A Jump To Conclusions No. 22

I made a note of it. It fit the timeline on which I still suspected McKenzie had gone murderously vengeful. I had no doubt Amber would have more questions on the topic of McKenzie, so I turned to the next page in my notebook, wiped the writing on it back into its memory, and said, “Tell me about Dalton Heath.”

“Abbot warned me about him,” Caswell said. “Frequently. The only way Abbot could have been more severe would have been to outright call Abbot a predator.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Would that have been apt?”

“He was something,” she replied. She looked down at her lap and shook her head. “I was a rising star at Heath, McKenzie, and Company when Anneli left Abbot—my success had more to do with my own talents than patronage, and Heath took notice of me after several of my projects met with approval directly from Sigmund Brenner.” A high honor indeed; the man who lent his name to the interstellar drive had a well-known preference for more negative sorts of reinforcement. “We met a few times for business, then over dinner. I ended up sleeping with him.”

I resisted the impulse to look up from my pad. She had delivered her last sentence with an air of exasperation, and after a moment to gather herself, she launched into the explanation I expected. “I couldn’t tell you what it was about the man. I knew it was wrong—he was married, and if Abbot had known, he would have considered it a betrayal of the worst sort. Even so, the affair went on for the better part of a year before I was able to call it off. Thankfully, Heath didn’t make an issue of it.”

It seemed that she had run out of words, so I filled in. “You’ve established to my satisfaction that you’re familiar with both Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Heath. What caused you to come forward?”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Heath turned up at my apartment last night, at about half past ten.”

I checked her address in the file, did some quick mental pathfinding, and came to the conclusion that an adequately fit man could have covered the distance on foot in the hour and a half between the murder and Heath’s arrival at Caswell’s apartment. “What happened then?” I said.

“He told me he needed a place to stay. I told him he could afford a hotel room,” replied Caswell. “I saw the news this morning, and I think I knew Heath was involved . It took me this long to convince myself.” She sighed, and I could see it gave her no pleasure to indict Heath, no matter what their relationship may have been.

I lifted my head and looked her in the eye. “Miss Caswell, does your building have cameras?” She nodded. I said, “Please excuse me for a while. We’ll likely have more questions later.”

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