TRUTH OR DEATH


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 him up on it. Not that night but later. We were having a card night at the lodge. He suggested that I go to his house. 'Ruth would be alone and lonely,' that's how he put it."

"I suppose, you had no idea you were being taped?" I asked.

"Of course not." He actually smiled when he said, "I doubt I could have gotten it up, if I had known. It would have been a shame to have missed the experience."

"I guess that's all for now. If I think of anything else, I will call." .

"The tape, any chance I can get it now."

"Ask Emily," Millie said.

Outside, I said to Millie, "I'm tired. I think we should knock off for today. Edward and I have a long drive home."

"You aren't going home," she informed me.

"The hell you say.

"Now don't get all bent out of shape. Emily wants you around, at least until we talk to all these people." Millie said it innocently.

"Bullshit, she it afraid that I will leak the names to the press. She wants to control the damage." I stopped and waited for a reply. There was none. I took a couple of deep breaths then said, "Why not, of course I could make the same calls from the motel."

"Actually Emily thought it would be a good idea if you stayed with me," Millie said.

"Why in the hell would you agree to putting up a spooky guy like me?" I asked.

"I have plenty of room and I hear you are harmless," she added.

The way she said it surprised me. "If somebody told you that I am gay, they were dead wrong."

"Nothing like that. I just heard you were a gentleman, at least where women are concerned," she said. "You are, aren't you?"

"I have never been charged." I kind-of enjoyed pulling her leg. I might have liked the real thing but I didn't expect to ever get the chance.

Edward dropped us at Emily's office, where Millie packed her briefcase for the evening. I rode home with Millie in her two year old mustang. "I kind-of figured you for the classic mustang type," I volunteered.

"You're right, I would love one. The problem is that I don't know anything about cars. I have been told that a woman who owns a classic car had better know something about it. Other wise the mechanics rip your guts out." She said it with a sweet smile.

"That's probably true," I agreed.

"Why don't you drive? I would think you might get tired of cabs," she asked. "You get caught drunk driving?"

"Nothing as glamorous as that. I failed the drivers test six times. The last man to ride with me suggested I just give up. There are a few people who just can't make a car work like it should."

"You mean to tell me, you can walk into a house then two minutes later find a hidden stash, but can't pass the driver's test?" She asked it with scorn in her voice.

"That's about it," I agreed without any rancor.

"How do you get along in a world geared for automobiles?" she asked. This time she seemed genuinely interested.

"Oh mostly the bus, sometimes I ride a bike."

"One of those little motorized jobs, I suppose?" she asked.

"Something like that, my bike was actually made especially for me."

"Really, I can't wait to hear about this," she exclaimed.

"It's a three wheeler, with a fiberglass bubble. It can either be peddled or a tiny little motor will assist. I don't really understand how it works but it does. Actually it's kind of neat. The only problem is that the motor isn't strong enough to pull more than me. Put a couple of bags of groceries in the thing, and it's peddle all the way home."

"Only you would have a contraption like that. Why don't you just go to a driving school?" she asked.

"I tried that, did you know that Sears gives you your money back if you fail the test more than once." I said it with a huge smile. The last words were spoken as Millie pulled into the drive of an old two story frame-house. "You live here?" I asked.

"Sure do, I have lived here my whole life." She said it with a giggle. "That is another reason I felt, I could trust you. I live with my father."

"A retired cop, no doubt?" I asked.

"No smart ass, an accountant, still working I might add."

I was surprised by the inside of the house. It was almost glamorous. The outside had been simple but the inside was way over decorated. I almost remarked but Millie saved me the trouble.

"Mom was something of an amateur decorator. We just haven't had the heart to change anything," she said sadly.

"I understand," I said without elaboration. "Just to change the subject, I am going to have to have some clothes from my house."

"Not to worry, I have the company credit card. Emily was adamant that you not go home till we break this. After dinner we will go shopping. Judging from your present outfit, we should be able to buy everything at K-mart," she laughed.

"I am not much on fashion," I agreed.

"I know but with the beard and all, it sort of works for you. Kind of the simple rugged man thing."

I sat at the kitchen table making small talk while she prepared dinner. Her father arrived an hour or so after us. He was a tall thin man in his late forties or early fifties. He didn't look as though he had ever been more than skin and bones. He looked healthy in that health food kind of way, not robust, just fit

"Daddy, I want you to meet Adam. He is the one I told you about. Emily asked me to put him up for a few days. I didn't think you would mind?" she asked.

"Not at all, we can use the additional company. Mr. Adams we don't get too many visitors here." He said it extending his hand.

"Really, I would have thought Millie's boyfriends would be running in and out at all hours." I said it with a smile.

"Ha," Millie said. "I don't date either." She looked at me accusingly.
"I guess, I was wrong." I turned to Mr. Thorn. "Mr. Thorn, Millie tells me you are an accountant?"

"That's right, twenty years hard at it," he said.

"I once gave some thought to that. I even took a few courses in it. Never could get up much enthusiasm after that first course." I said it to seem an interested guest.

"It seemed pretty dull to me in college. Turns out, that there is a lot more to it than I would have thought. It can be kind of interesting." The look from Millie stopped her father from going on.

"In honor of Mr. Adams, who is not health conscious, I made steaks. Mr. Adams, we seldom eat red meat in this house. I keep it around for people like you," she explained.

"Don't go to any trouble for me. I can eat what you do, then go to Mcdonald's after dinner." I said with a smile. It got a laugh from Mr. Thorn but not Millie.

Dinner was pretty good, even if the conversation was boring. I was just antsy away from my own place. I actually missed my computer. I doubted that the company credit card could stand a laptop.

After dinner I helped with the dishes. Once they were dried and in the cabinet, Millie drove me to the K-mart store. I purchased two pairs of work pants, four white shirts and various personal items. Millie produced a credit card to pay. The whole thing took less than twenty minutes. I am a lousy shopper.

I suggested to Millie that we stop at an electronics discount house. I browsed through the computer section until I found an older model laptop. The discounter was selling them out. I paid fifteen hundred dollars for the laptop. Not a bad price at all. Millie didn't much like the wait while my check was cleared but it was a necessity. Nobody trusts anybody these days. Along with the computer, I bought two boxes of floppy disks and a cheap digital camera. It was the cheapest one I had ever seen. It was also a lousy camera, according to the salesman. He was intent on selling me a thousand-dollar camera. Little did he know I had two cameras better than anything the store sold. The one I bought was just a whim. It had something I liked a lot. Actually it was something it didn't have. The camera had no flash and no provision for one. It also appealed to me because it was no larger than a pack of cigarettes.

I stayed up until three a.m. playing with my new toys. I had been meaning to get one of these for years. It never was necessary, I had never been away from my PC overnight before. I would have loved to have had some of my large files to work with. Just to see how large a file I could manipulate through the toy. During my long night's work, I had gone outside to smoke several times. It was obvious even to me that Millie and her father wouldn't approve of my smoking in their house.

My hosts were considerate enough to wait until everyone had finished in the one bathroom before they awakened me. I showered, then put on the new clothes Millie and I had bought.

Edward didn't come in that morning, instead he knocked on the door then returned to Wilson's car. "You do know why we rate the chauffeur?" I asked Millie.

"Sure the old man wants to keep tabs on you. I expect he is the one who convinced Emily to keep you in town. Wants to get his money's worth I expect."

"He already got that. Those tapes will give any jury reasonable doubt," I suggested.

"I hope so but our best bet is to find the real killer," Millie suggested. "Speaking of that I called Emily this morning at home. She has arranged for us to meet with three of the men on the tapes."

"No doubt she has arranged them in order of the least damaging to her career first."

"No doubt," Millie agreed. Once in the car she directed Edward to our first stop. I wasn't at all surprised to find it the office of a stock broker. I never did figure those guys were above screwing everybody.

"The man's name is Avery," Millie informed me.

"First or last?" I asked as we waited from our turn to see him.

"Last, I think his first name is Mr. At least that's all I ever heard him called. Kind of a title."

"One thing I have to give him right up front. He has great taste in receptionist." I said pointing to the knock out red head.

"Not bad but I've seen better," Millie stated evenly.

Mister Avery will see you now," the pretty receptionist said.

I followed behind her with Millie bringing up the rear. Millie placed the tape carefully on Mister Avery's desk. He glanced down at it, then back up to Millie. He completely ignored me. I couldn't blame him Millie was much more attractive than me.

"So that's the infamous tape," he asked. "I honestly didn't know it existed until Emily called me last night."

He was smooth and his bluff fooled Millie. I took control at that point. "In that case sir, we have nothing to discuss. Get the tape Millie and we will be running along."

