She needed to call in the Squad. Technically this was a case for them, or at least, a big part of it was—if she was right, anyway. The only crime over which she had real authority was a faked haunting, technically known as Conspiracy to Commit Spectral Fraud, and whatever other crimes were committed during the commission of same: digging underground, destruction of property, that sort of thing.
And she should call in the Squad, anyway, because there was nothing for her in this case. No bonus, at least she seriously doubted there was one—it was possible that the Randalls were just a lot more sophisticated at faking, sure, and the rest of it had nothing to do with their haunting, but it wasn’t likely. And they hadn’t left that recorder. She was convinced of that.
Not that her convictions necessarily meant shit. But she had them anyway.
It was just past eight, which meant, if the file was correct—which of course it was—both Randalls would be home, and would have been home long enough for Pete Malina to have made the move she suspected he’d make. Might as well get confirmation of that before she went any further, and then she could get everything started.
Mike Randall answered the phone on the third ring. “Randall residence.”
“Hi, Mr. Randall. It’s Cesaria Putnam, from the Church. Remember me?”
“Yeah, I do. I was just gonna call you, too. You might as well take us off your list or close or file or whatever it is you do. We’ve sold the house.”
Fucking bingo. “Oh. Okay, I have to let you know that selling the property without disclosing its status as a potentially haunted site is—”
“It’s all disclosed.” His relief was clear even over the phone; he almost sounded like a different man. “It’s one of our neighbors buying the place. He’s in real estate and he knows all about it, says he’ll sign whatever papers you need him to sign. We just got off the phone with him not ten minutes ago.”
She paused to make it seem like she was surprised. “Well, that’s—you do know that whatever settlement money you’re entitled to would now go to him, as the owner of the property?”
“We’re not worried about that,” Mike Randall said. Yeah, she bet they weren’t. How much was Pete giving them? Twice what the Church would have paid? Three times? How much was his life worth to him?
“Okay, then. What will probably be best is if I come over there with all of the necessary documents—you’ll need to sign a release, of course, and there’ll be some papers for your buyer to sign, as well.” Like the one that ordered him to allow the investigation to continue—she’d somehow forgotten to mention that in her last conversation, hadn’t she? Oops—or rather, that would be a paper he’d need to sign if he wasn’t going to be signing a confession instead. “If you want to give me the name and phone number of your buyer, I’d be happy to call and explain it to him, too.”
“He’s just right across the street,” Mike said. “Pete Malina. It’s—well, I always thought he was a scumbag, but he’s really helping us out here. It’s real generous of him.”
“Yeah.” She managed to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. “It sure is.”
* * *
It put a small dent in her misery shell when she saw the Chevelle in the private parking lot. Terrible was home. He was home, and she could spend a little time with him while she picked up the magic supplies she’d need for later. At least that was some good news.
It got even better when she opened the heavy steel front door of their apartment and found him in the middle of getting dressed, with his jeans on and his shirt off. Oh, damn, that was nice. The way his muscles shifted under his skin as he moved, the scars and tattoos…and that body was hers, she could touch it anytime she wanted, kiss it, press herself against it. All of it. The thought made a little more of the sick horror that had been dogging her for the last couple of hours, the sick horror not even four Cepts had managed to lift, fade; not a lot, but still a fade.
He smiled as she closed the door behind her. “Hey, Chessie. You right?”
She nodded and crossed the gray cement floor to wrap her arms around him, craving his warmth. “Do you have a few minutes, or do you have to leave?”
“Ain’t got many.” He kissed the top of her head. “Chloe needs pickin up, dig, heading us over she work.”
“Oh, right. Chloe.” Ugh. She’d forgotten about Chloe. And now Chloe was going to spend time with Terrible while Chess sat around for an hour and then went to finish off her case.
“Dame who ain’t you, aye?”
“Hopin so,” he said, before his hands moved from her hips down to her bottom and gave it a light squeeze. “What’s troubling?”
“I just…I solved my case. I think I did, I’m pretty sure I did.”
He inspected her face, his own expression solemn. “Ain’t lookin like be good news, aye?”
“No. No bonus, for one thing.”
“Don’t know why you worryin on that. Ain’t needing to pay for shit here, dig, an I got—”
“I know.” Except she wasn’t about to ask him for money for her pills, for the pipes or packs of keshes all rolled up or little bags of crushed Nips. She never wanted to ask for money for those; her addiction was her problem—well, no, it was the solution to a lot of problems, but it came with its own complications. It was her responsibility, was what it was.
And not only did she not think he particularly wanted to pay for it, but…something inside her squirmed at the idea of giving him that much control over it, of feeling somehow like she needed his permission to buy more. Yeah, Lex gave her a lot for free, but not everything, and if she hadn’t seen him she’d just head for the Market and score there, no problem. She wasn’t dependent on Lex.
She couldn’t even ask for credit from Bump or any of his men now, because they all knew about her and Terrible, and there was no fucking way any of them would keep that information from him. They’d be on the phone with him before she even made it to the street.
He was still looking at her, waiting to see if she’d go on. So she did, resting her head against his chest. “It’s not—I appreciate it, really. I love you. I just, I’m not in a great mood, I guess. My case sucks, I had to call the Squad in and—”
“Aye?” His palm warmed her cheek. “Thought you say you ain’t getting a bonus, means the ghost real. Why them Churchcops?”
“Because,” she said, hating the way the words sounded, “the ghost is a murder victim, and the murderer will be there in the house.”