The innocent, p.21
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       The Innocent, p.21
 

           Harlan Coben
Chapter 20

 

  LOREN MUSE MADE even better time on the way back from Wilmington, Delaware, to Newark. Ed Steinberg was alone in his office on the third floor of the new county courthouse.

  "Shut the door," her boss said.

  Steinberg looked disheveled- loose tie, collar button undone, one sleeve rolled up higher than the other- but that was pretty much his normal look. Loren liked Steinberg. He was smart and played fair. He hated the politics of the job but understood the necessity of the game. He played it well.

  Loren found her boss sexy in that cuddly-bear, hairy-Vietnam-vet-on-his-Harley vein. Steinberg was married, of course, with two kids in college. Cliche but true: The good ones were always taken.

  When Loren was young, her mother would warn her to wait: "Don't get married young," Carmen would slur through the daytime wine. Loren never consciously followed that advice, but she realized somewhere along the way that it was idiotic. The good men, the ones who wanted to commit and raise children, were scooped up early. The field became thinner and thinner as the years went by. Now Loren had to settle for what one of her friends called "retreads"- overweight divorcees who were making up for the years of high school rejection or those still cowering from the anguish of their first marriage or those semi-decent guys who were interested- and why not?- in some young waif who'd worship them.

  "What were you doing in Delaware?" Steinberg asked.

  "Following a lead on our nun's identity. "

  "You think she's from Delaware?"

  "No. " Loren quickly explained about the implants' identification code, the initial cooperation, the stonewalling, the connection to the feds. Steinberg stroked his mustache as if it were a small pet. When she finished, he said, "The SAC in the area is a fed named Pistillo. I'll call him in the morning, see what he can tell me. "

  "Thank you. "

  Steinberg stroked his mustache some more. He looked off.

  "Is that what you needed to see me about?" she asked. "The Sister Mary Rose case?"

  "Yes. "

  "And?"

  "The lab guys dusted the nun's room. "

  "Right. "

  "They found eight sets of prints," he said. "One set matched Sister Mary Rose. Six others matched various nuns and employees of St. Margaret's. We're running those through the system, just in case, see if anybody had a record we don't know about. "

  He stopped.

  Loren came over to the desk and sat down. "I assume," she said, "you got a hit on the eighth set?"

  "We did. " His eyes met hers. "That's why I called you back here. "

  She spread her hands. "I'm all ears. "

  "The prints belong to a Max Darrow. "

  She waited for him to say more. When he stayed quiet, she said, "I assume this Darrow has a record?"

  Ed Steinberg shook his head slowly. "Nope. "

  "Then how did you get a match?"

  "He served in the armed forces. "

  In the distance, Loren could hear a phone ring. Nobody answered it. Steinberg leaned back in his big leather chair. He tilted his chin to look up. "Max Darrow isn't from around here," he said.

  "Oh?"

  "He lived in Raleigh Heights, Nevada. It's near Reno. "

  Loren considered that. "Reno's a pretty long way from a Catholic school in East Orange, New Jersey. "

  "Indeed. " Steinberg was still looking up. "He used to be on the job. "

  "Darrow was a cop?"

  He nodded. "Retired. Detective Max Darrow. Worked homicide in Vegas for twenty-five years. "

  Loren tried to fit that into her earlier theory about Sister Mary Rose being a fugitive. Maybe she was from the Vegas or Reno area. Maybe she'd stumbled across this Max Darrow sometime in the past.

  The next step seemed pretty obvious: "We need to locate Max Darrow. "

  Ed Steinberg's voice was soft. "We already have. "

  "How's that?"

  "Darrow is dead. "

  Their eyes met and something else clicked into place. She could almost see Trevor Wine pulling up his belt. How had her patronizing colleague described his murder victim?

  "A retired white guy. . . a tourist. "

  Steinberg nodded. "We found Darrow's body in Newark, near that cemetery off Fourteenth Avenue. He was shot twice in the head. "

 
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