Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Boone was suddenly weak-kneed and had to sit again. Pete seemed to take that as his cue to stand. “You can see that Garrett had all kinds of motives to do what he did. Not only did he have significant issues with me, but you seemed to have taken his girlfriend from him too.”
“So what's her motive, Pete?”
“Maybe she was intimidated. Maybe she needed the money. Five grand can sound like an awful lot to a clerical worker. But she also didn't want you to know about her and Fox.”
“Do you realize what kind of a hypocrite she would have to be?”
“I don't follow,” Pete said.
“An awful lot of our time together is spent in church.”
“Oh, well, come on!”
“You think I'm not a churchgoer too, Boone? I'm a deacon! That's why nobody suspected me.”
Boone lowered his head. “So she's hiding her real self behind some phony piety.”
“I can speak only for myself. That's what I was doing.”
Boone rubbed his eyes with his good hand. “What am I supposed to do with all this, Pete?”
“Just don't jeopardize your career by backing the wrong horse. I know what's on the horizon for you, and I'd hate to see this get in the way of that.”
Again it occurred to Boone that if Haeley proved to be other than he believed, even the Major Case Squad assignment would lose all appeal.
Pete came around the desk, extending his hand. The last thing Boone wanted was to shake it, but he offered a weak hand. He staggered into the hallway, fearing with everything that was in him that it was true. Pete brushed past him to join his wife, and Jack motioned to Boone that it was time he should say something to Fletcher Galloway.
Boone found Fletch looking for him. “You got a minute?” the former chief said. Boone followed the man into his empty office, wishing he could be done with all this.
It was strange to see Galloway in his cavernous space with nothing on the desk or credenza, pictures down from the wall leaving faded squares of color. “Sorry for the way I look,” Boone said.
“Don't give it a second thought. I don't know how you get dressed at all.”
“I have to be a contortionist. Listen, Chief, let me talk first, okay? I don't want to neglect to say what I need to.”
Galloway's face appeared to fall, as if he had heard enough accolades for one day.
“I promise to keep it short. I just want to say it's been a privilege, an experience I won't forget. And if I wind up at Major Case, I'll owe a lot of it to you.”
“Nonsense,” Galloway said. “You owe your whole career to Jack Keller, not to mention that you lived up to everything he said about you. Get healthy and get back in the game, hear?”
“That's my goal.”
“Now let me tell you something, Drake. I don't like what's going on here, and you need to know I don't believe a word of it.”
“'Course I don't. You learn something with as many years as I've spent on the job, and I think I know people. Garrett Fox is poison; I saw that from the beginning. If I couldn't have gotten in the way of his taking the job you got, I would have quit then. And Haeley? Everything in me tells me she's good people.”
Boone had to suppress a laugh. That phrase was not one he had ever expected to hear from Fletcher Galloway.
“Now I know you've got a thing for Haeley, and you know that because she's a coworker, you have to be very careful. And if anything comes of your relationship, you also know you have to check with downtown on whether it's okay. IÂ tend to think it will be, if you're in separate divisions.”
“You sound like you think she's going to be exonerated.”
“That's a huge relief, sir.”
“It won't be easy, but I don't believe this Fox thing for a second. I can't tell you the number of times she complained about him being inappropriate with her. And I warned him. IÂ thought all that was over when he was reassigned. Now I don't know what he's got on Pete, but you didn't hear me say that.”
“That's why you're leaving? Because you don't want to see Pete fall?”
Fletcher shrugged. “That's part of it. But my time is past anyway. I'm never going to see better than what you accomplished, so, you know.Â .Â .Â . But I thought I knew Pete. Jack tells me there's some evidence that may justify all this, and you know Pete has been tops for years. But I just don't know.”
“Chief, you have no idea how this encourages me. I was about to throw in the towel.”
“Don't do that.”
“Just do me a favor, Drake. Leave me out of it. I'm old, I'm tired, and I'm through.”
“You know I hired Fritzâ”
“I know, and I like it.”
“He wants me to look into some of this stuff for him. You think that's a good idea?”
“If I was still your boss, I'd tell you to run as far from that as you can.”
“Like I said, just leave me out of it.”
Leaving, Boone was not as confident as he felt he should have been. It wasn't like the old man to go on feelings. It wasn't like Boone either, but right then his feeling was that he would be investigating Haeley as much to know the truth for himself as for any other reason.
Back in the Game
Monday, February 8, 12:30 p.m.
Boone's plan upon leaving the party was to nose around at Haeley's bank. Apparently the same employee had processed both deposits to her account, and he wanted to see what the teller remembered.
But on his way out, Boone found himself having to work through a phalanx of partygoers who all seemed to be looking for their coats and saying their good-byes. He overheard Jack Keller confirm with Pete Wade that they had a one o'clock meeting.
