The innocent, p.50
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       The Innocent, p.50

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 49

  LOREN MUSE FUMED.

  She'd been about to call Ed Steinberg and complain about Yates's treatment of her, but in the end she decided against it. Little lady can't take care of herself. Needs to call her boss for help. No, she wouldn't play into that.

  She was still part of the investigation. Fine, that was all she wanted. A foot in the door. She started digging up all she could on the roommate, Kimmy Dale. It wasn't too difficult. Kimmy had a record for prostitution. Despite what people thought, prostitution was not legal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is.

  One of Dale's old probation officers, an old-timer named Taylor, was in early. He remembered her.

  "What can I tell you?" Taylor began. "Kimmy Dale had a bad family history, but what girl out here doesn't? You ever listen to Howard Stern on the radio?"

  "Sure. "

  "Ever listen when he has strippers on? He always kinda jokingly asks, 'And you were first abused at what age?' and the thing is, they always have an answer. They always were. They sit there and say it's great getting naked and they made their own choice, blah blah, but there's always something in the background. You know what I mean?"

  "I do. "

  "So Kimmy Dale was another classic case. She ran away from home and started stripping when she was probably fourteen, fifteen tops. "

  "Do you know where she is now?"

  "She moved out to Reno. I got a home address if you want. "

  "I do. "

  He gave her Kimmy Dale's home address. "Last I heard she works out of a place called the Eager Beaver, which, believe it or not, is not as classy as the name would lead you to believe. "

  Eager Beaver, she thought. Wasn't that where Yates said Charles Talley worked?

  Taylor said, "Nice town, Reno. Not like Vegas. Don't get me wrong. I love Vegas. We all do. It's awful and horrible and mobbed up, but we don't leave. You know what I'm saying?"

  "I'm calling you from Newark, New Jersey," she said. "So yeah, I know what you mean. "

  Taylor laughed. "Anyway, Reno is actually a pretty nice place to raise a family nowadays. Good weather because it's below the Sierra Nevada mountains. Used to be divorce capital of the USA and have more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the country. You ever been?"

  "Nope. "

  "Are you cute?"

  "Adorable. "

  "So come out to Vegas. I'll show you around. "

  "Next plane, I'm there. "

  "Wait, you're not one of those 'I-hate-men' feminazis, are you?"

  "Only when I don't get enough sleep. "

  "So what's this about?"

  Her cell phone began to ring. "I'll fill you in later, okay? Thanks, Taylor. "

  "We'll stay at the Mandalay Bay. I know a guy. You'll love it. "

  "Right, soon, bye. "

  She hung up and hit the answer button.

  "Hello?"

  Without preamble, Mother Katherine said, "She was murdered, wasn't she?"

  Loren was about to hem and haw again, but something in Mother Katherine's tone told her it would be a waste of time. "Yes. "

  "Then I need to see you. "

  "Why's that?"

  "I wasn't allowed to say anything before. Sister Mary Rose was very specific. "

  "Specific about what?"

  "Please come by my office as soon as you can, Loren. I need to show you something. "

  "What can I do for you, Agent Yates?" Olivia asked.

  By the door, Cal Dollinger's eyes swept the room. Adam Yates sat and rested his elbows on his thighs. "You own a lot of books," Yates said.

  "Very observant. "

  "Are they yours or your husband's?"

  Olivia put her hands on her hips. "Yes, I can see how that would be relevant, so let me clear your mind. Most of the books belong to me. Are we done?"

  Yates smiled. "You're very amusing," he said. "Isn't she amusing, Cal?"

  Cal nodded. "Most strippers and whores, they're bitter. But not her. She's a slice of sunshine. "

  "Sunshine indeed," Yates added.

  Olivia did not like the way this was going. "What do you want?"

  "You faked your own death," Yates said. "That's a crime. "

  She said nothing.

  "That girl who really died," he went on. "What was her name?"

  "I don't know what you're talking about. "

  "Her name was Cassandra, wasn't it?" Yates leaned in a little. "Were you the one who murdered her?"

  Olivia held her ground. "What do you want?"

  "You know. "

  Yates's hands tightened into fists, then relaxed. She glanced at the door. Cal remained calm, a statue.

  "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't. "

  Yates tried a smile. "Where's the tape?"

