Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(34) by Jennifer Estep
I frowned. “Wait a second. Someone else is getting the money? Who? It sounds like Deirdre has a nice little scam going. Why would she want to share the money with anyone?”
“I don’t know. Ms. Shaw might have come from old money, but she burned through it all years ago. Homes and private jets and champagne fountains cost money, you know. She started her charitable foundation about the time she was scraping the last few nickels out of her original trust fund. Even then, someone else bankrolled her and got her started.”
“So maybe that’s where the money is going,” I murmured. “To pay back her investors, whoever they might be.”
Silvio swiped through some more screens on his tablet. “That’s my theory. I’ll keep digging.”
Maybe this was all about money. Maybe Deirdre had heard what a financial whiz Finn was and had come to Ashland to get his expertise to help increase the profits from her charity scam, without letting him know what a crook she really was. Finn had said that he’d been working on her portfolio. It made sense, but I still felt like something else was going on, something far more sinister than skimming money from good causes.
I finished with my last tomato, grabbed a red onion, and started slicing it. “What about Tucker, her assistant?”
Silvio shook his head. “Hugh Tucker. I’ve just started drilling down on him, but nothing suspicious so far. Although he and Deirdre have something interesting in common: the Tucker family has been in Ashland for generations, just like the Shaws, and Hugh is also the last one left of his family.”
Not that unusual. Despite the sky-high crime rate, Ashland was a beautiful place to live, with its rugged ridges, lush forests, and mountain streams. My family, the Snows, had also been here for generations. So had the Monroes. Come to town, enjoy the mountains, start a blood feud with another family. It was practically the Ashland tourism motto. Still, it was a bit odd that Deirdre and Tucker would both be from Ashland and also be the last living members of their families. I wondered if Deirdre had known Tucker before he started working for her.
“All right,” I said. “Keep digging into Deirdre and Tucker. And there’s one more person I need you to track down.”
“Santos. After his failed bank robbery last night, he decided to pay me a house call.”
I wiped off my hands and grabbed a napkin and a pen. While I filled Silvio in about the attack at Fletcher’s house, I made a crude sketch of the snake-and-dollar-sign tattoo on Santos’s forearm.
“Here,” I said, passing the sketch over to him. “See if you have more luck with the tattoo. People can change their names a lot easier than they can change their ink.”
He took the napkin from me. “I’ll get right on it. And there’s one more thing.”
“Ms. Shaw has been visiting Ashland on and off for several months, even before she first approached Finn.” He grabbed his tablet again. “She’s been putting together an exhibit of fine jewelry and rare gemstones at the Briartop Art Museum. Ticket sales will benefit her charitable foundation.”
Silvio turned his tablet around to show me the museum’s website. A photo of a diamond ring was front and center, the design a smaller version of Deirdre’s icicle-heart necklace.
“Ms. Shaw has donated several of her own personal pieces to the exhibit,” he continued. “It’s the first big event the museum has hosted since—”
“Since Jonah McAllister hired Clementine Barker and her giants to rob everyone and swipe Mab Monroe’s will from the Briartop vault,” I said, finishing his thought. “Do you think Jonah is involved with Deirdre?”
Jonah McAllister was another thorn in my side. The smarmy lawyer had tried to have me killed multiple times, including that night at Briartop.
Silvio shook his head. “I don’t think so. Jonah is holed up in his mansion, waiting for his trial to start. He hardly ever leaves it. As far as I can tell, he’s never had any contact with Ms. Shaw. Not so much as a phone call, text, or email.”
The fact that Deirdre and Jonah didn’t seem to know each other and probably weren’t working together was an unexpected bit of good news. But Silvio’s intel still didn’t tell me what Deirdre was really up to. If she was already skimming millions from her charity foundation, then why go to all the time and trouble to set up an exhibit here in Ashland? Why sashay into First Trust, give the bank access to her accounts, and run the risk of someone realizing where all that charity money was really going?
It didn’t make sense, unless . . . unless Deirdre truly did want to get close to Finn.
Could I be wrong? Could Deirdre be legit? Well, as legit as a charity scammer could be? Could she genuinely want to reconnect with her son?
No—no way. I didn’t know Deirdre, but I did know Fletcher. If the old man claimed she was dangerous, then that’s exactly what she was. Besides, Deirdre had had thirty-plus years to reappear in Finn’s life. So why the sudden interest in her son now?
Something was going on here, and I was going to figure out exactly what it was—and how best to protect Finn from whatever his mother might be planning.
The day passed by like any other, with the usual blur of cooking, cleaning, and customers. But as three o’clock crept closer, my friends started to appear.
Owen was the first one through the door. He kissed me on the cheek, told me that he was here if I needed anything, and then sat in a booth out of the way. I was grateful for his strong, silent support.
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