I guess he figured I’d gotten away from him too many times, so he felt he had to resort to holding me at gun-point. Still, it was risky to do it in a crowd. Even if I ran, I doubted he’d actually fire at me. Cops are trained not to do that. But then again, this particular cop was a bad guy, so all bets were off.
Joel was talking to me.
“What’s going on?”
I sort of cocked my head back, hoping he’d notice DeBurra behind me, and because Joel and I have that kind of karma, he did. His eyes narrowed just slightly, and he blinked twice.
“You’re not getting away from me again,” DeBurra hissed from behind, throwing me off any psychic connection I had going on with Joel. He pulled my left arm around, and his hand encircled my wrist.
The pressure was off my lower back now, and I twisted a little to see him putting his gun back in his hip holster. He reached around behind his back, and I guessed what he was going for.
I had to do something.
My right hand brushed the front of my jeans, and I felt it. The brooch. It was still in my pocket.
I had an idea.
Joel was staring at me; it had been only a couple of seconds, and he was still waiting for some sort of sign. I pulled the brooch out of my pocket and undid the clasp with one hand. I raised my eyebrows at Joel, then turned fast so I was facing DeBurra. At the same moment that he slapped the bracelet around my wrist, I shoved the pin into the top of his hand as hard as I could.
The queen of hearts winked at me as she stuck to DeBurra.
DeBurra yowled, pawing at his hand to try to pull the pin out.
With the handcuffs dangling from my wrist, I took advantage of the moment and ran, grabbing Joel’s arm as I went, shouting, “Come on!”
The throng of people on the footbridge, without really knowing what was going on, parted like the Red Sea. I wondered whether Sister Mary Eucharista wasn’t doing some sort of hocus-pocus from her seat in Heaven.
Joel lumbered more slowly than I liked, and he stopped suddenly, right in front of me, causing me to take a misstep and slip. My feet flew out in front of me and I landed on my butt, sliding down the stairs like a toddler and landing with a bump at the bottom.
It knocked the wind out of me for a second.
Joel didn’t even notice I’d fallen. He just kept going. I put my hand down to push myself up, but then I felt someone’s hand under my armpit, pulling me up.
“Kavanaugh, you certainly know how to make a statement.”
I whirled around to see Jeff Coleman, a small smile at the corner of his lips. I opened my mouth to say something, but I was distracted by what was going on behind him.
Tim was handcuffing Frank DeBurra.
I looked back at Jeff.
“What’s going on?”
“The detective here stole my car.”
“You have such a way with words.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “What about him stealing your car?” I held my hands up as I spoke, and the handcuff swung around and almost hit me in the face.
Jeff grinned. “I had no idea you were so kinky, Kavanaugh.”
My eyes should be on automatic roll when I’m around Jeff Coleman.
“They’re DeBurra’s. He was going to take-” But I didn’t get to finish, because Jeff took my arm and led me back up the footbridge.
Tim looked annoyed when Jeff tapped him on the back, but then he saw the handcuff and Jeff said something so softly, I couldn’t hear.
Within seconds, Tim was unlocking the cuff and my hand was free. I rubbed my wrist. “Thanks,” I said, glaring at DeBurra, who was glaring back. “What are you charging him with?”
“He stole my car,” Jeff said again. “Right after you took off. I hadn’t taken the keys out; he just jumped in and drove off after you. I got your brother away from the paramedics and we’ve been looking for him.” He chuckled. “Criminals are stupid. He left the car out front, told the valet he’d just be a few minutes, to leave the engine running.”
A gold Pontiac had followed Bixby and me back to the Windsor Palms. I’d assumed it was Jeff. But it was DeBurra.
“He’s done a lot worse things than that,” I said.
Tim looked at me grimly. “No kidding. How do you think he knew there should have been two bodies in that building?”
So I wasn’t the only one who’d picked up on that.
Bixby wasn’t talking to me. I guess I couldn’t blame him; I’d suspected him of… well… I wasn’t quite sure of what, but I’d suspected him of something, and he wasn’t stupid.
Made it a little awkward, however, when I tried to see Charlotte in the emergency room.
Bixby sent out some other doctor, who was about a hundred and fifty years old and who had about as much charm as a desert cactus. He told us we had to wait; Charlotte was still being evaluated.
“Boy, you really screwed that one up,” Bitsy said, ever blunt, as we sat in the corner of the waiting room. Joel was with us, shifting on the uncomfortable plastic chair. The armrests were too close together and he had to sit at an angle, shoving his girth between them. I was uncomfortable for another reason-who knew what was on these seats? But I’d been standing for an hour now, and I finally had to give my feet a rest despite my reservations.
“How was I to know Bixby didn’t know anything about Lambert’s science experiments?” I asked. “He said he knew the guy, and I freaked. I admit it.”
