left be enough tolure her away from

left his family in the lurch and took allthe money out of their home to finance all this. If I stay on, I’ll betaking his money,but it’ll give me a chance to track down theseconsionable con artists and stop them from absconding with hisfamily’s life savings.

“See you around 7:00,then,Al”I say,gathering up my bag.Ten Thousand SuspectsRayandaArts168″Righto.”As I pass the basement door I hear a click like the door’slocking.I glance back at him,but he’s busy packing away his notebook.I stop abruptly at the office doorway to let my eyes adjustfrom the overload of aggressive art books.Another fileed bookcase runs down he full length ofthe adjacent wall,while a smaller one is built into the wall shared bythe foyer. I pull out a couple of books and stare lustfully at theglossy color plates.

Someday I’ll have a library like this.If I everstay in one place long enough to collect anything. I plunk the computer bag down on a pale laminate deskfacing away from the window,and sit down on an upholstered chairso new the factory chemicals are almost disguised by the smell ofpacking materials.Why the hell did I turn down that cp of coffee? I needsomething to keep me awak-KE! Someone’s shadow is joining mineon the desk. I spin around and see good ol’ Al laughing at mysurprise and giving me a thumbs-up.Weird,but I never heard himgo ut the front door.

As I watch him leave,his image morphs intoNevar’s.Nevar lies about big things and tells the truth about littlethings that don’t add up to B-all,whereas Al tells the ruth about thebig things and lies about the little things that would be meaninglessdetails if they didn’t add up to something.Nevar and Chanlee….

I shake my head.What did he use to entice her to the mountains?His rottenpersonality and burnt-out surfer burn looks wouldn’t be enough tolure her away from Dan.Or would it?After spending the nighthyper-extending her libido with Dan,all it took was a quickshowerto wash him away,and voila she was dressing hot-to-trrot in my clothes for a tryst with Nevar.So while I walk on eggshells inMother Goose’s house of horrors, that maggot-infesteddingleberry’s stomping on my life,trying to bury my relationship withChanlee.And my family.

And Fitz.I open the cupboard bside the coffee maker in the kitchenand grab the only plain mug in sight.Turning it around to tske holdof the handle, I see that it was a horseshoe is in fact a U. Al’s mug.

At least thesneaky jokester washed and put it away instead of leaving me toclean up his mess.I fill the cup,lift it up in the direction of thephotos on the table and toast hime,”Same to you,Al.”Ten Thousand SuspectsRayandaArts169The caffeine-drenched liquid soothes my throat and kicks myfeelings about the decor past revulsion to anunquenchablecuriosity. The renovation in ‘my’ office can’t have been done for littleol’ me.The makeover is too dramatic and costly to be a uslessquick fix.Yet,this whole place has a transient feel to it,like if i looked under his bed I’d find his luggage packed. Where is his bedroom,anyway? I find it on the other side of the kitchen.The venetian blind isdown in this room too,so I flick the light switch,and wishI hadn’t like frozen soldiers decorated in their funeral finery, gildedChinese scroll pots line all four of the smoky aluminium-foiled walls.

Besides being repositories of stale air,the pots brim over withsinuous,denuded branches fanning out against the walls and forming a canopy over the metallic purple bed in the center of theroom. I keep my head bowed to avoid getting tangled up in theforest of death,and I peer under the bed.No suitcases.

No suitcases anywhere.No more bedrooms either.How could that be? Al has two kids.The other bedroomsmust be in the basement.Surprisingly,the door to the basement isunlocked.Definitely no bedrooms down here.

It’s cold,dank,undeveloped and empty except for a pile of pine lumber and cansof white primer and beige paint stacked neatly on the cement flooralong with drop sheets,roller trays and other paintingparaphernalia.I thought so,I say aloud,nodding my head.He’s renting thisplace because the scammers have him convinced thatMabie-Toogod will help him vanquish all the naysayers. There’s nopoint in staying here.

I can’t do anything until I see the real McCoys.I’ll have a boo at the disk he gave me then come back around 6.30. First though,I needto get up to speed with Kenny vis-a-vis themedia. What the hell? There aren’t any news aboutKenny on one of the local channels.

No TV,either,Al,you lead an interesting life.I detour on my way back to the office to relieve myself of thedouble-filtered coffee in the murderous red bathroom and take afew minutes to see what’s inside some of the small but obtrusivedrawers lining the wall.With overfed angels giving me the evil eye, Isnoop inside the EYEBALLS,SCABS,EARS and TONGUEdrawers and find they’re filled with a boring assortment of groominggaides such as eyedrops,cotton balls and swabs.Ten Thousand Suspects RayandaArts170A phone rings.I dash into the office and reach for Nevar’sphone in my jacket.The ringing stops.

Damned nuisance.Then adouble ringing starts up from the computer bag on the desk. I grab my cell from the bag.

It’s Fitz.”How’s it going?”he asks.”Not much happening,but things are still in a snafu.””That why you haven’t called?”Or is this phone erasing your messages too?”How would I know?”I snap.”I didn’t know I had it. I thoughtit was still conked out aat my apartment.

You could have told me.””I thought you’d look in the case.””A lot ofgood your wrong thinking does me.”I expect him tosnap back at me,but he remains silent, and I distill a moment ofpeace from the silence. “Uh,let me check out this ohone,then I’ll get right back to you.

“Looking through the bag,all I find of interest are mysunglasses.This room’s not too bad,but being in this house feelslike I’m in an exploding ranbow. I slip on the shades.

Ah, that’sbetter.Then retrieving the most recent of six messages on thephone,I listen to Fitz informing me that both my car and Chanlee’sare clean.”But Timber’s nose says the same person–not youor Chanlee–was in both vehicles, “Fitz’s voice says.”On thepassenger’s side in hers,and the driver’s side in yours.

This newfriend of yours is dirtying his lily whites with hell dust.When I findNevar,I’m going to strio a piece off him and feed it to Timber.”Not if I get to him first.The next message is from Chanlee calling from her homephone Sunday at 5:35.I press Playback,but all I hear is her saying.

“Baaa”,which she interrupts with a sneeze then hangs up.The nextone is from her too,but six minutes earlier and from my cell.”Watch yourself,Rane.

The hat fits into the painting in the locker!Get backto me ASAP,will ya?”The third message is from her at 5:02:”Rane!Geez,hurryup and answer the freakin’phone!Now!Now!Kuan-yin!”The fourth message is from her. This one at 4:30:”Nicefriends you’ve got there,kiddo.They’ve been chasing me from yinto yang and back again because they’re after your butt.

Finallyshaken them,but for how