Ace was leaning against the front desk when I got back to the shop. Bitsy was leaning toward him from behind the desk, taking in every word. When I pushed the door open, they both turned to me with deer-in-the-headlights looks, as if they were sharing a secret that no one else was supposed to know about.
“Glad to see you back,” I said to Ace. “What’s going on?” Even though my tone was casual, I was anything but. I wanted to know everything that had gone down at the police station, and he knew it.
“They let me go,” Ace said, stating the obvious. “That cop, the one looking for Charlotte, he brought me back.”
So that was why DeBurra was hanging around. He wasn’t stalking me again. He could’ve told me, though, when I asked him about Ace.
“What about the money?” I asked, ignoring Bitsy’s raised eyebrows. “The money in your account?”
Ace shrugged, his hands moving to his pockets as he slouched. “It’s gone.”
“What do you mean, it’s gone?”
“I guess it was there, and then it was gone. That cop, DeBurra? He kept insisting that I knew where it was.” His eyes grew dark with anger. “I kept telling him that I didn’t know it was there in the first place.”
“So was it?” Bitsy asked.
I followed what she was thinking. “Was the money really there in the first place?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yeah. I saw it on the computer. And then it was gone. Just like that.” He snapped his fingers.
“It disappeared while you were sitting there?”
He snorted. “And they still wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t even touch the mouse.”
“How did they know it was there in the first place?”
Ace ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I don’t know. They got into my account somehow.”
“They’re Homeland Security,” I said.
“What, do they think I’m some sort of terrorist or something?”
Bitsy and I shrugged but didn’t answer.
“Where’s Charlotte?” I asked.
“I have no idea. Haven’t seen her since yesterday. She was a little nervous.”
I debated whether I should tell him about seeing her on that balcony. But while I was thinking about it, he spoke again.
“She called me this morning, though.”
“What did she say?”
He pulled himself up a little, took his hands out of his pockets. “What is this? The inquisition? I just finished up with that.”
I didn’t much care. “Did you tell the cops you talked to her this morning?”
He sighed, slouching again as if he couldn’t keep up the anger. “I told them everything. Your brother’s the one who got me out. He told that cop DeBurra that he had to let me go. It was clear I didn’t move that money.”
Chalk one up for Tim. I made a mental note to say thank you.
“So what happens now?” I asked.
“Ace has a client coming in later,” Bitsy said loudly. “And you’ve got one coming in, too.”
Nice to know life went on. But I was still feeling a little obsessed with everything that had transpired in the last few days.
I looked at Ace. His usual perfect mane of hair was a little disheveled; he had dark circles under his eyes; his mouth sagged at the corners. I’d never seen him look less than handsome. “If you want to go home, you can,” I said. “You’ve had a long day. I’ll take your client.” I glanced at Bitsy, who was already looking at the appointment book.
“I can switch a few things around,” Bitsy said. “Don’t worry.” This last was to Ace, who looked so relieved that I was happy I’d read him right.
He gave Bitsy and me a wan smile. “Thanks,” he said, and we both smiled back as we watched him head out.
I turned to Bitsy when he was out of sight. “I do wish he’d been a little more forthcoming about Charlotte.”
“You shouldn’t badger him, though. Just before you came in, he was telling me how she broke up with him in that phone call this morning. Said she didn’t want to cause him any more trouble, that he was better off without her. He’s pretty broken up about it.”
I had the sense that Ace had told her this in confidence, but he should have known by now that you can’t count on Bitsy to be discreet.
I didn’t get a chance to continue the conversation, however, because at that moment, Ace’s client came in. Bitsy explained that Ace was out sick, but that I could take him, if he was okay with that. The guy looked remarkably like Tony Soprano, and he gave me a look that made me wish I hadn’t been quite so generous after all. He was perfectly okay with me taking over.
Fortunately, he was just in for a New Zealand tribal tattoo on his biceps, which didn’t take much effort at all. I could understand why Ace had issues with “sacrificing his art.” As I worked, I tried to push everything that was going on out of my head, but I kept wondering about that money. If Charlotte hadn’t taken it, like she said, then who did? Was it the unknown person in Trevor’s apartment who shot at us? Or had someone gone in after I’d been there with Kyle and before I went back with Jeff? What about Rusty Abbott?
When I deposited Ace’s client with Bitsy to deal with payment, I went straight into the staff room. While I was thinking about the money, my thoughts had wandered back to Trevor’s laptop and that picture of Lester Fine. Finally free for a little while, I took the laptop out from under the light table where I’d left it and booted it up.
I went back to Facebook to look at those party pictures again. Maybe Trevor had posted a picture of Lester without realizing it. Then I could tell Tim that there was something on Facebook rather than tell him I’d been snooping.
I clicked on the photo albums link.
There was only one problem.
All the pictures were gone.