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Every Kind of Wicked: Chapter 40

Sunday, 1:30 a.m.

Jack stared at his bedroom ceiling, the air finally warm enough to satisfy even Greta, curled against one knee. He went over the whole case in his head, from beginning to end. Evan and Shanaya had been skimming from the phone scams, with Evan turning the stolen numbers into cash at his workplace. Meanwhile, Evan recognized the Medicare scam between Jeffers and Marlon Toner for what it was and figured he could trim a bit off for himself from the funds Toner duly deposited in the offshore bank account. Ralph never noticed because it didn’t affect his coffers, until Jeffers checked the books and found that the numbers didn’t add up. Toner had his receipts, so Jeffers knew it wasn’t him. Ralph must have also sworn his innocence, and reviewed the tapes to figure out exactly which of his employees it had been. Then Jeffers sent his trusty lieutenant Wayne to find out where his money had gone.

With luck Wayne would eventually talk and tell them exactly what had transpired when he confronted Evan. Evan must have left the store with its inconvenient cameras and walked toward the bank to make his nightly deposit of the stolen money. Wayne approaches, Evan runs away, jumping the fence into the cemetery. He must have looked at that crutch and figured Wayne could not follow him—not knowing that crutch served only as a prop. And a sheath. Simple, low-tech, effective, and completely innocuous-looking.

Whether Evan had told him anything before he died, Jack couldn’t guess, but he hadn’t given up Shanaya. She continued to go to work as usual and probably hadn’t needed to abandon the apartment. Neither she nor Evan could have guessed that the boss she stole from and the doctor he stole from were one and the same. But Wayne took Evan’s cell phone, and soon their boss realized exactly that.

Shanaya had told them as much, standing outside the cop car, coughing on smoke, shivering in the cold while the EMT trying to put an oxygen mask over Jack’s face told him that Riley would be fine. All neurological signs indicated he hadn’t even gotten a concussion and had been transported only as a precaution.

Jack had ordered a protective custody warrant for Shanaya, to give her a place to stay while they could get her statement nailed down. This would afford her some protection, should Jeffers have any other employees as dedicated as Wayne running around. It also meant they’d have an eye on her if she decided to bolt rather than answer questions about how many people she had defrauded. But Jack didn’t believe she had any intention of running. Shanaya was being very, very cooperative, totally focused on getting her money back. The odds that she might seemed better than even. Jack wondered how he felt about that, and decided it sucked.

Nothing, of course, sucked as badly as Jennifer Toner making a fuss over Jeffers’s pill mill activities right when he already faced a hemorrhage in his offshore account. He had had the sense to use his employee’s names and not his own, but that wouldn’t keep the cops away for long if Jennifer got the authorities to look into the absent Dr. Castleman. They might subpoena all the reimbursements coming from Medicare and Medicaid and track the funds to the account. They might track down the real Dr. Castleman in Africa so that he could make a really good guess as to who had appropriated his name and license number. His whole very lucrative world might cave in too quickly to be able to salvage any part of it, including his freedom. Jennifer Toner had to be stopped. Not a tough choice for Jeffers, a man so depraved he abandoned his own children to a blazing inferno.

Jack suspected that Jennifer had gone looking for Castleman at his last known address, as he and Riley had. Then Ralph had no doubt reported to Jeffers about the confrontation between a woman of that description and Evan on Evan’s last night at work. When Jeffers realized she had also been at A to Z, Jennifer became enough of a threat to be dealt with. But unlike Evan, they didn’t want information. They just wanted her to go away.

Unless Wayne confessed to the murder of a police officer—unlikely—they would never know exactly what had happened at Jennifer Toner’s apartment. Jack guessed that Wayne had knocked, said he had something to tell Jennifer about her brother, and walked in to find Rick there as well. Jennifer might have immediately pointed him out as Jeffers’s nurse, sealing Rick’s doom. Wayne stabbed him—Rick would have no reason to be on guard against a nurse on crutches, especially one who had knocked on the door so politely that it didn’t even disturb the neighbors—and then stabbed Jennifer before she had a chance to react. Because if he had already killed Jennifer before Rick came to the door, Wayne could have simply not answered. They both had to be in the apartment already.

Then Wayne dumped Rick’s body, and probably decided not to take the outrageous chance a second time to dump Jennifer’s. Besides, Jennifer’s murder had a built-in fall guy: her addict brother.

Terrible luck for Rick.

Good luck for Jack? He could see no remaining threats to his life in Cleveland. If Rick had voiced his suspicions to Will, Will seemed to have chalked them up to the usual dislike a man had for an ex’s new beau. Jack was safe. He could stay there as long as he liked.

Maggie herself no longer seemed to be a problem, though even if she didn’t threaten to expose his past, she greatly threatened to expose his future. Living alone, keeping himself strictly separate from other humans, compartmentalizing his actions, had allowed him to continue his work. Meeting Maggie Gardiner had thrown all that into chaos.

Not to mention what it had done to her.

His actions, his pride, had dragged her into his world, and her one rash decision had imprisoned her there. A sense of responsibility had then isolated her from her family, her friends, the core of her own personality until she must have felt she had no one she could confide in, no one she could really talk to, except him. She must have convinced herself that the cause of all her problems had become her only refuge from them, that she and Jack were somehow twined together in ways that could not be undone. The proximity had driven her.

That’s all it was, proximity. It couldn’t be more than that. It couldn’t become more than that.

“This can’t happen again,” he declared aloud. Greta meowed her disdain for people who spoke while she was trying to sleep.

Then Maggie rolled over and stretched one languid arm across his chest. Pressing her face into his neck, she set him straight: “Oh, this is definitely happening again.”


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