Book 1 of the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series
Lacey felt her eyes start to glaze over. Dragging in a breath, she folded the classified section and tossed it onto the pile along with the rest of the LA Times. She couldn’t look at one more want ad. Not today. Thank God it was Saturday.
She pushed away her empty cereal bowl and reached for her coffee cup. Sipping the dark liquid, she frowned. Cold. How long had she been staring at help wanted ads? Too long.
She went to the sink and rinsed the cold coffee from her cup, then poured some fresh. Staring out the kitchen window at her tiny patch of greenery—morning glories climbing up the block wall between her apartment building and the next—she knew it was going to be another warm day. Even with the June gloom clouds so common this time of year, the temperatures would still soar. She told herself it was a blessing that she was not outside taping off a crime scene or working a shooting in a vacant lot somewhere downtown.
Returning to her tiny kitchen table, she sat down and dragged the front section of the Times out of the pile to scan the headlines. Just this last cup and then she’d start working out and doing laundry. Later, after that bit of physical activity, she’d get on her laptop and do some more job-searching.
She certainly never thought she’d be in this position. Over eight years on the LAPD, the last four in Homicide—gone. Her boyfriend of five years—gone. Now working the swing shift security detail for a self-storage company. Just the thought of her downfall still brought an embarrassed flush to her freckled face.
She tucked her dark red hair behind her ear and bent to the newspaper. Shootings, car crashes, drug deals gone bad. A broken water main flooded a busy intersection. A fire razed an aging apartment building downtown.
Then, as they did so often, the words Homicide and LAPD jumped out at her. She set down her coffee cup and read carefully.
An LAPD recovery crew is digging up the back yard of an older home on Fuller Avenue in the Fairfax area, searching for more human remains.
LAPD spokesman Winston Brown said a skull and an arm bone were recovered on Wednesday as a result of a tip. While homicide officers could not yet confirm the identity of the remains, the initial examination suggested a young female. The age of the bones could link the find to the mysterious disappearance of several girls in the same area decades ago, Brown said.
The Fairfax Stalker, a person or persons thought to be responsible for the disappearance of nine teenaged girls in the 1980s, was never caught. The last disappearance to fit the profile occurred in 1991. None of the bodies of those nine girls were ever found.
Lacey sat back in her chair and stared out the sliding glass door, although her eyes never focused on the narrow strip of yard or the block wall beyond it. The Fairfax Stalker. How many hours had she pored over that file? How many times had she stared into the eyes of those poor girls? Isabel Ramirez, Lety Parks, Esther Eisenburg. She knew them all, their names, their faces, their hopes and dreams. Esther, only thirteen, had wanted to be a policewoman when she grew up. But she never grew up. She disappeared while walking home from a movie one summer evening. Disappeared without a trace.
Lacey frowned down at the article again. Fuller Avenue. Fifteen miles away. Energized now, she tossed the paper aside and went to get dressed.
Her last cup of coffee cooled on the table.
She had no trouble finding the location. The quiet residential street was blocked for half its width by a loose crowd of people massed against crime tape and portable barriers. Several uniformed policemen kept the crowd in check. Lacey saw some of the rubberneckers holding up cell phones to video whatever was going on down the driveway to the backyard.
She parked a half block away and walked up to join the crowd. Three LAPD vehicles sat in the driveway, blocking most of the view to the back yard, but over the murmur of the crowd, Lacey thought she could hear the sounds of shovels cutting into hard earth.
On the far right, a local TV reporter was interviewing a detective who stood inside the barrier. Winston Brown. Calm, direct, not easily rattled. He was their best spokesman. He answered the reporter’s questions easily, not the least perturbed when the woman insisted on reframing and re-asking every question that brought a response of, “No comment.” Lacey shook her head. She could never do that. She had no patience for such obvious manipulations and she’d never been good at hiding her annoyance.
Scanning the officers that stood guard, she recognized them all, and nodded to the ones who noticed her. Then she saw Captain Shaw talking quietly to another detective several yards inside the barrier. She edged that way, weaving through the sparser crowd at the fringe. Making her way to the outside of the group, she called out in a quiet voice.