I watched as his mouth took the slightest turn down. He evidently wasn't used to men in work clothes talking back to him. Maybe not even talking to him at all.

"You would be the famous Adam Adams?" he asked.

"Yes, I would. That would make you the not so famous liar." I said it to Millie's horror.

"Pretty nasty words young man," he observed.

"Yeah well, murder is a pretty nasty crime," I responded.

"You can't think I had something to do with Chet's death?"

"I am going to think that until you tell me the truth, then I may not think so any longer," I replied.

He sat quietly appraising me for a long moment. "Sure, why not. I knew Chet on sight from the club. His father-in-law has a family membership there. That unfortunately means his whole family can use the club. Chet used the bar mostly."

"Did he approach you about his wife?" Millie asked.

"In a manner of speaking. I had finished a round of golf. Do you play Mr. Adams?" he asked.

"Afraid not," I replied.

"Too bad, anyway I was at the bar talking to Mike the bartender. I probably had a couple too many by the time I noticed Chet. At the time I was deeply involved with a conversation that I'm afraid wasn't too kind to my wife. I was explaining how my wife had lost interest in me after our third child was born. I was more or less warning Mike about how women get.

Out of the blue Chet says, kind of to himself, 'I should be so lucky.' I asked him what he meant. I guess to be courteous. He says, 'I wish Ruth would lose interest in sex. The damn woman is a nymph. I have lost about twenty pounds just trying to satisfy her. Honest to God man she is driving me crazy.'

I explained that every kid's dream was to marry a rich nymph, and kind of laughed. Chet says, 'Yeah it's real funny till you are married to one.' I guess I looked a little skeptical because he says to me, 'Come on home and I'll show you.'\'94

\'93I guess it was curiosity that made me follow him home. Chet left me in the living room while he went to find Ruth. A few minutes later she and Chet were shouting in the bedroom. I almost got up to leave. Just before I decided to go, they came out of the bedroom. Ruth was almost dressed.

Chet headed for the front door, I stood to follow but Ruth turned to me and said, 'Okay buster, Chet said you could take care of me. Don't you fucking move until you do.' Chet left, then Ruth led me to her bedroom. The rest is, as they say, history," he said pointing to the tape on his desk.
"So, when did you find out you were a movie star?" I asked.

"Chet called me here at the office. He explained the situation and demanded I give him a thousand dollars, or he would send the tape to my wife. I thought about it a second then explained that all the calls to our office were tape recorded. I informed him that he had made an extortion demand and would probably go to jail. I also told him that my wife knew full well that I fooled around on her. It was part of our deal. She kept my name and money. I got laid whenever I could. I can see you think it isn't a nice thing to do, but it works for us," he said looking at Millie.

"Mr. Avery, did you kill Chet?" I asked.

"No, I had no reason to kill him. I never heard from him after that call." I believed him. "Just between us, there were a lot of men on those tapes, weren't there?"

"Let's say I have others to talk to about the tapes."

"I thought so, I mean she came to it too easy. It wasn't her first time making it with another man. She knew just what to do and how to do it," he said with a wistful look.

I had what I came for so I didn't pry. Millie wanted to ask more questions but she couldn't bring herself to do it. On the way out the door she asked, "Do you really believe him?"

"Of course I do. I mean about killing Chet. He did pay Chet though. He may not care if his wife knows, but he doesn't want his customers to know about his personal life."

"We have an hour before our next appointment, how about a cup of coffee?" Millie asked.

I agreed. I had no idea that yuppie coffee houses had gotten popular so far from New York and L.A. When the three of us were seated, I had insisted that Edward join us, the waitress started spouting off about twenty five-different types of coffee. First Millie ordered something with an Italian name, then Edward did the same. I asked the waitress if she had just plain old coffee like I would get in a diner. She smiled nodding.

I drank my black coffee while, Millie and Edward sipped something with more milk than coffee. I couldn't help but notice the difference in the three of us. Edward the menial employee had more class than I. It made me stop and think about my life, for about two seconds.

When Edward dropped the Miss Millie shit, the two of them talked about books and movies. They had similar taste, good I might add. They both tried to engage me in the discussion but I begged off. I knew most of the things of which they spoke. I just didn't want to discuss them. Books, movies and my emotions are private things. I either don't talk about them, or I lie.

After coffee, we visited a home builder. He denied everything for about fifteen minutes, then he broke. He had met Ruth and Chet at a horse show in Virginia. His daughter was riding in the show. The fact that they were from the same town brought them together at first. I didn't bother to explain that Chet had probably arranged the whole thing from start to finish.

Mr. Jamison was old enough to have been Ruth's father. The three of them struck up a conversation. Ruth and Chet even cheered at his daughter's losing effort. The show had been in the afternoon, so when Chet invited he and his daughter for dinner he accepted. The daughter like all teenagers wanted to eat with her friends.

The three of them were staying in the same motel. After dinner they started to drink in the bar. Chet pulled one of his disappearing acts. Ruth cried while explaining that Chet was having an affair with one of the horse trainers. He probably wouldn't be back till sun up.

Jamison drank a lot more, according to him. One thing led to another until he wound up comforting the poor mistreated wife. Since there was no way to tape the encounter, they had met one more time at Ruth's house.

Chet called him on the next Monday. If Jamison didn't pay him, his daughter would receive the tape in the mail. Jamison said, 'I might be able to explain it to my wife, but teenagers don't understand circumstances. They see the world in black and white.'

I asked him the big question, "Did you kill Chet?"

"Lord no, I couldn't kill anyone. I might have slept with his wife, but I certainly didn't kill him."

This time I couldn't keep Millie form asking the question. "After all the money and all the worry, was Ruth really worth it?"

She expected to put him in his place with the question. Instead he answered her honestly. "As a matter of fact she was," he said thoughtfully.

Millie insisted that we go to a health food restaurant near the university. I agreed since it was two to one against me in the vote. If you don't like baked chicken or baked fish, you are screwed. I hate baked fish. The damned things are always slimy looking and tasting. I am also allergic to chicken. I settled for a bowl of three bean soup and a salad. I didn't even try the salad. The thing was nothing but sprouts and other such crap. The soup wasn't bad with enough salt. I expected the waitress to faint when I put half a shaker of salt into the soup. She did look a little green, but she said nothing. Even the iced tea was putrid. Some kind of herbal crap. I suffered through the meal in relative silence. I knew one thing for sure, Millie and I were going to have to come to some kind of compromise. Either that or I was going to starve to death.

"Well," Millie said. "We have eliminated three people. That is if we can trust Mr. Adams judgment."

"So I have gone from spooky to untrustworthy in one day."

"I didn't mean it that way. Lawyers are just born skeptics," Millie said flushed.

"That's okay, I'm a skeptic myself. I don't really believe all lawyers are whores," I said with a smile. Millie didn't smile at all. She gave me a terrible look. One that would have kept me awake nights, if I hadn't read her emotions. Millie was incapable of violence.

"You two should get married. You already fight like husband and wife," Edward said.

"Not a chance, I would never marry a man who could read my mind." Millie said it knowing it would get my goat.

"I can't read minds." I answered simply.

"You keep saying that even though the evidence points to another conclusion," Millie said.

"Spoken like a true lawyer. The only problem is like most lawyers you have your facts wrong. I failed everyone of Dr. Ryan's mind reading test."

"What kind of tests?" Edward asked.

"You know, like the one where a subject looks at a card and I am supposed to know what he is seeing. That is all crap to me. Ryan had to change his experiments for me."

"So what do you do?" Millie asked, "I mean exactly."

"I kind-of pick up on emotions. It's hard to explain but somehow things hold onto emotion. People and animals do to, of course."

"Like the tapes?" Millie asked.

"Exactly, when I opened the closet door, I felt something. When I couldn't find anything to explain it in the closet, I began to look for a hidden compartment.

"The tape machine?" she asked. "How did you find that?"

"That was simply logic. If you are going to hide tapes then they are something more than simple porn. If you make a tape, how do you go about it. A camera in the ceiling. Elementary, my dear Millie." I said rather smugly.

"Do you really think the killer is one of the blackmail victims?" she asked.

"I don't know but there is a good possibility. If I can talk to them a few minutes, then I can sense when they are lying."

"We should get on with it then," Millie suggested. "I need to call Emily. She may have added another interview to today's list."

Emily had indeed added another name to our list. It was one of the unknowns. She actually had discovered the names and addresses of everyone on our list, all but one at least. At one we met with the new man on our list. His name was Peter Evers. Peter was a member of the school board and a pillar of the church.

