"Wait a minute. When did you tell him that? Oh hell. That's what you did to—how did you put it? Light a fire under Ben, figuring Carlo would tell him?" Ricky looked as if he didn't know whether to shoot me or just make me move to the farthermost corner of the world where I'd be safe.
"Yeah. And with luck it'll work."
Ricky appealed to Tom, saying, "Can you do something? Please. Give him some… I don't know… Protection maybe?"
"Walt might not be the one who needs it. One of the messages, if I remember correctly, threatened that someone would die if Walt didn't back off. And you were the only one here when Ben tried to break in."
"But he couldn't have known that," Ricky protested.
"If he was watching the house and saw Walt drive away, he would have."
"He did kill someone," I said quietly. "The woman at the Elite Gym. That happened the same night I got that message."
"It might be coincidental, if Carlo was the one trying to scare you off to keep his son safe," Tom pointed out.
"I wonder if Ben told him that he'd killed Ms Engel," Ricky said. "Or if Carlo just presumed it had to be him."
"We probably won't know until this is over," I replied.
"So, Walt, did you have a plan beyond telling Carlo you'd found something of Ben's?" Tom asked.
I shook my head. "More like a hope Ben would come after me to get it."
Tom nodded, looking at Ricky. "I'm putting you in protective custody until this is over."
"Just a minute now," Ricky said angrily. "Why me?"
"Because Ben might, probably will, come after you to get to Walt. With you out of the picture, he'll have to go directly to the source, so to speak."
"No way in hell," Ricky spat out.
I took his hands, gripping them tightly. "You have to, because Tom's right. Ben's crazy. He has to be to have killed the other women. He'd have no second thoughts about using you as a bargaining chip to make me give up whatever he thinks I found—and then killing you afterwards just to show me who's 'boss'. If that happened, we'd never catch him. He has to be forced to come straight to me."
Ricky swallowed hard. "I don't like this one damned bit."
"I'm not exactly happy about it either, but it's the only way. At least I can handle myself."
"Give him body armor," Ricky practically ordered Tom.
"That can be arranged."
Tom nodded. "I can afford to put one man on him."
Ricky, being Ricky, of course had to say, "He better not be 'on' him." Then he quickly apologized, adding, "That was stupid, but I get that way when I'm scared."
I hugged him. "And when you're being silly, or have had one beer too many, or…"
"Okay. Yeah. Still…"