Accidents can happen. I remembered how Jeff Coleman had said that was Abbott’s message to me.
“How do you know all this?” I asked. “This is more than just him showing up for a procedure, isn’t it?”
Colin Bixby traced my jaw with the tip of his finger, and I felt it all the way to my toes. Although I wasn’t quite sure if it was in a good way or not, because what he’d said creeped me out.
“I’ll call you,” he said, leaning over and brushing my cheek with his lips before going out the door.
Bitsy was watching with her mouth hanging open.
“You look like some sort of fish,” I said a little too sharply.
“You move fast,” she said.
“I just spent over an hour with the guy.”
“Yeah, touching him.”
“Not exactly. The needle was touching him.”
I sighed. This was getting us nowhere. “When’s my next client?”
“Half an hour.”
I needed more sugar. I’d managed to get only a couple of truffles before Joel finished them off. I thought about the gelato place over in the Palazzo shops on the first floor. Usually I didn’t go for five-dollar ice cream, but I was in the mood for a little splurge. I went into the staff room and grabbed my bag. On my way out, I tucked Trevor’s laptop on the shelf under the light table.
Bitsy and Joel both placed orders, and I made a mental note to call Tim when I got back to find out what was going on with Ace. I recalled Joel’s question about Charlotte: Had she gotten the job at the shop to check out one of us? Ace? They’d gotten very close very quickly. And now he had all that cash in his account.
For a split second I wondered if he was somehow involved with all this.
But then I mentally slapped myself. While I did know Ace less than I knew Bitsy or Joel, we’d all been together now for two years. I couldn’t see Ace doing something like stealing money from Trevor.
Should I tell Tim about the picture of Trevor and Lester and the 1099s on the laptop? Probably. But then I’d have to tell him I’d taken the laptop from Trevor’s apartment. I’d conveniently left that small fact out when I told him and DeBurra about my first trip to Trevor’s yesterday. Somehow, I wasn’t quite sure how to relay that information without putting myself in a really bad light. It would have to be done delicately.
I’d think about it.
I walked around the end of the canal, where people were waiting for gondolas. Back in St. Mark’s Square, I could hear lutes and a harp and some singing. Without even looking, I knew costumed men and women were probably dancing, entertaining the tourists.
I kept walking past the shops and down the escalator to the first floor.
Spray from the waterfall misted my face, and I combed my hair back off my forehead with my fingers. I didn’t want to think about how much water was being wasted.
There was a line at Espressamente illy. I stood between it and the escalator, debating with myself. I could go back upstairs and get gelato at St. Mark’s Square, but I preferred the gelato here. As I hesitated, someone knocked into me from behind.
I whirled around and saw Frank DeBurra.
Just my luck.
“What do you want now?” I asked wearily.
But he wasn’t paying attention to me. His face was screwed up with anger as he addressed a gaggle of twentysomething girls on the other side of him. They were giggling and whispering and hadn’t paid attention when two of them bumped into him.
“Watch where you’re going!” he said.
He whirled around, not accepting their apologies.
I eyed the escalator, knowing if I’d been just a few minutes earlier or later I might not have had another close encounter with my new nemesis. Since he was probably stalking me again, I figured I should go on the offensive.
“What’s going on with Ace?” I asked. “Have you charged him officially with anything?”
“That’s none of your business.”
I sighed dramatically and threw up my hands. “This is all my business. You won’t leave me alone. You won’t leave my staff alone. I really don’t know what you’re looking for, what you want from me. Why don’t you ask Charlotte? She’s working for you, isn’t she? Doesn’t she have any answers for you?”
I had succeeded in surprising him. His eyes grew wide, and his mouth hung open. Finally, “How do you know about Charlotte Sampson?”
“So it’s true?”
For a second, something flashed across his face that I couldn’t read. Either it was dismay that I’d just been baiting him and he’d admitted the truth, or it was disgust that I knew something I shouldn’t. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
Finally, he said, “We’re just trying to protect her. That’s why we need to find her.”
His tone seemed sincere, but I was getting tired of going over the same old territory. So I decided we needed a new subject.
“You know, Trevor had a Facebook page.”
He looked at me like I had three heads.
“You know? Facebook? Social networking?”
He snorted. “I know it. What does this have to do with anything?”
I shrugged. “I was looking at the pictures he’s got there and I saw one of a drag queen who looked familiar.”
Something crossed his face that I couldn’t read. “What do you mean?”
“Remember when I said someone slashed my tires? I saw a woman walking by. And I think she was the one I saw in the picture on Trevor’s Facebook page.”
“How can you tell?”
“Looked the same. Even almost the same sort of dress.”
“But not familiar?”
“I didn’t have time to look that closely at it. I’d have to look again. I can show you. Maybe she’s the one who slashed the tires.”
“Why would she want to do that if you don’t even know her?”
Well, now, that was a good question, wasn’t it? “It was just an idea,” I said.
DeBurra stared at me for a second, then said, “Why don’t you leave the ideas to me?”
So we were back to belligerence. Fine.
“I have to get back to work, Detective,” I said, emphasizing the last word as though it were of the four-letter kind.
He studied my face for a second.
“Watch your back,” he said and turned and walked away.
I forgot about the gelato and got back on the escalator. Maybe I should’ve told him about the picture of Lester Fine, too. Maybe then he wouldn’t dismiss me so quickly. But to tell him about that picture would mean I’d have to tell him I had Trevor’s laptop. I wasn’t ready to admit that yet.
My imagination started to go a little crazy: Maybe that money in Trevor’s apartment wasn’t just bodyguard money. Maybe Trevor blackmailed Lester with the picture. Rusty Abbott was at Trevor’s apartment earlier. Maybe he wasn’t just looking for the pin in the makeup case. Maybe he was looking for the laptop, too. Maybe he knew about the photograph.
Lester Fine was running for public office, after all.