If he heard, he gave no sign. The large black man continued his conversation, either out of earshot or patently ignoring calls from possible reporters. Lacey cleared her throat and tried again.
That did it. The dark head swiveled her way, his brows knitted until he recognized her. She saw him heave a sigh, say something to the detective, and walk her way.
“Hey, Lace,” he said quietly. He didn’t smile. “How you doing?”
“Fine,” she lied. This was neither the time nor the place. “I saw the article in the paper,” she said without preamble. “Is it…?”
Shaw shook his head. “Come on, Lace. You know I can’t give you any more information than what Win’s giving out over there right now. Give me a break.”
Lacey fumed. Yes, she knew, but damn it, this was her case. Or had been. No one else had shown any interest in the decades-old cold case. Until now.
“So you got a tip?” she asked instead.
Shaw nodded. “Something like that.” In a low voice, he said, “Lady that lives here hired a medium. Thought she had ghosts. Guy said there was a body buried out back and she started digging.”
Lacey’s eyebrows jumped up to her hairline.
“You didn’t hear that from me,” the captain said in a low growl.
“Uh, yes—I mean no, Captain.” She glanced around furtively. “A medium?”
“That’s what she said.” The captain tipped his head up, his chin pointing to somewhere behind Lacey. “You want to know more than that, talk to that guy.”
Lacey turned slightly, angling her head around as casually as possible. Behind her and six or eight feet away stood a tall, slender man. His straight black hair was caught back in a ponytail. His high cheekbones and the copper hue of his skin spoke of Native American heritage.
“An Indian?” Lacey asked, turning back to the captain.
Victor nodded. “That’s the medium.” He gave her a small smile, shrugged, and walked away.
Lacey stood dumbly, staring after the captain’s retreating back. A medium? Like a ghost buster? She glanced backward again and found the man’s black eyes on her. His expression was completely blank, showing no emotion at all. As if he were carved out of wood.
Lacey swallowed, lifted her chin, and walked over.
“Hi,” she said with the confidence she’d learned to show but never felt. She stuck out her hand. “I’m Lacey Fitzpatrick…” She almost said LAPD, but caught herself.
The man regarded her silently for a heartbeat, then took her hand in an easy grip. “Sam Firecloud,” he said.
“I understand you were instrumental in finding the remains?” she asked.
Again that careful hesitation. “Yeah.”
Not a great conversationalist, Lacey thought. She appraised him with the practiced eye of a detective. His chest and arms filled out the t-shirt admirably, and the slope and angle of his neck and shoulders bespoke regular workouts. Lacey guessed his lean body type would not take on those muscles willingly, so obviously he was disciplined in his regimen. She guessed the intensity in his eyes permeated everything he did.
“Can I ask, uh, how you found it? You see, I used to be LAPD, and I worked on the Fairfax Stalker case.”
Sam’s eyes widened slightly, then regained the hooded look that seemed more usual for him. His gaze swiveled from Lacey to the captain and back again.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said.
Lacey could feel a needle of irritation under her skin.
“But how did you find her?” she asked. “What did you see?”
He shrugged. “I don’t see. I feel.” He turned those black eyes away from her, silently regarding the limited action beyond the barricades.
“Look,” Lacey said, working to keep her frustration in check, “I really want to know about this. I’m not doubting you.” She blew out a heavy sigh. “This is important to me.”
Just then a shout rang out from the backyard. Every officer not assigned to crowd control rushed to the back. The onlookers pressed forward, cell phones raised, and the uniformed officers stood up tall in response.
Lacey turned to watch, but the limited view was blocked by buildings and vehicles. All she could tell was that there was some commotion going on. They must have found more.
She turned back to Sam. Instead of watching the policemen, he was watching her.
The intensity of his stare had an almost tangible weight to it. She squared her shoulders and pushed on.
“Listen, can I buy you a cup of coffee?”
Again that stony stare. She held her breath for a few seconds, and was just about to start pleading.
“Sure,” he said.
She breathed again. “Yeah?” Smiling, she said, “My car’s down here.”
