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Chapter 41

I couldnt move. My feet felt as though they were cemented to the asphalt.

It was Rusty Abbott.

He looked down at me, and a look of panic crossed his face. He glanced to the left and to the right, probably trying to figure out which way to run.

I had that effect on him.

But then he surprised me. He started down the stairs. He was carrying something that looked remarkably like Trevors makeup case. Kyle and I hadnt seen it in the apartment yesterday, so where had it come from?

I didnt have time to ponder that, however, because Abbotts other hand had moved up to his waistband.

The gun glinted as the sun caught it.

I caught my breath and scrambled into the car. Id been shot at once here. I wasnt going to make it a habit.

I started the car and in the rearview mirror saw Abbott approaching. I shoved the stick shift into reverse and gunned the engine.

He had to jump out of the way. The tires skidded a little as the Gremlins muffler roared, and I pulled out onto Charleston without even looking.

I was lucky thered been a lull in the traffic.

My heart was pounding. Why on earth would Rusty Abbott want to kill me? I hadnt wanted to take that casino chip in the first place.

Unless he really was the guy whod shot Trevor with the cork, and it wasnt Wesley Lambert. Maybe he thought I could identify him.

And what was he doing with the makeup case? Unless hed known Trevor kept the brooch in it and thought it was still there.

As I sat at a light, I knew I was going to have to find out more about that Queen of Hearts Ball. There was that pin and the tattoos and all those pictures of everyone looking so tight with their arms around each other: Rusty Abbott and Wesley Lambert and Charlotte.

How did Trevor play into all that? Was he the third person who showed up at Murder Ink for a tattoo?

No, he didnt have a playing-card tattoo. That I knew for sure. So who was the third person?

Jeff Coleman wasnt back yet from dropping off Sylvia. Murder Ink was closed up, but I found a key to the back door on the chain with the Gremlin key. I let myself in.

I turned on the overhead light and dropped my bag on the cluttered desk. I eyed the file cabinet in the corner. Jeff had to have some sort of record of those three clients that night.

I told myself he was as interested as I was in all this as I opened the top drawer.

The files were a mess, just like the rest of the place. I couldnt make heads or tails of them. They werent in any sort of alphabetical order or even arranged by date. It seemed totally random. I flipped through about twenty folders, taking a deep breath with each one, not because I was afraid of what Id find, but with the exasperation I felt. Bitsy would never let our records be such a mess.

I had reached in to grab another file when the door opened, and I felt my heart jump into my throat.

Kavanaugh, what are you doing?

Jeff was next to me, taking the file out of my hand and slipping it back into the drawer.

You werent here-

So you decided to go through my files. For what? What are you looking for? Despite our rather up-and-down relationship, this was the first time Id heard him actually angry with me. Hed teased me before, but this time Id touched a nerve.

What dont you want me to find? I challenged. It was easier to get on the offensive.

But he wasnt having it.

What are you looking for? he growled, slamming the drawer shut.

I decided I should tell him the truth. I just wanted to know if youve got a file on that third guy who came in for the queen-of-hearts tattoo with Rusty Abbott and Wesley Lambert, I said.

His eyes were narrowed, and he studied my face for a few seconds, during which I could totally believe that hed been in the Marines. He scared me.

But then he gave a low chuckle and started shaking his head.

Oh, Kavanaugh, you could just ask before you start snooping around. Or do you like playing Charlies Angels?

I felt my face flush, but I couldnt let that go. That was one of the most misogynistic shows ever on TV, I said hotly.

Yeah, maybe, but they were so hot. He turned his back on me as he rifled through the files, then turned around with one in his hand. He waved it in front of me, teasing me. Didnt every girl want to be a Charlies Angel?

Not me, I said, a little too loudly, my eyes following the file.

Which one would you be? The smart one or the tough one or the dumb, sexy one?

I sighed. Stop playing around, I said.

He laughed out loud. You know, Kavanaugh, you shouldnt make it so easy to get to you.

I couldnt tell him that he was the only one who brought out this side of me. Then hed think he was something special.

Whats in the file? I asked.

He looked at it as if he were seeing it for the first time. Oh, this, he said. This is the file youre looking for from that night.

How do you know? I asked. Those files arent in any particular order.

Well, thats where youre wrong, he said. There is an order. My mother set it up, and it works, so its staying that way.

If Sylvia set up the filing system, then it clearly wouldnt have any rhyme or reason to it. But if they could keep track, who was I to say anything?

Do you want to see it? Jeff said, handing the file to me.

I snatched it away from him and rolled my eyes as I flipped it open.

The name took my breath away.

Are you sure? I asked. This is the right one?

Jeff nodded. Yeah. You know who it is?

I nodded slowly. I do.

And hed told me he didnt have any ink because he didnt like needles.

Colin Bixby.

Chapter 40 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 42