The innocent, p.54
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       The Innocent, p.54

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 53

  MATT GOT OFF the plane and hurried out of the airport. Nobody stopped him. He felt a rush. He'd done it. He'd made it to Reno with hours to spare.

  He grabbed a taxi. "488 Center Lane Drive. "

  They drove in silence. When they pulled up to the address, Matt stared out the window at the Eager Beaver. He paid the driver, got out, and headed inside.

  Fitting, he thought to himself.

  While he had not expected 488 Center Lane Drive to be a strip joint, he was not all that surprised either. Olivia was missing something in all of this. He understood that. He even understood why. She wanted to find her child. It had blinded her a bit. She couldn't see what was so obvious to him: This was about more than an adoption or even a scam to extort money.

  It all came back to the pictures on his camera phone.

  If you're the family with a sick daughter, you are not interested in making a husband jealous. If you're a lowlife crook after a big payday, you don't care about breaking up a marriage.

  But this had to be about more than that. Matt wasn't sure what exactly, but he knew that it was something bad- something that made whoever was behind this want to drag them back to a place like this.

  He headed inside and found a table in the corner. He looked around, hoping to see Olivia. He didn't. Three girls slowly undulated onstage. He tried to imagine his beautiful wife, the one who made everyone lucky enough to encounter her feel somehow blessed, up there like that. Oddly enough it wasn't that hard to picture. Rather than confusing him, something about Olivia's shocking confessions made it all click. It was why she had such a zest for things most found too ordinary, why she so badly wanted a family, a home, the life in the suburbs. She yearned for what we consider both our normalcy and our dream. He understood that better now. It made more sense to him.

  That life. The life they were trying to make together. She was right: It was worth fighting for.

  A waitress came by and Matt asked for coffee. He needed the caffeine fix. She brought it over. It was surprisingly good. He sipped it and watched the girls and tried to put some of the facts together. Nothing was really coming to him.

  He stood and asked if there was a pay phone. The bouncer, a fat man with a pockmarked face, pointed with his thumb. Matt had a prepaid phone card. He always carried it- another holdover from what he'd learned in the pen, he guessed. The truth was, you could trace a phone card. You could find out where it came from and even who bought it. Eventually. Best example was when prosecutors traced a call made with a phone card in the Oklahoma bombing case. But it took time. It could be used to prosecute, but Matt wasn't worried about that anymore.

  His cell phone was off. If you keep it on, there are ways to figure out where you are. Cell-phone tracking, even without making a call, is a reality. He pressed in the digits for the 800 number, then his code, then Midlife's private line at the office.

  "Ike Kier. "

  "It's me. "

  "Don't say anything you don't want someone else to hear. "

  "Then you do the talking, Ike. "

  "Olivia is okay. "

  "Did they hold her?"

  "No. She's, uh, gone. "

  That was good to hear. "And?"

  "Hold on. " He passed the phone.

  "Hey, Matt. "

  It was Cingle.

  "I talked to that investigator friend of yours. I hope you don't mind, but they had my ass over a barrel. "

  "That's okay. "

  "Nothing I said will hurt you anyway. "

  "Don't worry about it," he said.

  Matt was looking off in the direction of the club's entrance. Cingle was telling him something else, something about Darrow and Talley, but there was a sudden rush in his ears.

  Matt almost dropped the phone when he saw who'd just walked into the Eager Beaver.

  It was Loren Muse.

  Loren Muse flashed her badge at the fat guy at the door.

  "I'm looking for one of your dancers. Her name is Kimmy Dale. "

  The fat man just stared at her.

  "Did you hear me?"

  "Yeah. "

  "So?"

  "So your ID says New Jersey. "

  "I'm still a law enforcement officer. "

  The fat man shook his head. "You're out of your jurisdiction. "

  "What are you, a lawyer?"

  The fat man pointed at her. "Good one. Bye, bye now. "

  "I said I'm looking for Kimmy Dale. "

  "And I said you have no jurisdiction here. "

  "You want me to bring someone more local?"

  He shrugged. "If that gets you off, honey, do whatever. "

  "I can make trouble. "

  "This. " The fat man smiled and pointed at his own face. "This is me scared. "

  Loren's cell phone rang. She took a step to the right. The music blared. She put the phone to her right ear and stuck a finger in her left. Her eyes squinted, as if that'd make the connection better.

  "Hello?"

  "I want to make a deal with you. "

  It was Matt Hunter.

  "I'm listening. "

  "I surrender to you and only you. We go somewhere and wait until at least one in the morning. "

  "Why one in the morning?"

  "Do you think I killed Darrow or Talley?"

  "You're certainly wanted for questioning. "

  "I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think I killed them. "

  She frowned. "No, Matt. I don't think you have anything to do with it. But I think your wife does. I know her real name. I know she's been hiding and running for a long time. I think that Max Darrow somehow figured out that she was still alive. I think they went after her and that somehow you got caught in the middle. "

  "Olivia is innocent. "

  "That," Loren said, "I'm not sure about. "

  "My deal still stands. I surrender to you. We go somewhere else and talk this out until one in the morning. "

  "Somewhere else? You don't even know where I am. "

  "Yeah," Matt said. "I know exactly where you are. "

  "How?"

  She heard a click. Damn, he hung up. She was about to dial in for an immediate trace when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and he was standing right there, as if he'd just materialized out of thin air.

  "So," Matt said. "Was I smart to trust you?"

 
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