  Olivia stiffened. She flashed back to that trailer. There had been a horrible smell when she and Kimmy first moved into it, as if small animals had died in the walls. Kimmy had bought some heavy potpourri- much too perfumed. It tried to mask something that could never really be hidden. The smell came back to her now. She saw Cassandra's crumpled body. She remembered the fear on Clyde Rangor's face as he asked:

  "Where's the tape?"

  She tried to keep her voice from cracking. "I don't know what you're talking about. "

  "Why did you run away and change your name?"

  "I needed a fresh start. "

  "Just like that?"

  "No," Olivia said. "Nothing about it was 'just like that. ' " She stood. "And I don't want to answer any more questions until my attorney is present. "

  Yates looked up at her. "Sit down. "

  "I want you both out of here. "

  "I said sit down. "

  She looked over at Cal Dollinger again. Still playing statue. He had eyes with nothing behind them. Olivia did as Yates said. She sat.

  "I was going to say something like, 'You got a nice life here, you wouldn't want me to spoil it all for you,' " Yates began. "But I'm not sure that will work. Your neighborhood is a cesspool. Your house is a dump. Your husband is an ex-con wanted in a triple murder. " He gave her the smile. "One would have thought you'd have made the most of your new start, Candi. But amazingly you did just the opposite. "

  He was intentionally trying to antagonize her. Olivia wouldn't let that happen. "I'd like you both to leave now. "

  "You don't care who learns your secret?"

  "Please leave. "

  "I could arrest you. "

  That was when she decided to take the chance. Olivia put out her hands, as if ready to be cuffed. Yates did not move. He could arrest her, of course. She wasn't sure of the exact law or the statute of limitations, but she had clearly interfered with a murder investigation- she had, in fact, pretended to be the victim. It would be more than enough to hold her.

  But that wasn't what Yates wanted.

  Clyde's pleading voice: "Where's the tape?"

  Yates wanted something else. Something Cassandra had died for. Something Clyde Rangor had killed for. She looked into his face. The eyes were steady. His hands kept clenching and unclenching.

  Her wrists were still together in front of her. She waited another second, then dropped them back to her sides. "I don't know anything about any tapes," she said.

  Now it was Yates's turn to study her. He took his time. "I believe you," he said.

  And for some reason the way he said it scared her more than anything else.

  "Please come with us," Yates said.

  "Where?"

  "I'm taking you in. "

  "On what charge?"

  "You want the list alphabetically?"

  "I'll need to call my attorney. "

  "You can call him from the precinct. "

  She was not sure how to play this. Cal Dollinger took a step toward her. When she took a step back, the big man said, "You want me to drag you out of here in cuffs?"

  Olivia stopped. "That won't be necessary. "

  They headed outside. Yates took the lead. Dollinger stayed next
to her. Olivia checked the streets. The giant brown beer bottle was in the sky. For some reason it gave her comfort. Yates walked ahead. He unlocked the car door, slid in, started it up. He turned back and looked at Olivia and suddenly it hit her.

  She recognized him.

  Names fled easily, but faces were her prisoners for life. When she'd danced it became a way of numbing herself. She'd studied the faces. She'd memorize them, classify them by their level of boredom and enjoyment, try to remember how many times they'd been there. It had been a mental exercise, a way to distract herself.

  Adam Yates had been to Clyde's club.

  She may have hesitated or maybe Cal Dollinger was just attuned to what was going on around him. She was about to flee, just start running until her legs gave out, but Dollinger put a firm hand on her arm. He squeezed the spot above her elbow just hard enough to get her attention. She tried to pull away, but it was like pulling your arm out of a concrete block.

  She couldn't move.

  They were almost at the car now. Cal picked up speed. Olivia's eyes skimmed the street, pausing on Lawrence. He was standing on the corner, swaying with another man she didn't know. Both of them had brown paper bags in their hand. Lawrence looked at her and started to raise his hand to wave.

  Olivia mouthed the words: Help me.

  Lawrence's face didn't change. There was no reaction at all. The other man made a joke. Lawrence laughed long and hard and slapped his thigh.

  He hadn't seen her.

  They approached the car. Olivia's mind raced. She did not want to get in with them. She tried to slow her walk. Dollinger gave her arm a quick, painful pinch.

  "Keep moving," the big man told her.

