Bringing Maddie Home - Page 18

“You know how after that annexation we’re underfunded and shorthanded....”

Wasted breath. They weren’t allocating their resources adequately. They needed to teach their men to do the job and do it right. What Bystrom was going to tell the press, the council and the mayor was that the kid’s sergeant hadn’t been authorized to send him out on patrol alone. There had been a failure of communication, which he was going to right. Bystrom wanted that sergeant, and maybe the watch commander, slapped hard for embarrassing this department.

Colin suggested that this might be a great opportunity to go to the council for increased funding to plug some of the gaps that had left them so vulnerable. Use this as a lesson in what could go wrong.

Bystrom stared coldly at him and said, “I’m supposed to tell them we can’t do the goddamn job, but they should throw more money at us?”

The two police captains left the chief’s office and walked together in complete silence downstairs and straight out the station’s front door. They still hadn’t spoken a word when they reached the playground and picnic area half a block away, blanketed with eighteen inches of snow on the ground from this pre-Christmas winter blast. Neither of them was wearing a parka. Neither cared.

They paused and stood side by side, gazing toward the river running between puffy white banks. Their breath emerged in clouds.

“That asshole,” Brian said at last.

Colin made a sound that on a better day would have been a laugh. “No news there.”

“We could have lost an officer yesterday, and to friendly fire. Bystrom doesn’t give a goddamn about Palmer.” He let loose with another expletive. “But if Palmer had ended up dead, our fair leader would have looked damn fine telling the world how Angel Butte police officers take care of their own, and how he’d be there for the young wife and two preschool children. After which, hell, he’d have probably hit the slopes. Didn’t I hear the summit lift on Bachelor is open?”


After another silence, he asked reflectively, “Do you think he has the new mayor in his pocket yet?”

To the consternation of the old guard, Linarelli had lost the election earlier this month to a Democrat who’d served only one term on the city council. Nobody yet knew what to make of Noah Chandler, whom everyone remembered had worn his hair in a ponytail when he moved to Angel Butte ten years ago and opened the town’s first brew pub. Still only thirty-five, he now owned three, the one here in Angel Butte, one in Sisters and a third in Bend. He was an entrepreneur who was going places. The ponytail was long gone; nobody could argue he didn’t have finely honed political instincts. Colin had voted for him and celebrated when he won. He hadn’t yet gone out on a limb and taken the problem that was his boss to the new mayor.

“I doubt it,” he said. “Did you see the press conference they did together? They didn’t look real friendly.”

“No, they didn’t,” Brian agreed thoughtfully.

A phone rang, and they both glanced down at their belts. “Mine,” Colin said, lifting it to see the number. He didn’t recognize it, but the area code was 206. Seattle. He heard the way his voice roughened when he said, “I’ve got to take this,” and turned away.

“Later,” Brian said with a nod, and started back toward the station.

Colin answered the phone. “McAllister.”

A woman said hesitantly, “This is Nell Smith. You gave me your card. I’m, uh...”

Triumph roared through him. “Maddie Dubeau.” He’d expected to wait a lot longer than four days for her to decide, however tentatively, to trust him.

There was a pause. “That’s what you called me.”

He waited.

“You said we could talk.” There was restraint in her voice. Maybe more. Fear, at a guess.

“I meant it. I’ve waited a long time to talk to you,” he told her.

“I don’t understand,” she said, so softly she was nearly whispering.

A group came out of the station and turned his way. They were all under him, a mix of people from Records and his own support staff. He nodded and started toward the parking lot.

“Listen,” he said, “are you somewhere I can call you back in ten minutes? I don’t want to be overheard.”

“Oh! No! I mean, yes, that’s fine. I’m home.”

“Okay. Ten minutes,” he promised, and hit End. He called his administrative assistant and said, “Something has come up. You can reach me at home.”

He made it there in eight minutes and let himself in. He took just long enough to crank up the thermostat and ditch the tie, then pulled her number up on his cell phone and looked at it with wonder that made him feel almost boyish. Maddie Dubeau. Who would believe this?

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