When I got back to the office late in the afternoon, Chelsea told me Detective Sharp had called and wanted me to call back. I did, and received an earful about contacting Mr Whitmore.
"I told you," Tom said severely, "this is not your case anymore."
I played properly repentant before asking, "Have you found out anything more about her murder? Like, what kind of knife did he use?"
"It was…" Tom broke off, saying instead, "That's police business, not yours. As is what I just told you. It is not for publication."
"I had to try," I replied with a laugh. "And you should know me well enough to know anything you tell me is for my ears only."
"And Ricky's," he muttered.
"Well, yeah. Okay, I promise to keep my nose out of this from now on." A promise I didn't intend to keep, all things considered.
"Thanks." Then, a bit surprisingly, Tom gave me a quick rundown of what Mr Whitmore had told him, asking if it jibed with what the man had said to me. It did and I told him so.
That ended our conversation, and I realized it was later than I thought when Chelsea came in to tell me she was heading home. I closed down everything, turned off the lights, and after arming the security system and locking the hallway door, I took off as well.
I had just made the turn onto the cross-street that would take me to the highway home when I noticed a motorcycle two cars behind me. Nothing terribly unexpected about that, since we have our fair share of them in the city. At least the guy riding it was helmeted. That was unexpected. Most bikers around here, at least in my opinion, seem to court death by riding without one.
That would probably have been my last thought about him if he hadn't been directly behind me when I took the on-ramp to the highway. And he stayed behind me even when I changed lanes. Hell of a way to follow someone if that's what he was doing. I tried to get his license plate number but it was covered with dirt, as was much of the lower half of the bike.
On a hunch, or from instinct, I got off the highway two exits before the one I needed. There he was, right behind me, until I pulled to a stop at a red light. Then he came up beside me. When the light changed I took off. He veered toward me, forcing me to cut a sharp right to the curb, barely missing a parked car. My windows were open, since it was a nice evening. He tossed something, then sped off.
I ducked and made a grab for the door handle, expecting to be blown up. It took me a couple of seconds to realize the missive was a piece of paper wrapped around something. After taking a few deep breaths to calm my fractured nerves, I unwrapped what turned out to be a message, around the usual missile for this sort of thing, a rock.
'Keep your nose out of Coleen Engel's death'. Short and to the point. For a second I had the inane thought that the biker had been Detective Sharp. He's probably laugh when I told him that. Of course I wouldn't tell him, because I had no intention of letting him know what had happened.
I made it the rest of the way home via side streets, keeping a careful eye open for the biker and, as far as that went, for the green car. The car hadn't been around before the guy had forced me to the side of the road, but that didn't mean it wouldn't show up now. That was presuming its driver had anything to do with my involvement with Ms Engel. That was, in my book, fifty-fifty.
Ricky was home when I walked into the house. He took one look at me and asked "What happened?" I told him, eliciting a very worried frown from him. "Are you going to drop it?"
"No way. I must be on to something—although I have no idea what—or they wouldn't have shot at us yesterday, or watched the house last night, or delivered their message the way they did."
"It makes no damned sense," he said, finally giving me a kiss and a hug to welcome me home, before heading to the kitchen. "I mean, what do you know about her?" I followed him and was met by the aroma of lasagna. That almost took my mind off his question. Almost.
"Damned little," I admitted. Then I filled him in on what Mr Whitmore had told me, while I set the table. Yeah, we shared chores. No big surprise there. When he cooked, I did the table and dish washing thing. When I cooked… Well given that I rarely did, I saw a lot of dirty dishes.
"Seems like she was a gold-digger par excellence," he commented, putting the meal on the table.
"Looks like. I still haven't been able to find out anything about her life between college and now, other than when she was with Whitmore. I have one other address to check out."
"Before or after Whitmore?"
"Umm, after if I remember right. He was in Wyoming; the other address was Shreveport, Louisiana maybe nine months later."
"Guess what you're doing tomorrow morning," he said, chuckling. Then we stopped talking so we could enjoy a damned good dinner.