The next moment his phone vibrated.
He looked at the text.
Bogie on our six, the text from Carson said.
Someone had just pulled into the driveway of Mason’s office.
Now Puller could understand why the security system had not been engaged.
This also told him that it probably wasn’t Mason coming back to work. He would have armed and then disarmed the system. This was someone whom Mason did not want to give his passcode to.
And maybe the person wasn’t supposed to be here at all.
He thumbed a text back to Carson.
Blue subcompact. Young slender woman with blonde hair.
As Puller read the text he knew they didn’t have to look for Jane Ryon any longer.
She had come to them.
“Taking something or bringing something?”
Jane Ryon screamed and jumped backward as the light came on.
Puller stood there staring directly at her.
When Ryon turned to run, she pitched headlong into Carson, who stepped into the other doorway.
Ryon bounced off Carson, but before she could move again, Puller had her wrist clamped with his hand. She didn’t even try to tug herself free, understanding that that was impossible.
“What are you doing here?” asked Puller.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she said defiantly. “I have permission to be here.” She held up a key. “Mr. Mason gave me this.”
“And why would Mason give you a key to his office?” asked Carson.
Ryon looked at her. “Why is that any of your business?”
“I saw you leaving Cookie’s house last night, Jane,” said Puller. “And then I found Cookie lying in the bottom of his bathtub.”
Puller watched her intently for any reaction to this.
He shook his head sadly. “You’re not a very good poker player, Jane. You knew he was dead,” said Puller. “And the police are looking for you. Where have you been hiding out?”
“I haven’t been hiding. Why would I hide? Why would I hurt Cookie? I liked him.”
With his free hand Puller slipped the stapled pieces of paper from his pocket.
“Inventory list of my aunt’s personal possessions. Mason gave it to me. The only problem is it doesn’t list all of my aunt’s jewelry. There are two rings, three sets of earrings, and a necklace missing. All looked pretty valuable. And a dozen old gold coins are also missing from a coin book she had.”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” said Ryon.
“Actually, you know everything about it. Those pieces were in your bag when I ran into you at my aunt’s house. I had told Mason that I was going to my aunt’s house in the morning, but then I changed my mind and went that night. He had sent you to the house to get the jewelry and coins before I would have a chance to go through her things. You had already inventoried the items and then Mason had decided which ones he wanted you to rip off and changed the real inventory list to reflect those subtractions. But you had to get them out before I saw them. Or so he thought. The fact is I had already seen my aunt’s jewelry and coins before you got to the house, only he didn’t know that. When I went back to check later those items were gone. You took them. You did the same thing to Cookie. You took some of his watches. I found the inventory list for Cookie’s property in the file here. It didn’t list the watches that were missing. And I know they were missing because Cookie showed me his collection.
“You and Mason have a nice scam going. You get inside the houses of elderly people that Mason represents and find out what their valuables are. Then when they die, you take them and Mason alters the inventory list accordingly, fences the items, and the poor heirs aren’t any the wiser. Then Mason can afford his Aston Martin and trips around the world, and I’m betting you’re damn well paid for your part.”
Ryon’s face had been growing paler with each word spoken by Puller.
Carson added, “And maybe you help your targets into the hereafter. You kill Cookie and that way you get his property faster.”
“I didn’t kill Cookie.”
“But you were in his house.”
Puller stared at her bag. “Open it.”
“Open your bag.”
“You have no right to—”
Puller grabbed the bag and opened it.
Wrapped in a silk scarf were four of Cookie’s watches.
Puller stared down at her. “Say goodbye to your life, Jane.”
Ryon was crying. “I didn’t kill him. I swear to God I didn’t.”
“Tell the police that. You just walked into his house, took his property that you could only take after he was dead, and he was coincidentally dead upstairs in the bath. It might give the jury a nice laugh before they sentence you to prison for the rest of your life.”
“Mason told me to go there and get the watches. So I did.”
“He told you to do that?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed.
“Didn’t you wonder how that was possible with Cookie still being alive?”
She took a shuddering breath. “Okay, look. He... he told me that Cookie was... was dead,” she said in a trembling voice.
“And how did he know that?”
“I don’t know.”
Carson looked at Puller. “Mason kills him for some reason, then orders her up to get the stuff.” “Why wouldn’t Grif just snag the watches if he was already there?” asked Ryon.
“So it’s Grif now and not Mr. Mason?” Puller looked at her and shook his head wearily. “And the answer is because he wanted you to take the stuff, not him. That would put you at the scene of the crime. As soon as you found out Cookie was dead, you’d get suspicious. But you’re not going to say anything because you were in the house too. He set you up.”
“That little son of a bitch,” snarled Ryon, who was no longer crying.
“But why would he kill Cookie?” asked Carson.
Puller put his hand on Ryon’s shoulder and gripped. “Any ideas on that?”
“No. He never mentioned anything to me about it. He would have no reason to kill Cookie.”
“When did he call you to go over to Cookie’s?” asked Puller.
“Last night. I was in the area, so it only took me a few minutes to get there.”
“Would Mason have been at Cookie’s?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he went over for a drink. Or to get some baked goodies,” she said callously.
Puller shook her. “An old man is dead. Did you have anything to do with my aunt’s death?”
“I swear I didn’t.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” said Puller.
“I’m telling the truth,” exclaimed Ryon.
“Well, a jury will determine that. Now, where is the little son of a bitch?” asked Puller.
“I don’t know.”
He shook her again. “Not good enough. Try again.”
“Is he at his home?” asked Carson.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not?” asked Puller.
“He has another place he goes to. It’s more isolated.”
“Why does he want isolation?” asked Puller.