Increasingly it seemed that if I wanted to find Amelia, I needed to take a serious look at Max Anders, who was a slippery fish. He stayed out of the papers; thanks to Lavere’s plea he hadn’t even had to testify at the trial. The father, Richard Anders, had made a fortune in pharmaceuticals, then lost much of it in the early 80s. Lost the company too, in a hostile takeover. He made some of it back with one business venture or another, but by the time Richard died in 2008, Max had seemingly sworn off the family business and was already in the police academy.
I ordered another coffee, logged into some databases that come in handy in my line of work, and kept looking. It didn’t take too long before I found something interesting: ‘Richard and Thelma Anders and William and Alice Mitter are pleased to announce the engagement of their children Maxwell and Heith.’ The announcement was dated March 3rd, 2006.
I tried searching for Heith Anders in a couple different databases, but didn’t turn up anything promising. Then I searched for Heith Mitter, and I found her. Heith Mitter, born January 26th 1985, died May 25th 2006. Cause of death was trauma. I pulled up police blotters and newspaper headlines from that May. Reading between the lines, it seemed as though Heith had been jogging and got caught in the middle of a shootout between the two big gangs of the era, the Marche and the Garcia Organization. Just the wrong place at the wrong time.
I flipped back to the people search and put in Maxwell Anders. Married August 7th 2014, divorced August 1st 2016. Took him a while to love again, I suppose. I looked up the ex-wife, Kayden Anders, née Russel. She had a LinkedIn profile as an interior designer. I checked review sites; she worked here in the city. Had good reviews too. Her Facebook profile was locked down but I did spot a photo, courtesy of someone whose profile wasn’t nearly so restricted, of her and Max, with a blonde baby girl on her hip. I saved that to my phone. Maybe I could learn something from her.
Finding Kayden was simplicity itself. My own studio apartment didn’t need her help, but it was no great difficulty to get photos of a larger home that did. Then I made an appointment under a fake name, arranged to meet her at another coffeeshop to see if she’d be the right choice for designing my home, and parked myself across the street from the parking lot.
Right on time, a silver Volkswagen hatchback pulled into the lot and Kayden Anders climbed out. I waited while she went into the coffeeshop, got something to drink, and claimed a table. Then I walked through the lot, took down her license plate number, and texted it to Brian at the DMV, who owed me a couple of favors. I went in, got my own coffee, and sat down on the other end of the store from Kayden. My tablet had a couple of in-progress manuscript drafts; I pulled one up and pretended to be working on the next great American novel. A few minutes after that, I logged into my burner account and sent a text to Kayden explaining that my car had broken down and I’d have to reschedule, so sorry, etc etc. A few minutes after that, she left the shop. I waited a half hour before following. I didn’t have to tail her; Brian had already sent me her home address.
Kayden’s home was in a housing subdivision in a decently nice area of the city. It was a little more upscale than where the Wallises lived. The houses were larger, but not much more expensive. They were cookie-cutter and ugly as hell. I felt my soul shriveling with every moment I remained. Still, needs must.
I drove by Kayden’s house, verified she wasn’t home yet, and then parked my car near the entrance to the subdivision and hunkered down to wait.
There’s an art to waiting for someone to turn up. You have to keep your mind free from distractions but also keep from nodding off. You have to avoid notice; inquisitive neighbors can be a blessing or a curse. Part of it’s skill, part of it’s luck, part of it is sheer stubbornness.
Kayden’s hatchback drove in at quarter to five. I let her get past me, then started the car and followed her in. As I neared her house, I rolled down my window. It wasn’t too chilly and there might be something worth hearing.
Kayden was opening the back doors of her car as I parked across the street. I busied myself with my phone, but out of the corner of my eye I watched her help a brown-haired child out of the back seat, then the blonde girl I’d seen her holding on Facebook. The brown-haired child took a few steps away from Kayden, toward the street. She was too far away to be sure, but she looked right. Then Kayden confirmed it; “Okay, Amelia, come inside,” she said, taking the child’s hand. I tilted my phone and took a photo while Kayden was looking the other way, and texted it to Jamie. Then I rolled up the window and called her.
“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed at me when she picked up the phone. “I told you to be gentle, not to antagonize her. For Christ’s sake, her husband is dead.”
