Mac was cagey, although it sure sounded like Sammy’s voice. “Your mutual friend. We met at the Oasis bar, remember?”
“What do you want?”
“I already told you. If you want to catch your sister’s killer, you better come over.”
“Sammy’s not talking, and he sure isn’t going anywhere.”
“Who am I talking to?” Mac wasn’t too sure about this. Maybe another hood had picked up Sammy’s cell phone.
“Friend of Sammy’s.”
“Sammy is that you? Are you trying to trick me? I’m not in any mood for playing games.” Mac was becoming exasperated. First the kids didn’t answer, now the guinea was holding off.
“Sammy’s in the bathtub. I’m taking good care of him.”
That wasn’t the answer Mac expected. What was going on here? He decided to play it safe. “Maybe you can get Sammy to call me back when he’s out of the tub. Can you tell him it’s urgent?”
There was a pause. “Your number’s withheld.”
Mac grumbled. “I’ll send a text, ok?”
“Sure, you do that.”
Mac had a bad feeling about the call. It sure sounded like Sammy’s voice, but it ebbed and flowed like someone putting on an accent. Better check it out. He hooked a precinct cell phone up to an audio tape deck and sent a text back to Sammy’s phone. ‘Call this number, urgent.’
Mac tapped his desk, waiting. His cell phone lit up. Sammy’s number. He pressed the connection button and listened.
“This is Sammy’s friend. You got thirty seconds to explain who you are and what you want, and if I don’t like what I hear, I’m hanging up,” the caller said.
Mac watched the tape deck start its recording. He decided to play it straight and keep the guy talking. “I am working undercover, Sammy knows that. I can narrow Ruth’s killer down to a few suspects. Tell Sammy that.”
Silence for a while. Mac thought he had lost him. Then.
“So what you want Sammy to do?”
“I want to know if he sounded anyone out from the list I gave him.”
“Hey, how many are we talking about here?”
Mac hesitated. He and Elmer had identified three possible suspects from the personnel records. One of them, Coach Mason was allegedly out of the state. That left two that Sammy could flush out. “I got two names lined up.”
“Well you better tell me. I’ll see that Sammy gets the names.”
Mac started to get a real bad feeling in his stomach. What if the perp had got to Sammy? Had he said too much already? He tried to backtrack.
“Sorry, that’s confidential.”
“Okay, I’ll go and talk to Sammy.”
The call was abruptly cut-off. Mac stopped the tape; rewound it and then he took it along to Riley. Placed it on the mouse pad to get Riley’s attention.
“I know it’s a long shot, but can you work your magic on this, see if there’s any voice correlation with the perp radio tape?”
Riley glanced up from his laptop. Mac could see permutations of figures flashing up and down the screen.
“I suppose this is priority,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “Mac, do me a favor and order me a sandwich will you? Tuna on rye. It could take some time.”
“I’ll do you a deal, Riley. I’ll get the sandwiches, and you speed up the time,” Mac replied with a smile. “I’ll even get Elmer to bring over a pot of coffee to keep you awake. How’s that?”
“You’ve been watching too many movies,” muttered Riley, as he turned back to the screen.
If it were only the movies, Mac thought. The killer would apprehended by the smart cop in next to no time. Everything on a plate. What movies missed out was the constant leg work, following up leads, going down blind alleys, searching for some link. All a painstakingly hard slog through piles of paperwork, numerous phone calls, with no time to rest. Not even time to call Katie.
He went back to his desk and ordered sandwiches and coffee for Riley and Elmer. He thought about calling Katie, but he had one important lead to follow up first. One that he had to do alone. No Andy, no Elmer. It was a huge risk, but necessary. On his way out he stopped by the incident room and filled Elmer in on the latest.
“Off somewhere, then?” asked Elmer, as Mac went to leave.
“Yeah, going to talk to one of my informants,” Mac replied. “Let me know if Riley comes up with anything, ok?”
Elmer raised an eyebrow. “You watch your back, ok? We got a killer on the loose out there. You stir around too much, you could set yourself up.”
Mac smiled and waved a hand. “Buddy, with you taking care of me, my back’s safe enough. See you later.”