Kyle patted my hand. “Honey, if it’s any consolation, his mother lives down the hall from him. You wouldn’t want to be involved with a guy who’s tied to mama’s apron strings.”
My cell phone warbled Springsteen, and the receptionist gave me a glare. I got up as I flipped the phone open, and went outside to talk to Tim.
“We found quite a few withdrawals from DeBurra’s bank account that match the spreadsheet Trevor had,” Tim said.
I’d given Tim the laptop before he took DeBurra to the station for questioning.
“We also found some correspondence via e-mail with Wesley Lambert.” He paused. “DeBurra paid Lambert to lace that champagne cork with ricin. And the day before he died, Lambert sent him a threatening e-mail, saying he was going to rat him out.”
“Do you think DeBurra killed Lambert?” I asked.
“There’s no evidence of that. Lambert died of ricin poisoning.”
I asked him the same question I’d asked DeBurra: “Was he ever investigating Lester Fine, or was that just a story he told Charlotte?”
Tim was quiet a second. “He didn’t lie about that. But there’s nothing that links Fine to the ricin lab. At least not that I know of.” And since Tim wasn’t with Metro Homeland Security, he might not be privy to that information.
“What about Rusty Abbott? Where is he? What’s his story?” I’d told him everything about Abbott, from the roulette game to his sudden appearances all over the place.
“He made the bomb DeBurra set off at the club. We found his fingerprints.”
“How did you tie DeBurra to it?”
“Abbott did. He left us DeBurra’s fingerprints, too, on a second device that didn’t detonate. It wasn’t ever live.” Tim paused. “DeBurra thought Charlotte had seen him at the apartment. He also thought she had Trevor’s laptop.”
“And she would put two and two together, which was why he wanted to get rid of her. And he thought I would figure it out, too,” I said. “He’s the one who called me pretending to be Kyle, right?”
Tim’s silence verified it.
I had another thought. “The call came from Chez Tango.”
“There’s such a thing as call forwarding. He thought you might try to call back.”
We were quiet a couple of seconds; then he said, “We can’t find Abbott.”
“What do you mean, you can’t find him?”
“Just what I said. We can’t find him. It’s like he disappeared or something. He’s gone.”
“People don’t just disappear.”
Tim chuckled. “People like Rusty Abbott do. You know that’s not his real name? He was using a dead guy’s social security number to get paid. Someone else is living in his apartment, claims she’s been there for five years, no one by the name of Rusty Abbott ever lived there. Lester Fine’s not talking, either, if he knows where Abbott went. He says he’s as surprised about all this as we are. All he asked about was that brooch. He wants it back.”
I remembered how I hadn’t been able to find Rusty Abbott when I Googled him, except listed on Lester Fine’s site.
“How did you get his fingerprints, then?”
“He was working for Lester Fine. All his employees are fingerprinted.”
“So he can’t really disappear then, can he?”
“As long as he stays out of trouble.”
I pondered that a few seconds; then Tim spoke again.
“The money in Ace’s account that disappeared? DeBurra did put it there, but before he could move it to his own account, it disappeared on him. We managed to trace it to another account with Abbott’s name on it. But it wasn’t there for long. Maybe a few minutes. Now it’s in the wind, just like Abbott.”
I mulled this over. I’d suspected Abbott of a lot of things, but being a ghost-a comfortably well-off ghost, thanks to Trevor’s money-was not one of them. Somehow I found it suitable justice that Abbott had taken DeBurra’s money after DeBurra had gone to all that trouble to retrieve it.
And even though Rusty Abbott did know how to make accidents happen, as Jeff Coleman so aptly put it, he’d actually tried to help me. He’d given me a clue by leaving that picture of DeBurra in drag for me in the makeup case. It was too bad he hadn’t taken out that picture of Lester Fine, because it threw me off completely. Abbott also warned me about the explosion, and he gave me that casino chip and I won all that money.
“What about Charlotte? Are you going to charge her with anything?”
“As soon as the doctor gives us the all clear on her, we’re going to be questioning her extensively. As far as I know, she didn’t do anything criminal except run, and that was to get away from DeBurra.”
“What’s going to happen to Shawna now?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Who knows?” Tim was still indifferent to her. He’d moved on. I just wish DeBurra had realized that and let his one-sided feud go.
We hung up, and I went back inside. Bitsy and Joel and Kyle were still in the same spot, only now Joel’s head was bobbing against Kyle’s shoulder as he slept. Kyle didn’t seem to mind.
I heard a swish as the frosted doors slid open across the room, and Bixby stood there, looking at me.
My Tevas felt like concrete weights. I wanted to go apologize while I had the chance, but I was uncertain how to do it.
I waited too long. He gave me a sad smile and touched his chest. Where his new Celtic knot was inked.
Then the doors were swishing closed again, with him behind them.