When All The Girls Have Gone(7)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz

She promised herself that when she got home she would use the meditation app that she had bought after completing the mindfulness class.


Max Cutler stood in the middle of Louise Flint’s living room and absorbed the sense of emptiness. It was always this way in the personal space that had once been inhabited by the dead—at least it was always this way for him.

Early on in his career as a profiler he had been told by colleagues that it was his imagination that conjured the sense of gloom. If he had not known that someone had died in that particular place, they said, he would not have experienced any particular vibe.

But he did know that Louise Flint had died in the condo in which he was standing and he did feel the emptiness. Of course, the steady rain and the unrelenting cloud cover didn’t help matters, he thought. He had moved to Seattle six months before and he’d taken the notorious Seattle weather in stride. But today he was intensely aware of the atmosphere.

“The cops are convinced that she killed herself,” Daniel Flint said. “But I don’t believe that Louise OD’d, either deliberately or accidentally.”

“You think she was murdered,” Max said. He kept his tone neutral.

“Look around,” Daniel said. He swept out his hand in an exasperated gesture. “It’s obvious someone tore this place apart. Her computer and her phone are gone. I’m telling you that someone killed her and then stole her tech.”

Daniel was a senior at a local college. Max had run a routine background check on him before taking the case. He had discovered that Daniel was working part-time at a restaurant and living the starving-student lifestyle. He had taken out far too many loans to pay his tuition and he was majoring in history, which meant he was going to be semi-unemployable when he finally graduated. That, in turn, meant he couldn’t afford the services of a private investigator.

But two hours earlier Daniel had come through the doorway of Max’s office looking sincere and determined; a young man on a mission.

Unfortunately, there was never any money in mission work.

I’ve really got to put up a sign. No Mission Work.

But it wasn’t like he had any other clients beating down his door at the moment. He had finished the small insurance job the previous week with the usual unsatisfying result—the company had settled. The firm had paid out only a few thousand instead of the several hundred thousand that the lawyer had demanded, thanks to the information that Max had uncovered.

It had taken him less than fifteen minutes to discover that the dumbass threatening to sue the insurance company had helpfully posted photos of himself dancing half-naked at a party. Considering that he claimed to be wheelchair-bound with neck and spinal injuries, the company had held a very strong hand going into negotiations.

When confronted with the evidence, dumbass’s lawyer had immediately lowered the number and the company had quickly accepted the new figure in the interest of making the problem go away. As was the case with most corporate and business clients, “Settling is cheaper than going to court” was the company motto. He couldn’t argue with the financial logic.

But once in a while I need the mission work.

He surveyed the interior of the condo. It wasn’t a penthouse, but it was, nevertheless, high-end real estate. Louise had been making enough money as a fund-raiser for a local charitable foundation to be able to afford a place in one of the new downtown glass-and-steel towers. The condo had undoubtedly cost a hell of a lot more than his little fixer-upper in one of the Seattle neighborhoods.

The interior of the unit was in shambles. It had been torn apart by someone who had been searching frantically for something. Max thought about that for a while.

The clothes in the closet all bore designer labels. Some of the jewelry looked valuable. According to Daniel, the car parked downstairs in the garage was a luxury model.

“You’re saying that whoever killed her took her tech but nothing else of value?” he asked eventually.

Admittedly it would have been difficult to smuggle a lot of clothes and jewelry out of the condo and it would have been risky to steal the car. But the thing that interested him the most was that the dead woman’s Italian leather handbag was still sitting on the coffee table. Her wallet, complete with credit cards and a couple hundred bucks in cash, was still inside.

“The cops told me that the tech—laptops and phones—is all that most thieves want these days,” Daniel said. “That’s the kind of stuff that moves fast on the streets. One of the officers said that most of the smash-and-grab guys are junkies looking to make enough for the next score.”

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