Evers' story was that about a year previously, Ruth had become one of George Bush's points of light. She was a pretty good clerical person so she volunteered to work for the school board. She agreed to be on standby to fill in for the regular workers who were sick or on vacation. "Looking back on it now. I can tell you that she went after me from the start. I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes. It took a couple of months before we became friendly. After that it was lunch in the cafeteria and coffee breaks together. I thought I loved her.

She invited me to her house one Saturday while her husband was away. We made love in her bedroom. The next week her husband, Chet called. I have been paying ever since. If it got out that I slept with an employee, I would be crucified. Especially these days with all the sexual harassment suits going on in the courts. I just couldn't afford to let it get out."

"That's something new, Ruth doing her own recruiting." Millie said it before I could stop her. I explained later that we weren't there to give information.

I looked the older man in the eye, "Peter did you kill Chet?"

"No sir, I couldn't really afford the blackmail payment, but I didn't kill him." He paused for a long time. "You know, if it hadn't been for Chet this never would have happened. Ruth could never do anything like this to me. I think she really cared for me."

"I'm sure she did in her own way." I said it to help him keep his illusions in tact.

"We have a few minutes," Millie said as we walked toward the car. "Why don't we find a place and talk about what we know?"

"Not in front of Edward, there is no sense letting Wilson know everything. I would like a real cup of coffee. How about we stop at a Mcdonald's." I thought Millie would gag, but she was a good sport.

I had a greasy burger and iced tea. After the grease, I felt better than I had all day. I leaned back with the last of my tea and asked, "So who is our last victim today?"

"Mitchell Morton Jr. a house builder," Millie answered.
"What would a house builder be doing on Chet's list?" I asked.

"Mitchell Morton Jr. is not an ordinary house builder. He works only on half million dollar homes and up. He could easily afford the payments."

"Nobody can afford blackmail. It is money going for nothing. Not even the very rich like that idea much."

We met with Morton in an office trailer on one of his job sites. He wasn't building just one home, he was building twenty or more. "Mr. Morton, we have an appointment." Millie said.

"You two are from the firm representing Ruth Wilson-Turner?" he asked.

"That's right." I said. "You know about the tapes, I suppose."

"I knew about mine before you. Look, I am awfully busy, could we get on with this?" he asked.

"Sure, tell me how you happened to get involved with Ruth,\'94 I demanded shortly.

"I met her through her husband Chet. Chet came to me about building a house for he and Ruth. I figured to get a chunk of the old man's money. I had no idea there was none. Anyway, Chet came to me about the house. He had a set of plans for a million-dollar job. He asked me to come to his house to meet with his wife. I had heard of Ruth, of course. When I met her for the first time, I was blown away. I mean she is a good looking woman. I noticed her most because she stood looking over my shoulder at the plans. Whenever Chet wasn't looking, she rubbed her breasts against my shoulders.

She called to set up another meeting. That time I found old Chet wasn't home. One thing kind of led to another till we wound up in bed together. Let me till you, whatever else she might be, she is one hell of a lay. Anyway, Chet sent me a copy of the tape before he called. It had a note attached, how many houses do you think you will build, if word gets out you screw the customers twice. I had no choice, I paid."

"Did there come a point when killing Mr. Turner seemed better than paying him?\'94 Millie asked in her lawyer's voice.

"Actually I never thought about it. The payments were reasonable. I put it down to the cost of doing business."

"That's not what the lady meant to ask. Did you kill good ole Chet?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"That will be all then." I said it dismissing him rather than have him dismiss us.

"Well?" Millie asked while I smoked a cigarette before getting into the car.

"Scratch him off the list. He thought about it but didn't do it."

"You're sure?" she asked.

"Reasonably," I answered with a smile.

Millie looked questioningly at me. I ignored her until she had to speak. "Let's go by the office, then home."

At her office, I cooled my heels while she and Emily talked. It took them half an hour to finish reviewing the day\'92s interviews. I suppose they also made plans for the next day. When I was finally allowed into the office, Emily was not a happy camper.

"We have only two more before this becomes sticky."

"It is already sticky, thank you very much. All these guys were getting blackmailed."

"I know but after these next two we are going to be stepping on some powerful toes. I have set the two easy ones for the morning. If you don't do any better with them then I will make the calls for some of the others. I still want to save the judges for last."

"Do it any way you want," I replied off handedly.

"I also want to be there when you interview the last five." It was a statement, not a question. "Spend the night with Millie and her father tonight but tomorrow night you can stay with me. I will clear my calendar and we can see the others over the next two days."

"Whatever you say." I noted with some satisfaction that Millie didn't seem to care for the arrangement. I hoped it was the loss of my company, not the loss of her position as head investigator.

Once we were home, Millie and I sat in the kitchen again. We talked for a long time. Since her father had a business dinner to attend, I convinced her to order a pizza. When the man arrived, I paid the bill. We continued to sit at the table eating pizza and drinking wine.

Everything seemed right with the world until she blurted out, "You know that Amos Wilson is going to screw you out of any more money."

"I wouldn't have it any other way. I expect the balance of his estate is in a blind trust for his daughter. One that he manages."

"Bingo, Emily rushed it through the night before you signed the agreement. As of that day, his net worth was about ten thousand. I am surprised you are taking it so calmly."

"Why not, I would have done the same thing. Besides, I don't need or want his millions. What would I do with all that money?" I asked.

"I could sure as hell thing of a way to spend it."

"Is that a proposal?" I asked with a smile.

"You figure out a way to break that trust and I will marry you." She smiled back at me.

This was getting entirely too chummy, so I broke the mood. "Try to follow my logic here," I demanded. "You would marry me for money, therefore you would sleep with me for money. That would make you what?" I asked.

"You son of a bitch. I let you get away with that once today. I am not going to let you get away with it again. I am not a whore. Not a lawyer whore, nor a sleep with you for money whore." There was nothing close to tears in her voice. It was pure hatred.

I had pushed her a little farther than I planned. "Hey, I'm sorry. It was a poor attempt at humor. You need to lighten up some."

"You don't know the first thing about me, how dare you make jokes at my expense."

She almost had me on the ropes, but not quite. "How dare you be offended by a simple statement of logic made in jest. You can't play along with a joke then decide to raise hell because you did." I almost shouted it. "Now if you will call me a cab, I will go to a motel tonight."

"The hell you will. I worked too damned hard to set this up."

"Set what up?" I asked.

"You mean you didn't know?"

"Know what?" I asked.

"I knew I could fool you. If I can fool you then any one of the others could have."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Daddy isn't coming home tonight. He is staying with a lady friend of his. I asked him to stay away."

I thought about the ramifications. Not about me and her. Not at first, my first thought was to figure out why I didn't know. "Your dad did have a business dinner before his visit to the lady friend."

"Yes," she said.

"And you never actually said he would be home after?" I asked.

"Not once," she agreed.

"Then you never actually lied to me. That's why I didn't sense a lie." I felt better once I had worked it out.

"Why didn't you sense that I had plans for you?" she asked.

It took me a second to sort out the feelings I got from her. "Because, you aren't doing if for the normal reasons."

"Oh, what are the normal reasons?" she asked.

"You know, love, passion, that kind of thing," I said.

"Then why am I doing it?" she asked.

"I'm not real sure. I sense something, but it can't be right."

"Maybe we better stop right here," she suggested.

I knew then that I was right. I didn't really understand but I didn't intend to press the issue either. "Good idea, let's have some more wine instead," I suggested.

She filled my glass then said, "You know if you weren't such a jerk, we could have had a hell of a nice time."

"I could have anyway," I said not finishing the statement. Millie went off to bed while I played with my new computer and camera. The camera, I discovered was good for making prints up to four by five inches. Since the resolution was small, it took up very little space in the memory. There might be something I could do with the camera. If not it was a way for me to relax, nothing more. It certainly was no serious tool.

Not only did I not sleep with Millie, I didn't sleep much at all. After only three hours of sleep, it was time to start again. Breakfast was some kind of health food nightmare. It was a hot cereal made from nuts and twigs. I suffered through it, fully intending to get an Egg McMuffin at the first opportunity.

Our first appointment of the day wasn't until ten. Edward came at nine so we all went out to coffee. I even suffered through their designer coffee again. Millie was nervous for some reason. I thought it might be that we were on our way to interview the person on the tape she had tried to hide. I didn't get that feeling. It would have been logical but it seemed to be something different. I didn't ask. That is one of the things I had learned early. Most of the time, people don't want you to know their thoughts and feelings.
Avery Ford was a sprawling new car dealership. The boss was Eddie Sims. He was also the man we came to see. I recognized him not only from the tape but from his infamous TV commercials. His parody of 'Let's make a deal,' commercials filled the airways. He was a media clown but in person he was a serious businessman.

"Do I need a lawyer?" he asked me.

