“Damn you, Blow!”
Mary Lloyd's angry voice seemed to shake the storm door's glass while her breath clouded its surface, obscuring for an instant the fury blazing in her eyes.
The unexpected assault caused Blow to flinch before he released the lock and pushed the heavy door ajar.
“What's the matter, Mary?”
“Let me in, dammit, it's cold out here.”
He felt her eyes scorching his back as he led her to the kitchen. He thanked himself for having started a new pot of coffee brewing minutes before he heard her at the door. He hoped the aroma would have the same mollifying effect with her as it always did with him. In fact Blow detected an easing of her tone if not the words when she next spoke.
“I never would have expected you to ignore my calls. I thought we were friends.”
“When did you call, Mary?”
“Since I saw this,” she said with restraint in her, although she jerked some sheets of paper out of her purse and slapped them down on the kitchen table. Blow could see that the top sheet was a news website printout, the boldface headline, Gladstone: missing evidence in Gunther murder.
Blow tried to read the first paragraph, but an eye started watering for no apparent reason. He couldn't make out the words.
“Mary, sit down. Coffee's almost ready. Look, I don't know what this is. Haven't been online today. Is this some Daily Herald garbage? Don't know anything about missing evidence. What evidence? How am I supposed to be involved? And what calls are you talking about? I haven't gotten any calls since...” He stopped himself, pulled the cellphone from its belt holster, flipped it open.
“Oh, shit. Sorry, Mary. Damn thing's off. Must've accidentally pushed the power button.” He thumbed the red-lettered button and watched as his phone service's neon-blue logo swirled onto the screen to a calliope accompaniment. “I never turn this thing off...oh, shit. Four calls in voice mail and six texts. I should've known when I didn't get anything all day.” He showed Mary the screen, obscured by the waiting-messages envelope. “So what does it say?” He nodded at the newspaper on the table between them. The coffeemaker just then clicked its “brew-through” signal, and Blow poured the cups as Mary explained:
“Apparently Bart Gladstone's down here now--”
“You know, former Sen. Bartholomew Gladstone? Right-wing nut from Maryland? Guy who wrote I was a Senator for the FBI? President Rose called him Bart Bullshit?”
Blow started nodding, then switched to lateral motions as his face registered confusion and dismay. “Afraid when you said his name that's who you meant. What in hell's that jackass doing in Leicester?”
“Something about an historic gun, a musket. Says it's here, some kid has it in his attic and that it might have been used to kill Newt Gunther. And he says the police didn't know about it and that you are representing the people who know about it.
“And Watterman says you wouldn't return his phone calls.”
“No doubt. I haven't returned anybody's phone calls. I was with Callahan a couple hours ago. Surprised he didn't say anything.”
“He may not know yet, either. This looks like a one-source story. Typical Watterman. Blow, I'm sorry I blew up at you. It's just--”
“Don't worry about it. This is all pretty crazy. You're welcome to listen in on these calls. I'll put it on speaker.”
“Oh, you don't have to do that. Might be a client, and I don't want to hear myself. I was kinda mad.”
“You're kidding!” Grins. “Good point, though, about the clients. I'll just play Watterman's call if he's one of them.” In fact, the Daily Herald's Mel Watterman made three of the voice calls. The first two requested callbacks. The third was longer.
Mr. Stone, it seems like you're incommunicado today. Wonder why that is. Oh, wait, I'll bet I know. Could it be because you're sitting on the hottest story in our neck of the woods since John Smith seduced a twelve-year-old Algonquian girl and escaped her father's wrath with his brains intact?
Could it be you are preventing the authorities from solving one of the most bizarre murders ever to occur in the Commonwealth of Virginia if not in the entire United States? Could it be you are committing a crime yourself, Mr. Stone, by not telling the authorities everything you know about this incredibly gruesome murder of a high school principal, in particular, sir, sharing with the authorities the whereabouts of a certain antique firearm-- [a barely muffled belch interrupts briefly] --excuse me—a firearm that is in the possession of your client?
Mr. Stone, you have continued to spurn my efforts to reach you as a professional courtesy, offering you an opportunity to comment on these very serious allegations before we publish them in the Daily Herald. It is now two-oh-five. If I have not heard from you by two-thirty—that's twenty-five minutes from now--the Daily Herald will publish my story on its website with the disclaimer that you, sir, have refused to return our efforts to reach you for comment.
Apparently Mel Watterman then punched the wrong button on his cellphone trying to disconnect, as a series of electronic beeps and squawks before the connection was severed by a harsh CLUNK that startled both Blow and Mary. Mary laughed. “He dropped the phone.”
Blow's face was hard. “If they publish that shit I'll own the Daily Herald before I'm through with that asshole.”
“Oh, he was bluffing. Your name is mentioned only once, as Andy Salzwedel's attorney. But, Blow, what is this all about? You never said anything to me about any blog or any musket from the Revolutionary War. How long have you known about this?”
“You know I can't break a client's trust, Mary. I couldn't tell you even if I knew before yesterday, but that's the first I heard about it. And Gladstone apparently knew a helluva lot more about it than I did. Have you called Andy?”
“He referred me to you.”
“Poor Andy. Good thing they're staying with relatives. The media armada must be rumbling toward their house as we speak.
“Probly coming here, too, don't you think?”
“You're right. I could stay in a motel for a few days, but I don't want those jackals running me out of my home. I'm more concerned about Carl. He's bound to be even more pissed than you. He's probly on here, too.” Blow flipped his phone back open and checked his messages. Opened one in the voice mail archive: Guess who's in my office right now? That's right, former United States Senator Bartholomew Gladstone. He says we should check the Daily Herald's web page. I were you, I'd check your text messages first.
Blow found the one from Callahan. He read it to Mary: “Gladstone is the new Himmler.”