The firehouse bell rang piercingly for only a couple of seconds. Even that was enough to startle me. Enough to give Linda a nasty scar from her eye across her cheek. Damn, I muttered. I took a couple of seconds to click on the edit, then the undo box. It would never do to deliver a portrait with a scar. The scar disappeared but so did fifteen minutes of other re-touch work.

I walked away from the computer, out the boiler room door through the kitchen to the rear door. I found standing outside my door, a young woman. I couldn't help appraising her even before I opened the door. She was about five three or so. She had blond hair and blue eyes. Even in those days you could purchase both from the drugstore. She had full lips under a slightly hooked nose. All in all she was a very attractive woman. Her body was the only negative part of her. It was thin almost to the point of looking like a cadaver.

"Yes?" I asked as I opened the door.

"My name is Samantha Edwards. Did Doctor Ryan call?" the slightly high pitched voice asked.

"As a matter of fact he did. I didn't know when to expect you though. The doc said you would be here sometime today," I answered. "Why don't you come on in." I led her through the kitchen, then through the fire truck bay and into the boiler room. In the days when it had been an operating fire station it had a large boiler which took up the whole ten by twelve room. It had been removed years before. The present boiler was not much larger than a steamer trunk. Those days it was surrounded by computer equipment and drawing tables.

I sat in my office chair, then motioned for her to the straight chair beside my desk. "I didn't get much from the doc. What exactly is it you think that I can do for you?" I asked.

"Doctor Ryan thought you might be able to locate my brother," she said.

"I have no idea why he would think that. Have you tried the police?" I asked.

"Of course I tried the police. They have been searching for James for two months," she said exasperated. "I was told you see things," she said trying to find a way to make her point.

"Doctor Ryan talks to much. Miss Edwards, since I was a kid I have been cursed with whatever the hell it is. I have made a real effort to ignore it. I, and my parents before me, tried to keep it quiet. I am not a freak."

"You could help me, if you wanted to, couldn't you?" she asked angrily.

"I doubt it. I can't tell you where your brother is at the moment."

"Doctor Ryan explained what you can do. You can tell me what happened to James, if you only would."

"Miss, you don't know what I can do. You also don't know the cost of doing it."

"I know how you got the money to buy this place." She said it while flinging her arms about.

"I suppose the good doctor told you that?" I asked.

"He did indeed. Won't you please come with me? It will take only a couple of days for you to look at James' things."

"I can't help you. I have too many things of my own going right now." I said it trying to dismiss her.

"I can pay you," she offered.

"If you know how I got the fire house, then you know I don't need your money."

"You aren't married. Doctor Ryan told me you never date. I could pay you in something besides money."

I smiled. "Now what in the world makes you think I would be interested in that?"

"Please, I will do anything," she said with tears forming in her eyes. They were real tears.

"Did the doctor tell you that he sends me someone like you a couple of times a year?" I asked. She simply nodded. "Did he also tell you that I refuse to help all of them?"

"Yes, but I thought I could persuade you," she said miserably.

"Are you any good at keeping secrets?" I asked. She nodded again. "The doctor is wrong. I can't do any of the things he thinks. I fooled him. I have no powers at all."

"He told me you would say that. Please Mr. Adams won\'92t you help me?" she begged.

"Maybe your brother doesn't want to be found."

"That isn't true, something terrible must have happened to him. I have to know."

I sat looking at her, for what seemed like a long time. I waited for her to just give up and leave. She showed no indications of leaving. "Okay, I'll tell you what, I'll give you a day."

"Thank you, I promised to pay you, but I would like to know the price."

"Give me your checkbook," I ordered.

"What?" she asked.

"You said you would do anything, so hand me your checkbook." It took her a moment to find it inside her large purse. When she did, I looked inside and found to my amazement over five grand in it. "Let me ask you up front. Are you rich?"

"I don't know what rich is," she replied.

It was the kind of thing a wealthy person says. "Fair enough, write me a check for five thousand dollars. That is for one day. If I find him, then the price is twenty-five thousand more." I figured that would scare her off."

"Have you got a pen?" she asked.

For five grand, I found her a pen. She wrote the check, then said, "For this kind of money I expect the whole day."

"Fair enough," I agreed.

After she had gone, I returned to my work. I completed all the re-touch work on Linda's portrait by dinner time. I called to inform her that the portrait was complete. She promised to swing by after work to pick it up.

As usual I had dinner alone. Instead of microwaving a frozen dinner, I went to a restaurant. I eat at the same one about all the time. I was greeted by the owner upon my entrance. Dinner was nothing more than a fancied up hamburger steak.

Linda dropped in around ten for her picture. "It's gorgeous," she exclaimed. "I don't have to worry about seeing it in Playboy do I?"

"Not unless you send it to them. Just as soon as you approve, I am going to wipe it out of the computer. Make sure you like it because once it is gone, there is no way I can bring it back."

"It's perfect, John is going to love it." She stated it flatly.

"Just don't tell Johnny boy who shot it." I said it with a smile.

"Don't worry, I promise. Go ahead and clean the computer. I don't want to change a thing."

I wiped it off the hard drive. What I didn't tell her, was that I had another one on a floppy disk. I had it carefully hidden among many other floppy disks.

The next morning I had the coffee ready when Samantha came. She was far too eager to be on the road. I was forced to start out without my third cup of coffee. I wasn't really in a very good mood anyway. The absence of my coffee made it worse. I wasn't at all happy when I had to explain to my employer that I didn't drive. I had failed the drivers test six times. I finally gave up. I probably should have moved to New York where no one drives.

She asked me a lot of questions about my ability to get things done without a car. I tried to explain that my life was pretty simple. An automobile just wasn't as necessary as people seemed to think. I did quite well, thank you very much.

It was a two-hour drive to her hometown. It wasn't all that much of a town either. The welcome sign swore there were thirty five-thousand souls in town. I expected most of them actually lived in the county around the town.

Samantha drove me to an old farm house in the country. I wouldn't have recognized it as a farm house, if she hadn't explained it all to me. Her grandfather had built the house along with the family fortune. He had grown tobacco and cotton. Her father had carried on the fortune building by selling off parcels of the farm for houses. With the money he bought stock. A lot of it in IBM Samantha informed me. He was smart enough to sell off some of the losers like IBM when they were at the top. He had, according to her bought stock in many small companies. Microsoft and apple to name just two. He also bought stock in bio-medical companies. He had, again according to Samantha, left every thing to she and her brother. Since there was more than enough money for several generations to spend. She had no qualms about finding her brother.

Once inside the huge two story frame house, Samantha led me to the bedroom previously occupied by her brother. "I haven't moved a thing. It is just the way it was the last morning when James left for work."

I poked around the room for a few minutes. It filled me with a kind of tension. There had been one hell of an argument in the room recently. When I sat on James' bed, I sensed rather than actually smelled a woman's perfume. At that point I removed a folded paper from my jacket pocket. "Sign this before we go any further," I demanded.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It is a simple agreement between you and me. It states that if the information I provide, leads you to the truth about your brother's disappearance, you will pay me twenty thousand dollars within ten days. If I have to take you to court to collect, you agree to pay the attorney fees."

"Rather cold blooded wouldn't you say?" she commented. She signed first then asked. "Does this mean you can find James?"

"If you don't mind, I will ask the questions for a few minutes. First of all, tell me about the night before James disappeared."

"I came home around nine. I noticed James' car in the drive. He was already in his room, so I watched some TV then went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, he was gone. I presumed he had gone to the office."

"Did you see another car in the drive?" I asked.

"Absolutely not," she answered.

"Did anyone drive up later?" I asked.

"If they did, the dogs didn't bark, and they would have," she replied.

"Was James in the habit of bringing women to the house?" I asked.

"You mean to meet me. Sure he did once in a while."

"No, I mean to spend the night," I corrected her.

"Once in a while I guess," she said.

"So who was here the night before he disappeared?" I asked.

