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Chapter 48

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. Whats 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 wasnt stalking me again. He couldve told me, though, when I asked him about Ace.

What about the money? I asked, ignoring Bitsys raised eyebrows. The money in your account?

Ace shrugged, his hands moving to his pockets as he slouched. Its gone.

What do you mean, its 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 didnt know it was there in the first place.

So was it? Bitsy asked.

Was what?

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 wouldnt let me go. I didnt 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 dont know. They got into my account somehow.

Theyre Homeland Security, I said.

What, do they think Im some sort of terrorist or something?

Bitsy and I shrugged but didnt answer.

Wheres Charlotte? I asked.

I have no idea. Havent seen her since yesterday. She was a little nervous.

No kidding.

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 didnt much care. Did you tell the cops you talked to her this morning?

He sighed, slouching again as if he couldnt keep up the anger. I told them everything. Your brothers the one who got me out. He told that cop DeBurra that he had to let me go. It was clear I didnt 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 youve 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. Id never seen him look less than handsome. If you want to go home, you can, I said. Youve had a long day. Ill take your client. I glanced at Bitsy, who was already looking at the appointment book.

I can switch a few things around, Bitsy said. Dont worry. This last was to Ace, who looked so relieved that I was happy Id 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 hed been a little more forthcoming about Charlotte.

You shouldnt 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 didnt want to cause him any more trouble, that he was better off without her. Hes 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 cant count on Bitsy to be discreet.

I didnt get a chance to continue the conversation, however, because at that moment, Aces 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 hadnt 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 didnt 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 hadnt taken it, like she said, then who did? Was it the unknown person in Trevors apartment who shot at us? Or had someone gone in after Id been there with Kyle and before I went back with Jeff? What about Rusty Abbott?

When I deposited Aces 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 Trevors laptop and that picture of Lester Fine. Finally free for a little while, I took the laptop out from under the light table where Id 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 Id been snooping.

I clicked on the photo albums link.

There was only one problem.

All the pictures were gone.

Chapter 47 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 49