He followed her down the street, ambling slowly behind her quick walk. She unlocked her car and opened the passenger door and he slid into the seat. As she climbed into the driver’s seat, she was painfully aware of the paper McDonald’s napkins on the floor and the empty frappé cup in the cup holder.
“There’s a little diner not too far from here,” she said. “Is that okay?”
He was silent the rest of the way. Rather than babble as she was tempted to do, she stayed resolutely as silent as he was.
Once they slid into opposite sides of a booth at the diner, she waited for the server to bring menus.
“You can have lunch if you want,” Lacey said. “I’m going to. I haven’t had anything but a bowl of cereal all day.”
She ordered a club sandwich with fries. He ordered a chicken Caesar salad.
“You’re better than me,” she muttered as the waitress moved away. She saw one side of Sam’s mouth lift slightly.
“So,” she said, hunching forward, her elbows on the table, “what do you do? How did you find out where she was?”
Sam took his time stirring sugar in his iced tea, tasting it and setting the spoon aside carefully. Finally, when Lacey felt like she was ready to scream, he spoke.
“Lady called me, the friend of a friend of a friend. Said she thought her house was haunted, and could I help.”
“Why did she think it was haunted? What was she experiencing?”
Sam shrugged. “Don’t know. Didn’t ask.” He looked up and pinned Lacey with those bottomless black eyes. “I don’t want to know what’s been going on before I walk; I don’t want any advance knowledge. I don’t touch anything. I mean, obviously my feet in my shoes are touching the ground, but I don’t touch anything else—objects, walls. I unfocus my vision so I’m not seeing the things around me. It’s like looking through a fog or a mist. I can see well enough to not run into walls or fall down stairs, but I don’t really see anything in the house. Then I walk.”
The waitress brought their lunches. Lacey dumped ketchup on her fries and noted that Sam picked the croutons off his salad. Health freak, she thought.
She forced herself to let Sam eat without prompting him to go on, but it was killing her. Guy couldn’t eat and talk at the same time, she told herself.
At one point she noticed him spearing a forkful of crunchy romaine and as he brought it up to his mouth, his eyes settled on her and she swore she saw a gleam of sadistic humor there. He was keeping her in suspense on purpose—and enjoying it.
“So you walk,” she said finally. “By yourself? Or did the lady walk with you?”
Sam chewed slowly, then swallowed. “She came behind me. She started to tell me things, but I asked her to not say anything.”
Another mouthful, more slow chewing. He stared at her. She stared back.
“There’s a basement under the house. That’s where the energy was drawing me. I went down there and heard crying. Sobbing, panicky. Wanting Mommy, wanting Daddy. Crying so much it turned to hiccups.” He lowered his head slightly, staring at her from under his dark brows. “You know how kids do? Cry until they can’t breathe?”
Lacey nodded. Just that simple description squeezed her heart.
“I followed the energy to a corner, and I knelt down there. I put myself between her and the rest of the basement. Like a shield.”
Lacey paused, a French fry halfway to her mouth. She could feel that, feel him, shielding the girl, buffering her. Protecting her.
Sam ate leisurely, his attention all on his salad. Lacey took a bite of her sandwich, but she’d lost much of her appetite.
“I asked her what she needed,” he said. “She wanted her parents to know where she was.” He speared a piece of chicken with his fork. “She told me where she was buried.” He took the bite of chicken and chewed casually.
Lacey blinked as if coming slowly awake. She sat back against the booth’s cushion.
“Did she tell you… what happened to her? What was done to her?”
“No,” Sam said, shaking his head. “But I could feel it. It was bad.”
Lacey felt her breath leave her body. She deflated, shoulders slumping. Her head was too heavy to hold up, so she braced it with a hand beneath her chin.
“Do you know her name?” she asked softly.
Sam’s eyes, unfocused, drifted up and away. “Izzy,” he said.
Lacey squeezed her eyes tightly shut. She felt tears pooling at the corners. “Isabel Ramirez,” she said. “She was eleven.”
“Yeah,” Sam said.
He ate slowly, quietly, for a few moments. Lacey saw again Isabel’s soft brown eyes, her ready smile, the slight dimples beside it. Who could do such things to such a beautiful child?
