The Final Straw
Waiting was more difficult than she thought. No matter how many times she tried distracting herself with work, she could not stop thinking about what her contact had revealed days ago. He told her he would check and get back to her with more answers, but she did not think it would take him this long.
Her grey eyes darted towards the window only to notice that precious hours had passed by without her noticing. The sun was close to setting. Normally that meant that Alec would drop by and pick her up soon, but she informed him this morning that she needed to stay in her office a bit longer. It was all she could do for the last couple of days to keep him from noticing that something was off about her. This way she could blame everything on work and pray that her lie would sound believable enough to him.
Lesly leaned back in her seat and began massaging her temples. Her eyes darted towards Stacey who swiveled her desk chair and looked at her curiously. She was holding the phone to her ear and motioning for Lesly to ask her silently if she was willing to take the call. Lesly nodded and Stacey immediately transferred the call to her office’s phone. She picked it up, not expecting much.
“Collins, I’ve been calling you relentlessly for the last couple of hours, but you didn’t pick up.”
Lesly recognized the voice instantly. It was her contact in Coaling. She quickly grabbed her smart phone and noticed that she had mistakenly lowered the ringtone volume without realizing, causing her not to hear any of the phone calls she received.
“I’m sorry about that. Do you have something for me?”
“Actually, I do. Let’s see what we have here…Jacob Wallace, born in Coaling. His mother passed away when he was two years old. His father, Albert, took over and raised him alone. The Wallace’s are well to do, so you could say they led a pretty comfortable life. The guy graduated from the best law school in the country, worked at a legal clinic for a while, and then was recruited to a law firm in Coaling where he worked until the day he died.”
A hint of disappointment overcame her at hearing what her contact had to say. None of it sounded questionable enough to warrant suspicion, so she had to ask, “Is that all?”
“Nope,” her contact responded eagerly, “here’s the good part. It says here that his death was the result of an accidental shooting during a police raid. However, the coroner’s report looks a bit too suspicious to me.”
“A lot of the pages are missing, and whatever remained of the report doesn’t reveal much.”
Lesly took a moment to think about what her contact was saying. “What about the people who worked with Wallace back then? Did they have anything to say?”
“Unfortunately, no. The guy kept to himself the entire time. No one knew anything about him. He didn’t talk much or even show the slightest bit of interest in getting to know the people he worked with. Given how wealthy his family was, everyone assumed he was a snob and left him alone. You can imagine how little they cared when they heard he died.”
“That’s actually quite sad…,” Lesly commented.
“And convenient,” the contact pointed out. “I tell you, Collins, the more I investigate this guy, the stranger it gets. Everywhere I go, I meet a dead end. The coroner’s report is useless, former colleagues know nothing about him, and just like Reid, the record of employees shows no trace of him whatsoever. His name might have been mentioned in some of the case files, but there’s nothing more beyond that. They say it’s most probably a misfiling mistake given how understaffed they were and still are. Then again how many misfiling mistakes is an office allowed to make before it becomes suspicious? There’s definitely something there.”
Lesly tapped her fingers on the desk lightly, “How did you know about his family if none of his colleagues were helpful?”
“The Wallace’s are well-known in the area. I tried talking to some of the people who worked at their estate, but they refused to say a single word to me.”
“Figures…Anything else I should know about?”
“Well…,” the contact began reluctantly, “I managed to put my hands on something, but I don’t know how reliable my source is.”
“What is it?” Lesly asked in a hopeful tone.
“The original coroner’s report. It’s still missing a lot of pages, and I still have to verify its authenticity, but if we assume it’s the real deal, I can tell you this. Wallace’s death was not an accident. He was tortured to death.”
Lesly became more intrigued. “If that’s really the case, it would explain a lot about why most of the files regarding Wallace are missing. Someone is trying to cover it up.”
“It’s the same with that Reid individual you wanted me to investigate, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Lesly asked in confusion.