"No one that I know of," she replied skeptically.

"Well then who was his current girl friend?" I asked.

"Bitsy Russell, why?" Samantha asked.

"Somebody spent that last night with James. Let's go ask Miss Russell if she was the lucky woman."

"I can't believe that. She already told the police she hadn't seen James in days," Samantha replied.

"Well, either she is lying or someone else was in that bed. There was definitely a woman in the bed on the night before James disappeared. We need to find out who it was."

"Okay, if you are sure, we can drive over to Bitsy's house."

"You mean this Bitsy is another woman of leisure?" I asked.

"Hardly, she runs a horse farm." Samantha said it sarcastically.

The Russell house wasn't as grand as the Edward\'92s house but it was nothing to sneeze at either. It was a long low ranch house worth probably a couple hundred thousand dollars. Bitsy met us at the door. She was a slightly overweight woman in jeans. The jeans were stretched so tight the seams appeared ready to give way. She was, in spite of the twenty or so extra pounds, a very attractive woman. Her cheery smile seemed out of place for a woman grieving the loss of a boyfriend. Especially in the presence of her lover's sister.

"Bitsy," Samantha said. "This is Mr. Adams. He is looking into James' disappearance. He would like to ask you a few questions, since you were close to James."

I shook her hand. I could not help but notice her sudden change in demeanor. She switched the smile for a solemn frown. I had felt the slightest tremor in her handshake. I also sense something else about her. "First things First," I thought.

"Miss Russell," I began.

"Call me Bitsy please," she interrupted.

"Bitsy, believe me I am not trying to pry. I am only trying to get to the truth of James' disappearance. I know the questions won't be phrased as well as they should. I am not good with words. That said, let me begin. Why did you tell the police you hadn't seen James for a week when you were actually with him the night before he disappeared?"

"No, I wasn't," she snapped.

"It shouldn't be all that hard for the Sheriff to lift a few prints and maybe even some DNA from a hair in the bed. Since Samantha changed the sheets the morning before, it is going to be hard to explain away. If you tell me the truth, then maybe it won't come to that." I suggested it knowing it was a lie.

Bitsy thought about it for about half a minute, which is a long time, when someone is standing over you. "Sure I was with James the night before he left town. I didn't say anything because I didn't want people to talk. This is a small community." She said it with her eyes down.

"Did James pick you up here, then take you to his house?" I asked.

"Yes, we had dinner together. He fixed it at the big house. After dinner we went to bed."

"I don't know much about small towns, but what are people going to say now that you are pregnant?" I asked.

"How the hell did you know I was pregnant?" she asked. "Nobody knows."

I ignored her question. \'93You aren't going to be able to keep it secret much longer."

"I am going to tell them the truth. It is James' baby."

"As his baby it will be entitled to half the Edwards money," I suggested.

"I would think so," Bitsy answered.

I intentionally didn't look at Samantha. "I guess James was less than thrilled when you told him of your condition." .

"He was absolutely thrilled about the baby. He wanted to marry me immediately." It was a lie and we all knew it.

"I guess that is all. If I were you, I would be expecting a visit from the Sheriff."

"I thought you weren't going to tell him?" she asked.

"I lied. Besides Samantha would anyway."

Bitsy didn't even say good-bye. She simply rushed us out the door. Outside, I stopped short of the car. I took a good look around the horse farm. "How many people does this Bitsy have working for her?" I asked.

"Two old men come in to help," Samantha suggested.

"What time did your brother leave for work in the mornings?" I asked.

"Around six, he liked to get some work done before the phones started to ring," Samantha informed me.

"Pull the car onto the road then call the Sheriff from your cell phone," I suggested.

After she had made the call she asked, "What happened to James?"

"Bitsy told him she was pregnant. James must have taken it badly. Either the discussion started again in the morning or being the gentleman, I am sure he was, he drove Bitsy home. This is as far as he ever got. I am pretty sure his car is in that pack barn over there. The metal one with the lock on the door."

"You can't see a lock from here. How do you know there is a lock?"

"If you had a dead man's car in your barn, wouldn't you lock the door?" I asked. She took the notion of her brother's death exactly as I had expected, not a hint of a tear.

"Why would Bitsy do it?" Samantha asked.

"James was probably going to pressure her into an abortion. If not that, then at least never marry her. He would, more than likely, cut the bastard child out of the will. My guess is that she did it to protect her child's fortune. Your lawyers should have a ball spending the money this is going to cost." I saw that she didn't get it. "You are going to have to fight tooth and nail to save the family fortune." I smiled. "We are talking about an infant child here."

"You are enjoying this aren't you?" she asked.

"I didn't want to get involved, remember?"

"We are talking about the death of a fine man," she tried to remind me.

"Save it for someone who will believe it. You are doing this for the fortune. I don't mean the money. I mean the power. You have absolute control of it now. You wouldn't have had, without proof of James' death. That my dear is why you hired me. That is the only reason I took the job. This is about money first and emotion second. Otherwise, I would have run like hell from it. I hate to see people cry for real."

The Sheriff's deputy came. We filled him in on what I thought had happened. He got a search warrant and found James' car in the pack barn. Bitsy opened up like a rotten pumpkin. James was in the rather high crawl space at the rear of the house. If Bitsy hadn't told them, I could have. I didn't know but I felt sure I had stood over James during our conversation with Bitsy.

On the drive back, after I declined the job Samantha offered, she asked, "What was it like growing up knowing everything about everyone?"

"It was a real bitch. For a long time, I thought everyone knew the same things I did. When I figured it out, I went to my parents. They found it hard to believe but it accounted for my strange ways. In the end they told me to try to hide it. I even tried to ignore it. After a while I got so I could ignore the trivial stuff."

"How did you meet Doctor Ryan?" she asked.

"How did you meet him?" I countered.

"I had heard a lot about him in college. You couldn't take psychology in North Carolina without hearing his name. When I gave up on the Sheriff, I went to see him. He wanted a new machine of some kind and I wanted you. At least someone like you. Somebody for real."

"I'm not for real, you know."

"Just to change the subject, did you really win the firehouse in a poker game?" she asked.

"Lord no, I paid cash for the house. Of course I won the money for it at a race track in New Jersey." I laughed.

"Knew which ones were going to win?" she asked.

"Yes, but it was a bit more complicated than that. We were on an experimental field trip. Ryan's kids, they called us then. I was twenty-one at the time, hardly a kid. We wandered through the stables. Some of the kids tried to influence the races. Me, I just got a sense of which horses felt good and which didn't. I found two races in which, for some reason or other, the horse had a burning desire to win. They may have been drugged, I really don't know. Anyway I took a chance. I bet a hundred bucks on the first race. I won a long shot bet. I bet it all on the second race. The first horse paid twenty to one. I had two grand on the second race at thirty-three to one.

I went back to the track twice more with somewhat less spectacular results. I used the money to buy the fire house. With the change, I bought the computers."

"So how do you spend your time? I mean Ryan said you don't date."

"I produce weird art on my computers,"

"I saw the nude woman on your computer when I arrived, a girlfriend?" Samantha asked.

"No just a customer who wanted a painting but couldn't afford one. She settled for a computer painting. Not exactly the same but close."

"Maybe I can throw some work your way from time to time," she suggested.

"You want a nude portrait done?" I asked jokingly.

"You never know. Well here we are. I'll call you sometime, Adam."

"First send my check," I said as I turned toward my door.

I never told anyone about my ability to read people. Word got around when Samantha leaked it. Someone asked the Sheriff how he found James' body. He explained that it was on a tip from the sister. When Samantha was asked, she gave me up immediately.

She called to warn me. I explained over the phone that it would have been better, if she had taken the credit herself. She laughed at me, then said. "For twenty-five grand you can take the heat." She promised to come see me again before she cut the connection.

I explained to reporters off and on for the next week that there was no ESP involved. I had simply noticed things no one else had noticed. It didn't work. I got away with it for a while until Sally Kinsley joined the pack. Sally was an attractive redhead. She also had a body that was way to big at the top for such a small woman. She worked for the local TV station.

