TRY AS HE MIGHT, Matt couldn't get out of bed.
"Go!" he told Loren.
She radioed the Reno Police Department and ran to her car. Loren was within two miles of the Eager Beaver when her cell phone sounded.
She picked it up and barked, "Muse."
"So are you still in Reno?"
It was Adam Yates. His voice was slurred.
"Are they all applauding your genius?"
"I'd say just the opposite."
Yates chuckled. "I was, alas, beloved."
He had definitely been drinking. "Tell me where you are, Adam."
"I meant what I said. You know that, right?"
"Sure, Adam. I know."
"I mean, about them threatening my family. I never said it was physical. But my wife. My kids. My job. That tape was like a big gun. A big gun they were pointing at us all, you know what I mean?"
"I do," Loren said.
"I was working undercover, pretending to be a rich real estate dealer. So Clyde Rangor figured I was the perfect mark. I never knew the girl was underage. You need to believe that."
"Where are you, Adam?"
He ignored her question. "Someone called. Demanded a payoff in exchange for the tape. So Cal and me, we went to see Rangor. We leaned on him hard. Ah, who am I kidding? Cal did the leaning. He was a good man but he had a violent streak. He once beat a suspect to death. I saved his ass then. He saved my ass, I saved his. That's what makes a friend. He's dead now, isn't he?"
"Damn." He started to cry. "Cal hurt Emma Lemay. Punched her hard in the kidney. That was his warning. We walk in and I think we're just going to talk and he starts off by spinning Lemay and pounding her back like a heavy bag. Rangor, it doesn't bother him. He beat that woman silly anyway. Better her than him, you know?"
Loren was nearly in the parking lot now.
"So Rangor pisses in his pants. Literally, I mean. He's so scared he runs to his cabinet to get the tape. Only it's gone. The girl, he says, the one in the video. Cassandra, her name is. He says she must have stolen it. He says he'll get it. Cal and me, we figure we got the fear of God in him now. He'll do what we say. Next thing we know, Rangor and Lemay and that Cassandra girl, they all disappear. Years pass. I still think about it. I think about it every day. And then we get that call from the NCIC. Lemay's body's been found. And it all comes back. Like I always knew it would."
"Adam, it's not too late."
"Yeah, it is."
She pulled into the lot. "You still have friends."
"I know. I called them. That's why I'm calling you."
"Grimes is going to bury the tape."
"What are you talking about?"
"If it gets out, it destroys my family. It'll destroy those other guys on the tape too. They were just being johns, you know."
"You can't just bury the tape."
"Nobody needs it anymore. Grimes and his guys will arrange it for me. They just need you to cooperate."
And then she realized what he was about to do. Panic seized her.
"Wait, Adam, listen to me."
"Cal and I will die in the line of fire."
"Adam, don't. You have to listen."
"Grimes will set it up that way."
"Think about your kids-"
"I am. Our families will get full benefits."
"My father, Adam." Loren had tears on her cheeks now. "He killed himself. Please, you don't know what this will do-"
But he wasn't listening. "You just have to keep it to yourself, okay? You're a good investigator. One of the best. Please, for my kids."
"Dammit, Adam, listen to me!"
And then he hung up the phone.
Loren Muse put the car in park. She stepped outside, crying, shrieking at the skies, and in the distance, she was sure that she could hear the rumble of a gun blast.