“You try finding a way to say your dead sister told me you have stomach cancer without sounding nuts. Then we can talk.”
“Oh no, that’s your job.” He had a shit-eating grin on his face now. “And you couldn’t pay me a million bucks to take it from you.”
David had driven down the road and parked on the curb to put distance between Cassie and the Partridges, who regretted inviting the pair for dinner and were relieved David and Cassie had turned down the invitation. She sensed David regretted not getting at least a couple forkfuls of steak if the way he patted his belly was any indication. It didn’t help that his air freshener smelled like a vanilla milkshake.
He pulled out the slip of paper the Partridges had given him and handed it to Cassie. “Three options. First one was a getaway the Shapiros used to take advantage of back in the late eighties. But it’s about two hours away, so an unlikely candidate.”
“Option two?” Cassie asked.
“A plot of land they’d been interested in buying and building a house on. Mrs. Partridge doesn’t think Shapiro got around to buying it, and we didn’t find any record of it in his name, but who says he didn’t purchase it under a fake name or an LLC or under the table altogether?”
“Valid point. Option three?”
“An old apple orchard just north of Rincon. That one’s a bit of a stretch. It’s in Mr. Partridge’s name. The land hasn’t been taken care of in quite some time. She said Shapiro had always talked about cleaning it up, planting new trees, and starting a business their kids could take over.”
“It’s got a personal touch. That sounds like a pretty good lead to me.”
“Is that a feeling or an observation?”
“An observation.” Cassie’s phone vibrated in her pocket. She put it on speaker. “Hey, Laura. Please tell me you’ve got something for us.”
“There’s a lot here, you guys. I don’t even know where to start.”
“Let’s start with the stuff you know for sure,” David said.
Laura exhaled and it crackled into the phone. “He talks a lot about the coast. The ocean.”
David leaned forward so he could talk into the phone better. “Unlikely. We know he already tried dumping bodies in the ocean. Didn’t work out for him.”
“He could’ve found a better way,” Cassie suggested.
“Maybe, but that wouldn’t be the first place I looked,” David said. “What else you got?”
“He talks a lot about trips up north. But, like, north. Montana. Canada.”
“Also unlikely.” David looked dejected.
“Anything about building his own house? Or planting fruit?” Cassie asked.
“Did you say fruit?” Shuffling sounded on Laura’s end. “He talked a lot about fruit, actually. About picking apples and peaches. Wanting to start his own business. He offered jobs to a few of the guys. I figure that might be how he met up with some of them. Promise them a job, get them excited to check out the orchard, and take ‘em out.”
David and Cassie’s gazes locked. “Bingo.”
“Think that’s our place?” Laura asked.
“Best lead we’ve got so far.” David put the car in gear. “We’re going to check it out.”
“All right. Good luck. I’ll be here.”
“Take a break if you need to, Laura,” Cassie said. “You don’t have to stay there all night.”
“Nah, it’s fine. Paulson’s been feeding me coffee every hour. No way in hell I’m going to sleep any time soon.”
Cassie hung up and looked expectantly at David. “You really think this could be it?”
“Only one way to find out.”