"Mr. Adams?" she asked at my back door.

"He died last night. I am the janitor," I lied.

"Won't wash, I have seen your photograph," she said.

"Fine, but I'm not giving interviews."

"If you give me one the others might give up," she suggested.

"I tried that but here you are anyway," I explained.

"Try telling the truth this time. I am here because I know you were one of Ryan's kids," She said smugly.

"You know my Dad, Mr. Adams, isn't going to like you saying a thing like that about my mother."

"If I know you were one of Ryan's subjects, then I know that Adams isn't your real name. Why don't you talk to me and I will forget your real name?" she suggested.

"How the hell did you find out so much," I asked.

"I got a whiff from Samantha Edwards. After that I simply screwed a fellow, who knew a fellow, at the state records bureau. You know that those experiments were state funded."

"Is that true?" I asked.

"Part of it, there is a fellow at state records who knows all about you. The screwing part, I tossed in. I was hoping it might help me get the interview. You know kind of a left-handed promise."

"God, and Adam Adams don't like liars." I said it with a smile.

"I don't want to talk to God just yet. How about it Adams?" she asked with a pixie look.

"Pose nude for me and I'll give you the interview while I work,"

"Samantha said you were some kind of weird artist, not a chance." .

"Then you have your answer, not a chance."

"You were serious?" she asked.

"I was. If I am going to bare my soul, then you can bare your body." I stated it flatly.

"Compromise?" she asked.

"What kind of compromise?"

"Coffee first, then one question for each article of clothes I take off," she suggested.

"Something like strip interview?" I asked. She giggled then nodded. "Okay but no compound questions, and I take pictures as we go."

"Done," she said.

During the coffee in the kitchen she tried to ask me questions. I refused to answer any of them. After all, a deal is a deal.

I had her standing in the equipment room against a white background when she removed her News 2 blazer. "When did you first discover you could read people's minds?"

I snapped a picture with my digital camera. "I can't read people's minds," I answered.

"What do you do then?" she asked.

"I believe you owe me an article of clothing," I stated.

"Wait a minute you side-stepped the question that doesn't count," she said seriously.

"Okay, I always knew I had a gift, if you want to call it that." I motioned for her to remove something else. She kicked off one shoe. "Now who's side-stepping?" I asked.

She removed the second shoe then asked. "Why do you try to keep it a secret?"

I snapped another picture. "If I didn't, I would have every nut in the country knocking on my door. You news nuts are more than enough."

She removed her scarf. "Then why did you help Samantha?" she asked.

I snapped another picture before answering. "She already knew about me. Her sources are as good as yours. That and she paid me a lot of money."

"Did you really fix a horse race to get this place?" she asked.

"I think you should take off something, if you expect an answer." She tried to remove her ear rings. I shook my head. She unbuttoned her blouse. Her oversized breast pressed hard against the material of her slip. "I surely hope you don't run out of questions. You have on a hell of a lot of clothes."

"I get cold easy. Now how about the horse race?" she asked again.

"I didn't fix anything. I sensed which horses were in the best shape and which ones had the most desire that particular day. I got lucky." I motioned for her to continue removing her clothes.

The skirt fell next. "So why don't you date. Are you gay?" she asked.

"That is two questions," I said as I moved to get a better angle. "But they have the same answer so I'll give you this one. I am not gay, at least I don't think so. I don't date because it is too confusing. I keep sensing that the women are acting. I can usually tell what they are going to do before they do it. It is just a pain in the ass."

"Don't, you know, miss the sex?" she said. I motioned with my hand for her to take off something. She fought the tight slip off her body. I stood looking at a woman with very large breasts. They were concealed behind a very plain white bra, no lace at all. I guess the industrial strength bras don't come with lace. Her belly protruded only slightly. Her hips were very small for a woman with so much else hanging from her body. I actually took a moment to look into her green eyes. She was embarrassed, more than I thought possible. Her face was set in a scowl. The wicked streak in me couldn't help but enjoy her discomfort.

"If somebody told you that I don't sleep with women, then they were mistaken. I just don't date. I have a couple of friends who drop by occasionally. They change from time to time depending on their frame of mind."

"This is getting a little embarrassing. Would you mind terribly if I decided to terminate the interview?" she asked.

I knew the right answer so I said, "I would mind terribly, but I would also understand. The loss of privacy is more than you bargained for." She simply nodded. She quickly grabbed her clothes. I returned to the kitchen while she struggled into her slip and outer wear.

When she came through the door, I poured her a cup of coffee. "You know," she said. "I guess I understand how you feel. I mean that was a real experience." I nodded while she thought. "I have heard that you can remove clothes with a computer. Is that true?"

"You know it is," I suggested.

"Will you destroy that file for me?" she asked.

"I guess so." I didn't tell her that I would save it. There was no sense in starting an argument.

"Can I trust you?" she asked with a small smile.

"No," I said with a much larger one.

"Will you answer more questions for me?" she asked. "You might as well, you know I am going to do a story anyway."

"Since you were a pretty good sport, you ask your questions. I may, or may not answer them." .

I ducked some but I also answered some of them. When she had all the background information she asked one final question. "Do you trade sex for your gift?"

"No one in their right mind would answer a question like that. Nor would any self respecting journalist ask it. On the other hand you didn't ask it as a self respecting journalist. You asked it to determine, if you could convince me to help you with your career."

"Look Adam, I am going to be honest with you. This is a crap piece. They sent me here because they never expected anyone to get an interview with you. The other reason is to get me out of the office. No one will take me seriously because of these." She said it lifting her enormous breasts. "I need to get a couple of really good stories to get my career on track. I will do whatever it takes to get that done. I would screw the devil for a Pulitzer."

I knew that she was being honest. "I have helped some people. They have been grateful. I never questioned their motives and it is not a quid pro quo thing. If it were, then I would never help them a second time."

"That kind of answers my question. I have just one more."

"What might that be?" I asked.

"Can I take you to dinner tonight? I understand that you don't drive."

Dinner wasn't much, but then I never cared much for yuppie restaurants. On the way home we stopped by the liquor store. I bought the maximum amount allowed without a party permit. I didn't get out all that often. I tried to keep a good supply of liquor around. A couple of drinks did more to deaden the unwanted intrusions into my mind than anything else.

My semi-hermit life style helped to keep my mind peaceful. If I went out much I would go nuts. I had felt it that night in the restaurant. Everybody seemed to be filled with emotions. I read one after another. I found it all terribly distracting.

I invited Sally in once we arrived at the nineteen-twenty style fire house. She accepted which didn't surprise me. Once inside I put the liquor away while she tried to get up the nerve to ask whatever it was she wanted to ask.

"Do I really have to sleep with you to get your help?" she asked.

"I explained it doesn't work that way. You have to want to sleep with me. Even then, I have to want to help you. Neither one is exclusive of the other."

"I don't understand and I don't want to. I need some help on a story," she stated.

"What kind of story?" I asked simply. No commitment was made by either of us.

"I want to do something about child abuse. I just don't know where to get started."

"I can't help you. I don't know the first thing about the news."

"Sure you can. Have you been reading about Amy Sue Lynch?" she asked.

"The kid who was killed?" I asked.

"Beaten to death actually. Five years old and dead." She said it sadly. I could tell she actually was sad.

"I read about it. I never did read who did it."

"That my dear, is because we don't know. The mother and father swear they didn't do it. No one knows what happened to her."

"Did she show any signs of previous abuse?" I asked.

"None, but that doesn't prove anything."

"No but it points away from her usual care givers. It is my understanding that there is almost always a pattern of abuse."

"True but no one else was in the house. Somebody in that house beat the kid to death."

"Not necessarily, how about the Polly Klass thing?" I reminded her.

"I know, that's why I need you to offer your help. I can swing it so that the cops are pressured to allow you to help. You figure out who did it and tell me."

