“Are these all the pictures you have from the gala?” Alex asked.
“We have a video too. But it is in one room only.” James said. He stood up and paced around the room. “So let me get this straight. Thomas Bridges was your informant?”
“In a way yes.” Alex said. “Carla Heathway had been up to something. He was helping me shadow her.”
“So he had been following her?” James asked.
“Yes.” Alex said. “Although he lost track of her in Newport.”
“Why would a twenty year old be helping a FBI agent shadow his girlfriend?” Corbin asked.
Alex sighed. “Okay, let me start from the beginning. I was sent here four months ago to investigate Heathway and Prescott. Large sums of money were being removed from clients trust accounts, and being transferred to an offshore account. During my investigation, I encountered Thomas Bridges who was doing his own investigation only he was doing his illegally.”
“Through hacking.” James offered.
“Yes.” Alex said. “He and his girlfriend were a typical Nick and Nora Charles, trying to solve a mystery themselves. Anyway when they inevitably crossed paths with me, I told them to stop. Thomas obliged but Carla did not. So I told him to follow her and report everything she did back to me.”
“So Thomas and Carla were working together. What were they looking for?”James asked.
“He didn’t know. He was just doing things for her. It became apparent that she didn’t tell him everything. I suspect she was protecting someone.”
“Her mom.” James said.
“Perhaps. But he knew enough. I collected all the information he had managed to gather. But when she got killed, I told him to pull out. Obviously I didn’t want any civilian getting hurt on my watch. But he kept digging, pulling files and going through names. Until he found a name he recognized.”
“Who?” James asked.
“I’ll get to that. Anyway after both of you interviewed him, he came to see me. He told me he might have figured out something but he wanted permission to hack into Heathway and Prescott. I said no, told him to go home. I knew he wouldn’t listen, so I followed him to the coffee shop I didn’t want to engage him, but I kept a close watch on him and I made sure he knew I could see him. He wasn’t poisoned there. When he left, I made sure he went straight home. I told him not to do anything stupid and keep hat he found to himself.”
“So what did you find?” James asked.
“During our investigation, we found out it was not just a case of embezzlement. I believe the money that was going in and out of the accounts were coming from a source. The sale of narcotics.”
“Drugs? Someone was selling drugs?” Corbin asked.
“I cant be sure. But there was money coming from somewhere. Three weeks before she died Carla withdrew-”
“Fifty thousand dollars which came from an offshore account.” James said. “We know.”
“Right. But what you don’t know is she stole it.”
“What?” James said.
“She found a way to transfer the money to her own account, and she withdrew that money possibly hoping to lead that person to her. And she did. At the fairway Gala, Carla went to meet someone there. I asked Thomas to intercept her, but he said he had something to do, about his father or something, So I went there myself but he was already there. Said he changed his mind.”
“Do you know who Carla was meeting?” Corbin asked.
“All in good time.” Alex said. “After the gala I decided to put a stop to Carla’s investigation once and for all, but When she went back to Newport, everything got quiet.”
“What do you mean?” James asked.
“Carla stopped digging, money stopped moving around and I thought it was all over. But when she disappeared everything started again. So Thomas went back to his own investigation. Found the original file that Carla had stolen and found a name, and everything made sense.”
“Who was the person Thomas found?” James asked leaning forward.
“Jeremiah Gates.” Alex said grimly.
* * *
“No way.” Corbin said. “Jeremiah Gates is Carla’s killer? Why didn’t you arrest him?”
“I am not a hundred percent sure. There is still an investigation ongoing. Arresting him might jeopardize the investigation.”
“Doesn’t murder trump over embezzlement?” James cried.
“It isn’t just embezzlement.” Alex said. “Gates was selling drugs. I befriended John Heathway who by the way, is probably his partner, there has been an increased presence of narcotics in the university campus, in the high school. And trust me it is something new entirely. I was suspecting John was the one dealing and using his mother’s company to move the money, and It seems I was right. Only part I missed was Jeremiah Gates is his partner.”
“So Carla was investigating her brother and his friend and they killed her, and Thomas.” Corbin said. “Case solved. Let’s go and pick them up.”
“The network is more wide than you realize.” Alex said. “I need to access every team member before I go in. Besides this is mostly speculation and some underground digging. If you want to take down a drug ring you have to collate hard evidence.”
“Not when three people have been killed. At your watch I might add.” James accused.
“So what do you want to do?” Alex asked.
“Get those son’s of bitches.” James spat.
“You don’t want to hear what else I discovered?” Alex asked
“What?” James said.
“The van that was used to steal Carla Heathway’s body. I tracked the employee down, which by the way you didn’t think of doing. I found out who signed for it. I have been following some leads and, this morning I found out who stole it.”
