Charles expected Katz to return within a few minutes, but he didn’t. He checked the clock; it was almost three. Perhaps the private eye had gone out for a late lunch. He chose to take advantage of the solitude by getting messages from the office and going over some of the casework he’d brought, but didn’t get far. It was no good; his mind was elsewhere.
When Katz still hadn’t returned after forty-five minutes, Charles gave up on working and called Andrea. She was still at work, of course. “Hello, stranger,” she answered cheerfully. “How’s it going?”
“Good and bad,” he said with a sigh.
“Sounds like more bad than good. What’s wrong?”
He intended to tell her, he really did. He started off by telling her about Liz, about Katz’ original plan to stalk her and his own alteration of the plan, and he told her about having pizza with her, and he mentioned in passing her problems at work. Force of habit kept him from going into too much detail, and Andrea knew better than to press him about it. He even told her about the club. But when it came to describing the end of that evening, he just stopped. They left the club, and that was the end of the narrative. Charles didn’t plan to stop talking, he just did. It was easier than lying, and far easier than telling the truth.
“What then?” Andrea asked.
“I was in her apartment today,” Charles said, speaking slowly. “There were pictures of her friends, on the refrigerator. There were pictures of Nikki. It…affected me more than I thought it would.” That was true, at least. While he described the photos, he made a promise to himself that if Andrea asked directly if he’d been involved with Liz, he wouldn’t lie to her.
“Oh, Charles,” she said, her voice full of mingled happiness and sympathy. “It’s okay. This is a good thing. We know that the detective was right now, don’t we?”
“I know,” he said. “I think it’s just…just seeing pictures of Nikki, in some life that I’ve never been a part of. It’s strange. She looked different.”
“Mad that she had a boyfriend?” Andrea joked.
He smiled in spite of himself. “No, of course not. It was as though I’d been given a glimpse to a completely different side of her. Another one,” he added.
“Was it unpleasant?”
“No. Just disorienting, I guess. I’ll have to rebuild my mental picture of my baby sister.”
“Oh, sweetheart, everyone has to do that. It’s called growing up. And recognizing it is a good sign that it’s going to be okay.”
He sighed again, sounding more relaxed and at ease than he felt. “You’re right.” The phone clicked. “There’s another call. Can you hold on a moment?”
“It’s okay, Charles, I need to get back to work. I’ll talk to you later. I love you.”
He replied in kind, and the words weren’t impossible to say. There was a police officer on the other line. “Hello, is this Charles Saxen?”
“It is. What can I do for you?”
“This is Richard Wyatt of the Michigan State Police. Are you acquainted with a Martin Katz?”
His heart sped up. “Yes, I am. What’s happened, officer?”
“He’s been assaulted. He’s at the U of M hospital in surgery right now. The car he was driving was rented in your name. Was he authorized to–“
“Yes, we’re both from out of town, and staying together. How do I get to that hospital?” Realization hit him an instant later; he had no car. “Never mind, I’ll take a cab.”