She pushed her plate away.
Dragging in a steadying breath, she leveled her eyes at Sam. “Thank you,” she said. She had no doubt that forensics would confirm his claim. She felt it deep inside. It saddened her but gave her a small sense of redemption as well.
“Working in Homicide,” she began softly, “had its satisfactions. Finding the bad guys, bringing them to justice. But I always wished—like anyone would—that I could have done something to prevent the crimes in the first place. Prevent the deaths. Stop them before they started. A case like this, a serial killer, is the worst. It’s not just an impulse kill, a crime of passion or a drug deal gone bad. It’s a deliberate series of acts, thought out, planned—desired. It’s hunting children. Hunting them, doing horrible things, and killing them. Killing them is probably the kindest thing. But until then…” Her voice faded away.
She took a sip of water and tried to swallow down the lump in her throat. “Sorry,” she said.
Sam ate the last forkful of salad and slid the empty plate aside. He, too, sat back against the cushion, then leveled his gaze at her.
“Why aren’t you on the force anymore?” he asked. It wasn’t a judgment; his voice was as casual as if asking about the weather.
Lacey smiled grimly and fiddled with her glass of water. “Long story,” she said. “I was unlucky enough to get embroiled in a scandal, and it quickly became clear that my presence was a distraction. It was best for all concerned that I resign.”
Sam regarded her quietly for a moment. She wondered what was going through his mind. His expressionless face gave nothing away. It was like having a conversation with a wall, she thought.
“That’s tough,” he said finally. She heard a trace of actual sympathy there.
“Yeah.” Changing the subject, she asked, “What about you? Did you always have mediumistic tendencies?”
He turned his head and stared out the window. “Yeah, mostly. My grandpa’s a medicine man.”
Lacey traced his profile with her eyes. Strong brow, prominent nose, full lips. Stubborn chin.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what tribe are you?”
He swung his gaze to her, his eyes hardening to glass. “Navajo. I’m half.”
He looked as if he expected some kind of negative response. She just nodded. It hadn’t been too many decades since the Irish had been a target of discrimination. She could understand the defensive posture.
“Well,” she said, looking around for their waitress. “As soon as we get the check, I’ll take you back. I appreciate your time.” She busied herself finding her wallet in her purse.
“Sure,” he said. Looking around, he spotted their waitress and signaled her. She bustled over with the check and Lacey grabbed it.
They were silent in the car. Lacey tried to think of a topic of discussion, but nothing seemed appropriate. As they neared Fuller Avenue, she had a thought.
“Do you want me to drop you here, or is there some place else?”
“This is fine,” he said.
She nodded and pulled to the curb a quarter block from the crime scene. There were still people there, milling around, but less than before. No doubt hungry stomachs were taking precedence over curious minds.
Sam got out of the car and stood by the open door. He seemed to be considering something, then finally leaned down and faced her across the seat.
“You should probably know,” he said. “There’s more.”
“More bodies. I think they’re all there. Check it out.”
He shoved the car door shut and walked away.
Lacey spent the rest of the weekend bouncing off the walls of her mind. More bodies? All the bodies? She alternately thought of calling Victor directly, then going back to the site herself, then kicked herself for not getting Sam’s number. Surely if he suspected that, he would tell the police—wouldn’t he? But apparently he had not tipped them off before; the woman had, once she’d started digging and found a bone.
Lacey tried to temper her scattered need to do something by forcing herself to think calmly—as an officer would. If she were still on the force, what would she do? Research, of course.
She camped in front of her laptop and looked up property records for the address on Fuller. The lady that lived there—Mrs. Levinson—had bought the property in 1999. She bought it from a couple named Kantor, who bought it in 1991 from a man named Lester Morehouse. Morehouse had owned it since 1979.
Bells went off as soon as she saw the year 1991, the year of the last known disappearance—Isabel’s disappearance. If this was her man, and he had died then, that would explain the end of the trail. But if he had moved… Where else might he have continued his atrocities? She shuddered to think.
The Sunday LA Times said more bones had been recovered, but the investigation was ongoing and no more information was being released. It would take time to date the bones and do DNA analysis.