"I don't think so. I have the tape and all I want to know is how you met Ruth. You tell me that and I'm out of here. The tape may or may not surface." I said it not being totally truthful.

"Ruth came in here to buy a car. She talked to one of my salesmen first. I know her father, but I hadn't seen Ruth in years. She asked for me personally, so I spoke to her."

"Do you do that often?" Millie asked. She had to play lawyer at least once during every interview.

"Yes, when I know the family has money. Anyway, Ruth had the salesman get her a cup of coffee. While he was gone, she made a pass at me. In this business you often get women who want to work out a down payment, if you know what I mean?" He said it waiting for a response.

"I would expect so," I said trying to encourage him without agreeing.

"Anyway we talked. I'm no saint so when she invited me to her house, I went. One thing led to another and we made it together. Next thing I know, Chet is here with the tape. He tells me I had better pay off or those TV commercials are going to look pretty stupid. You know, let's make a bedroom deal, that kind of crap. I paid." He said it while looking at his desk. A lot of people ended up looking down at their desk.

"Did you kill Chet?" I asked.

"Hell no, I might have if he had really tried to bleed me. I paid Chet and Ruth a hell of a lot less than one of my salesmen. No, it was a pretty easy payment to come up with."

Eddie was hiding something but it wasn't murder. I almost let it go but decided I wanted to know for sure. "You were having an affair with Ruth even though she was blackmailing you, weren't you?"

"How the hell did you know that. Yeah, Ruth and I met a few more times. Chet never knew about it. I did it at first just to screw old Chet. I mean he couldn't blackmail me twice. I also made damned sure we never did it in her house again. I'm going to tell you something. Ruth was the best lover, I have ever had and I've had a few."

"That's what they all say," Millie commented meanly.

"Yeah, well they are right. She was the very best," Eddie replied matching Millie's tone.

"That should do it Eddie. I appreciate you being so honest." I said it warmly to counter Millie's comments. I even shook his hand as we left.

"I suppose he is telling the truth?" Millie asked in the parking lot.

I lit a cigarette before I answered. "More or less, he didn't kill Chet, if that is what you mean."

"What was he lying about?" she asked.

"About why he continued to see Ruth. He was in love with her," I said simply.

"Bull, nobody could love that whore."

"Eddie and her father do," I replied.

I finished the cigarette, then climbed into the rear of Wilson's car. Over my shoulder I said, "You reckon Wilson bought this car here?" Millie didn't answer. I didn't expect her to either. "If he did, I hope he got a good deal on it. I would hate to think Eddie was screwing the whole damned family." I said it to add a bit of humor to the moment.

We rushed to make the next meeting. It was the last of the easy ones. The gentleman's name was Max Pinsk. Max owned an upscale department store. Max was also on Ruth's tapes.

After a ten minute wait we were shown into his office. It was rather a small office for such an important man. The man in his fifties sat behind a small metal desk. He seemed to read my mind.

"Not very fancy I know. The decorating money goes into the parts the customer can see. You must be Adams. I have actually heard a lot about you this morning. After Miss Horton called, I did some checking on you. From what I hear you are for real."

"Don't believe all you hear. Most of that crap is media hype. I get lucky sometimes." I took his outstretched hand. He ignored Millie. He seemed to know the score. "Mr. Pinsk, if you will tell me how you met Ruth, this shouldn't take up much of your time."

"Why not, you already know my dirty little secret. Ruth had a complaint about one of our saleswomen. She asked to see me. Before you ask, I see wealthy patrons with problems routinely. After we talked about her problem, she seemed to leave satisfied. The next week she called me for lunch. To repay me for my kindness she said. I knew better but I accepted anyway. Over lunch she told me a fanciful tale about her husband and his affairs. Then of course she put the hook into me. She put her hand on my lap under the table. Not on my leg but on my lap, if you get my drift." He said it looking hard at Millie.

"I think I do," I answered.

"Anyway, we went back to her place. I wound up in bed with her. A week or so later Chet shows up with the tape. I was terrified at first. I thought he planned to kill me. Then he calmed down and asked for money. It wasn't even a lot of money. I paid and continued to pay."

"You also continued to see Ruth didn't you?" I asked.

"Why not, I was paying dearly for the privilege. Since she was worth at least what I had to pay, it worked out rather well," he said honestly.

"Did you kill Chet?" I asked already knowing the answer.

"I certainly did not. Why should I? I paid only slightly more than I would have for any other woman. Ruth is certainly no ordinary woman. I can go into detail, if you would like?"

"That won't be necessary," I assured him.

In the parking lot Millie said, "That has got to be the oiliest asshole I ever met. He wasn't even outraged that Chet was blackmailing him."

"Sure he was. He just wasn't outraged enough to kill. It looks like we are going to have to talk to the heavy hitters."

"I know, good luck with Emily," she said with that strange emotion pouring from her.

After a lunch of hot dogs, I had to force the issue, we returned to Emily's office. When I was finally ushered into her office, I noticed a great change in Emily's appearance. She had gone from the rather attractive woman, with a thick head of red hair, to a much more plain looking woman with a bun atop her head. The change was disconcerting at first. It took me a moment to grasp the significance of the change. Emily was dressing for her visit to the women on Ruth's tapes.

She noticed my curious look. "So what do you think?" she asked.

"Very N.O.W.," I suggested.

"You better loose the attitude. The first woman we are going to see will eat your ass alive, if you don't." There was no humor in her voice as she delivered the suggestion.

"So, who do we see first?" I asked.

"Anna Martindale," she answered without any explanation.

"Okay, I'll bite, who is Anna Martindale?" I asked.

"Ms. Martindale is a doctor. She is also prominent in the women's movement. Don't get the idea that all the women's movement leaders are gay. Some are but most aren't."

"The thought never occurred to me until you mention it," I lied.

"Of course not," Emily said with a rare smile. "Give me ten minutes then we are off."

"Would you like for me to wait outside?" I suggested.

"No, just let me make a couple of calls."

The calls were lawyer type crap so I just tuned them out. I spent the time studying her instead. Under the bun was a fairly wide forehead ending in thin almost nonexistent eyebrows. Under the eyebrows were two large eyes, the color of old coke bottles. Her nose was long and thin. Actually it was a little too long. Her lips were full. I suspected a lot of their size was from the pale lipstick. I watched her mouth move as she spoke in the phone. Her mouth was slightly too large for the rest of her face. She had great teeth though.

She wore a mannish cut pant suit. The jacket hung across the back of her chair, providing me with a view of her breast. There was nothing mannish about the way she filled the white silk blouse. In the pleated slacks she appeared to be slightly wide in the hips. Too many years tied to a desk, I suspected.

I had evaluated her, then moved on to the office when she asked, "Ready?"

"Sure, let's go meet the dragon lady," I smiled.

"I told you, loose the attitude."

"Look Emily, I have put up with your crap so far but don't push it."

"Adam, I can't afford to be associated with you, if you are going to irritate these next few people," she said honestly.

"You don't have any choice. I can get you the answers you need. If you don't use me then Mr. Wilson is going to be pissed. Enough maybe to file a complaint against you with the bar. Why don't you just trust me not to piss these people off too much."

"You know, I never much liked you. I could learn to hate you real easily."

"I know, that is one of my better qualities. I don't tend to grow on people."

"Come on Adam, let's go. Please don't embarrass me too much." She almost begged.

Edward drove us to the Martindale clinic for women. It seemed Ms. Martindale practiced what she preached. She owned an abortion clinic. It was more than that actually. She also treated women for almost any problem. Most of her business was still in abortions.

After a lengthy wait we were shown into Ms. Martindale's office. It was as plush as the retailers had been bare. Ms. Martindale shook hands with Emily, but ignored me. I didn't mind. While she traded pleasantries with Emily, I studied her. Ms. Martindale was a big woman. Not just in the women's movement either. She had to be at least six feet tall, with a thinning head of adobe tan hair. I had seen her in the tape of Ruth's so I knew that her body was just as blocky naked as it was clothed.

"Adam here needs to ask you some questions, Anna. I know they are going to be painful, but he needs to hear you speak the answers."

"Emily honey, do I need a lawyer?" She asked it in a deep scratchy voice.

"Everyone needs a lawyer," Emily smiled. "I don't think you need your lawyer present at the moment. This is not an interrogation, we just want you to tell us your version of the story. You don't have to worry about us pressing you."

"Very well," Anna turned to me. "Ask away young man."

"If you would tell me how you happened to get involved with Ruth?" I asked.

"First of all, let me tell you right up front. I don't have a problem with your seeing that tape. I don't see that I did anything wrong."

