Bossman by Vi Keeland

Chapter 30

Chase – Two Days Ago

“There’s a Detective Balsamo here to see you.”

My secretary’s face was wary when she came into my office. I had an eleven o’clock meeting I was already running late for after my director of marketing had interrupted my morning to tell me what he thought of my new relationship.

This day was getting better by the fucking minute.

“Can you call R&D and tell them I’m going to need to reschedule?”

“For later today?”

“No. Leave it open as of now.”

She nodded. “Should I send the detective in?”

“Give me five minutes, and then she can come on back.”

I drew the electronic blinds and opened a text message from Reese canceling our lunch date. Could this day get any shittier?

Perhaps I shouldn’t have challenged the powers that be with that question.

Nora Balsamo was the lead detective on Peyton’s case. She was early thirties, slim, attractive, with blonde hair that was always pulled back in a ponytail. The first time we met, I’d looked right past her—literally over her head—and asked her captain for a more experienced detective. I never even gave her a chance.

Those early days were definitely not my best. Looking back, I’d wanted everyone around me to pay—especially the cops. I blamed them for not doing more to help Eddie. Early intervention could have changed everything. Today, however, even though Peyton would never be an easy subject to speak of, I was in a better place, more accepting of how the past had shaped who I was today. I was pretty sure my therapist was driving around in a Range Rover from her hours spent making that acceptance happen a few years back.

I stood when Detective Balsamo entered and walked around my desk to greet her. “Nice to see you, Detective.”

She smiled. “Is it? I’m pretty sure you’ve been avoiding me the last two weeks.”

I’d forgotten she called bullshit as sport.

I chuckled. “Maybe I was. I’m sure you’re a great person, so don’t take this the wrong way, but I never look forward to your visits.”

She smiled, and I motioned to the seating area near the windows.

“Can I get you something to drink? A bottle of water?”

“I’m good. Thank you.” She sat on the couch. “How’ve you been?”

“Good. Really good, actually.”

I took the chair across from her and caught her looking over my shoulder out the window. It was impossible to miss Peyton’s giant-sized face still painted on the building across the way. Her eyes returned to me without her asking a question, verbally at least. The woman had a stealth ability to make me offer more than I ever wanted to.

“We’re actually in the process of planning a new marketing campaign,” I said.

She nodded and kept looking at me pensively. It was probably my own paranoia, but I always felt like I was being observed around cops.

“So, to what do I owe this in-person visit, Detective?”

She took a deep breath. “I have some news about Ms. Morris’s investigation.”

At first, after Peyton was killed, I’d needed to talk about her case. So much so that I’d frequently shown up at the police station to run through things I’d remembered or to demand an update. After I started drinking heavily, those visits became daily and were more like the tirades of an angry person. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, drank alcohol in my Cheerios for breakfast, and often forgot to add the cereal.

Eventually, Detective Balsamo showed up at my house at five in the morning one day, hoping to catch me sober, she’d said, and told me to stop coming down to the station.

I didn’t listen to her for a very long time.

When I finally did, she promised if she ever had news about Peyton’s case, she’d make sure I was the first to know. This morning was the first time I’d ever heard her say those words.

Detective Balsamo cleared her throat. “Two weeks ago, a woman was assaulted pretty badly. Stab wound to the chest.” Our eyes locked. “Happened at a homeless camp uptown.”

“The same one?”

“No, it was a different one. Different precinct, too. That’s why the detectives who caught the case didn’t make the connection at first. The woman was out for a few days, but when she woke up, we found out she was a waitress. Turned out she used to stop at the makeshift camp after her shift and bring the day’s leftovers from the place she worked. She was a do-gooder.”

“Like Peyton.”

She nodded. “When I heard that during our morning briefing, something clicked for some reason. So I had the medical examiner compare photos of the wound from the new case to the ones in Ms. Morris’s case file.”

“And it was a match?”

“It was. The knife blade had a small nick in it, so it made a pretty distinct mark.”

“So these kids are still at it? It’s been seven years.”

“That was our original assumption. The same gang of kids we’ve been looking for for seven years was still terrorizing homeless camps, and another bystanding victim was caught in the crossfire. But then we got to talk to the victim, and we found out it wasn’t a gang of kids that attacked her.”

This was what she needed to tell me in person, what was so important she had to show up at my office unannounced. She knew it was something I wanted to hear. Needed to hear. The rage I’d felt for so long after losing Peyton was back and coursing through my veins.

My hand shook, and I clenched my fist to steady it. “Who was it?”

She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Chase. But it was…Eddie.”

It had been more than two hours—I’d made the detective go through all of it with me, again and again. I paced back and forth like a caged lion trying to figure out my attack.

Somehow it had been easier to imagine that a group of drug-addicted teenagers from screwed-up homes was responsible for something so violent. The world was a much more fucked-up place when a homeless man people had spent years trying to help was guilty. I didn’t want to believe it was true.

“Where is he?” I demanded.

“Who? Eddie? He’s in custody.”

“I need to see him.”

“That’s not a good idea. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for you to hear. But I’m hoping that eventually, knowing the case is closed and her killer will be locked away for the rest of his life will help you move on.”

But I had begun to move on. This…this felt like I was being robbed of light I’d only just begun to see after years of walking in a dark place.

I scoffed and then began to laugh maniacally. “Move on. I was moving on.”

Detective Balsamo’s jaw dropped. “I…I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

“Why? Why did he want to hurt Peyton?”

She swallowed and looked at her feet. When her eyes raised to meet mine, her voice was small. “He was in love with her. Apparently, when he saw that she’d gotten engaged, it set him off. He’s not stable.”

“Is he even fit to stand trial?”

“We’ve had two psychiatrists evaluate him. Both say he’s capable of knowing right from wrong. He has obvious mental health issues, but he meets the standard of fit for trial.”

“He confessed?”

“Yes. It’s not perfect—we need to piece together twelve hours of interrogation with one- and two-word answers. But it should stick.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“With the victim’s testimony, he’s going down for first-degree assault or attempted murder on the waitress. For Ms. Morris’s case, the DA says there’s enough physical evidence to put him away without the confession. He was found with the knife on his person, and we interviewed the workers at the shelter. A few had seen him using the pocketknife to cut his food and remembered it. Apparently, it was an antique—a rare officer’s edition made of walnut.”

Walnut.

I froze. “Did it have initials on it?”

“Why, yes. It did. How did you know?”

I ignored her question, needing my own answered immediately. My heart was beating a thousand miles an hour. It felt like my ribcage was going to crack and explode from the pressure.

Detective Balsamo stared at me, her brows drawn. She’d get her explanation after I got my answer. I needed an answer.

“What initials were on it?” I asked.

Seeming to sense my urgency, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her notepad. She flipped through the pages for a while, and I stood completely still. Every muscle in my body had locked.

Eventually, she stopped and pointed to her pad. “The initials were S.E.”

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