“Yeah. You know, I was wondering, did you know my fiancé, Tom? He worked here about ten years ago, came back here recently to help out with a case.”
The smile flitted from Bobby’s face, replaced by a more serious look. “Oh, yeah, I knew Tom. Everybody who was here around that time did. He’s a hard man to forget, and it’s a damn shame we lost him to that fire. I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah, that’s what everyone says,” Baxter agreed. “I wish I’d known him.”
“Very funny, Baxter.” Bobby scowled. “You shouldn’t be making jokes like that under these circumstances.”
“What are you talking about?” Baxter asked, his eyebrows pulling together, but Bobby only shook his head. “Whatever, I don’t have time for this. I need to fix my contact.” He brushed past us.
“Don’t mind Baxter,” Bobby told me. “He’s got his moments, but he’s a great detective.”
“I hope you’re right,” I said as Bobby continued onto his desk.
I looked over my shoulder to watch Baxter as he disappeared down the hall. If Baxter wasn’t lying, that meant there was something wrong with his memory, and an addled mind did not a good detective make.
It took me most of the day to finish filling out the paperwork and go through the mandatory orientation course that HR required. I was hoping I could get my hands on Tom’s file before it was time to go home, but as luck would have it, Baxter caught a case, and the captain ordered me to go with him.
God, but part of me wished I’d waited until the Chief had come back in town before coming to Salem. If she was here, she could help me cut through Captain Randall’s wall of bullshit and get to the bottom of things. Now I’d have to deal until she was back.
I reviewed the notes I’d taken as Baxter drove us to the suspect’s office in his white Chevy Impala. We were going after an accountant named Remy Vox who was suspected of running a drug-trafficking operation under the table. “So…what’s the plan?”
“We’re going to ask the man some questions, for starters.” Baxter kept his gaze fixated on the road as he headed toward downtown Salem. This was the touristy section of town, lined with small brick buildings and Georgian and Italianate style homes that were interspersed with museums and witch shops. “Hopefully we’ll either get something out of him or see something in plain sight that’s enough to squeeze a warrant out of the judge.”
“Right.” I sighed a little, trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice and expression. I didn’t need Baxter to explain to me the purpose of an interview. “Do you think he’s even going to be at the office at this hour?” We’d spent quite a bit of time studying the case files, and the sun was starting to set now.
“If he’s not, we’ll catch him first thing tomorrow,” Baxter said. “But in the meantime, we might as well try.”
I slanted a look at him, trying to figure out my new partner. Everything I’d seen so far—from the methodical way he’d studied the case file to the laser-focus in his eyes when he drove—indicated a man fully possessed of his wits. So how was it that he couldn’t remember my fiancé?
He has to be lying, I thought, my stomach tightening. But why? Why would Baxter lie about something like this, when Bobby had made it clear that Baxter was around at the same time Tom was? I bet that if I asked the other detectives, they would all say the same thing, so what did Baxter have to gain by pretending he didn’t know my fiancé? Whatever the reason, I bet that if I could uncover it, I would be one step closer to discovering what had really happened to Tom.
Baxter parked us illegally outside a Dunkin’ Donuts off Washington and Essex, and I blinked as he reached for the door handle. “Where are you going?”
He turned back and looked at me as though I were an idiot. “We’re going on foot from here. In case you haven’t noticed, the streets here are small and crowded.”
“Oh.” I let out a breath, then followed Baxter out of the car. I’d thought we were making a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, and while that was stereotypical of a cop, it was also pretty unprofessional considering we were on our way to an interview.
I followed Baxter up Washington and around the corner to Essex Street, passing a burbling fountain along the way. Men and women stood in the middle of the cobblestoned street or at tables, flagging down passersby and getting them to sign up for their ghost tours.
My nose twitched at the scent of burning incense drifting from the open door of a witch shop, and I turned, gazing curiously at the bundles of herbs hanging inside the storefront windows. How many of these people were charlatans, and how many had real power?
If I could find a real witch here, and befriend them, perhaps I could get them to lead me to the real supernatural hotspot in this town. Because even though this was where all the paranormal-looking stuff was in Salem, at the end of the day, it was still just a tourist trap. I didn’t need a tarot reading, or a guide to tell me how to photograph ghosts. I needed real answers.
“Here we are.” Baxter stopped in front of a glass door next to the Salem Five Bank. From a quick glance at the signage, I figured out that this was an office rental space. “Let’s see what Mr. Vox has to say for himself.”
He pushed through the glass door, and I followed. A blonde receptionist in her late thirties glanced up from behind her desk, and offered a friendly smile.
“Good evening,” she said. “How can I help you?”
Baxter unhooked his badge and placed it on the desk. “I’m Detective Guy Baxter, and this is Detective Chandler.” He tilted his head in my direction in the briefest of acknowledgements. “We’re looking for Remy Vox.”
“Oh.” The receptionist blinked, then glanced down at her log. “I’m afraid Mr. Vox isn’t here right now. He left just a few minutes ago.”
“I see.” Baxter’s expression didn’t change, but his eyes darkened. “Do you know when he’ll be back in, ma’am?”
“At this hour, he’s gone for the day. I expect he’ll be back in at his usual time tomorrow. Nine a.m. Would you like to leave a message for him?”
“Sure.” Baxter dug out a card from his pocket and passed it to the receptionist. “Tell him I need to ask him a few questions about an important matter. Appreciate your time.”