It was innocuous and should have been inconsequential, but if Boone Drake was anything, he was a trained observer who followed his hunches. Something gave him pause. Hurrying out, tugging his parka over his slinged shoulder, he began rehearsing what wasn't adding up.
Pete Wade was punctual to a fault. Boone had never known him to be late for anythingâa meeting, a ride, a stakeout, a dinner, anything. So what?
Well, Pete was helping his wife put on her coat, and he was wearing his. Was he just walking her to her car? They lived in Naperville, farther away than CPD regulations allowed, but apparently winked at by the brass due to Wade's years on the job and pristine record. But there was no way he could run her home and get back in time for a one o'clock meeting, nearly sixty miles round trip.
Was Boone overly suspicious? He wasn't about to dismiss anything. He hurried to his car and pulled around the corner to where he could see the exit of the CPD parking garage. The effort nearly spent him. He sat panting, shoulder aching, lung stabbing, breath fogging his window as Mrs. Lamonica's car fought to heat up.
He was watching for Commander Wade's black, late-model, top-of-the-line Toyota Avalon sedan. And here it came. Boone was suddenly overcome with self-doubt. What was the matter with him? Wade could easily be dropping his wife anywhere. A store? Her own lunch date? But why hadn't they driven separately if he had a post-party meeting? Surely Thelma Wade had her own car.
Boone hung back a block, grateful for a fogged-up windshield and, of course, the out-of-state plates. Pete Wade was a trained observer too, but the last thing he would suspect was to be followed now.
A little more than ten minutes later Boone followed Pete Wade off the Kennedy Expressway to Ohio Street, where he exited and drove into the River North area. Boone nearly lost him at a light on LaSalle but saw the Avalon turn onto a tree-lined street. He pulled around the corner just in time to see Wade head down an alley leading to a motorized gate that opened as he neared it.
Hanging back in the shadows, Boone had an unobstructed view of the Wades' car. It didn't appear the couple were looking at each other, let alone talking. Pete stopped before a row of garage doors that served a block-long complex of high-end, three-story brownstones. He reached to his sun visor and one of the doors opened, revealing a white matching version of his car. Boone memorized the license number.
Mrs. Wade left the car, seemingly without a word, and appeared to stride wearily into the garage. Pete pulled away out the other end of the alley long before the garage door closed, so Boone assumed his wife had hit a switch from inside. Boone was only guessing, but because Pete had clearly triggered the automatic gate and door, it appeared this was no visit. These people lived here.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
“This is Keller.”
“Jack, where does Pete Wade live?”
“Naperville. It's no secret. And don't make anything of it. CPD is aware and unwilling to make an issue of it.”
“You ever been to his place?”
“No. They aren't really that social.”
“You know the address?”
“I could get it, but what're you gonna do with it? I mean, he's in the phone book.”
“Boones, don't go there.”
“What do you think I'm going to do, ring the bell?”
“Just curious. Does he also have a place in Chicago?”
“Not to my knowledge. Where are you going with this?”
“What kind of money would Pete make?Â .Â .Â . You there, Jack?”
Keller swore. “C'mon, Boones. What're you up to?”
“Just tell me.”
“Over a hundred and fifty thou. Maybe close to two hundred. Now leave him alone. I know you don't like what he's got on Haeleyâ”
That was the understatement of the year. “Thanks for the info.”
“I told you nothing; remember that.”
“That's my boy. You know you should be as far from this investigation as you can get.”
“And you know that's not going to happen.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
Before pulling out, Boone called Fritz Zappolo.
“Sorry, sir, he's with a client.”
“I have just one question.”
Sigh. “Hold please.”
When Zappolo came on, he was agitated. “You've got to let me handle my other cases since I'm doing yours basicallyÂ free.”
“I know. Sorry. Let me give you an address. All I want to know is the property value.”
“Like I've got time for that.”
“Fritz. You've got hot and cold running secretaries. Put one of 'em on it and have her call me. Should take all of five minutes. You've got my number.”
Boone left his phone open and set it on the passenger seat, then headed for Haeley's bank. If a call came, all he would have to do was hit Answer and Speaker. By the time he reached the bank parking lot more than half an hour later, however, only two calls had come. One had been from Haeley and the other from Francisco Sosa. Bad as it made him feel, Boone had immediately hung up on both calls.
As he sat in the parking lot, Boone called the bank, identified himself as a CPD detective, and asked to talk to the manager. He was informed she was not in and was redirected to the assistant manager.
When the man came on, he eschewed pleasantries and demanded to know “what this is about.”
“I'll be there in ten minutes and would like to talk with the teller who processed the two deposits into Haeley Lamonica's account on Januaryâ”
“I know when it was, Detective. We have already been through this, answered all the department's questions andâas you probably knowâthe questions of the US Attorney's office, too.”
“Just routine follow-up, sir. Sorry.”