“Jeremiah obviously.” Corbin said.
“No. He hired two junkies to steal the body.” Alex said. “I know them, they are friends of John. We can start with them.”
“Okay. Let us go.” James said standing up.
“One more thing.” Alex said. “Thomas Bridges was killed after he was interviewed by you.”
“So everything he told us was bull eh?” Corbin asked.
“He told you a version of the truth I asked him to tell.” Alex said. “Nevertheless, I told him to keep his mouth shut about Jeremiah Gates.” He turned to James. “I know he called you and tried to tell you. Which I specifically told him not to. So by not listening to me, he got killed. I want to make sure you will follow instruction I give.”
“No offense.” James said. “But this is our investigation. We really don’t have to follow your orders”
“This is a federal investigation.” Alex said. “You will follow instructions or I will get you kicked out from this case are we clear?”
James and Alex squared for a moment. James relaxed. “Fine. But no one else get’s hurt.”
“No one else will.” Alex promised. “Let’s go get them.”
* * *
He ran fast as he could. He had been made. He made it to the door and knocked. John opened the door.
“Hey Jerry what’s up?” John asked.
“I need your help.” Jeremiah panted ” No questions asked. I need cash, pronto.”
John pulled Jeremiah in and shut the door. “Don’t tell me you have still been messing around with that stuff?” He said angrily. “I told you I am out. I promised-”
“Carla yeah I know.” Jeremiah said. “But see I just got word that I am about to be arrested for her murder-”
“Wait what? You killed her? Both of you?” John yelled.
“I don’t have time to explain.” Jeremiah panted. “You just have to trust me.”
“Trust you? After you killed my sister?” John yelled.
“I didn’t-” Jeremiah started.
“Don’t lie to me!” John shouted pushing Jeremiah against the door.
“Okay fine, but remember if I go down, you go down with me! And him too.” Jeremiah said. “You think they would believe you if you say you didn’t help? So help me disappear, or when they come knocking, I’ll sell you out!”
* * *
They were two scrawny looking boys. They had picked them up from the university campus. They sat in different rooms adjacent to each other. They watched them from the windows.
“So which one do you think would break first?” Corbin asked.
“Let them stew for a bit.” Alex said. “Soon they will be jonesing for a hit, and they will tell us everything.”
Sure enough, after a couple of hours they began to fidget. Alex and James went in the first one.
“Edward Sutter.” James read out from a file. “Is that right?”
“Call me Ed.” Edward said acting tough.
“Okay Ed let’s cut to the chase. Tell me who hired you to steal Carla Heathway’s body.”
“Carla who?” Edward said acting clueless.
“We know you stole it.” Alex said. “We have fingerprints, photos, signatures. We just need you to tell you his name?”
“I got nothing to say.” Edward said.
This went on for quite a while. They left and went to his counterpart Greg Dudley. He too acted clueless. They lasted for about thirty minutes. After that they spilled everything.
“Jeremiah Gates.” they wailed. “He called us. Told us he could give us an unlimited supply of HPC. if we did a job for him.”
“What is HPC?” Alex asked.
“It is this new thing he has been selling a while now.” Edward said. “It’s dope.”
“So what happened?” James asked.
“Well, we stole the van,” Edward said shaking. “Jerry was driving. So we went out to the place, and we got in. We were as high as fuck. Jerry said he had taken care of the cameras and everything but when we got there. The man was there.”
“Stevens?” James asked.
“Didn’t know his name. He was about to call security when Greg grabbed a knife and stabbed him.”
“But Greg told us you stabbed him.” James said.
“He is lying. He stabbed him. There was blood everywhere so we just took the body through the back entrance. When we got to the van Jeremiah saw all the blood and freaked out. He ran back inside to do something. He was only there for a minute. Then he ran back out and we drove away.”
“And no one saw you?” James asked.
“It was a dead Zone. And Jeremiah knew his way in and out.” Edward said. “Now please just give me something.” He begged.
“Tell us every other thing you know.” Alex demanded. “Where does Jeremiah get the drugs? Who else is dealing?”
Edward and Greg were incoherent after that so they took them to the cells. “Okay so let us go pick Jeremiah now.” Corbin demanded. “It seems we are at a dead-end.” James said.
“I still need to-”
“Look Agent Munroe or Stone or what you call yourself. People are dead. We might have just solved one but there are still two remaining. Now Jeremiah is the key to all this. Let us hold him.”
“With what evidence?” Alex asked. “Two druggies whose testimonies conflict? A name gotten from an account by illegal means? No way.”
“Just trust me.” James said. “I will get him to talk. I always do.”