"I agree," I said taking the wind out of her sails. "The problem is that the publicity would harm the good work that you do. I understand your need to balance your own interest with the interest of the work."

"That is exactly why I let that no good louse husband of Ruth's blackmail me." She said it looking deep into my eyes.

"I understand, I really just want to know how you happened to meet Ruth?" I tried hard not to help her come up with a story.

"I can tell you this, she was not a patient of mine. I would never do that." I simply nodded so that she was forced to continue. "I met Ruth at a woman's rights meeting. She actually approached me. You know she was an artist once," she said with a far away look in her eyes. She was actually reliving the events in her mind as she spoke. "We had coffee a few times before anything happened. I thought at first that I had seduced her." Anna almost laughed at the idea. "If it was her first time, she took to it like a duck to water. She was a great lover and a good friend, even after Chet started to shake me down. It was all his doing you know. Ruth would never have had anything to do with it otherwise. I'm sure he forced her to make those tapes."

"No doubt her husband was a no good prick," I agreed. "I have just two more questions." She nodded her agreement. "Did you continue to see Ruth after her husband began to blackmailed you?"

"Yes, I saw her several more times. Right up until I got involved with my current lover

"Last one, did you kill Ruth's husband?" I asked.

"I did not. I am a doctor for god's sake."

"I know but so was Jeffrey McDonald. For what it's worth I believe you."

"I really don't give a damn what you believe. Now, if you are quite finished, I have patients to see." Anna didn't even rise when we left the room.

I stopped to light a cigarette in the parking lot. I was enjoying it greatly, at least I was before Emily spoke, I desperately wanted to tell her to shut up. I let her talk instead.

"You were doing real well right up until the last question," Emily said.

"I know, there is no easy way to ask people if they committed a murder."

"I guess not. So can we scratch her off the list?" Emily asked.

"Absolutely," I answered. I stepped on the cigarette butt, then climbed into the waiting car. "Whom do we see next?" I asked.

"This one is going to floor you, Mary Belle Fleming."

"Who the hell is Mary Belle Fleming?" I asked.

Emily actually laughed. "I see you don't watch much local TV. Mary Bell has a morning show on the local station. She cooks and gives homemaker tips."

"So how old is this Mary Belle?" I asked.

"In her thirties, I think, Why?" she asked.

"Ruth seems to be heavy into older men and women. I thought maybe it had something to do with age."

"It is more likely that those are the people with a position worth protecting and enough money to do it. Mary Belle qualifies on both those points. The hint of a gay affair would destroy her career, not to mention her marriage."

"Marriage, who is Mary Belle married to?" I asked.
"Only Reverend Bobby, no holes barred, Fleming." She answered.

Him, I had read about. He led the fight against the ban on school prayer. That seemed a reasonable thing to do. He also supported a ban on porn. I had mixed feelings on that one. He probably would have been harmless enough had he not dipped into the faith healing pool. That one ticked me off big time. "So we are talking about the wife of Reverend Fleming. This has to be a nightmare for you."

"You better believe it. All I need is for that bible thumped to start a campaign against Ruth. I couldn\'92t find a jury in this state who wouldn\'92t want to lynch her."

"Not to mention the woman defending her. I can imagine the things he would say about you." I said it with sympathy in my voice.

"Not to mention," she answered with another smile.

"You better watch that," I suggested.

"Watch what?" she asked.

"That's twice you\'92ve smiled at me. If you keep that up, I am going to think you are human after all."

"I am more or less human," she said with a far away look in her eyes.

Edward drove us back to Emily's office. Mary Belle had agreed to meet us there, since she didn't want to explain the visit to the Reverend.

We had been waiting only a few minutes when Mary Belle arrived. The receptionist showed her into the room. I stood. Some parts of my up bringing stayed with me. Mary Belle shook both Emily and my hands. She knew about the tapes. She had seen her tape when Chet first approached her. We were able to bypass all the \'91I am so ashamed crap\'92.

"Mrs. Fleming, you are going to have to tell us how you and Ruth came to be lovers."

"If I do, can I have the tape?" she asked.

"No, the tape stays with us. If I can find out who killed Chet, then we have no need for the tapes. It wouldn't be in Ruth's best interest to have them distributed. Rest assured, in that case we would destroy them."

"If I can't have the tape then I want a lawyer. Not you though," Mary Belle said.

"Mrs. Fleming, if you get a lawyer, one more person is going to know about you and Ruth. The same questions I am going to ask you, he would allow. I am not going to do anything but allow you to tell us your story, in your own words. You will note that there is no one here to write down what you say."

She seemed lost in thought for a few minutes then said, "Okay, you aren't going to believe it but here goes. I have never done anything like that either before or since. It was a one time thing with me. Hell, Ruth may have even drugged me. You know with that stuff you read about. The date rape drug, that one, sure I'll bet she used that on me."

"Regardless of how it happened, I need to know how she approached you. That kind of thing."

"Why she came to my husband's church. Ruth wanted to become a Christian. At least that is what I thought at the time. I know better now. She just wanted to drug me then have her way with me. Afterward that awful husband of hers blackmailed me."

Mary Belle had a tendency to ramble. "Yes Ma'am but how exactly did she work it out so that you two would be alone?" I asked it hoping to get her back on track.

"She invited me to the country club for lunch. I had never been to the Elms. I mean I have been to all the newer clubs, but never to that one. It is kind of for the old money crowd. Her father is a member. I remember how excited I was to be going there for lunch."

"Do you remember exactly how she seduced you?" I helped her out a little.

"I guess after she drugged me, she put her hand on my leg under the table. It felt good, I mean with the drug and all. I followed her back to her house. I kind of got carried away, I mean with the drug and all. Next thing I knew that sorry husband of hers was at the studio with the tape."

"Did you ever see Ruth afterward?" I asked.

"Lord no!" Mary Belle exclaimed. It was a lie but not pertinent to the issue at hand.

"Mary Belle, did you kill Chet," I asked.

"Hell no, but I ain't sorry somebody else did."

"That's all I have. For what it is worth Mary Belle, I don't think you did it." I said it as I stood to leave. I let Emily handle the closing while I went for a cigarette. When I finished the cigarette, I noticed that Edward was sitting in the car reading. I wondered how far Edward would go for the twenty grand. No, if he had done it for money, old man Wilson would have thrown his ass to the lions by now.

Emily came out of the office. "Why don't you get Edward to drive you to my apartment," she said handing me a key. "I should be home around six. If you haven't had dinner by then, we can go out."

"If you promise it isn't going to be bean sprouts, I'll wait."

Emily actually laughed again. "I had forgotten Millie is a health food nut. I promise it won't be bean sprouts." She said it as she turned to re-enter her office.

"Edward," I said. "Let's go get a fat burger."

"You can eat that junk if you want, me I never eat anything that I know is gonna kill me." He laughed as he spoke.

"Then you must go hungry a lot. I thought everything would kill you."

"Mostly, I think it is livin\'92 that does it, but I don't want to take no chances."

It was almost five when Edward dropped me at Emily's apartment. Emily lived in a high rise building with a security guard. He asked me where I was going and why. My explanation didn't help so he called Emily to check on me. He finally allowed me to pass into an elevator.

Emily's apartment was on the ninth floor of the twelve story building. I opened the door and found it extremely light and airy for a high rise. The living area had two almost floor to ceiling windows. The room was small enough that the sunlight flooded it completely. The kitchen was no more than a closet sized area off the small dining alcove.

Emily was either very neat or she had cleaned the place for me. Most likely I caught it right after the maid's day. I dropped the bag that contained my last two clean shirts on the green velvet sofa. The dirty laundry I dropped on the floor. The laptop and camera went onto the dining room table. By the time I made it to the refrigerator the place at least looked a little lived in. As I expected the refrigerator held a bottle of wine and a jar of mayonnaise.

I wandered to her bedroom. I didn't search it, but I did stand by the bed to take a long look around. I felt the sterility of the room as much as I had in the living room. If there had ever been passion in this room, it had been a long time ago. To my surprise I found that Emily had a one bedroom apartment. Now what the hell could that mean? I certainly hadn't felt any vibes from her. I was sure I would have even if I hadn't been blessed. It looked to me like a night on the sofa for me. It would be the only one. She could like it or not, I would find a motel before I slept on anyone's sofa.

I was busy working on the computer when she arrived. I wasn't surprised to find that she was late. I also wasn't surprised that she carried not only a briefcase but also a large paper bag. "I really didn't want to go out. I hope you like Chinese."

"As long as it's not chicken,"

"Millie told me you were allergic to chicken. I never knew anyone allergic to chicken before." She paused while I moved the computer off the table onto the floor. "I have a lot of pork stuff," she said. She began to nervously open containers. "Can you use these?" she asked holding up chop sticks.