  They reached the back door. Dollinger opened it. She tried to hold her ground, but his grip was simply too strong. He pushed her into the backseat.

  "Yo, got a dollar?"

  The big man took a quick glance. It was Lawrence. Dollinger started turning away, dismissing the panhandler, but Lawrence grabbed his shoulder.

  "Yo, man, I'm hungry. Got a dollar?"

  "Buzz off. "

  Lawrence put his hands on the big man's chest. "I'm just asking for a dollar, man. "

  "Let go of me. "

  "A dollar. Is that too much to-"

  And that was when Dollinger let go of her arm.

  Olivia hesitated but not for long. When both of Dollinger's hands gripped Lawrence by the front of his shirt, she was ready. She jumped up and started to run.

  "Run, Liv!"

  Lawrence didn't have to tell her twice.

  Dollinger dropped Lawrence and spun around. Lawrence jumped on the big man's back. Dollinger shrugged him off like dandruff. Then Lawrence did something truly foolish. He hit Dollinger with the brown bag. Olivia could hear the clunk from the beer bottle inside. Dollinger turned around and punched Lawrence in the sternum. Lawrence went down hard.

  Dollinger shouted, "Stop! FBI!"

  I don't think so, big man.

  Olivia heard the car take off. The tires squealed as Yates peeled out. She glanced behind her.

  Dollinger was catching up to her. And he had a gun in his hand.

  Her lead was maybe fifty feet. She ran as hard as she could. This was her neighborhood. She'd have the advantage, right? She cut down a back alley. It was empty- nobody else in sight. Dollinger followed. She risked a look back. He was gaining on her and didn't look the least bit put out.

  She spun forward and ran harder, pumping her arms.

  A bullet whizzed by her. Then another.

  Oh, God. He's shooting!

  She had to get out of the alley. Had to find people. He wouldn't just shoot her in front of a lot of people.

  Would he?

  She veered right back onto the street. The car was there. Yates sped toward her. She rolled over a parked car and onto the sidewalk. They were at the old Pabst Blue Ribbon factory. Soon it would be gone, replaced with yet another no-personality shopping center. But right now the broken-down ruins could be a haven.

  Wait, where was that old tavern?

  She swerved to the left. It was down the second alley. She remembered that. Olivia did not dare look behind her, but she could hear his footsteps now. He was gaining.

  "Stop!"

  Like hell, she thought. The tavern. Where the hell was that tavern?

  She turned right.

  Bingo, there it was!

  The door was on the right. She wasn't far from it. She ran hard. She grabbed the handle as Dollinger made the turn. She pulled the door open and fell inside.

  "Help!"

  There was one person inside. He was cleaning glasses behind the bar. He looked up in surprise. Olivia stood and quickly threw the bolt.

  "Hey," the bartender shouted, "what's going on here?"

  "Someone is trying to kill me. "

  The door shook. "FBI. Open up!"

  Olivia shook her head. The bartender hesitated, then gestured toward the back room with his head. She ran for it. The bartender picked up a shotgun as Dollinger kicked the door open.

  The bartender was startled by the size of the man. "Jesus H. Christ!"

  "FBI! Drop it. "

  "Let's just slow down, buddy. . . "

  Dollinger pointed his gun at the bartender and fired twice.

  The bartender went down, leaving only a splash of blood on the wall behind him.

  Oh my God oh my God oh my God!

  Olivia wanted to scream.

  No. Go. Hurry.

  She thought about the baby inside her. It gave her the extra spurt. She dove into the back room where the bartender had gestured.

  Gunfire raked the wall behind her. Olivia dropped to the floor.

  She crawled toward the back door. It was made of heavy metal. There was a key in the lock. In one move she pulled the door open and twisted the key so hard that it broke in the knob. She rolled back into the sunlight. The door closed and locked automatically behind her.

  She heard him twisting the knob. When that didn't work, he began to pound on the door. This time the door would not give way easily. Olivia ran, keeping off the main streets, looking out for both Yates's car and Dollinger on foot.

  She saw neither. Time to get the hell out of here.

  Olivia walk-jogged for another two miles. When a bus drove by, she hopped on, not much caring where it took her. She got off in the center of Elizabeth. Taxis were lined up by the depot.

  "Where to?" the driver asked her.

  She tried to catch her breath. "Newark Airport, please. "

 
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