Rivas’s hand stayed relaxed next to the Parabellum. The only sign that Jay was tense was the tendon on the left side of his neck, which pulsed out every few seconds. Dan was swaying a little more. He brought his hand up to his cheeks, absently, and ran his fingers along the scratches, like he was just realizing they were there.
“How do you know your mother went to the mob?" I asked him. “How do you know that’s who she’s protecting? Did she tell you that?"
Dan closed his eyes tight. "She didn’t need to, did she? After seeing Beau Karnau in the Hilton like that, after what you said—it’s obvious."
“You told me what was obvious when we talked at Little Hipp’s, Dan. Turned out the obvious was wrong."
Mr. Cambridge was still boring an imaginary hole through the center of my head. Angela Cambridge was crying silently.
I raised the Sheridan Knockabout. "This is the gun that killed Randall Halcomb and Beau Karnau. Single-shot pistol, Dan, out of production since 1962. Not the kind of weapon a serious violent criminal would favor, but it works all right for an old Navy marksman who wants personal protection, or some target practice, or an occasional murder when his back’s against the wall." I glanced at Mr. Cambridge, then at Jay Rivas. "You folks jump in anytime you want."
Dan had his hands out, like I was about to rush him.
"Wait a minute . . . you can’t stand there and tell me . . ."
"I took out the first disk, the one that Maia and I had found in Lillian’s statuette. I held it up. "This is half of what you were trying to get from Beau Karnau. The other half is sitting on the Cambridges’ coffee table. What does that tell you?"
The muzzle of my borrowed Sheridan swung toward the right, almost by itself. I hadn’t seen Rivas move, but somehow he had his 9mm in hand. He was aiming it at my chest.
“It tells me I’m using my good hand, Navarre. And I got eight rounds. How many you got?"
I opened my left hand and let the .22 drop.
For the first time in the fifteen-some-odd years that I’d known him, Zeke Cambridge smiled.
"I should’ve shot you the first time you left my daughter."
Mr. Cambridge sounded apologetic, smiling a sour little smile, like he was regretting a practical joke that went awry fifty years ago. "I wanted to track you down and kill you for breaking her heart, Tres. I should’ve done it."
"Don’t feel too bad," I said. “You had other things to worry about—the S&L crisis, the bad investments Lillian used to blame your foul moods on. Sheff Construction, for instance."
I tried to keep my voice even, unconcerned. I’m not sure I managed it. I had to drop the CD so it wouldn’t be quite so obvious how badly my hands were shaking. Angela Cambridge stepped next to Dan and took his arm.
"Dear, why don’t we—" she started to whisper before he pushed her away.
The muscles in Dan’s face seemed to be conducting a system-wide test. His cheek twitched slightly, then his jaw, eyebrow, nose. He was staring at me with a look I would’ve called anger if his eyes hadn’t been so empty.
"You can’t tell me . . ." he started. He opened his mouth for the next word but it didn’t come out.
"You get it, don’t you, Dan?" I asked. "About the time your dad was making those hefty college tuition payments to SMU, Sheff Construction was so deep in debt they were on the verge of dragging their main creditor, Crockett S&L, into bankruptcy with them. Until the Cambridges assumed control of the company, that is. Then they turned their liability into a gold mine. With a little help from Fernando Asante at City Hall." I looked at Mrs. Cambridge. "How many millions did Travis Center make for your husband, Angela? How much was he figuring on making this time around, with the fine arts complex?"
She wasn’t bothering to wipe away the tears anymore. They made her face looked glazed, like a very old pastry.
"Angie Gardiner," I said. "When I saw the picture of you with the fighter pilot, your maiden name didn’t mean anything to me. Then I went out to Blanco—the ranch where Randall Halcomb was killed, right next to land owned by the Gardiner family. That’s why Lillian and Beau happened to be out there that night. Your husband and Lillian both had the unfortunate idea of using the family land that weekend, for different reasons."
Behind her, Mr. Cambridge was absolutely still. His smile had faded.
For his part, Rivas looked content. He was half standing, half sitting on the backrest of the couch, resting the butt of the 9 mm on his knee. He didn’t appear to be in any hurry to shoot me. Probably he didn’t get to hold people at gunpoint as often as he’d like.
"Danny Boy," he said pleasantly. "Be a pal and get that disk at Navarre’s feet. Leave the gun alone, you hear me?"
Dan didn’t seem to. He stayed where he was, staring in my direction with bright, completely unfocused eyes.
“You’re lying, Navarre," Dan decided. “You’ve been angry at the Cambridges for years and now you’re trying to blame them for everything that’s happened.
Thar’s it, isn’t it?"
His voice was anything but confident. He looked at the Cambridges for some confirmation—a nod, a smile, a "yes." They didn’t give him any. Dan turned to Lieutenant Rivas. “You’re going to arrest him or something, aren’t you?"
Rivas nodded. "Or something."
Dan’s face started doing its muscle tests again. He looked at me uneasily.