“Sorry,” I replied. “Listen, there’s something fucked up about this case. I have evidence Wallis was at Lavere’s for a long while before he was shot and I just found the kid at Anders’ ex’s house. Tell me you have a good explanation for that, because I can’t think of one.”
There was a long silence. Then she said, “You’re sure it’s the same kid?”
“Pretty sure,” I said. “It’s a hell of a coincidence if it’s not.”
“Okay—” she started.
I’d been watching my mirrors and much to my surprise, an unmarked car had just pulled up behind me. They’re not too hard to spot when you know what to look for. I cut Jamie off. “I think I’m about to have company,” I told her. “I’m putting the call on speaker so you can hear. Stay quiet.” I tucked my phone into my jacket pocket just as Anders approached my door. I rolled the window down halfway. “Hello,” I said politely.
Anders was handsome in a bland sort of way, the kind of guy you see in late-night TV commercials for nonstick pans. “License and registration,” he said. I handed them over and he made a show of reading them. “Wilbourn… You know, I had a call from my friend’s widow today, about a Lisa Wilbourn. Is that a common name?”
I shrugged. “Hard to say.”
“I bet,” he said. “Now what brings you all the way over to this side of town? You live here, maybe?”
“Just having a look around,” I said.
“Well, I bet,” he said again. “Do you think you’ve seen enough?”
The power play was infuriating me. I had to make a decision. I could be accommodating, talk my way out of this, go home and tell Claire what had happened to her kid. Or I could do what I really wanted to do and show this asshole how fucked he really was. When I put it like that, there wasn’t really a choice. “Yeah, actually,” I replied. “Did you really think a little girl could just vanish and nobody would give a damn?”
A sharp intake of breath showed I’d hit home. “Where else was she going to go?” Anders demanded. “Mother dead, father in prison. You want me to leave her on the street?”
“Her mother’s not dead,” I replied. “I guess Lavere told you that? And you didn’t check?” I scoffed. “So tell me, how long was your ‘partner’ meeting with Lavere before you turned up?”
Anders unbuckled his holster catch and rested his hand on the butt of his pistol. “You’re meddling with something you should leave alone.”
I gave him a dubious look. The pieces were finally clicking together. Better yet, my power was giving me a nudge. “He was there long enough. Chatting with Lavere? No, negotiating. And then you turned up and things got heated.”
He took a step back and raised his gun. “Enough. Out of the car, now.”
I took my time unbuckling my seatbelt and opening the door. I had to keep him occupied and hope Jamie had been paying enough attention. When I stepped out of the car, he turned me around against the rear door and cuffed my hands behind my back. I turned my head as far as I could so I could still watch his face. “I think I guessed his side well enough. Lavere was going to turn state’s evidence, something like that, right? But you couldn’t let that go. Why?”
He squeezed the cuffs tighter. “If you’d ever been in love, you’d understand,” he muttered. He looked between the two cars, checked the houses to see if anyone was watching.
I kept talking. “That divot in the wall is way too low unless Wallis was sitting down. I guess he’d backed away, tried to salvage things, am I right? But in the moment, you couldn’t let that happen. It might have been Lavere’s gun, but it wasn’t his finger on the trigger.”
He didn’t say anything to that. He unlocked the back door of my car, pulled me aside and opened it. “In,” he said, nudging me with the barrel of his gun.
If I got in, my position got immeasurably worse; that much was obvious. “They say the second murder comes easier,” I retorted, and he pistol-whipped me. I fell forward over the trunk of my car, vaguely aware of him trying to manhandle me into the back seat, and then lights and sirens rounded the corner.
I owed Jamie a lot, I guess. One pair of officers took Anders away in the back of their car. Another pair took me to the ER to get my head looked at. I only needed a few stitches.
Amelia and Claire were reunited a few days later. Lavere’s sentence was commuted to time served, given all the irregularities. It seemed he really had been working with Wallis on shutting down his organization. A lot of that had gotten done anyway, in the aftermath, but intentions still counted. I took Jamie out for a nice dinner once both ends of the case were wrapped up. I saw Max Anders at his trial. I never saw Hannah or Kayden again.