"He doesn't look like a dastardly criminal," Evan said. They were sitting in his car, parked across the street from the auto repair shop, with Paddy and Dom invisible in the back seat. The man he was talking about was standing in the shop's doorway smoking a cigarette, a billed cap pulled low, probably to shield his eyes from the sunlight.
"You're presuming that's him," Vic replied.
"From what I can see of his face, he looks like the picture you found, so yeah."
Vic laughed. "Touché."
Everyone got out of the car, the two angels remaining invisible. They crossed the street and were greeted by, "May I help you?" from the man when they came up beside him.
"Mr Peake?" Vic asked.
"That would be me."
"A friend recommended you."
"Does this friend have a name?"
Vic glanced around before saying, "Can we go into your office to talk?"
"We can, as long as you realize it's Saturday and I close at two." Peake dropped his cigarette butt on the ground and headed inside. As they followed, Vic heard Paddy say, "The man working on that red car at the back of the garage is one of the pair who tried to break into Evan's house."
Vic quickly ducked his head, getting between Evan and the mechanic, just in case the man looked their way. He was—to put it mildly—startled to hear Paddy's voice in his head. But then, given what he is, I suppose he can do that. I wonder… "I thought you said they didn't know who hired them." Vic figured he'd try the whole 'mind talking' thing, since it worked one direction, maybe he could do it too.
"They didn't, since it was all done by phone. Perhaps Mr Peake disguised his voice?"
"Or it wasn't Peake who hired them. We did consider the phone might have been stolen."
By then they were in Peake's office. The man sat down in a battered chair behind an equally battered desk, looking up at Vic and Evan. "So who's this friend?"
"I have a question first," Vic said. "Do you have a cell phone with the number 555-6162?"
"Not any more." Peake's mouth tightened angrily. "My wife watches the office sometimes when it gets busy and I'm needed out there"—he pointed to the garage area—"so I leave the phone in here with her. A couple or three days ago, she's helping some guy who says his car needs worked on. Stupid…" He shook his head. "She goes out to look at it with him and when she gets back, the phone's gone. I asked the guys about it. They said they didn't see anyone take it, so I figure maybe it was the man she was helping who copped it. If it was, who knows where it is now?"
"Did she get his name or a description of the car?"
"Name? No. The car was blue, like a million others in the city." Peake shrugged. "She may be good with people; she's lousy when it comes to identifying cars. Just said it wasn't old, whatever that means."
"Not a Model-T," Vic said with a grin.
"Yeah, that would be about it. Anyway, the phone is long gone so I got a new one, which sucks because I had to go through the records to put in all the numbers I had on the old one—suppliers, customers, and what have you."
"Yeah, them too. Why you asking?"
"I think that phone was used in the commission of a crime."
"Damn. You're a cop?"
"No, a private investigator." Vic took out his wallet to show Peake his ID.
"And you thought maybe I was involved because it was my phone number."
Peake shook his head. "I got enough to keep me busy running this place. Besides which, it brings in good money. I don't need to be doing anything illegal to blow that." Peake smiled when someone came into the office. Vic turned and saw a woman who looked vaguely familiar, although he couldn't put his finger on why. He figured she must be Peake's wife and found out he was right when Peake introduced her as "Virginia, my better half. You can ask her about that guy."
Virginia tilted her head in question. "What guy?"
"The one you were helping when my phone disappeared."
"What did he look like, Mrs Peake," Vic asked.
"Maybe six foot, dark hair graying at the temples, horn-rimmed glasses, mustache. I've never seen him before—or since, as far as that goes. I asked him if he wanted me to get one of the mechanics to come with us to look at his car. He said no, that he could show me the damage, I could tell Carl, and find out what he thought it would cost to fix."
"What kind of damage?"
"Bent fender. Nothing big. I told him what our usual rates were for that. He said he'd get back to us and that was it."
"Was he alone in the office at any time?"
Virginia nodded. "Only for a second. He had a coffee mug with him when he came in and left it on the desk, so he went back to get it. Like I said, it only took him a second."
"Long enough to pick up the phone too," Peake grumbled. "If it was him that took it and right now, I'm betting it was."
"No bet," Vic said with a brief smile. "Okay, I guess that leaves you in the clear and me no closer to finding the guy I'm after. Thanks for your time."
"No problem. I hope you locate him."