“That's what it always is. We're not a big branch. Our margins are slim. Our people are stretched and overworked. I can't afford to have them away from their stations all the timeâ”
“I'll handle this with the utmost dispatch.”
“No promises, but it should be just a few minutes.”
“Only to be as brief as I can.”
“She's about to go on break. I'll have Mrs. Archibald in my office, and I'll be prepared to give you some privacy.”
“I appreciate it.”
“Like I've got a choice. It's this or a warrant, right?”
“Probably so. Thanks for cooperating.”
Boone called Pastor Sosa and apologized for having been unavailable. “Not a problem, Boone. Just checking in. You okay?”
“Matter of fact, I'm not and could use a little of your time.”
“You say when. I have meetings this evening but I'm available late.”
“I hate to ask that. You've got a family, andâ”
“They'll be asleep, and I'm taking tomorrow off to spend with them. Where do you want to meet?”
Boone hesitated. Talk about hating to askÂ .Â .Â . “Well, I've been doing a lot of running today, and I'm pretty wiped out.”
“Your place, then. Ten okay?”
“You'll forgive me if I doze off?”
That got Boone's attention. “Really?”
“I'm kidding, but I'm coming at your request, bro. Take a nap before I get there.”
“You got it.”
He called Haeley. “I was driving; sorry.”
“Boone, has Zappolo told you that I may have to go back in? This time to the MCC.”
“It's what the US Attorney wants is all I know. I told Mr. Zappolo that if he didn't want his client to disappear he'd better guarantee my mother can take custody of Max.”
“AndÂ .Â .Â .Â ?”
“He told me not to worry about incarceration yet. He just wanted me to plan ahead. I said, âAnd how am I supposed to do that?' Golden-tongued hotshot didn't know what to say.”
“I'm on it, Haeley; that's all I can tell you. Can I ask you something, though?”
“Always. Boone, if you don't know I have no secrets from you, you don't know me at all. You know me, don't you?”
“I hope so.”
“That wasn't what I wanted to hear. What do you want to know?”
“You told me you never even socialized with Garrett Fox.”
“How about Pete Wade?Â .Â .Â . Haeley?”
“I'm asking about Pete Wade.”
Her voice suddenly sounded flat. “And what are you asking?”
“Did you ever socialize with Pete Wade, ever have a meal with him?”
“Only with you.”
“When you came on board, we all went to the Chop House for lunch. You, me, Chief Galloway, Jack, and Pete.”
“Never another time anywhere? During the workday or otherwise?”
“What, you want me to take a polygraph?”
“I hope it doesn't come to that.”
“Well, I hope not too. But listen to me, Boone. I'll submit to anything anytime anywhere, but I won't take a polygraph to convince you. If you don't believe me, our future doesn't exist. You got that?”
He hesitated in spite of himself.
“Boone, tell me you believe me.”
“You're saying zero socializing with either Fox or Wade.”
“Ask me again and I'll hang up on you.”
“I'll take that as a no.”
And she hung up on him anyway.
Boone was about to get out of the car when his phone chirped and he recognized the number.
“Sir, this is Stephanie from Zappolo and Associates. I have the information you requested. The real estate values in question are as follows: there are eight virtually identical brownstones connected on that block. They are all the same age and basic layout, though some have been upgraded, some not. Three have been sold within the last two years. Three others have sold twice in ten years. That is the only reason for the disparity in the values. Anyway, the units are valued at a low of 1.3 million and a high of 1.6. One is currently for sale at 1.75 but is not expected to sell for more than a million and a half.”
“Very helpful.” Boone gave Stephanie the address he had seen above the garage Mrs. Wade entered.
“Recently remodeled. Valued at just over 1.5.”
“Is there a name associated with that unit?”
He heard her leafing through papers. “The owner is listed as Thelma Johnson.”
“No kidding. Can you do me one more favor, Stephanie?”
“If I'm able.”
“Check the property value on an address in Naperville.”
“If it's in the public record, I'll do what I can.”
“Problem is, I don't know the address. I just have a name. Peter Wade.”
“I'll call you back.”
When Boone entered the bank, the assistant manager emerged from his glassed-in office and said, “Drake?”
Boone nodded and showed his ID.
“Mrs. Archibald is right there. I'll make myself scarce.”
The woman proved to be a massive Texan who spilled out of her chair. As she accepted Boone's handshake and introduced herself with a thick accent, his phone rang again. “Excuse me just a moment.”
It was Stephanie. “You know, Detective,” she said, “there are several Wades in Naperville, but no Peters.”
“Something jumped out at me, though. A house purchased nearly nine years ago for $890,000 is in the name of Thelma Johnson. Seemed an interesting coincidence.”
“Sure does. What would that place be worth today?”
“Thought you might ask. Similar homes in the neighborhood increased a hundred percent in nine years, then lost value during the recession. Looks like most of them are valued at about a million and a half now.”
She gave him the address.
“I owe you, Stephanie.”