Sutton hung up the phone. He spun his chair and took another look out the window at the familiar view of his city. There was a knock on the door. He checked his watch. Late. He didn’t have time for any more business tonight, but it wasn’t his way to send anyone away.
“Enter!” he shouted with his customary gusto.
A young couple who very much didn’t belong opened the door and stepped into the office.
The pretty blond girl said, “Good evening, Mr. Sutton!”
They were both clean-cut and smiling and neatly dressed, and for some reason, a reason Harry couldn’t put his finger on—a reason that he’d soon learn was primitive and instinctive and absolutely correct—Harry felt more fear than he’d ever felt in his life.