"For about twenty things, but not to eat with," I smiled.

"Let me get you a fork," she said walking into the kitchen. "You don't mind eating from the containers do you. I like Chinese best that way."

"Not at all," I said. Emily proved to be one of those rare people who don't want to talk while they eat. I approved.

After the boxes were gone, she asked, "So where do we stand, any possibles?"

"None of them so far did it, but they will make a hell of a smoke screen," I suggested.

"I hope it doesn't come to that. I would hate to ruin a dozen people's reputations just to save Ruth. You know I have no idea what Ruth's part in all this was. I could ask her but I doubt she would tell me the truth. Besides which, I don't want to bring it up to her."

"I can't tell you who's idea it was, but I can tell you that Ruth enjoyed it," I replied.

"That is the feeling I got. You know, I wonder who picked the victims. They weren't random, she or Chet sought them out."
"It wouldn't be hard. Ruth had grown up in the money crowd. She pretty much knew who had what. I can't figure out if anyone ever said no to her. I surely would like to ask her sometime."
"In the tapes, and in the jail costume you saw her in, it is hard to understand I know. When Ruth is dressed and fixed up, she is a knock out. I mean she is one of those women that sex seems to drip off."

"I'll have to take your word for it. I never saw anything in her," I replied.

The conversation lagged for a few minutes. Then Emily asked, "How much can you really tell about a person?"

"More than I want to know usually."

"How so?" she asked.

"Take women for instance, everyone likes a little romance with their sex." Emily nodded. "Now imagine that you knew the romance was faked. Suppose you knew that the only reason a man was having sex with you, was to get back at his girlfriend. It would take some of the pleasure out of it, don't you agree."

"Sure, but does that really make a difference. I thought men just did it for the pleasure of the moment?" she asked.

"I can't speak for other men. I do it most of the time, knowing what people's real motives are. I would like to make love just once with someone I didn't understand. I would like to believe that what they said was absolutely the truth."

"I guess I understand," she replied with the first warm smile I had ever seen from her.

"I know you think you do but just imagine, if you could really sense how people felt about you all the time. No one would ever be as nice as they pretend to be."

"What can you tell about, say Mary Belle?" she asked. The amount of wine we had consumed was beginning to tell in her speech.

"I can tell you that she wasn't drugged," I replied.

"Hell, I could have told you that." she replied.

"I could tell you that she has seen Ruth more than the one time. Whatever Ruth did for her she liked enough to go back at least once more."

"I know what Ruth did for her and I am not surprised," Emily said.

"That's about all I could get from her. Oh yeah, she liked you fine but hated me."

"That surprises me. Not that she liked me, but that she hated you. She seemed perfectly nice to me," Emily said.

"I guess she did at that. She really did hate me though. She could sense I didn't believe her. She also sensed that I was a danger to her."

"You mean in the sense that you were reading her?"

"Something like that." I admitted.

"How about me. What do you sense about me?" she asked.

"I don't do that," I replied.

"Do what?"

"Tell people about themselves. What you need is a psychic friend for that." I replied with a smile.

"Let me ask you some questions then Swami?" she countered.

"If you are sure, you want to know the answers."

"I'm sure I want to know how good you are. I can only tell that with facts I know to be true," she stated bluntly.

"Just remember, I am going to answer with the truth. You may have to face some things you have put a better face upon."

"I'll have to take my chances in the name of research," she said still smiling. She had no idea how rough this little game could get.

"Ask at your own risk. You have been warned," I replied more seriously.

"How long has it been since I had sex?" she asked.

"Man or woman?"

"What does that mean?" she snapped.

"It doesn't matter. It has been a very long time. More than a year since you had six in this place. Other places I can't tell."

"Are you insinuating I have had sex with a woman? Is that just because I know some lesbians?" she asked.

"That is because of the way gay women treat you. Not like they have slept with you but because they rightly or wrongly think you are available."

"You got that just from Anna?" she asked.

"Not just Anna."

"Mary Belle?" she asked.

"Her to, she had feelings toward you."

"Who else?" she demanded.

"That's all."

"The hell it is, you know more than you are telling."

"If I do, I am not going to bring it up," I said earnestly.

"Okay, then I'll tell you. Millie has a crush on me. Is that what you were going to say?"

"That's what I wasn't going to say."

"Tell me the truth, do you think I am gay?" she asked.
"What difference does it make what I think?" I countered.

"None, I just want to know what you think." She was almost in tears.

"I have no idea. I get the feeling you don't know either."

"Damn you Adam, I didn't want to talk about this with you. Not now, not ever," she cried.

"I sure as hell didn't mean to open a can of worms. I'm sorry, I made that crack."

"If I was sure of myself, it wouldn't have mattered. If I knew for sure either way, I wouldn't have cared. I have slept with several men, but never enjoyed it much. I tried it once with a woman. I'm afraid I liked it too much. I haven't been with anyone since."

"I don't know what to tell you. I would think a woman with your kind of self assurance wouldn't have this kind of problem."

"Hell, I shouldn't have it. I am just afraid to be gay. I know it is chic and all that, I just don't want to be gay."

"Maybe you just haven't met the right man," I suggested.

"I suppose that next you are going to tell me you are the right one?" Emily asked.

"Not hardly, I am definitely the wrong man. Since I know your fears, you would always know I played on them."

"But you would sleep with me if I asked. I would like to give it one more try with a man." she said. "You do find me attractive don't you?"

"Of course I find you attractive. I'm not blind. I just think you should find someone without the emotional baggage."

"You would be perfect for the experiment. I mean you will be gone in a couple of days. You already know about my feelings, so I wouldn't have to explain why it would just be an experiment." She looked up at me hopefully.

"You promise me that you are not going to give up on men if I am lousy. I mean, there is too much pressure already." I smiled.

"I won't make you the scapegoat for all men. I would just like to try it one more time."

"You know that sex isn't all there is to a successful relationship. Even if we make fireworks, it isn't going to mean anything."

"I'm not worried about the intimacy. I do fine with that. It is just the sex part I have a problem with," she said frankly.

"Let me take a shower first," I insisted.

Over coffee the next morning, I asked, "Do we need to talk about last night?"

"I don't, unless you do?" she asked.

"Not me, I know what happened." I reminded her.

"Me to," she said. We never mentioned it again.

"So who do we harass today?" I asked.

"Today we take on one more gay woman then the two judges. I am going to go into the bedroom to make the calls. I don't expect we will have any problems seeing these people. They all know the tapes exist."

"Good idea, one more thing before we get busy with more victims. I think I should move into a motel tonight. That is, if I have to stay another night."

"You don't have to do that. We both know there is no need for another night like the last one." She said it matter-of-factly.

Emily arranged the morning appointment with the last woman. I think she still hoped to avoid facing a judge. Edward was waiting outside to drive us to the meeting. We had over an hour to wait so I convinced Emily to invite him up.

Over coffee, I made Edward the offer. I needed help to get around once in a while, either to places I couldn't bike, or to carry things that wouldn't fit in the cycle. I offered to pay twenty thousand dollars in advance for his services, but only if he decided to move to my home town. Emily agreed to put it in writing for us.

"If you are serious Mr. Adams, I will give it a lot of thought. I will even talk it over with my wife. What you are offering will buy the limo but you don't want to go shopping in no limo. I can drive you in my family's wagon, if that is all right with you."

"Most of the time, that will be great. There may be occasions when I want the limo."

"If we do this, you will always have first crack at it. That is up till you get your twenty-grand worth of rides. You are a young man, I expect one of my boys will have to finish paying the note." He said with a laughed.

"Could be, but I doubt it, you take better care of yourself." I joined him in the laughter.

"If I decide when can we do the deal?" he asked.

"You name it, I'm ready now."

"I'll talk to Em tonight. I can give you an answer tomorrow," Edward said seriously.

"Done," I said it while shaking his hand.

We drank coffee while each of us was lost in our own thoughts. I was pretty sure Edward would take me up on the offer. I was looking forward to sporting around town in a chauffeur driven limo. The idea had a lot of appeal.

Tiffy Logan was the morning's interview. Tiffy was the female equivalent to Jack Nicholas. She was the winner of about every lady\'92s golf tournament around. At least at one time or another.

"I have always been a fan of yours," I lied as I took her hand.

"Thank you, I'm sorry we have to meet under these circumstances. I usually get along famously with men. But then none of them know that I am gay. It wouldn't do much for my career, if it got out. I hope you can keep that tape out of the press."

"I do to. Tell me how you met Ruth Wilson-Turner?" I asked.

