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Hunt thought first that Cecil Rand would be happy to see some money at the end of this, and second that it was not too surprising, finding the murder weapon near the scene of the crime, although the speed of the police lab's a.n.a.lysis was nearly unprecedented. He also didn't think any of this was overwhelmingly important. It didn't identify a suspect, not unless there were fingerprints or other identifying marks on the tire iron, and there couldn't have been or Juhle would have mentioned them.

Hunt went back through the door behind Tamara's station, switched on his light, and, pulling the chair up behind his own desk, sat down and started going through the notes he'd taken at his various meetings, estimating his personnel needs for the next couple of weeks. Touching his mouse, he awakened the computer screen in front of him, and he pulled up his address book.

And then suddenly he wasn't looking at the screen anymore, but had slumped back in his chair, some barely registered thought nagging at him. For a minute, maybe more, he didn't move except to squeeze the skin around his lower lip.

Finally, he got up and walked outside again to the reception area, over to Tamara's desk. There, on her yellow pad, she'd written the names and telephone numbers of the reward callers, and up near the top was Nancy Neshek, who hadn't been either at work or at her home all day. Hunt had tried for the fourth and last time just at five o'clock, before he'd gone out for his first meeting, and neither had her workplace heard from her nor had she answered her home telephone.

Hunt sat down in Tamara's chair and punched in the Neshek home number. On the fourth ring, the answering machine picked up again and Hunt waited and then, on the off chance that she was monitoring her calls and would pick up when she heard him, he left a brief message identifying himself. He then waited again to give her time to reach the phone, until at last, when it was clear she wasn't going to answer, he hung up.

And sat still again.

She had called and left a message here last night, saying it was somewhat important and that he could reach her either at her home or office the next day. She'd been very specific. He could reach her either at home or her office. And he hadn't been able to do so. Of course, something could have come up. She might have made other last-minute plans, but . . .

It had been bothering him at some subconscious level since late in the afternoon, and now suddenly it struck him as truly significant. Five minutes later, Hunt had used his computer wizardry and discovered her home address on Seacliff Avenue, and was in a cab on his way home.

There he picked up his Cooper. It didn't take him fifteen more minutes to pull up outside Nancy Neshek's house on the cliffs overlooking Phelan Beach. When he got out of his car, he was struck, in spite of the size and stunning architecture of the homes, by how deserted the street felt, and how strongly the

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