"Not interested," I said flatly.

"Why not, I'll do whatever it takes to get you to help."

"I can't do it. Why do you think I live like this? I can't take all the human misery." .

"Please do this for me. I promise, it is the only thing I will ever ask." She paused as she waited for a reply that never came. "If you do, I will sleep with you." .

"No thanks, the price is too high. I would rather spend a hundred bucks than a month in hell."

"Okay, you tell me. What is it going to take?" she demanded.

"Did anyone ever say no to you as a kid?" I asked.

"Not successfully," she answered with a smile.

I looked at her for a moment. I sensed she wanted to do the right thing. Her motives weren't pure, but she did want right to prevail. "I don't want to sleep with you as payment for this but I am going to demand a high price."

"I don't have much money," she declared.

"It isn't about money. I hate to go to the grocery store. I want you to do my shopping for the next six months."

"Done, but only if you figure it out before the cops," she countered.

"I want to talk to the parents alone. Then I will tell you what chance I have to figure anything out."

Without a word Sally stood, walked to me, then kissed me deeply. Her kiss began as a simple thing but soon moved past compelling and into some new land I had never seen. The woman could suck the air out of a room with her kiss. She broke the kiss stepped back gasping for air. "Damn, what do you call that?" she asked.

"I was hoping you would tell me." I made the comment equally out of breath.

"I am going home and change panties. I will call you tomorrow with the interview time and place."

"You are going to have to drive me," I reminded her.

"Yeah, I'm not thinking real straight at the moment. I'll call anyway." With those words she almost ran out the door.

The interview was held in the afternoon of the next day. After she introduced me to the Lynch couple, I forced her from the room. They had been told about me. They were both skeptical but cooperative. I studied them as they told me the story of finding Amy Sue's body in her bed. I listened without saying a word. The child's mother told her story first. She told the absolute truth.

When the father began, I knew he was lying. Not about killing the child but about something surrounding her death. He gave off a terrible pain, the filled the room like fog. I waited for him to finish then asked the mother to leave.

"Mr. Lynch, I know you are lying." I quickly added, "Not about killing Amy Sue, but there is something you aren't telling. I really think you should tell me."

"I ain't lying."

I went at it a different way. "Mr. Lynch, who was in the house that night. I mean, besides you, your wife and Amy Sue?"

"Nobody," he said not meeting my eyes.

"Who, do you think was in the house?" I asked. He knew that I knew, so he talked.

"My son Eddie, He has a key to the house. The police done talked to him. He was shooting pool down to the Landing."

"Mr. Lynch, I know you and your wife are innocent. It may not be much help right now, but I know you are telling the truth." I said it taking his hand.

"Don't go ruining Eddie, unless you know for sure," he said.

"If I know for sure, I am going to have to tell it."

"I would myself, If I knowed for sure." .

"So what do you think?" Sally asked it when we reached the car.

"They are innocent. They are also decent people."

"So what did the old man tell you?" she asked.

"Before I tell you that, how are you fixed for balls?" I asked with a smile.

"You do mean golf balls?" she asked.

"We need to find a young man named Eddie Lynch. The son from a first marriage."

"You mean her half brother killed the child?" she asked.

"I mean, I don't know till we talk to him. He had a key to the house. He could have done it. He also has an alibi. I don't think many people would lie to protect a baby killer. He is probably innocent."

"But we have to talk to him anyway?" she asked.

"'Fraid so, there is a pool hall called the Landing somewhere around here." I commented.

"It ain't a pool hall. It is an illegal liquor house," Sally advised me.

"You know it then?" I asked.

"I do and I mean to stay as far away from it as possible. I'll get Eddie to meet you somewhere else."

"No, I think it is best done in the pool hall." I insisted.

"You are nuts. You are likely to get killed in that place." She stated it with concern in her voice.

"Just drop me outside. Drive around for a few minutes, then start circling the block."

Once she dropped me, I wasn't sure I had made the right decision. The Landing was a concrete block building about the size of the fire house. It was one story and dirty as hell. Outside sat two rather nasty looking characters. They weren't all that pleased to see me.

"You in the wrong place mista," one of them commented.

"Really, where am I?" I asked.

The man who hadn't spoken laughed showing crooked, discolored teeth. "Don't pay him no mind. The cover charge is five bucks," the other one demanded.

"Tell you what, I got a friend inside. I think I will just go in and talk to him. If I decide to stay, I will bring you the five." I said it lightly.

"It don't work that way," he demanded.

"Didn't the boss tell you? there is a special on today." I was brave only because I could read his emotions. He wasn't going to do anything but sound tough. I simply tried to sound tougher.

I walked from the sunlight into the darkness of the building. There was sure enough one beat up old pool table in the center of the room. It was surrounded by booths on all sides. Inside the booths were several young men. Nobody was shooting pool.

I walked to the bartender. "Hi there, I'm looking for Eddie Lynch," I said sounding a lot more confident than I felt.

"You a cop?" the man asked.

"Nope," I answered.

"Then what you want with Eddie," he asked.

"I got a message for him from his father. He here, or not?" I could tell from his indecision that Eddie was in the room.

"Don't won't no trouble in here."

"There won't be any from me. I just need to see the kid for a minute."

"Eddie," he shouted. "Man here to see you."

A tall thin kid rose from one of the booths. He brought his beer with him as he approached me. "What you want man?" he asked looking over his shoulder.

"How about me and you taking a walk. No need for everyone here to know our business."

"We ain't got no business." He said it loud enough for everyone to hear.

I sensed his fear. He somehow knew why I was visiting him. "Sure we do. If you don't talk to me then it is the cops for sure." I turned my back and walked to the door. I felt the anger but didn't sense any threat in it.

I walked, knowing that Eddie was behind me. I continued until I was out of earshot of the two men by the door. "Eddie, I understand you have a key to your fathers house."

"So what man, I done talked to the cops. I was here shooting pool."

I sensed that he was telling the truth, but like his father not quite all of it. "I am absolutely sure you didn't kill your sister. I am also sure you know who did."

"I don't know nothin' man," he said turning to leave.

"Was it a gang thing Eddie, some kind of warning?" I asked.

"Man you crazy, shut up. You gonna get yourself killed talkin like that." He said it as he walked menacingly to me.

"Before you do anything stupid, I didn't come here alone. There is a TV reporter circling the block as we speak. You don't really want to do time, do you?" I asked.

"Man, it wasn't no warning. Somebody stole my key. I didn't tell the cops cause it was a friend of mine. He didn't do it though. I know he didn't."

"Eddie, you know he did it. When that car pulls around the block again, you and me are going to get into it. We are going to the cops."

"The hell I am." He said it turning away again.

"Eddie, you ain't gonna ever get a good nights sleep till you tell. Amy's going to keep on coming."

"How'd you know that?" He asked it angrily.

"I been there myself. Come on kid, those guys ain't worth hangin' yourself over. That's what's going to happen. You gonna find yourself a rope and hang yourself just like Judas." I doubted he would ever do that, but it sounded awfully good. It must have sounded the same to Eddie. When Sally drove around the block again, I flagged her down. She and I drove Eddie to the police station.

In his statement Eddie gave up the killer. I was glad to see it over. I actually felt the grief of every person involved. I wasn't going to be sleeping much for a while.

"It wasn't the story I hoped for, but it will do." Sally said.

"You wanted it to be the mother. Too bad it would have made a better story, but then what the hell." I said it sarcastically.

"How did you know I wanted it to be the mother?" She paused then added, "Oh yeah I forget. You read minds."

"I don't read minds." I snapped at her. In spite of everything Sally and I became friends, not lovers but friends. Sally did her grocery shopping on Sunday mornings, therefore mine was done at the same time. I would fax my list to her at the station, then she would deliver my groceries on Sunday morning along with a newspaper. The paper was for her. I never read the papers. I get all the misery I can stand from my own mind.

The weeks were filled with work on my computer portrait system. I had been waiting almost two years for the technology to catch up to the promises. That year it finally happened.

