Author's note: Thank you to max2013, BMSH, Candylou, and ErinJordan for your reviews on the last chapter! Don't worry, BMSH—Joe isn't just feeling guilty, but some of the other characters will suspect that he is. Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!
Evangeline rocked from side to side in her chair as she scowled in Sam Radley's general direction. "Just wait. Once I get out of here, I'll come after all of you. You'll pay for this. You'll all pay for persecuting me. I won't kill you right away, like I was going to this time. You missed your chance for anything that merciful. First, I'll make sure you know what it's like to be like me. To be pitied by everyone. To never have the chance to have a normal life. Oh, you'll regret what you've done. You'll beg for me to kill you before it's over."
Sam shook his head in disgust, and maybe a little bit of the pity that Evangeline detested so. "That's very interesting. It's not exactly what I came to hear, though."
"It's the only thing you'll hear from me." Evangeline clenched her jaw for a moment before smiling. "I'll look forward to seeing you again."
"Satisfied now?" Captain Olaf asked.
Sam turned to look at him. He was standing in the background of the interrogation room while Sam sat across a table from Evangeline. A female officer was also in the room, waiting to return Evangeline to her holding cell. Sam had asked for an interview with Evangeline and since none of the Bayport PD had had much luck in getting anything but threats out of her, they agreed. Unfortunately, Sam wasn't doing any better. All he had managed to get out of her was threats and an admission that she had contacted Black Rose to help her with her programme of revenge. She refused to divulge how, but she hinted that it had taken her a long time and the full use of whatever mob connections she still had.
"I guess I'll have to be." Sam stood up and followed Olaf out of the room. The two men stopped just outside the door and looked back through the one-way window of the interrogation room as the other officer escorted Evangeline out a different door. Sam shook his head. "What's going to be her story now?"
"Well, New York wants her pretty bad," Olaf said. "We're going to have her answer the attempted murder charges here in Massachusetts before extraditing her to New York to face the murder charge. Under ordinary circumstances, there's no way she'd ever get out of jail again."
"But she's not ordinary circumstances," Sam finished for him.
"Yeah." Olaf bit his lip. "You can bet her lawyer's going to play up her disability and her lacking upbringing to try to get her a lighter sentence, unless he gets her off by pleading not guilty by reason of insanity."
"She definitely could get off on that one. But they'd put her in a mental institution then and she wouldn't be able to carry out those threats."
Olaf almost cracked a grin. "You worried? You know, she's also threatened half the Bayport PD by now. Even if she would get out in a decade or two, that's a lot of people to track down."
"Yeah, but don't forget I was already on her revenge hit list," Sam pointed out. "Now I'm on both of them. That's got to put me in the top three on list."
"Well, maybe you do have something to worry about."
"Eh, I'll worry about it when and if the time comes," Sam replied. "What about the Prito girl? Is she having charges pressed against her?"
Olaf shook his head. "No. If it was up to me, she would, but everyone else from the DA to Chief Collig to the Hardys and that Beretta kids thinks she ought to have a second chance. Besides, she's still insisting that she doesn't know she was setting Frank and Mario up. Evangeline, for what it's worth, kind of hinted in the same direction, from what little we could get out of her, and the Rudger guy has been silent as the tomb since we brought him in."
"I'd like to try to talk to him, too."
"You can try, but I guarantee you won't get anywhere."
Their conversation was interrupted by Con Riley stepping into the room. He nodded a greeting at them, and then he asked, "Are you done here?"
"Yeah, I guess," Sam replied.
"The chief wants to see both of you," Riley told them. "He's in his office. He said I'm supposed to come, too."
"I wonder what that's about," Olaf muttered.
Sam wondered that, too. The chief of police asking to see two of his officers wasn't so very unusual, but requesting to see a private detective was a little less ordinary, especially since Collig always went straight to Fenton Hardy when he wanted to request the help of the detective firm.
When the three men reached Collig's office, they found the officer pacing up and down the small room. Another officer, Captain Bryce O'Rourke, was already seated in one of the chairs in the office. Collig invited them all to sit down before he started talking, but he himself remained standing in front of his desk.
"What's going on, Chief?" Olaf asked, leaning forward a little. The way Collig was acting, this had to be something big.
Collig folded his arms and nodded toward Captain O'Rourke. "O'Rourke here just brought me some bad news. He went to ask that Rudger person some more questions and he's gone."
Olaf and Riley both started. Sam raised an eyebrow.
"Gone?" Riley repeated. "What do you mean 'gone'?"
"He escaped," Collig clarified, although it really wasn't necessary.
"How is that even possible?" Olaf asked. "Weren't there guards and cameras?"
"There was supposed to be." Collig turned to his desk and swiveled his computer monitor so the other men could see. It showed a feed of Rudger sitting in his cell, only moving slightly from time to time.
"But this is live," Olaf protested. "He's still there."
"No, someone monkeyed around with our cameras," Collig explained. "This is a recording that they set up to play in an endless loop, so we don't have a recording of the escape. As for the guards, they both swear they didn't see anything."
"Can you trust them?" Sam asked.
Collig looked at the floor. "This Rudger guy couldn't have escaped very easily without inside help. We've almost certainly got a dirty cop on the force. I'd hate to think that we had two."
Olaf rubbed his chin. "I don't think we should jump to any conclusions, chief. Maybe he could have done it without inside help. His Black Rose buddies might have been able to do something."
"Hacking the security feed to show that looped footage would be easy for an organization like that," Sam put in. "They're bound to have some hackers."
"As for getting out of the building," O'Rourke spoke up for the first time, "there's a way they might have done it. The guards weren't in the corridor with the holding cell. There's only one main door, true, but there is that other door that we just use for janitorial work. All these guys would have to do is get hold of some keys and do some planning and have a whole lot of luck that they wouldn't run into anybody. They could have hacked all the cameras that they would have passed on the way in and out, and they could have hacked the cell door to open."