Alex was thoughtful. “Fine. Let’s go. But if it goes wrong, I am pulling the plug.”
An hour later, it was already getting dark. They swarmed Jeremiah’s house. He lived alone. They burst in. There were clothes thrown everywhere, wardrobes opened. They searched the house from the top to bottom. He wasn’t there.
“Where the hell is he?” James shouted.
“Just as I feared.” Alex said. “He is gone.”
* * *
The next morning they were still looking for Jeremiah Gates. He had bought a bus ticket to Arizona online, but there was no way track if he had gotten on the bus or not. John Heathway had been brought in for questioning. He refused to say anything. They had gotten a search warrant and turned his house upside down. It was clean. No evidence of drug use or possession, they had nothing to tie him to the case. Moraine Heathway had come in to represent him.
“So detectives are you charging my client?” Moraine asked.
“Look John, buddy.” Alex said. “I know Jeremiah’s your friend. But he killed your sister If you know anything about where he is you have to tell us.”
“My client has nothing to say.” Moraine said.
James whirled on Moraine. “He killed your daughter. Do you know what they were doing? Selling drugs. And you stand there defending him.”
Alex put his hands on James shoulders. James calmed down. He was exhausted. He had been up all night. Alex turned to Moraine Heathway. “I have gathered enough evidence to prove you have been draining several trust accounts. I have enough to get you on a charge of embezzlement and fraud. But I also care about catching who killed your daughter. So work with me and I can get you a deal.”
Moraine Heathway remained stone faced. “Charge or release detectives.”
An hour later, John Heathway was released. James walked up to Alex. “You just let him go? How are we going to find Jeremiah?”
Alex smiled. “Never underestimate what a mother would do for her children. We just slipped her information that of her clients killed her daughter. She was protecting her son first, but she would lead us to Jeremiah.”
“And you are sure Jeremiah is the anonymous client?” James asked.
“Well the account that has been transferring money to the offshore account is Jeremiah’s. I am betting big it is his.” He looked around. “Where is your partner by the way?”
“Doing police work.” Corbin’s voice said. They looked and saw him walking towards them. He stopped when he reached them. “I got the reports on Thomas Bridges autopsy. It seems he was hit with a blunt object that rendered him unconscious before he was poisoned.”
“That means the killer hit him and then injected him with poison.” Alex said. “So he was killed at home.”
“9.07 To be exact.” James said. “That was when he called me.”
“So he died three hours after being injected.” Corbin said. “That is a slow death. “Anything from Carla’s?”
“Nope. Nada.” Corbin said. “Just what we know. Blunt force trauma to the head, spinal injury from the neck. No DNA, or fibers. Jeremiah must have wiped them off.”
James made a noise. “The autopsy notes.” He said. “Those two junkie didn’t take it. They were not there so someone cleaned up. “Who?”
“They said Jeremiah went back in remember?” Corbin said.
“Only for a minute.” James said. “He couldn’t have gotten rid of all of them. There is another person in this.”
“Okay, calm down” Corbin said. “You can’t trust what they say. We can ask Jeremiah when we see him.”
Just then Jakes came running down. “We found him.” He panted.
“What? where?” Corbin said turning around.
“We got an anonymous tip that he was hiding out in Sherwood Motel.” Jakes said. “It seems he was meeting someone there. They sold him out.”
“Good Job.” Alex said. “Let us take it from here.”
* * *
Jasmine was washing her face in the bathroom. Her phone buzzed. She sighed and looked at the screen. It was Hazel. She declined and put it in her bag. Moments later Hazel and Toni burst in the bathroom door
“Where have you been?” Toni demanded. “We have been looking for you.”
“Okay I am here now.” Jasmine said turning off the water and drying her hands. “What is it?”
“Jeremiah was just arrested.” Hazel said.
“Wait, what?” Jasmine said looking shocked. “For what?”
“Carla’s murder.” Toni said. “They just picked him up.”
“Oh my God.” Jasmine said. “That’s why he was in Newport. He was there to kill her.” She looked at Hazel who looked like she was about to cry. “Are you okay.”
“No I am not actually.” Hazel said. “Is it okay If we all just go skip the rest of school and go to my place?”
“Sure.” Jasmine said. “Let me get my bag.”
“It’s okay Hazel.” Toni said, her arm wrapped around Hazel’s shoulders. “At least we know it is over now.”
* * *
It was a bright and sunny day. Well it almost always was in California. Zas drove through the town with a feeling of content. Everything had worked out. There was a piece of guilt that was buried deep but, Zas shook it off. Jeremiah had been arrested. He might tell them what he knows but there was nothing tying Zas to Carla Heathway’s murder. Zas grinned. That name was cool. Zas.