I was actually quite happy in my seclusion.

Late, very late, Sunday night I hit on my idea. I would do a calendar of the single women of Greenpoint. I wouldn't charge them anything for the shot but sell them copies of the calendar. That is if they wanted them. I thought I could probably find some store to sell them to the eligible bachelors.

When I awoke Monday morning, it still seemed like a good idea. I was busy composing my advertisement for the local newspaper when the fire bell startled me. At least I wasn't working on a print at the time.

I was at the kitchen table so it was only a few steps to the door. I looked out the door's window before opening it. I saw a man standing at the door. He was near sixty and well dressed. He was also smiling at me through the window. I opened the door, then asked, "Yes?"

"Mr. Adams, you don't know me, but I know about you. I really need your help."

I could sense he was upset. I hated to do it but I said, "Sir, I don't think I can do anything for you. You are the victim of the press. They have made me out to be something I am not."

"Mr. Adams, please give me just five minutes. I have driven two hours to see you."

"Tell you what, I can give you a cup of coffee. It isn't exactly fresh but it isn't too old. Come on in,"

He sat at the table while I poured him a cup of slightly stale coffee. He nodded his thanks. "Mr. Adams, my name is Amos Wilson. I really do need your help."

"Like I said, Mr. Wilson, "The press made up most of that crap about me. I am really just a struggling photographer. I don't read minds or do any other tricks." I could feel his anguish but I didn't want to get involved. I had just begun to sleep through the night again.

"Will you at least listen to me?" he asked.

"I'll listen but I doubt that I can help," I answered.

"You have warned me. I need to talk about it anyway." He looked down as he began to speak. "I owned my own business, until I retired a couple of years ago. I had seventy employees. I made decisions that affected a lot of lives. When I wanted something done it got done. I feel so helpless now. Nothing I do seems to help."

"Mr. Wilson, maybe you need to see a therapist," I suggested.

"This is not about me, Mr. Adams. It is about my daughter, Ruth. Let me try to tell it in order. I get so damned confused by it all. Ruth's mother passed a few years ago. If she were still alive, maybe she could do something." Mr. Wilson took a deep breath before continuing. "We didn't have Ruth until late in life. I was over forty when she was born. We tried to raise her right, the best schools and church on Sunday." He paused for a moment. I used the time to refill his coffee cup.

"We wanted her to go to the best college. We got her enrolled into a school in Boston. Even though her grades were lacking, the school agreed to take her. Ruth decided she wanted to go to art school instead. We sent her to school in New York, then to Paris. Ruth might have talent, but she is so impatient. When the world didn't jump to buy her paintings she gave up.

Ruth taught art for a while, then she met Chet. To be honest, I never liked Chet. I thought all the while that he was marrying Ruth for my money. I thought that men should support their wives, so I made a provision in my will. My estate will be held in trust for her. She can only use the money only if she does not have a husband to support her. Then only as long as she has no other means of support. It is screwy but there are other provisions in the will." The old man paused yet again.

He took a few more deep breaths then continued. "Three weeks ago somebody shot Chet. Two days later the police arrested my daughter." He paused a long time waiting for me to say something.

"Did she do it?" I asked.

"She swears to me that she didn't have anything to do with it."

"But you aren't sure?" I asked.

"No honestly, I am not. I want you to talk to her. I need to know whether she killed Chet or not."

"Mr. Wilson, are you really going to believe me, if I say she did it?" I asked.

"Probably not." He said honestly. "I hope you will tell me she didn't do it."

"If I do, it probably won't change anything. I mean the cops aren't going to take anything I say seriously."

"I understand you might be able to find the real killer?" he asked.

"Mr. Wilson, I am not a cop. I am not even an investigator. I can't even begin to figure out a mystery novel." I waited for him to react.

"Will you at least try?" he almost begged. "I will pay anything."

The old man had money, no doubt. I just didn't happen to need his money at that moment. "It's not a matter of money. I just don't do the kind of thing you want. I couldn't help either you or Ruth."

"Do you have children? Of course not you are too young." He asked it with a sigh. "Mr. Adams, I have to at least know that my daughter is innocent."

"I'll tell you what, I will talk to your daughter. I can just give you my impressions of her story. That is, if she agrees."

"When can you come to Avery?" he asked.

"Actually I can't come to Avery. I don't drive. You will have to arrange someone to come for me."

"Can you come with me now?" he asked. "We can see Ruth this afternoon. I will have Edward drive you home afterward."

"I hadn't planned on going anywhere today," One look at his sad eyes convinced me to make the trip. "Give me a minute to set up my answering machine."

The drive in his chauffeur driven Lincoln took two hours. I was tired when we arrived in town. I was also hungry. "Mr. Wilson, I am going to have to eat. If you know a good restaurant please have the driver stop."

On his home ground Wilson became more assertive. "Edward," he said. "Take us to the club." He noticed my curious look. "I belong to a downtown businessman's club. They won't let you in without a tie. The manager has an extra one."

"Mr. Wilson, I just lost my appetite. Let's go to the jail, maybe I can get a candy bar there."

"Please, they won't mind," he stated.

"I will mind, just take me to the jail." I wanted to go home, but I had promised to talk to Ruth.

The Jail proved to be one of the new ones. A few years ago the supreme court decided that jails needed to be improved. The one which held Ruth looked more like a hospital. The bars were hidden away from the view of the public. The room where Mr. Wilson and I waited could have been a conference room in any big corporation.

The guard brought Ruth into the room. She turned to leave reminding us all that she would be just outside the door. She also reminded us that the room was under video surveillance but not audio. A slight concession to the attorney-client relationship no doubt.

I noticed that Ruth didn't hug her father. I immediately sensed theirs was an emotionless relationship. "Ruth, my name is Adam,"

"I know who you are. You are the mind reader Daddy bought," she said angrily.

"I don't read minds." I said it shortly. "I am here just to listen to what you know. After that I might be able to help guide the investigation."

"Whatever," she said.

"You can make this anything you want Ruth. You can make it anywhere from hard too impossible that is totally up to you."

"I suppose you get paid either way."

"I don't get paid at all. At least not for this. Now, if you don't want to cooperate, then say so. I have other things to do." I was determined to be as tough as Ruth.

"Please honey, I went to a lot of trouble to get Mr. Adams here." The old man said it in a whinny voice.

I sensed Ruth soften slightly. "Ruth, tell me what happened to Chet," I suggested.

"He got himself shot in the head." She said it without a tear.

"Why do the police think you did it?" I asked.

"Because I had the motive. Chet beat me some. They think I shot him for revenge."

"Did you?" I asked.

"What kind of question is that. Of course I didn't. I thought about it but I never shot anybody." I sensed that she was telling the truth. I also sensed that under all that bluster she was scared to death.

"You got any idea who would shoot Chet?" I asked.

"Yeah, Daddy," she said simply.

"Tell me exactly what happened the night Chet was murdered," I insisted.

"I was out with a friend. When I came home Chet was lying in a pool of blood. That's all I know."

"Like hell," I thought. What I asked was, "Who were you out with?"

"I wouldn't tell the cops, what makes you think I will tell you?"

"Because frankly you are scared. You know pretty well by now that the cops have stopped looking for anyone else. A good lawyer might get you off but I doubt it." I said it brutally.

"I was with a married man. He is never going to admit it. Besides the cops say it doesn't matter. Chet had been dead only a few minutes when I arrived. I still could have done it after a fight about the other man."

"How about the gun?" I asked.

"What about it?" She answered with a question.

"Whose gun was it?" I asked.

"Mine," she said sadly. "Daddy gave it to me, when Chet first started to beat me."

I sensed guilt in the room, but not from Ruth. The old man was feeling guilty for providing the weapon which killed his son- in- law. "Other than you and your father, were there others who might have killed Chet?" I asked.

"I don't know. Chet pretty much went his own way. If I questioned him, I got a rap in the teeth," she replied.