"My father made a big mistake, Dan," I told him. "Ten years ago he let your mother know what he’d found out about the Travis Center scam. Maybe when you’re old enough—forty-five or so—these folks will tell you how my dad stumbled across the information in your mother’s bedroom. When Cookie found out, she ran straight to your father, who was still healthy enough to recognize the danger, and he ran straight to his new bosses." I looked at Zeke Cambridge. "Whose idea was it to use Halcomb for the killing—yours or Asante’s?"
For a moment Zeke Cambridge’s eyes darkened, taking on a little of the old ferocity that had frightened me as a teenager. “You think you really knew your father, boy? He ruined people’s marriages, their careers, his own damn family. You think he’s worth defending?"
"No," I said. “He probably isn’t. Fortunately, this isn’t about knowing my father. It’s about people telling me for ten years that I couldn’t do anything about his murder, and me knowing it wasn’t true. Sooner or later I had to come back and try. Whether or not my dad was worth the effort isn’t really important. Maybe instead we should talk about how you shot Randall Halcomb while Fernando Asante looked on, how your daughter happened to be watching from the hilltop nearby, how she’s lived with that knowledge for ten years, hiding it from you and everyone else because she couldn’t turn in her own father. You think you were worth defending?"
"That’s enough." Mr. Cambridge tried to put the old tone of command back into his voice. It failed him. I looked at Dan. "I suppose you get to a point where you can’t do anything more about a problem, Sheff, and then you just have to acknowledge the brick wall in front of you and let it go. Maybe you’re at that point. You keep thinking you can set things right with your family; you keep screwing up. Maybe you just need to admit that the situation is out of the scope of things you can fix. If that’s where you are, I feel sorry for you, because either you won’t live long or you’re going to live exactly the way these people want you to."
Mrs. Cambridge looked like she wanted to hug me. Her eyes had gotten paler as she cried, like all the green was being washed out. "You don’t understand, Tres. Zeke didn’t intend—he was trying to save his own family, dear. He never thought—"
"Shut up," Mr. Cambridge said.
Rivas cleared his throat. “I’m still waiting for that disk, Danny."
Dan lifted his hands, moving them in front of him uncertainly as if he were trying to remember just how big a fish he’d caught. He looked bewildered.
"I won’t believe any of this," he told me.
"Sure you will," I said. "You believe it already. You’re remembering how violently Lillian reacted when you told her about the blackmail, and you suspect it wasn’t just the shock of finding out you had a dirty family secret. It was her secret, Dan, and you let her know it was blowing up in her face after all these years. No wonder she wasn’t happy with you—she probably thought those photos had been destroyed. Beau would’ve promised her that. He would’ve agreed to keep the secret, even to get rid of the negatives of Halcomb’s murder, only he couldn’t make himself do it."
“Karnau was scum," Mr. Cambridge said almost to himself.
I shook my head. "Scum would’ve cashed in on those photos immediately, knowing what they were worth. Beau cared enough about Lillian not to use them for a long time, until year after year he got more obscure in the aft world, more dependent on Lillian’s social connections and money for any kind of exposure at all, while Lillian grew less and less enamored with him. That can make a guy like Beau bitter. Then last year Lillian told him she wanted to move on. Beau got violent. It got so bad Lillian asked for a restraining order against him. Eventually they reconciled, for a while, but Beau had already started taking his revenge. He’d started sending you and Asante copies of the old prints, demanding payments. You both must’ve had coronaries when you opened up that first blackmail letter, especially since you’d just started planning your encore performance—the fine arts complex."
Dan turned toward Mr. Cambridge, imploring him one more time for an alternative answer.
Mr. Cambridge tried to soften his expression, but it didn’t come easy for him. "You’ll have your company back, son. Don’t you see that? You can marry Lillian, bring the families together. We’re doing this for both of you, to protect your future."
“Protect my future," Dan repeated. His voice cracked when he laughed.
“Everything prearranged," I said. "You get to carry on the traditional family scam and if Lillian doesn’t cooperate maybe they’ll let you keep her doped up, locked in a room somewhere so she doesn’t cause you any social embarrassment. How’s that sound, Dan?"
Rivas raised his 9mm Parabellum. He seemed to be picking just the right spot on my face. "Enough. Danny Boy, get the fucking disk."
"No, Daniel," said Zeke Cambridge. "Leave the room now. Let us handle this."
Dan still didn’t move. He was looking at me, working something out in the back of his mind. “What do you mean about Lillian?"
“They had to hide her away," I said. "The Cambridges had to protect her after she’d screwed things up between them and Asante. What was your deal with Karnau, Zeke—a year of payments maybe? Then Beau gives you and Asante each a disk. Beau gets out of town a wealthy man, and with the photos scrambled neither you nor Asante could double-cross the other. Is that it? Only Dan found out, and once Lillian learned about the blackmail from him, she had to do something. She had no one to turn to—not Karnau, not her parents, not the Sheffs. The only thing she could think of was to bring in someone who had just as much of a stake in setting things right as she did—me."
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