“You said you saw the scars, but as I mentioned to you, there is no record of him in the legal clinic, the police station or any of the hospitals in Coaling. Your other contact said that there’s nothing in Redlyn either.”
“Yeah, I know…,” she answered reluctantly. “You think he’s connected to Wallace somehow?”
“One way or the other,” the contact carried on, “They both come from wealthy families. They both worked at a legal clinic at about the same time. They’re both roughly the same age. They’re both missing from the clinic’s employees’ database, and they both carry signs of systematic torture with no hospital or police record anywhere. How would you explain this, Collins?”
Lesly leaned back in her seat and tried to process what was just said to her, but nothing made sense. After a moment of silence, she answered in defeat, “I don’t know…I really don’t know.”
“I’d be careful if I were you. Something is not right,” the contact warned.
“Thank you. I’ll take it from here.”
“Collins,” the contact spoke again with a much more serious tone than before, “I mean it. Be careful!”
“I will. Don’t worry about me.”
The contact hung up, leaving Lesly to stare at the phone with a thousand thoughts swarming in her head. Almost in an instant, she stood up and began shuffling through one of the drawers in her desk where she kept the documents Al sent her about Alec two years ago. Before she got the chance to go through them, her phone rang. It was Al who was calling this time. Lesly hastily picked the call and urged Al to say what he had to say so she could go back to the task at hand.
“Hey Al, anything new?” she asked as she continued to shuffle through one of the drawers.
“Interested in a theory?”
“Let’s hear it.”
“I couldn’t find anything on this guy, Ried, so I decided to check some of the cases he handled as a district attorney over the years. I just started, but I found what seemed like a sketchy pattern. Four of the cases I checked so far ended in suicide.”
The dark-haired woman paused and pushed the drawer back into the desk slowly. “I don’t understand…”
“Let’s see. I’ve got a case here…someone by the name of Ronald Buyers. He was found dead in his prison cell shortly after he was prosecuted. He severed an artery by jamming a spoon to his neck and bled to death. His death was ruled a suicide, but trust me. This is not the first case of suicide that I found to be related to a case that Reid was involved in either directly or indirectly.”
Her chest tightened instantly at hearing Al say that. Almost absent mindedly, she began messaging her temple with her left hand as her right one held the phone securely to her ear.
“There are others?” She asked in a small voice.
“Yes, and judging by the pattern, I’d say you might be right in assuming that Reid is connected to Lang. I distinctly remember your telling me that Lang has a knack for getting rid of people by pinning the blame on other guilty parties and then having their deaths look like an attempt at settling scores amongst themselves. There’s a trace of that too in Reid’s records.”
Lesly’s voice came out shaky as she tried to confirm, “Are you sure?”
“Positive. It might take me a while to discover more similar cases in his record, but what I found is enough to draw conclusions. I could keep going if you want.”
“You don’t have to. I can get a confirmation myself,” she answered as she stood up and began tidying things on the desk in preparation to leave.
Al immediately knew what she was about to do. He had worked for her many times in the past, and he understood perfectly well what she meant when she said she would find the answers herself. Worried about the outcome of her impulsive behavior, he tried to discourage her instantly.
“Please tell me you’re not thinking of talking to him?”
“Collins, the guy might be dangerous!” Al tried to warn.
Her tone came out firm as she responded, “I know how to handle him.”
“Collins…,” Al tried to talk her out of what she was about to do, but she immediately interrupted him, told him she would call him later and hung up.
Lesly stashed her phone into her purse, locked her office and walked over to Stacey’s desk.
“Stacey, I need a favor.”
“Sure, anything,” the young woman answered with a puzzled look on her face.
Lesly’s phone began ringing again. Stacey watched in confusion as Lesly dismissed the phone call before shutting her device down. Then she directed her attention at her with a grave look in her eyes.
“Please drive me to the district attorney’s office. I need to talk to Reid.”