"The first thing to do would be to check all those things," Olaf said. "They can be hacked so that they might not be noticed in the moment, but it would be found out easily with a closer examination."
"That's all true," Collig agreed. "We'll do all that. But the possibility of inside help can't be ignored. I don't want that speculation to go outside this room, though. The last thing we need is the press jumping all over the possibility and treating it like it's a fact. I'll be working on this investigation personally. O'Rourke, Olaf, Riley, I want all of you to help with it but keep everything in the strictest confidence. We'll be asked by the press whether we suspect a dirty cop. None of you are to comment on that question. Hopefully, you're all right and there was no inside help on this, but on the chance there was, we're going to be investigating every officer on the force. We'll follow up every red flag. I'm not taking a chance of keeping a dirty cop on the force."
The other officers nodded solemnly. They hated the idea of one of their brothers or sisters in blue being dishonest, but they hated the idea of letting such a person continue their misdeeds even more.
Sam cleared his throat. "Um, chief, I'll keep all of this in strict confidence, obviously, but why am I even here?"
"I want to hire you to help with the investigation."
Sam gave a confused chuckle. "What? Why? You've got plenty of detectives to investigate."
"Yes, but I think having a civilian investigator will be helpful," Collig explained. "I know you're trustworthy, you respect the police, and you're fair, not to mention that you're an excellent detective. In addition, you'll be able to ask some questions that a police officer might not be able to. I'll be blunt, though; that's not the only reason. People are going to suspect a dirty cop, and if we don't come up with one, as we all hope that we won't, there's going to be some accusations of a cover-up. A civilian investigator working on the case will help to dispel those accusations. I would ask Fenton Hardy, but as a former police officer and good friend of mine, I don't think his name thrown into this would be as convincing as yours."
"Okay, I'll do it," Sam agreed. "If Black Rose did spirit Rudger away, I don't suppose there's much hope of finding him again?"
"To be honest, I don't really have any," Collig admitted. "If there's a dirty cop and if we catch him or her, we might get some information on him, but that's the only way I see."
"Well, then, you didn't get anything from him?" Sam continued.
Collig shook his head. "Not even whether Rudger is his first name, last, or some kind of alias or nickname."
"How about that clue he dropped to Frank and Joe about there being something in that jewel box besides the codebook?" Sam asked.
"Nothing. We literally took that jewel box apart. There was nothing else in it. That whole line must have been a blind of some kind, but I don't know what it was."
"What possible motive could that guy have had for taking the risk of breaking into the Hardys' house then?" Riley asked. "He must have known there was a good chance of him being caught."
"Unless he simply wanted to kill the boys for some reason, I can't think of any," Olaf said.
"Maybe he wanted to find out whether they had definitely opened the jewel box," Collig suggested. "Black Rose would have wanted to know whether their codes had been leaked or not, but I would think it would be a better plan to just go ahead and change their codes anyway."
"Maybe the Prito girl had had something else in the box and removed it and Rudger didn't realize it," O'Rourke suggested.
"I don't think so," Collig said. "I think once it really sank in what she had done, Lisa realized she needed to come clean. I don't think she held anything back. I feel confident that we learned everything we can from her. So, until and unless we capture Rudger, we really don't have anything more to work with. Anyway, the fact that he would try something as bold as all of that is another reason why I think we might have a dirty cop on the force. He or she could have helped Rudger get in there unseen."
"Yeah, but they would have also tipped him off that it was a trap," Riley pointed out.
"That is a problem," Collig agreed. "What if the idea was for Rudger to get caught? The line about the jewel box could have just been a cover-up, give us a reason so we wouldn't question why he was in there. After all, letting that kind of a clue slip isn't consistent with everything else Rudger did while in custody."
"But what kind of possible reason would Rudger have for wanting to get caught?" Sam protested.
Collig shrugged. "We won't know that until and unless we can recapture him or catch another member of the gang."
Sam frowned. "Then we're no closer to putting an end to Black Rose than we were fourteen years ago."
Author's note: And here we are at the end. Thank you so much for reading this story! Even just the fact that you read through this entire story without losing interest is so exciting to me. I do want to give a special thank you to everybody who left reviews or who will in the future. Reviews are air and light and bread and water to a writer, so each and every one of them is very, very appreciated and I can't thank you enough for them all!
So, I will admit, I'm not super, super happy with ending the book here, because there're so many unanswered questions about Black Rose, Evangeline, the conjectured dirty cop, etc. A few of them, to be honest, I wouldn't have minded answering in this story. The only problem is that the only possible way Frank, Joe, & company could have gotten those answers is if Rudger had talked, and I couldn't let him do that, because Black Rose people don't talk when they're caught. So, those questions will be answered, but not in this story.
Now, though, the big question is what's the next book and when will I post it? Without further ado, the title of the next book will be The Thirteenth Day. I'm pretty excited about it. I think it's going to be fun, but I'm not going to give any spoilers. As for when it's being posted, it's not going to be for a little while. I'm working on some other writing projects and summer is a busy time for me, plus, if all goes well, it will only get busier. I don't know if I could even keep up with posting once a week if I posted as I wrote, and I absolutely do not want to go longer than that between posting chapters. It gets way too hard to remember what's going on, for one thing, and for another, it drags the story out too long, especially since I'm expecting the next one to be a long one. So, my plan is to spend the rest of the summer writing as much as I can and then start posting in September, when I'll have enough done that I could post every other day or so, which would be more to my liking.
I think that about wraps it up. Thank you once again! I will see you soon!