"I always knew Ruth. I grew up here, that's why I returned after my divorce. Ruth called to invite me to dinner one night. She probably knew I was gay before she called. If she didn't, she sure as hell did after dinner."

A couple of days later she called to tell me she wanted to see me. I knew what she wanted so I went to her house. Her husband wasn't home, so we made love in her bed. A week or two later Chet showed up with the tape. I paid him off and continued to pay him. He didn't ask all that much. I would loose a damned sight more, if the word got around. It is one thing for some woman to whisper it around the circuit, but quite another thing to see it on video tape."

"Did you kill Chet Turner?" I asked.

"No, but I sure as hell don't miss him. Not just for me. He slapped Ruth around some."

"Did you continue to see Ruth after the blackmail started?"

"Sure, in for a penny," she smiled.

Outside the pro shop, I lit a cigarette while Edward pulled the car around. "Well if we scratch her we are running out of suspects."

"Well you can scratch her from the list," I said.

"I always knew it would come down to this. With my luck it had to be a sitting judge." I didn't say anything, since it probably was one of the last two men.

Our meeting was scheduled during the judge's lunch break so we were going to have a late lunch. I convinced Edward that while we had time, he should stop at a convenience store. I wanted a candy bar and a Coke.

"You bet," he said with a smile.

"I know, the sooner the junk food kills me the sooner you retire the debt," I said with a laugh.

"You got it Mr. Adam."

Even Emily got into the act. "If he keeps that up Edward, he is going to look like the dough boy in that commercial."

"Very funny you two, I plan to outlive you both."

"A good plan but I doubt it. You should stay with Millie more. She could teach you how to eat right," Emily suggested while smiling.

"I don't think I want to trade a heart attack for slow starvation, thank you very much."

Emily and I sat in the courtroom until the presiding judge called for the lunch break. When he had retired to his chambers, Emily led me to the door. She knocked softly.

"Come on in," the judge\'92s voice rang out. He shook Emily's hand, turned to look at me and said, "Who is this Emily. I don't know that I want to discuss this with strangers."

"He is the man who found the tapes your honor. He already knows everything. More than I do probably."

"Well we are going to wait for Jake in any event."

"Jake Morton?" Emily asked.

"Sure, Jake is my lawyer. I explained it all to him. He wanted to be here." The Judge swivelled his chair to face me. So have you read any good minds lately," he said laughing heartily at his own joke.

"You know judge I don't really read minds." Before I could go on a man in his late thirties or early forties came into the room. He didn't bother to knock."

It seemed that I was the only person who didn\'92t recognize him. "You must be Adam Adams," he guessed. "I've been hearing a lot about you lately."

"Don't believe anything you hear about me. I have a good press agent," I replied.

"Hum," was his only comment. "So you want to ask my client questions. I don't think he should answer any questions."

"Jake, get down off your cross. You know damned will I don't want to use that tape in court. You also know that it is my responsibility to use it, if I have to do so." Emily said.

"She's right Jake," the judge agreed. "Let's find out what the questions are before we get upset, son."

"We just want you to tell us how you happened to get involved with Ruth," Emily said.

"That is pretty easy, Ruth and I met at the club. She was there with that no good husband of hers. My wife knew her mother so they talked. I noticed she kept glancing at me. In the end my wife forced me to dance with her, since Chet had left her alone to go into the card room. We danced a slow number. Ruth pressed her pelvis into me for about five minutes. My response surprised even me. There hadn't been all that much excitement in our house lately. Ruth went home with Chet and me with my wife. Ruth called me a couple of weeks later. She invited me out to lunch. I explained that I couldn't give her any legal advice. She laughed then said something like, 'I don't need any advice, legal or any other kind.' She was pretty blatant about her desires at that lunch. She actually came right out and asked me to take her to bed. That kind of thing never happened to me before. I was flattered beyond words.

We drove to her house and made love in her bed. A week later Chet showed up with the tape."

"Judge you need to stop right there," Jake said.

The judge nodded. "Would you answer this for me? Did you see Ruth after Chet showed you the tape?"

"I saw her a couple of times a month until Chet was killed,\'94the judge admitted.

"One more question, did you kill Chet," I asked.

"Don't answer that your honor," Jake said.

"If you don\'92t answer judge, we will have to use that tape. Tell me you didn't kill him and maybe it will all go away."

"I didn't kill anyone." The judge said.
"Were you in the war Judge?" I asked.

"Korea, why?"

"Just curious. So you are telling me specifically that you didn't kill Chet?" I asked.

"He already answered that question," Jake said.

"Yes he did, I want him to say, 'No I did not kill Chet Turner.'"

"Look, we are quibbling over semantics. I did not kill Chet Turner," he said.

"Thank you, your honor. That is all I have," I said standing to leave.

"You do believe me, don't you?" he asked.

"I do now. There was a moment when I didn't. You should be more careful how you answer in the future. You have indeed killed men. Quite a few I would guess,"

"I did, but that was war," he said.

"Does that make it easier to sleep?" I asked.

"Not really, You know young man, I wish I could do what you do."

"I wish it was you rather than me."

I managed to drag Emily to the snack bar where smoking was allowed. Two cups of coffee, and several cigarettes later we went back to the courts section of the building. In a different courtroom on a different floor, we enter the court of Judge Joel Daff. We watched a man get sentenced to three years for a burglary.

When court ended immediately afterwards we went into his chambers. That time there was no hint of an attorney. "Well Emily, what exactly is it you plan to do with that tape?"

"Your honor I had hoped to find Chet's killer among those represented on the tape. I have about given up on that. Please tell us exactly how you got involved with Ruth." She had avoided his question expertly.

"Actually, it was Chet that got me involved with her. He came before me on a traffic case. Ruth was with him. I admit I looked a little too long at Ruth. When I gave Chet his sentence, he took it like a man. I pulled his license for a year, drunk driving.

He came to me after court, actually down in the parking garage. I knew he was Amos Wilson's son- in-law so I wasn't worried. He offered me Ruth, in exchange for changing his sentence. He even described the things Ruth could do for me. We worked out a deal. He got a limited privilege license and I got Ruth. He could have asked for the limited license in court. I would have given it to him. It wasn't really a bribe you know."

I was drugged, I thought.

"Anyway Chet taped our little meeting. I found myself paying Chet to keep the tape quiet. That's about the long and short of it."

"Did you continue to see her after the blackmail began?" Emily asked.

"I never saw her after that one time," the judge said.

"Did you kill Chet?" Emily asked.

"I did not," he replied indignantly. I nodded to Emily.

I left her in the office with the judge while I went for a cigarette. She joined me in the parking lot ten minutes later.

"So what now genius?" she asked. "Do you have any idea who killed Chet Turner."

"Not any of the people we have talked to so far.

"Damn it Adam, I have put my career on the line."

"Your career will be fine as long as we find out who the killer really is. If we do that the tapes need never be seen again."

"How do we do that?" she asked.

"First we talk to Ruth again,"

"Did you know all along that these people were innocent?"

"I told you, I don't read minds. I had no way to know until I heard them deny killing Chet."

"Okay, but if I find this was some kind of sick joke, I am going to kill your ass."

"Is that anyway for a respectable woman to talk?" I asked.

"You of all people should know that I am not respectable." She said with a smile.

"I think we should talk to her right now," I suggested.

"Not me I have other clients. I am going to return to the office, but I will send Millie with you. You two seem to work well together."
"Millie is fine, let's just get to it. I want to go home."

The drive to her office took only a few minutes. Springing Millie took a little longer. It was after five before we arrived at the jail. Millie and I sat in the interview room for a long time. The guard had explained that the inmates were being served dinner when we arrived. It seemed a little strange that dinner would require us a longer wait. Then I came to realize for perhaps the first time the limitations of jail. If Ruth missed her dinner for our interview, she would not eat again until the next morning. She couldn't just walk to the refrigerator for a sandwich. For some reason after that realization it became important for me to get her out as soon as possible.

It did until Ruth arrived. "So what do you want now?" she asked.

"What is with you Ruth? Do you like it here so much that you want to stay?" I asked.

"No but I think you are a waste of my daddy's money."

Evidently no one had told her about the tapes. It was my pleasure to inform her. "That may well be the truth. I have made one rather interesting discovery. I found some video tapes at your house." I watched her reaction. There was very little to see.

"So you found the tapes. So what?" she asked.

"For a while we had twelve new suspects. They all fell through. We are almost back to square one. That is unless there are more tapes?" I asked.

"That is all there was,"

The strength of the lie almost made me shudder. "I don't think so." I replied. "Where are the others?"

"What makes you think there are others?" she snarled like a dog.

"Why are you hiding those particular tapes?" I asked.

"Why do you think there are more tapes?" she repeated.

