“You’ve come a very long way to hire me, Mr. Scope,” I said to the middle-aged man sitting on the other side of my desk. Bloodshot eyes suggested he was a heavy drinker, or hadn’t been sleeping well, or both.
“As I explained on the phone, I think my wife is involved with that guy I saw on trial, Jonah Carter, so I thought you’d be the best choice to help me catch her in the act.” He sat slouched slightly, leaning forward in the chair.
Wesley Scope had driven to Saint Louis all the way from Memphis. I normally wouldn’t consider cases from such a long distance–least of all because of private investigator licensing requirements–but when I heard the name Jonah, I couldn’t say no.
“Are you certain it was him?”
“Ms. Ronen, do you think I’d have driven five hours on a whim? Of course I’m certain.” His face turned red and a vein throbbed in his forehead.
“Please, calm down. It’s just that I must be absolutely certain you aren’t mistaken. I’ll have to work with the City of Memphis to get approval to investigate since I’m not licensed in the state. And I rarely take cases outside of the Saint Louis area.” I leaned back in my chair.
He took a deep breath then let it out. “I’m sorry, Ms. Ronen. I’m very upset that my wife seems to be gambling our life savings away, and then I see her with this criminal. I’m certain it’s the guy I saw on TV during the trial of those witches. You have to help me.”
I fought to keep my face neutral at his tone when he said, “those witches.” “What exactly do you want me to help you with, Mr. Scope?”
“I’d like you to find out how my wife is spending all our money, and why she’s spending time with that man. Is she cheating on me?”
I could tell I was going to have to work for every bit of information. “Why do you think she’s gambling?”
“Could I have a drink of water?”
“Of course.” If that’s what it took to calm him down, it was no trouble to me. Vittorio had finally convinced me to move into a nicer office in Clayton, a much better part of town than where I’d worked when I met him. It even had a water cooler for occasions such as this. I got a glass from the rack next to the cooler and filled it for him. I refused to use plastic cups, hating the waste they created. Same for those little single-serving coffee pods.
Mr. Scope took a long drink before continuing. “Katie has a gambling addiction. She started going to meetings for it a few years ago, and it seemed like she had stopped. But now there are large sums of money withdrawn from our bank account, and I have no idea what she’s spending it on. She’s been very sneaky lately.”
“Sneaky in what way?”
“She’s secretive with her phone. Gets defensive if I walk in the room while she’s checking email on her computer. Doesn’t tell me where she’s going a lot of the time…” he trailed off.
“Is she still going to her meetings?”
“I think so. I’ve followed her a few times, and she at least goes into the building. But I always see her leave with Jonah, and it’s still several hours before she comes home after that.”
In any other situation, I’d have been inclined to believe Mr. Scope’s suspicions. But if Jonah really was involved, I knew there had to be something more sinister than gambling and a mere love affair going on. And I knew it would be in my–and all stregas’–best interest to find out what. “Though it is highly unusual, I will take your case, with one stipulation. If it turns out that Jonah is not involved, I will ask that you find a local PI to further assist you. Agreed?”
“Yeah, okay. Thanks.” He reached across the table and shook my hand with a good, firm handshake.
After getting all the information I needed from Mr. Scope about the case, I walked him to the door. Unease filled my mind over the prospect that Jonah might be involved in something nefarious down in Memphis. I knew he’d moved there with the permission of his parole officer, and that Michael had gone with him after being asked to leave the Saint Louis coven. Michael had been sharing information with Samuel, who was still in prison, and I knew we couldn’t trust him.
I wanted to discuss this with Vittorio, but he was in a business meeting all day. He had stepped down as CEO of Porter Enterprises, but only to a senior vice president position. He was less busy than before, but still had more meetings and business trips than either of us would like. Having Power made his position at the company tenuous, as public outrage and discrimination against stregas grew, and the board questioned the wisdom of keeping one of the most visible stregas in the country employed with them. He certainly couldn’t afford to step out of a meeting with a potentially large client to talk to his girlfriend right now. But a delay could prove dangerous, so I would have to ignore my discomfort and start making plans for the trip to Memphis.