"Just so you know Ruth. I know you didn't kill your husband. I think you know who did though. You probably don't know that you know, but you do. People are usually murdered by people who know them. I would suggest that you hire a first rate lawyer and investigator. Then tell them everything you can think of about Chet. Between the two of them, they should come up with something." It was a long speech for me. I stood to leave.

"Is that all, aren't you going to do something more?" Mr. Wilson asked.

"I have done all that I agreed to do. You are going to have to handle this from now on." I said it quietly. I didn't want to upset Ruth. She seemed to be having a hard enough time. I walked from the room leaving father and daughter to talk.

"Hi," I said to one of the guards. "Is there a vending machine around here anywhere?"

"Sure," the woman said. "Come on I need a cup of coffee, I'll show you the way." As we walked through the maze of corridors, she asked. "You that mind reader ain't you?"

"I don't read minds. How did you recognize me?" I asked.

"Place has been buzzin all day. Word was old man Wilson was bringing you."

"You must be the mind reader, I didn't know myself till a couple of hours ago."

"Old man Wilson has a way of getting what he wants. How much is he paying you? I mean, if you don't mind me askin."

"I don't mind. He didn't pay me anything. I haven't done anything." Before I could say anything else we were standing inside the snack bar. I found a sandwich machine filled with cold sandwiches. I bought one then had it in the microwave before the guard spoke again.

"Did she ice her old man? Not that I would have blamed her. They tell me he was a mean son of a bitch."

"No, she didn't do him." I said it simply.

"And you would know this just from talking to her five minutes?" she asked.

"I would and I do."

"You don't mind if I don't believe you?" she asked.

"I don't mind in the least. Let me ask you something. Would you treat her any better if you believed me?" I asked.

"Probably not, but then how can I be sure. Nobody knows what small differences can make in the great scheme of things," she suggested.

"You a philosopher?" I asked.

"Everybody has to be something," she stated.

I nodded. "Okay, I'll tell you what. You write down a number between one and five on that napkin. I'll turn my back so I don't see."

"Okay, I'm done."

"Now I'll ask you if the number is one. You tell me no. I'll repeat it for every number. You tell me no each time, understand?"

"Of course I understand. I'm not stupid."

After we had gone through each number, I told her the number was four. She was amazed. She had me do it three more times, before she accepted the fact that I actually could tell when she lied.

"Son of a bitch, you are good. Why you messin around here? You should be in Atlantic City."

"I do go there occasionally," I commented.

After I finished the odd tasting hamburger, she led me back to the guard's desk. Mr. Wilson was waiting for me there.

"Where have you been? I've been standing here for ten minutes," he demanded.

"You know Amos, I liked you better when you were worried about your daughter. I don't like you at all right now. I dropped everything to do you a favor. You could be a little more gracious." I said angrily.

"I'm sorry Adam. There is just so much we need to do."

"There you go with that we crap again. There is nothing I need to do. I am going home to work on my book." I turned to walk to the door.

"Please Adam, I need your help. If you won't do it for me, do it for Ruth. You know she is innocent. This is your chance to do something positive for a change." He said it as he followed me to the door. When I didn't respond, he went on. "Just meet with Ruth's lawyer, maybe you can tell her something that will help Ruth."

"Wilson, I don't have to read your mind. You are hoping the lawyer can convince me to stay with this. I will meet with him but I'm telling you now. I am going home tonight and forget about you and your daughter."

The lawyer didn't even try to keep Wilson waiting. The receptionist showed us directly into the office. I was more than a little surprised the find the lawyer was a woman. Not that I had a problem with it, but I was surprised that Wilson didn't.

"Emily Horton," the youngish woman said, extending her hand to me.

"Adam," I said taking her hand.

"I have heard a lot about you Adam."

"How did you hear a lot about me? I try to keep a low profile.

"Mr. Wilson is a fan, it seems. So what did you think of Ruth?"

"I liked her fine as long as she kept her mouth shut. You have your work cut out for you. Fortunately she is innocent."

"That an opinion or a fact?" she asked.

"I have no idea how you would label it. It is just the truth." I love skeptics. You can fight them or just ignore them. I usually ignore them, but I can put up a good fight when necessary.

"If that is so, how do I go about proving it?" she asked.

"I have no idea. I am not a cop."

"Then your opinion isn't worth much."

"Almost nothing," I agreed.

"Mr. Wilson tells me that you can tell things from the crime scene. Why don't we start there?" she suggested.

"Just a minute, you all seem to forget. I am not working for any of you. Please, take no for an answer," I said yet again.

"Look son, I am used to getting what I want. Name a figure and I'll pay it," Wilson demanded.

"Okay, half of everything you have." .

Wilson was stunned. "Do you know how much money that is?" he asked.

"No, but it doesn't matter. I don't expect you to pay it. You can hire a first rate investigator and a couple of big time lawyers, no offense ma'am, for a hell of a lot less," I said.

"I'll give you a hundred thousand, win or loose," he offered.

"Half or call me a cab," I demanded.

"Don't do it Amos. We don't need him," Emily said.

"If I were you, I would listen to her."

"Well you ain't me and it ain't her money. I'll pay, but only if you break the case."

"No way, if I come up with the information that breaks it, you pay. I'll also take that hundred 'K' if I don't." .

"Bullshit Adams, I pay for results."

"Then kiss my country boy ass, and call me a cab."

"That won't be necessary, Edward will drive you home. I promised and I always keep my word."

"Sure you do," I thought. I could sense that he planned to stiff me. I really didn't mind since I knew it in advance. If I couldn't keep him from doing it, then I deserved it.

Half way home I asked, "Edward, did you know Ruth?"

"Sure, I drove her to school when she was a kid," he answered.

"What's the deal with her and her father? They seem kind of distant."

"She was always letting her mama and daddy down. She knowed it, but didn't give a damn. She was just a spoiled little rich kid."

"You got any kids?" I asked.

"Two, they sure as hell don't treat me and Emma like Ruth treated her folks. If'n they did they would get the hell beat out of them."

"It looks like Ruth's husband took care of that."

"Too late by then. There is beatin' a kid to straighten him out, then there is beatin' just to hurt. It was too late to straighten Ruth. Chet just beat her to hurt."

"Did you know this Chet?" I asked.

"Seen him a few times. If you asking, 'Did I know anything about him.' I just knew he was a mean little prick. All them little men is mean." He said it as though it were a fact that even I should know.

When he dropped me outside the fire house I commented, "Well, I guess I won't be seeing you again. It was nice to have met you."

"I expect you will see me sooner than you think. The old man usually gets what he wants. Right now he has decided you are the man to save his little princess." He laughed as he drove away.

I slept well that night. I didn't concern myself with Ruth or Amos. I didn't even try to plan the calendar. I simply enjoyed the feeling of my comfortable bed.

The next morning I was drinking coffee while working on the newspaper ad again. It was just like the day before except time that Edward was the one at the door. Before he said a word, he handed me the check for one hundred thousand dollars. "Boss said to give you that, then take you to the lawyer's office."

"First we stop by my bank. I intend to get this into the bank before the old fart stops payment on it," I laughed.

"That would be a good idea. Mr. Wilson is mighty close with a dollar."

Two and a half hours later found me in the office of Emily Horton. That time I had to wait. It took Emily fifteen minutes to get me into her schedule. When I finally got as far as her office. she began by handing me a paper. "That is the agreement between you and Amos Wilson. Please read it before you sign."

The agreement was for one hundred thousand dollars plus half of whatever he owned on the day the real murderer was arrested. I read it knowing there was a trick in it somewhere. "Change arrested to identified and make the evaluation of Wilson's assets as of today," I demanded.

"You think we are trying to trick you?" she asked.

"I know damned well you are. I haven't figured out how you plan to do it, but I know you are going to try." I smiled. She looked hurt but made the changes. I signed. "Make sure Amos signs that today, or there won't be a tomorrow," I stated.

