The Cost of Betrayal(5)

By: Dee Henderson

When the movie was over, and even Black had decided he’d had enough popcorn, Paul steered the conversation to the details of Ann’s last few days. He knew she really didn’t mind talking shop. She’d retired, and he’d been promoted too high to take the lead on a case anymore, but they still kept their hands in the investigative side of things by working the occasional cold case together. “I heard the pocketknife came back as a positive match for the murder weapon.”

Ann stirred enough to uncross her feet and sit up. “There was blood on the longest blade, and the DNA is a match to Andrew Chadwick.”

“Your whiteboard looks a lot like an investigation.”

She glanced his direction. “Just preliminary thoughts. You were right. The box of items belongs to Tanya Chadwick.”

He was surprised to hear his brief suggestion had turned out to be right. “You found an obituary? She’s dead? Or did you track the box ownership down through the auction company?”

“Tanya is very much alive and now living in New York City. I’ve learned the box I purchased was brought to the area-wide auction by Mark’s Auction House. They had bought fifty-eight boxes of household goods, twenty-three pieces of furniture, and eight floor rugs from a Michelle Rice, a woman who turns out to be the former house manager for the Chadwick family. Tanya sold the family home this year, and Mrs. Rice has moved on to new employment. I spoke briefly with Mrs. Rice today. She said she would have packed the items that were taken to the auction house. I’m having coffee with her tomorrow under the guise of showing her the jewelry box and ring so I can confirm I’ll be returning the ring to its rightful owner. I should be able to guide the conversation around to learn how that varied collection of items, including a pink pocketknife, made it into the same box. I went ahead and put out requests today for the trial transcript and the case file. I’ll give the materials a few days of my time and see what I can learn.”

“Want some help?”

“Do you honestly have an extra brain cell right now?”

“I’m burned to a crisp.”

She rubbed a hand across his hair and smiled. “Still just smoking gray showing up. You begin turning active flame and I’ll start to worry. I’ll take a preliminary look at the files and let you know.” She reached for her glass sitting on a coffee-table coaster. “I don’t expect to get very far. The knife probably showed up after the trial was concluded, and Tanya couldn’t convince herself to throw it away but didn’t want to talk to cops ever again, so she dumped it in a drawer. Janelle was already in jail for the murder. Six years later, Tanya decides she’s going to stay permanently in New York and makes arrangements to sell the family home back here in Chicago. The house manager is directing a crew of people, boxing what is going to Tanya in New York, what is going to the auction house, and what is being left for the house stagers to use in showcasing it for sale. In the process, the pocketknife that had been dropped in a forget-me drawer ends up in a box of dresser items heading to auction rather than the trash.”

Paul could hear the cop in her putting the pieces together in logical order. “The common-sense answer does tend to be what happened,” he murmured. He knew she’d look until the question was resolved to her satisfaction. “Ready to call it a night?”

“Been ready since about the second half of the movie. I don’t sleep as well without you.”

He reached for her hand and pulled her to her feet. “Now you’re just being kind. I’ll walk the dog tonight if you tackle unpacking my bag. I’d rather not see a reminder that I might get pulled away again.”

“How deep is the snow?”

“They’re saying ten inches by morning, mostly lake-effect.”

“You can walk the dog.”

Paul laughed. The dog enjoyed fresh snow, liked to crash through drifts and climb mountains when it got piled. The walk that would take twenty minutes in the summer would take forty in winter. “Black, want to walk?”

The dog shook himself awake and headed out to the entry for his leash.

Paul kissed his wife, content this one corner of his life was in good order, and went to join their dog.