Paradigms Lost — Chapter 18

Part III: Photo Finish

August, 1999

Chapter 18: Action and Reaction

“But I thought we would be seeing The Thirteenth Floor tomorrow night,” Syl said.

I winced. Truth be told, I’d forgotten all about our movie plans in the past few weeks, and Verne had made an appointment – after hours, naturally – to discuss several interesting opportunities he was looking into. Given the situation with Verne, I hadn’t yet let Syl in on that secret, and if her unique … sensitivity had clued her in, she hadn’t let me know about it. “Sorry, Syl. How about Saturday evening?”

She shook her head, miffed. “You know my reading group meets on Saturday evening. And Sunday I’m visiting my parents.” She looked at me with a sudden sly smile. “You know, this is the third set of plans we’ve had to cancel in the last couple of months. Are you going out on a date tomorrow, Jase?”

Though there had been a few times I’d been dating in the last few years, thought of going on a date with Verne made me laugh out loud. “No, no. It’s a business meeting, I just forgot about our plans. And of course tonight’s bowling night.” I went bowling with Renee Reisman and not Syl because Syl found bowling utterly boring. “Sorry. Really, how about Monday then?”

“I’ll forgive you… this time,” she said, tossing her long black hair, making her assortment of beads and bracelets jingle with the motion. “But only if you pay for it all this time. Even the snacks.”

I grinned. “It’s a deal.”

“All right.” She glanced at her watch. “Oh! I’d better get moving, Witan and Sherry are going to be waiting for me!”

I went back to work, which right now was mostly research work for people trying to finish up their degrees and a bunch of patent stuff. That made the time both crawl and fly by, a paradox that I didn’t find as amusing as it sounds.

The door jingled and I looked up, relieved to have a distraction. “Hi Renee –” I caught the expression on her face and changed out relieved for worried at the same time I changed my mode of address. “I mean, hello, Lieutenant Reisman.”

She was even grimmer than I thought as she got closer. “Mr. Wood, do you know a Xavier Ross?”

What the hell?… “I did some work for a Xavier Ross, yes,” I said, cautiously. “Why?”

“I need to know everything you said to him, everything you told him.”

I shook my head. “That’s client information. You know I won’t give you any of that without –”

She shoved a piece of paper under my nose.

“– a … warrant. Which this apparently is.” I glanced it over; this wasn’t the first time I’d seen one, but it was the first time I’d had one served on me. “Okay, I’ll get that stuff out. But why?”

“Xavier Uriel Ross disappeared from home — apparently deliberately, as there were signs he’d carefully accumulated both cash and supplies for traveling — a few days ago.”

I swore, something I generally reserved for serious situations. “I told him to go to you.”

“He did,” she said, and if possible her face looked even more grim, set in stone. “LA wouldn’t re-open the case, no matter how hard I kicked them. And I kicked them plenty hard.”

That’s… not good. I started a disc burning for all the information I’d given Xavier. “Do you think they should?”

For a moment I didn’t think she’d answer; she might be here alone but she was still in her “official” mode. But then she shrugged. “Wasn’t up to me. But… yeah, I would have thought so. That was some real interesting evidence you turned up, especially with the erased hard drive and hidden pictures. Usually that does get people to sit up and take notice, and when I talked to the main detective in charge he sounded interested… but after that things just got shut down.”

The disc finished burning; I put it in a case and handed it to her. “Here you go, Lieutenant. This is everything.”

“You got paid three thousand dollars by Mr. Ross, right?”

“Because I gave him a bunch free. I could have charged him another seven easy, and he acted like he had it to spend.”

“He did. Personal bank account worth over twenty thousand — I have no idea where he was supposed to have gotten that much, but his mother was obviously aware of it — and he’d just about emptied it before he left. Withdrawals in cash, too.”

“Jesus. So this kid went missing with over fifteen thousand in cash on him?”

“Yep. You have any idea where he’s gone?”

I grimaced. “You know just as well as I do where he’s probably headed.”

She nodded. “Los Angeles.”

“Where else?”

“All right. You’d better come with me to give a statement, too. You don’t have to,” she emphasized, “but you probably should.”

“Okay, okay.” I started shutting down things for the day. “But since I don’t have to do this yet, at least keep me updated on what happens?”

Renee looked at me, then flashed a momentary smile. “You got it. Now come on, Wood.”

I followed her out, locking the door behind me. Not what I was planning for this evening.