“We won’t be able to get in there.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Gabe said. “Everyone will be busy with the reception. Don’t see why we can’t slip out at some point and take a look at the area under construction.”
“It’s settled then.” Arizona gave them a thumbs-up. “You two will go in the night of the open house.”
“What about a camera?” Lillian said quickly. “I don’t have one and I doubt if Gabe has one either.”
“Could always get one of those little throwaway cameras they sell at the pier,” Gabe said helpfully.
“One of those gadgets won’t do it,” Arizona said. “I’ll give you my old VPX 4000. Fine piece of equipment. Lacks a few of the features of the 5000 but it’ll get the job done. Remember, we need hard proof that they’ve stashed those frozen extraterrestrials in that new wing.”
Gabe gave up trying to work, closed the laptop, grabbed a jacket and went down to the beach. He walked for a long time, trying to make sense of the screwy dream that had awakened him in the middle of the night. It had featured broken locks and the grinning faces of the Willis brothers. Not quite a nightmare but close enough.
He stopped at the edge of the water and watched a gull angle into the offshore breeze. Normally he didn’t pay much attention to dreams. He didn’t believe in intuition, premonitions, or the like.
But he had a healthy respect for his own hunches. They had served him well in business.
Something J. Anderson Flint had said the other night at the restaurant was running through his brain again and again this morning.
“Disgruntled employees can be dangerous.”
When he added it to the dream he got a very uneasy feeling.
What if Lillian’s first intuitive suspicion had been correct? What if the break-in at her cottage had nothing to do with what had happened to Arizona but was, instead, linked to her fear that someone had intruded into her Portland apartment?
The knock on her front door interrupted her just as she was about to mix some paint. She put down the palette knife with a sense of deep resignation. What had ever made her think she would get some work done today?
She opened the door warily.
Gabe stood there, one hand braced on the door frame. There was no sign of his car. He was dressed in a black-and-tan windbreaker, jeans, and running shoes. His dark hair was tousled from the wind and a little damp from the mist-heavy air.
“We need to talk.” He walked into the hall and shrugged out of his jacket.
His cold, grim expression silenced whatever comment she had been about to make on the subject of interruptions.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I’ve been thinking about something Flint said about Claire.”
She took the jacket from him. “What was that?”
“He mentioned that disgruntled employees could be dangerous. It occurred to me that maybe disgruntled boyfriends of former clients might fall into the same category.”
She stared at him, the jacket clutched in her hand. “Are you talking about Campbell Witley?”
“Yeah.” He disappeared into the kitchen. “Got any coffee?”
She draped the jacket over the hanger, jammed it into the closet and hurried to the doorway of the kitchen.
“What are you thinking?” She watched him fill the coffeemaker with fresh water. “That Witley might be responsible for the break-in here?”
He removed the lid of the coffee canister. “It would explain the incident at your apartment.”
“Assuming there was an incident.”
He nodded. “Assuming that.”
A shiver went through her. “But that would make Witley a stalker.”
“I know.” He finished spooning ground coffee into the filter and switched on the machine. “I don’t want to scare you. Sean Valentine probably got it right when he concluded that whoever conked A.Z. on the head was a transient who had tried to break in here, first. But there is a remote possibility that the two incidents are related. Which, in turn, means that the break-in here could be connected to what happened in Portland.”
“It would explain why nothing was taken. A stalker probably wouldn’t be interested in stealing stuff.”
He crossed the kitchen and cradled her face in his hands.
“Look, this should be easy enough to check out,” he said. “All we have to do is find out where Witley was when someone here in Eclipse Bay was breaking into your mudroom. Shouldn’t be too hard to see if he’s got an alibi. If he can account for his whereabouts during that time period, we can go back to Valentine’s theory of a transient burglar.”
She swallowed. “I never considered the possibility of a stalker.”
“Neither did I until I got to thinking about Flint’s comments.”
“I can call Nella Townsend, the investigator I used to check out my clients. She might be able to verify Witley’s alibi.”
“Fine. Call her. I’ll speak to Valentine, too. Let him know what’s going on. But from what I’ve read, stalkers can be very slick. Very devious. It’s hard to prove that they’re doing anything illegal.”
She bit her lip. “I know.”
“I want to see this guy myself.”
“I want to meet Witley face-to-face. Ask him some questions,” Gabe said.
“No.” Alarm washed through her. “You can’t do that.”
“Take it easy, honey. I’ve done a lot of deals with a lot of people who have things to hide. I’m good at knowing when I’m being lied to.”
“Are you nuts?” she yelped. “You can’t confront Witley on your own. What if he really is a stalker? He could be very dangerous.”
Gabe looked first surprised and then pleased. “Worried about me?”
“Of course I’m worried. No offense, Gabe, but this is not one of your more brilliant ideas.”
“I’m just going to drive into Portland and meet the guy. Don’t worry, if he is a stalker, I doubt that he’s a danger to me. Stalkers are obsessed with their victims, not other people.”
“Listen, I don’t want you handling this on your own. If you insist on going to Portland to see him, I’ll go with you.”
“No.” There was no give in the single word. “I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
“Witley is a big man. He’s had military training. He works in construction. Get the picture?”