"Right, I am going to assign a new member of the firm to accompany you. You are probably going to need some help getting access to everything you need. I'll have copies made of the police report and all the statements I have from them."

"Please have them before I leave this morning. I may want to refer to them while I visit the crime scene." She nodded, then left the office. Ten minutes later she returned with an even younger woman in tow.

"This is Millie Thorn, Millie this is Mr. Adams. He is supposed to be a mind reader," she said with a skeptical look on her face.

"Millie nice to meet you. By the way, I don't read minds." I smiled my most charming smile.

"What is it exactly that you do?" Millie asked.

"I sense things. For instance, I sense that you are not married, you own a cat and you didn't have breakfast this morning." The girl looked amazed.

"That was easy, Millie. He noted that you wore no wedding ring. He probably is allergic to cats so he got a reaction to you from the cat dander. The breakfast is pretty simple. Women fighting a weight problem seldom eat breakfast, at least not what most men call breakfast," Emily said.

"So you are the mind reader. That is exactly how I did it, Millie. Enough of the parlor tricks, how about somebody clearing a visit to the crime scene. I also want those files." I said it as authoritatively as possible.

Emily handed me the files with a nasty look. "I want you to know we don't work for you. If anything you work for me."

I took the files without a word. I headed for the door. I didn't see Emily motion Millie to follow. Edward had the car ready for us.

"Edward this is Millie. She is babysitting me."

"Hello Miss Millie. I hope you can keep Mr. Adams out of trouble. At least till he finds out who killed Mr. Chet," Edward said.

"Come on Edward the Mr. act is a little thin," I suggested.

"Why Mr. Adams, Mr. Wilson seems to like it fine," he laughed.

"Well I don't. Now Millie tell me, how long have you been a lawyer?" I asked to pass the time. Millie filled me in on her life in just twenty minutes. Young, attractive, unattached, career woman was the gist of it. She had ambition, but thought she might have chosen the wrong firm.

"Here we are Mr. Adams," Edward said.

"What is it going to take to have you drop the Mr.?" I asked him.

"About another twenty thousand dollars. That's what I need to buy my limo service. Until I save the money, it is Mr. Everybody." He laughed again.

I hadn't gotten out of the car completely when I heard him. "Edward, are you thinking of buying a limo? Where you going to operate?" I asked.

"Don't know. There are way too many of them here. I thought I might move to some smaller town. Nobody left but me and the wife. She is already retired and I can retire anytime I want. Why?"

"We will have to discuss this later. Come on Millie let's go see who did what to who in this house." Millie nodded. When we got to the front door, the crime scene tape was already down. Millie had a key. She opened the door for me.

In the living room everything looked normal. That is if you don't feel things. I could feel the tension in the room. There had been many arguments in that room. Some loud ones very recently. I sat on the sofa in the position most likely used by Chet. I could feel his anger still trapped in the cushion. I got nothing from any of the other seats on the sofa. I moved to a chair probably occupied by Ruth when they watched TV together. I felt something but not strong enough to associate with an emotion.

The magazines were women's stuff, with a couple of old copies of a tabloid newspaper. I wandered into the kitchen. Evidently Chet didn't think much of his wife's cooking. I sensed that he had been critical often. I tried to hold the pots and pans. I was still trying to get a feel for Ruth. Very little emotion clung to them. It was a little strange not to pick up any emotion at all from Ruth's things.

I wandered into the bathroom. I found the medicine cabinet empty. No doubt it's contents had been removed by the police. I continued to walk down the hall. There were three closed bedroom doors. I could feel a sense of dread at one of them. I saved it for last. I entered the room used as a storage area by both husband and wife. The room was filled with weights and an ironing board.

The spare bedroom had nothing at all to tell me. There was no way to avoid going into the murder room. I took a deep breath before opening the door. I was assaulted by the emotions in the room. I could feel Chet's anger and Ruth's resentment. I couldn't feel any love at all in the room. From the quick rush of emotions I would have concluded that Ruth had indeed iced her husband.

The sheets had been removed from the bed. They rested, no doubt, with the contents of the medicine cabinet. Nonetheless, I sat upon the blood-soaked mattress. Suddenly I felt Chet's last emotions. First anger that Ruth was gone. Then fear as he recognized his killer. A slight hope, for a split second he thought he could talk the killer out of shooting him. I watched through Chet's eyes as the killer walked up and put the barrel of the revolver against his eye. Then there was nothing.

"Chet knew his killer. He also doubted for an instant that the killer had the nerve to shoot. The killer entered through the living room door, walked straight back, then shot him. The killer also brought the pistol with him. He didn't go looking for it," I said to myself.

"Then it was Ruth?" Millie asked.

"No, why do you say that?" I asked.

"She had the only other key," she stated.

"No, that's not right. There were several other keys." .

"How do you figure that?"

"Chet wasn't frightened by the killer until he saw the pistol. He didn't for an instant wonder how the killer got into the house. He must have known the killer had a key. It had to be someone who had been here before."

"Was it a man or a woman?" Millie asked.

"I'm not real sure. The killer didn't touch anything. He walked in shot Chet then left. I know that for sure." I sat on the bed for a moment then said, "You know there have been a lot of people making love in this bed. I can feel several people here."

"What does that mean?" Millie asked.

"I have no idea." I moved to open the closet. Once the door cracked the feeling rushed over me. It was a definite sexual feeling before I even saw any of Ruth's clothes. I looked through them but found nothing to account for the feeling. I opened the drawers on the chest and felt nothing like the closet. I returned to it again. I ran my hand along the sheet rock walls, nothing. I reached to touch the closet ceiling, nothing. I bent to touch the floor. I felt a blast of heat through my hands. There was something somewhere but I couldn't find anything. I finally pulled everything out of the closet.

With everything out of the closet the carpet lifted easily. I found not the flooring material I would have expected. Instead I found a sheet of plywood with two holes drilled into it. The holes were a kind of handle. I lifted the plywood to discover a hidden compartment in the closet. Inside the compartment were several video tapes. None of them were labeled nor were they inside any boxes. They appeared to be home video. From the energy I knew they were pornographic.

Millie stood looking like she had been hit by a board. "God how the hell did you find those?" she asked. "The cops must have been over this place a dozen times."

"Ask your boss, she has all the answers." I said it as I continued to look into the hole. There were probably a dozen tapes maybe more. "Millie, we have to look at these tapes. First we have to document where we found them. If we don't then we can never use them. Do you happen to have any surgical gloves in your brief case?"

"Hell no," she replied in a daze.

"Okay, then why don't you have Edward drive you to the closest drug store and buy some? I will wait for you here." She must have agreed because she fled the room instantly. She acted as though she was sharing the room with the devil himself.

While Millie was gone, I searched for and found the opening to the attic. It really wasn't an attic just a couple of boards laying across the roof trusses. The opening was most of the closet-ceiling in the junk bedroom. When I popped the access door, I felt a chill. It wasn't from the weather. Something slightly evil had taken place in that confined space. I was going to need a ladder to explore the space.

Fortunately, I found one in the kitchen. It was more of a step stool for Ruth to reach into the highest kitchen cabinets. With the stool in hand I returned to the closet. I was able to get high enough to look into the attic. Without a flash light I could see nothing. I decided, rather than fall through the ceiling, to wait for Millie. Edward most likely had a flash light in the car.

I didn't bother to replace the stool, instead I closed the door to the room. I moved into the living room to await Millie's return. I was a little surprised that it took another twenty minutes before Millie returned. I didn't mention the attic to her. I wanted to see the tapes before I climbed up there. If they were what I expected then I would need to search the attic. If not then I could finish here rather quickly.

It was more than a little embarrassing to watch the tapes with Millie. I had been afraid they would be graphic. They were of course that and more. The not so surprising fact that they starred Ruth, gave them a higher interest than simple porn.

They were simple enough. There were no titles and no special effects. I had a rather bad feeling about those tapes. I was sure that only Ruth and Chet knew they were being made. I didn't think the other men and women had a clue.