"For one thing, there had to be tapes of men who wouldn't pay. You couldn't expose them without exposing the fact that you were in the blackmail business. If that came out business would be ruined. Some of the men or women had to refuse. So where are those tapes?" I asked.

Millie who hadn't spoken since we entered the room said, "Come on Ruth, why don't you just help us out here." She was a lot more sympathetic than I was.

"Look, there is no reason to bring those people into it. They had no reason to kill Chet."

"I expect you are right but everyone helps your case, if it comes to trial."

"The tapes are in the gardening shed. In a cardboard box," she finally said quietly.

"Are there more?" I asked.

"Yes, I guess there is no way to lie to you. Chet kept one in a safety deposit box. It was the one he kept just in case we ever got caught," she replied in a quiet voice.

"Another Judge?" Millie asked.

"No, the DA. Chet said that we were safe. We had a judge who would go along, all we needed was for the DA to drop the charges. I went after the DA."

"This just gets better and better," Millie said. "Why didn't you tell me all this before?" she asked.

"Since I didn't do it, I figured you could prove it without getting all these people involved. If I had to, I could bring the tapes out as a last resort."

"If you didn't have to, then you could go back into business when you got out of here?" I asked.

"Yeah, something like that."

"You're a real piece of work," I replied disgusted.

"What? You thought you were saving the Virgin Mary?" she asked.

"I wasn't expecting to be saving a blackmailer," I replied.

"Well honey, life ain't fair to any of us," she snapped.

"Is the DA the last of them?" Millie asked.

"Yeah, Chet and I were only at it two years. If he hadn't got himself killed, we could have added more, I guess." She said it staring at me.

"How long has the DA been on your shakedown list?" I asked.

"He isn't on the list. He probably doesn't even know about the tape. We were saving it just in case."

"Then the DA had no motive," I replied.

"None that I know of," Ruth replied.

"Do you have any idea who killed Chet?" I asked her bluntly.

"None that I haven't already told you about." Ruth said.

I sensed that she was telling the truth. It was going to be leg work from now on. Since I wasn't a cop, I had no idea where to go next. "Do you have anything to ask her?" I said it to Millie.

She shook her head. "Why don't you wait for me outside, while I talk to Ruth about her defense."

I understood lawyer client crap, so I walked away from them both. There was a different guard on duty when I went into the hall. "Would it be all right if I went to the snack bar?" I asked her.

"Sure," was her only reply.

I found the room without a road map. My memory was pretty good in those days. I got myself a cup of coffee from the vending machine. It wasn't any better or worse than other vending machine coffee. I sat smoking and drinking until Millie entered. "Well did you and Ruth figure out how to beat the system?"

"Not really," she replied wearily.

"A lot of people are going to get hurt if you use those tapes," I said thoughtfully.

"I know, but it may be the only way to give her a decent defense."

"If you do get her off with them, the DA is going to be pressured into charging her with blackmail."

"I don't think so. If we don't get the tape of him from the box, Ruth can spring it on him. He might decide to blame Chet for all of it. He might just drop the charges," Millie said.

"So that's what you and Ruth decided?" I asked.

"That's what we talked about. It is for Emily to decide what happens next."

"I know that none of those people killed Chet. You are going to ruin them anyway."

"You know it through some voodoo shit. I don't know it and neither does Emily. Hell you could be covering for one of them yourself."

"Why the hell would I do that?" I asked.

"I don't know and I don't have to know," she replied.

"That's right you just have to justify the crap you are going to toss at the jury," I said angrily. "I always knew there was a good reason, I hated this crap."

"Don't get too self righteous. After all you are making a ton of money on her misery." She said it trying to hurt me.

"Am I making more than you? I mean, after you and your boss screw me to the wall." I asked.

"Probably not, but we are earning ours," she demanded.

"Remember who found you the tapes you are going to base your defense on."

"I think this conversation is over," she declared.

"Before we quit, tell me again how you are not a lawyer whore," I said spitefully.

She seemed to suddenly become deadly calm. "You maybe right, but you are no better. Your principles seem to be pretty flexible. You are working for the money same as me."

We didn't speak again that afternoon. Edward drove us in silence to Emily's office. I found my belongings stacked in a corner of the office. Emily spoke to me with Millie still in the room. "Well we have spoken to all the people on the list. I don't think it would hurt for you to return home now," she said. "Edward will drive you."

"So you are going to concentrate on Ruth's defense now. It doesn't matter who killed Chet, just as long as you get Ruth off."

"Look, there is nothing else your powers can do. The next step is foot slogging. I will get one of the local guys to run down anything we can think of."

"I see, you are saving Wilson his money. Don't worry, I don't give a shit personally. I expect Ruth will walk. I doubt she will ever be able to use the tapes again, once they get mentioned in court. The DA will give her a walk on the extortion charge. So all's well that ends well."

"Something like that," Emily said.

I picked up my belongings then walked to the door. Edward was indeed waiting. "I hear, I am to drive you home. I guess it is over?" he asked.

"It is for me. Look I am still interested in our deal. If you decide to do it call me. I know a lawyer at home who will do the paperwork for us." I said it to cover the awkward situation.

Edward drove out of Avery toward my small home town. I sat in the rear thinking about the people in the case. The more I ran it over in my head the more I felt sure I had the answer. I had just let it slip away. I had been so sure that Ruth knew the killer. Then when I asked her at our last meeting, she had said, "None that you don't already know about." I had taken that to mean those on the tapes. It was an evasive answer. One that was much like, 'I never killed anyone' that had confused me earlier. I thought back to my first interview with Ruth. I had asked her then if she had any idea who might have killed Chet. She said at that time, "Yeah, Daddy." I had ignored it thinking it just an off handed statement. One not meant to be taken seriously.

I had dampened my receptors over the years in order to survive. When I got no reaction to the statement, I had ignored it. I got no reaction because she was telling the truth. She either knew of thought that her daddy had done the killing. "Edward, is there any chance I could get you to drive me to see Mr. Wilson?"

"Not a chance in hell. We both knew that eventually you would figure it out."

"Wilson needed me to find the tapes, didn't he." I asked.

"Yeah, the DA had to have something to hang the 'It was all Chet's fault' theory on. If Ruth kept the secret, it would be easier to sell to the public. Using you was the old man's way of getting the tapes found. All that interview crap was necessary but a waste of time."

"Why did the old man do Chet?" I asked.

"He hated Chet. Like I told you earlier that Chet was a prick. Ruth went to her daddy, she told him about the blackmail shit. Old man Wilson went bonkers."

"Not so bonkers that he didn't figure all this out in advance," I suggested.

"True but he was nutty, that's for sure," Edward said.

"You drove the old man out there didn't you?" I asked.

"I sure did," he said.

"I guess I should go to the cops?" It was a question.

"Why, tell me one person whose reputation is worth saving. Those old fart judges who traded favors for sex. The used car salesman, or maybe you think the Reverend and his wife should get a break. No they all deserve what they get. Now the old man, he ain't got much longer. He's got cancer you know. He is going to be facing the real judge soon. Ruth may have done a lot, but she didn't kill Chet. She even tried to stop her daddy, but he went on with it anyway. No, Mr. Adam, you best just leave this one alone."
"I knew damned well I should never have gotten involved in this crap," I said as much to myself as Edward.

"Would have made sleepin' a bit easier." Conversation stopped for a long time. "I guess this means our deal is off?" he asked.

Epilogue

The trial began two months later. The same day the trial began a small town newspaper reporter scooped the bigger paper next door. A fairly unknown reporter broke the story of the tapes. When asked her source she gave the local grand jury a fax from an unknown source.

Since she did not have a list of the stars, the D.A. was forced to provide that information. He was even forced to admit his own involvement since there were serious hints in the press about it.

Ruth was acquitted of the murder but convicted of blackmail. Two judges took early retirement rather than face hearings. It was in effect a gentleman's plea bargain.

Mary Belle had her audience double when she tearfully admitted to the affair with Ruth. She also touted the evils of the 'date rape' drug to everyone who would listen. A local pastor when on the T.V. shows in the area wondering why the Rev. Flemming couldn't heal his wife of the moral decay he had called homo-sexuality. Mary Belle's show was picked up for ten years and Jimmy's was dropped, some kind of justice in that.

The others who thought their lives would be ruined suffered the notoriety for a couple of weeks, then lost their fifteen minutes of fame. Proving again how arrogant men are to think anyone cares about them long term.

Edward called looking for work. I suggested the classifieds. I am a prick after all. Oh I finally did the reporter. I did accept payment for the fax.

A few months after it all died down Amos died. It was a quick heart attack. I wasn't sure if I approved of him getting off easy but he did.