When Blow saw who was talking with Charles Motley at Twice Told Tales he looked around for Ransey Cooper, the photographer he'd hired for Rose's story on the private detective. The magazine was paying Cooper also to shoot some promotionals at the signing. She'd made a favorable impression on him thus far. Articulate and confident during the interview. Asked intelligent questions. Dazzling portfolio.
He'd been watching her work the room as Rose sat signing books for customers who had reached her small table after advancing in a line that snaked around the front of the store. Ransey was shapely and graceful with an intelligent, pretty face. But what impressed him most was the energy. Scanning the browsing customers, floor displays and rows of bookshelves his eyes were soon familiar with the nimbus of chestnut curls darting and bobbing among the customers as she chatted, made notes and unobtrusively snapped an occasional photo. Looking now, though, Blow was unable to locate her.
When Rose and Blow arrived at the store Ransey was photographing members of the crowd out front as they framed the display window. Behind the glass, copies of The Profligate Cavalier were stacked around a pasteboard cutout of the author's jacket photo. This larger-than-life likeness of herself always startled and embarrassed Rose. She pretended to ignore it until rescued by the more familiar discomfiture in the crowd's awed recognition of her person.
The store's friendly holiday decorations joined with its Fahrenheit warmth to welcome all who entered from the chilly outdoors. Free hot drinks to celebrate the occasion were served at the store's refreshment bar. It was there, about an hour into the signing, that Blow saw Motley talking to Leicester County Sheriff's Sgt. Phillip Teach.
The connection was not instantaneous. Blow's attention had been focused on Motley, more out of curiosity than any reason he could name. It was no surprise to find him there. Rose's “interview” with him was still active, and Motley was still hoping, by implications, insinuations and alcohol, to get her into bed. He evidently had arrived with his secretary, as Blow had seen them together at one point—she standing in line with Rose's book and he hovering nearby and, trying to appear casually curious, looking around the store same as Blow. But Motley's secretary was nowhere to be seen when Blow recognized Teach standing next to the private detective at the refreshment bar.
His first clue was the mild adrenalin spurt triggered by something subliminal, an odd stance, hair, head shape and the way it cocked, nuances individual or in concert that spoke to Blow viscerally with enough assurance that he found himself riveted, staring, for a long moment.
As he stared he realized the man had been at the bar awhile, whether beside Motley or not, but had been merely background, not drawing Blow's attention. It also occurred to him he'd not seen the two speak or show any sign they knew each other. Yet, Blow knew something was amiss. He felt it in his gut. The next adrenalin spurt, the big one, came when Motley turned his head slightly toward the man and spoke. Blow saw Motley's lips move. The man nodded, and in doing so his vague presence, the nondescript form with its faint hints of familiarity, snapped into focus. This was when Blow started looking for Ransey Cooper.
Even then Blow was operating on instinct, or reflex, not having a clear notion as to any possible significance of the two men standing at a refreshment bar. For all he knew Motley might have simply said something polite, or asked for sugar or cream for his coffee, having no recollection of Teach if in fact their paths had crossed in the Bacon case. But...and this came to Blow after another second or two of thought...Motley did testify for Gobble in the fingerprint hearing. Had Teach been there, too? Blow reviewed the brief proceeding quickly in his mind. There'd been only four witnesses. Teach wasn't one. Had he been in the courtroom? Blow didn't think so.
“Maybe he's just lobbying for a job? Motley pays pretty good,” Rose said. They were in the Buick on the way to dinner after what Rose called an “enormously successful” signing. Blow acknowledged this was possible, and he agreed there was nothing improper in that or in any association—even moonlighting—that might exist between the two men.
“Unless he was moonlighting at the Coast Guard station.” Rose knew where Blow was heading with his suspicion. He grimaced and nodded.
“He had access. Unless Motley paid one of the Coast Guardsman to do it, but why risk an unknown? He'd obviously sized Teach up, maybe offered him a job, certainly paid him well—or whoever he got to do the job.”
“It does make sense, darlin'. So did Ransey get any pictures of the two of them together?”
“Nah. She must've been on break. I shot a couple with my cellphone. Haven't even checked to see if they turned out.”
“I don't know yet, Rose. If I could prove Teach tampered with evidence Pendleton would toss the case. But if my client paid to have it done, he'd be charged with another felony. His reputation, if that's what this is all about, goes down the toilet either way. But all I have is suspicion and a photo of two guys drinking coffee in a bookstore. I could show the photos to Callahan. That might be all he needs to get rid of Teach.”
“But it still doesn't prove anything.”
“You mean that he's cozy with Motley?” Rose nodded. “I know. It's smoke, though. And it might be enough for Callahan to start looking around, look at Teach a little closer.”
“Does he want to get rid of him?”
“I don't know. He said something once about Teach being a shirt-tail relative of the sheriff's. In-law or something. That could make it a whole lot harder.”
If nothing else the suspicion Blow now felt tilted him further from giving Bacon's conspiracy theory any credibility. “Affidavit or no affidavit. If he hired Teach to wipe that boat of fingerprints—and I'm leaning more toward that theory than any other--then I wouldn't trust him to mow Dad's lawn.
“At the same time, if all I have is suspicion I can't do a damned thing with it.”
“Not even going to Carl?”
“Nope. At least not until after the trial. Callahan's a friend, and I trust him, but he's also working for the other team right now. Unless I have solid evidence a felony's being committed I can't undermine Bacon's defense. Not even if I mistrust the guy. And I do. I loathe the son of a bitch.”
“You said being committed? Present tense?”
“Yeah. Bribing a police officer. If I have evidence Motley's paying Teach to mess around in this case, the felony is ongoing. If Teach sold out with the fingerprints what else is he doing for Motley? Teach is an officer of the court and the lead witness against my client. This ain't over, Rosie. Not yet. Not by a long shot.”