LOREN'S FLIGHT WENT to Reno via Houston.
She had bought the ticket with her own money. She was taking a huge chance- the kind of chance that might indeed force her to leave her job and move out to someplace like New Mexico or Arizona- but the facts were there. Steinberg needed to play it more by the book. She understood that, agreed with it on some level.
But in the end she knew that this was the only way to go.
Yates, a powerful fed, was up to something.
Her suspicions first took flight when Yates abruptly turned nasty after leaving Len Friedman's house. He had suddenly pretended to be an irrational ass- not an unusual thing for a big-time federal agent, she knew- but it just didn't ring true. It seemed forced to her. Yates feigned control, but she sensed a panic there. You could almost smell it on him.
Yates clearly did not want her to see or talk to Olivia Hunter.
And when she thought about it, what had brought on that hissy fit in the first place? She remembered something that had happened in Friedman's basement- something that had seemed small and unimportant at the time. Yates had gone out of his way to steer the conversation away from what Rangor and Lemay used to do that Friedman had referred to as "worse" than telling on their clientele. At the time she'd just been annoyed by Yates's interruption. But then you add in the way he threw her off the case and you had...
Well, okay, you still had nothing.
After visiting Mother Katherine, Loren had called Yates's cell phone. She had not gotten an answer. She had tried Olivia Hunter's residence. No answer there either. And then a report came over the radio, about a murder in Irvington, in a tavern not far from where the Hunters lived. There was not much yet, but there was some talk about a huge man running down the street chasing a woman.
A huge man. Cal Dollinger, whom Yates said he was bringing with him to question Olivia Hunter, was a huge man.
Again, on its own it meant very little.
But add it to what she knew.
She'd called Steinberg then and asked, "Do you know where Yates is?"
"I do," she said. "I checked with my airport source." Newark Airport was, after all, in Essex County. The office had several contacts there. "He and that Goliath are on a plane heading to the Reno-Tahoe airport."
"And I care because?"
"I'd like to follow them," she said.
"Yates is up to something."
She told Steinberg what she knew. She could almost see him frowning.
"So let me get this straight," her boss said. "You think that Yates is somehow involved in all this? Adam Yates, a decorated FBI agent. Wait, no, scratch that: a dedicated Special Agent in Charge, the top fed in Nevada. You base this on- A- his mood. B, that a big person might have been seen somewhere near but not even at a murder scene in Irvington. And C, that he's flying back to his home state. That about cover it?"
"You should have heard him playing good cop-bad cop, boss."
"He wanted me off the case and away from Olivia Hunter. I'm telling you: Yates is bad, boss. I know it."
"And you know what I'm going to say, right?"
Loren did. "Gather evidence."
"You got it."
"Do me one favor, boss."
"Check on Yates's story about Rangor and Lemay turning state's witness."
"What about it?"
"See if it's true."
"What, you think he made that up?"
"Just check it."
He hesitated. "I doubt it'll do any good. I'm a county guy. That's RICO. They don't like to talk."
"Ask Joan Thurston then."
"She'll think I'm nuts."
"Doesn't she already?"
"Yeah, well, that's a point," he said. He cleared his throat. "One more thing."
"You thinking of doing something stupid?"
"As your boss, you know I won't authorize anything. But if you're off the clock and I'm none the wiser..."
"Say no more."
She hung up. Loren knew that the answers were in Reno. Charles Talley worked at the Eager Beaver in Reno. Kimmy Dale did too. Now Yates and Dollinger were on their way there. So Loren made sure that she was off the clock. Then she booked a flight and rushed to the airport. Before she boarded, she made one more phone call. Len Friedman was still in his basement office.
"Hey," Friedman said. "Is this about getting me Candi Cane's autopsy?"
"It's yours, if you answer a few more questions. You said something about 'what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas.' "
"When I asked if you meant that Clyde Rangor and Emma Lemay were telling on patrons, you said, 'Worse.' "
There was silence.
"What did you mean, Mr. Friedman?"
"It's just something I heard," he said.
"That Rangor had a scheme going."
"You mean like a blackmail scheme?"
"Yeah, something like that."
He went quiet.
"How like that?" she asked.
"He made tapes."
"Of what you think."
"His clients having sex with women?"
Again there was a brief silence.
"Yes," he said. "But..."
"But"- his voice grew soft-"I'm not sure you'd call them women."
She frowned. "They were men?"
"No, not like that," Friedman said. "Look, I don't even know if it's true. People make stuff up all the time."
"And you think that's the case here?"
"I don't know, that's all I'm saying."
"But you heard rumors?"
"So what are these rumors?" Loren asked. "What did Rangor have on those tapes?"