Millie, I think, enjoyed my embarrassment more than the tapes. I forced her to watch them all. I didn't know anyone in Avery, I thought she might be able to identify some of the other people in the tapes. She was able to identify two of the men but no more.

"Do you think these were blackmail tapes?" Millie asked.

"It would explain why Ruth didn't bother to mention them. She probably thought she would be in even more trouble if the tapes surfaced. I don't guess it occurred to her that one of the men or women on the tapes might have a motive to kill Chet. Blackmail can be a risky business."

"Maybe they aren't blackmail tapes. Maybe they were made with everyone's consent." Millie commented, "Ruth does appear to be enjoying herself." .

"Maybe she enjoyed her work. Some people do, I am told." I said it with a grin.

"You go out and get me a flashlight. Edward probably has one he can loan us," I suggested.

"Why do we need a flash light?" Millie asked.

"Because dear, those tapes were shot from overhead. There is a good chance that a camera is located in the ceiling. If there is maybe it filmed Chet's murder." .

Millie hurried for the light. When she returned, I crawled into the attic. A couple of feet from the opening I found a tape deck. I checked but it was empty. I crawled down the catwalk until I found the small cigarette pack sized camera. As I had expected from the tapes, it had a pen hole lens. Somewhere in the ceiling below, probably in the overhead light fixture would be a small hole. The pen head lens would be fitted to it. Actually it was a rather nice arrangement.

I didn't disturb any of the equipment. I climbed down the make shift ladder and stumbled into the waiting arms of Millie. It was, for a moment, a nice feeling pressing against her small hard breasts. She stepped back as she mumbled something I didn't get.

"Let's take a look at the bedroom. I'll bet you ten bucks there is a screw missing from the light fixture," I said to break the moment.

"I would never bet with you. At least not unless I wanted to lose." She said it with a strange expression.

Sure enough there was an empty screw hole in the light fixture. The camera's lens could not be seen but I knew it was there. Chet had gone to a lot of trouble to arrange it all. I couldn't help but wonder how he worked the other parts of his little business. I mean, he had to hook Ruth up with the right man or woman. If it had been me, I would just have ordered a few copies of the tape. You know something for a cold lonely night.

Then of course there was the payment to arrange and collect. I doubted that the victim ever got the original tape. He or she probably just kept on paying through the nose. Whatever else it was, it wasn't my problem. I couldn't afford to get sidetracked.

"Millie, we are going to need someone to identify every one of those people. I am going to have to talk to them all. One of them may well be our killer."

"If it isn't one of them?" Millie asked.

"Then it must have been you," I said as a joke.

"Me, I never heard of Ruth Wilson-Turner until a couple of weeks ago," she said angrily. She paused a few seconds then said, "It was a joke right?"

"I think so," I answered.

Edward began the drive to Millie's office. We had gone only a short distance when Millie wanted to stop. She said she needed to use the bathroom. I knew it was more than just a quick pee. I didn't know what for sure, but I knew she had something up her sleeveless dress.

Once she had left the car, Edward asked, "Man, what did you do in there?"

"Nothing much why?" I asked.

"That chick is really spooked. She kept mumbling something to herself all the way to the drug store. I think she may be scared of you," Edward said.

"That might not be a bad thing. There is something about her that strikes me odd."

"Odd, coming from you. That must really be something." Edward laughed.

"I know," I said simply with a smile.

After about ten minutes Millie returned to the car. She offered no explanation. In her mind she had simply gone to the bathroom. I knew she did something else along with her visit to the ladies room. About the only thing she could have done in the gas station was use her cell phone to call someone. I doubted that it was Emily since we were headed there at the moment. I almost asked, but decided to wait for a better time. I did make a mental note not to forget it.

When we arrived at the office Millie carried the tapes into the building. She stopped to check her messages. I waited outside like the gentleman I am. When Millie came from her office. I noticed a change in her. I was sure she had left at least one of the tapes behind. If she had, it would explain everything.

"Millie, before we go in to see Emily, I have to tell you that I counted those tapes before we left the house. If they aren't all in the bag when we get into Emily's office, I am going to know it."

"Do you think I stole one?" she asked heatedly.

"No, but I think maybe you should go back into your office. Just to make sure one of them didn't fall out of the bag," I suggested. Without a word Millie returned to her office. I didn't want to know which tape she had removed. I would find out what I needed to know from the people themselves.

When we walked into Emily's office, Millie set the bag on Emily's desk. "Whatever old man Wilson is paying the freak, he is worth every penny."

"That isn't a nice thing to call me," I stated flatly.

"I can see you two are going to work well together," Emily said. She opened the bag, then removed the tapes. "Video tapes?" she asked. "Where did you find these?"

"Mr. Adams went to them like a bird dog," Millie suggested. "Didn't you?"

"It does appear that way," I said.

"What's on them?" she asked Millie.

"Our client playing sex games, with both men and women."

"I suppose they are important men?" she asked me.

"Hell, I don't recognize any of them. I kind-of hoped you might."

Emily ran the tapes right there in her office. She was able to identify six of the nine men. The others were unknown to her. The three women were easier since they all belonged to the same business women's club as Emily.

"Millie, do you know either of the other three men?" I asked her pointedly.

"Never seen them before," she said without emotion. Evidently Emily had identified the man or woman she had been trying to protect.

"So what do you suggest next?" Emily asked me.

"I need to talk to the people on those tapes. Maybe not all of them. We might get lucky and find our man among those you already know. If not we are going to have to find out who the other three are." .

"This really stinks. Those men are either wealthy or powerful, in some cases both. I am not going to be a popular person for bringing this up to them."

"From that, may I assume that at least one of them is a judge?" I asked.

"You may indeed. Actually two of them are judges. Men of high moral reputations I might add." She smiled with her mouth but she gave off the smell of fear.

"They should be the easiest to find," I suggested.

"They are easy to find all right. They are also easy to piss off." Millie tossed that in.

"Nobody said, 'Life was easy," I offered.

"I think we should save the judges for last. If we find our man before we reach them we won't have to bother them at all," Emily suggested.

"Just as you wish. It won't make any difference, I doubt seriously our man is going to run. If not the judges, who do we start with?" I asked.

"How about our esteemed mayor. I never liked that prick anyway," Millie suggested.

"Sure, why not," Emily agreed. "Take the tape along. He might have a few minutes after he has seen it."

I mentioned Ruth's name to the receptionist. "Why would the mayor be concerned with that woman?" she asked.

"I don't know that he will, but I think he should be the one to make that decision," Millie stated sharply.

A moment later we were in the Mayor's office. "I really don't have much time." He said it looking up from his papers. How can I help that poor woman?" he asked.

"I think that poor woman was blackmailing you Mayor," Millie said. "I want you to either confirm or deny it." She said it while tossing the tape on his desk. I wasn't really thrilled with that idea, since it was the only copy we had.

I could sense the Mayor thought about bluffing but gave it up. "Hold my call Sarah," he said into his intercom. "Young lady, I assume you have seen the tape?"

"I have," Millie answered.

"To tell you the truth, I was being blackmailed. If that dreadful woman ever gets out of jail, I expect it to continue. That is unless you have the only copy of the tape?"

"As far as I know, we have the only one." Millie answered. She picked up the tape as she stared at the mayor.

"I suppose you are going to take that into court. Try to convince the jury, I might have killed Chet?" the mayor asked.

"Did you kill Chet," I asked.

"No, to tell you the truth. Their demands were really well within my ability to pay. I probably would have continued to pay."

"Was Ruth actually worth that?" I was more curious than anything else.

"She was everything Chet said and more," he answered.

"So Chet made the arrangements?"

"Came to me at the Elks dinner. He said he saw me eyeing Ruth. I thought he was angry. He wasn't at all. He told me that his wife was a marvel in bed. He suggested I try her sometime." The mayor looked at the top of his desk for a long moment. "I'm afraid I took