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“He didn’t say anything to me,” Ava said as disappointment flowed through her. She wasn’t surprised that someone had questioned his role, but she missed having him around to share ideas with.

“I assume he has his own caseload to work on,” answered Nora. “Sorry about that,” she added in a sincere voice.

“You let it slide by for a long time,” said Ava. “More than you should have.”

“I told him the two of you will have a roommate if I lose my job over it.”

Ava grinned at Nora’s matter-of-fact tone. “Find anything?” she asked Zander.

“They appear to be organized by program. There’s the mentoring program, fund-raising events, school programs, and community outreach.” He set aside a small stack. “This is all mentoring from 2005 to 2010. The older years must be in one of the other boxes.”

Ava removed the lid of another box and sifted through the ledgers as Nora and Keith did the same with the remaining boxes.

“Did you talk to Regina Zuch again?” Ava asked.

Nora and Zander exchanged a look as smiles crossed their faces. Ava’s curiosity was piqued. “What happened?”

“Regina didn’t want to come back to the department, so we surprised her with a visit to her home.”


“We met her current boyfriend.” Nora grinned. “They were still in pajamas.” She wrinkled her nose. “The house smelled like sex and cigarettes.”

“Oh, Lord.” Ava’s stomach did a mild spin; she knew that odor. It’d hung around her sister.

“Regina sent him home once she realized we weren’t leaving. I guess having her son locked up gave her a bit of freedom that she doesn’t usually get.”

“Did she even ask about Micah?” Ava quickly scanned a notebook and set it in the “nope” pile.

“She did when I first called,” said Zander. “At first she wanted to know when he was being released, and I thought she was concerned for him, but I think she was trying to figure out when to kick out her guest.”

“That’s horrible.”

“I agree,” said Nora. “Although it has to be hard with your adult son living in your house. He should be on his own.”

“I don’t see Regina encouraging that,” said Ava. “In our first interview, she seemed desperate to keep him close to her. She let him do whatever he pleased to keep him happy. I think she likes having him around.”

“I think she uses him as a substitute for a man in her life,” said Zander in a serious tone. “There’s something really unhealthy there. The way she talked about him gave me the creeps. She tries to keep him dependent on her, and she wants him to need her even though he’s a grown-up. I don’t think she knows how to have a healthy relationship with a man her own age. She treated the guy that was there like a piece of dirt. I hate to say it, but it was like he was there to scratch an itch for her and once he’d done his role she wanted him gone.”

Dread filled Ava’s chest. “You don’t think she’s . . . um . . . being inappropriate with her son, do you?” The thought made her ill.

“I don’t think so,” said Nora. “I’ll wager she brings in an occasional man for that part.”

None of them speculated out loud about whether she’d snared any cops in her web.

“Did you ask her about other women with kids in the program?” Ava asked.

“We did,” Nora said. “We focused on Vance Weldon since she’d had a relationship with him. She claimed she wasn’t aware of any other women he’d been involved with.”

“Vance’s wife said she didn’t know about other women, either,” said Ava. “I think she tried to look the other way when she suspected something was going on.”

Ava had learned the hard way how to find out if her ex was cheating. Asking directly had triggered lies. She’d resorted to following him. It hadn’t felt good, but it’d gotten results, and she’d taken immediate action. What would I do if I ever suspected Mason was cheating?

If I asked, he’d tell me.

It’d be a sign that something had gone seriously off track.

“Regina gave us the name of two women who ‘rubbed her the wrong way’ at events.” Nora made air quotes with her fingers. “She couldn’t explain what she meant by that term, but Regina seems very narcissistic. I suspect these are women who steal her thunder when they’re in a room together.”

“Let’s see if their kids’ names are associated with our murdered cops.” Ava suspected Nora was right. “Did you get anything else from her? Did she have any new thoughts on why Micah confessed?”

“I told her we believed he was protecting someone,” said Zander. “She seemed surprised and claimed she had no idea who that person could be. I believed her. If she’s a liar, she’s a really good one.”

“Here’s some mentoring records from the late 1990s.” Keith held up a small stack of notebooks. “Do you want me to start reading them?”

“Yes.” Ava wrote the four men’s names and those of Micah Zuch and Jesse Parish at the top of an empty whiteboard, and added the children’s names Keith had found in the office computer. “The director said Vance Weldon didn’t participate in this part of the program, but keep an eye out for his name in case he was wrong. Jesse Parish should turn up under Lucien Fujioka’s name at some point, but I want to know who else mentored him and may have dealt with his crazy mom.”