She fumed. If she were still on the force, she’d have a team to dig into this, people checking real estate records, names and dates across the country, every slimmest lead they had. She did a search for Lester Morehouse and came up with 523 all around the country. It would take her weeks to check each one. And until the forensics came in, she wasn’t really sure he would even be a suspect.
She did a search on Samuel Firecloud and got nothing. Firecloud was not a common name, but most searches turned up something. She wondered if he stayed off the net. Maybe, with his unusual talent, he kept a low profile.
She could imagine the abuse he might get from time to time. Anyone who claimed extraordinary powers opened themselves up to all kinds of doubt and negative feelings from non-believers. It occurred to her that, normally, she would be one such non-believer. She’d read about desperate families hiring psychics in last-ditch efforts to solve cold cases, and she’d always snorted with derision.
But not this time. Why not? The man certainly didn’t make any effort to convince her. Couldn’t have cared less, for that matter. Maybe it was just because she’d love so desperately to solve this case. To be able to stare at those photos and know that she had brought some justice to those innocent eyes.
Monday morning’s paper reported little progress; a few more bones, no confirmed identification or cause of death.
Lacey made up her mind.
She called Shirley So, Victor’s assistant, on her direct line.
“Captain Shaw’s office,” the familiar voice said.
“Shirley, hi; it’s Lacey. How are you?”
“Lacey! Good lord, honey, it’s nice to hear from you. I’m fine; how are you?”
Lacey knew the enthusiasm was real. Shirley was a few years older than she was, and they had occasionally gone to lunch together when workloads and schedules had permitted. After Lacey resigned, six months ago, her embarrassment had kept her from reconnecting.
“I’m doing okay,” Lacey hedged. “But, listen, I need to talk to the captain. Can you get me in to see him today? I only need five minutes.”
Shirley sighed. “No can do, honey. His whole day is full. Lots going on with this recovery effort, you know.” Shirley paused. “Is that what this is about?”
“Just five minutes, Shirley. Really. Please?”
She heard papers shuffling. “Not today,” Shirley said firmly. “How about tomorrow? I can slide you in just before lunch. How does 11:45 sound?”
“That’s perfect. Thank you, Shirley. I appreciate it. I’ll see you then.”
All right, she thought as she got ready for work. Baby steps but still progress.
She tried to drag herself to work with a bit more enthusiasm than normal. Parking her car at the self storage, she could only sigh. Being little more than a guard dog, roaming the chain link enclosure from three to midnight, just wasn’t enough to keep her brain engaged.
“Hi, Fernie,” she said, walking into the office.
“Hey, there’s my best security guard,” Fernando Lopez said with a big smile. Fernie was sweet. A big man, prone to bear hugs, he’d practically adopted Lacey, even though he was only about ten years older. As she picked up her ring of keys and her radio, he laid a large, warm hand on her back and patted her shoulder.
“Pretty quiet?” she asked as she hung the paraphernalia on her belt beside her nightstick and cell phone.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “No problems. Boring for you, I know, but good for me.”
Lacey smiled. “Good all around,” she said. “You’re not paying me to be entertained.”
“Saw that about the bones they found,” he said, his large round face serious for once. He had, of course, vetted her well before hiring her and knew her past.
“Hope they nail the son of a bitch.”
She nodded. “Me, too.”
She stepped out the back door and began her preliminary walkthrough. It was still warm, and the sun wouldn’t set for hours. Didn’t take long before she was sweating in her brown military shirt and dark green pants. The embroidered patch over her breast pocket scratched her pale skin.
She walked the perimeter and checked all the gates. She tried to change up her routine, but there were only so many ways to do that. She varied her path as much as possible, walking up and down the aisles of storage units one way, then another. She had a feeling her plans to stay unpredictable so as to keep any intruder guessing were largely unnecessary. But it went against her grain to do a half-assed job.
Her father had drilled that perfection into her. A firefighter for over thirty years, he had told her hundreds—thousands—of times that slipshod work could mean death. In his profession, surely, and eventually in hers, until her boyfriend Derrick had gotten greedy and pissed away everything they had as a couple. His job, their relationship, her job, his freedom. She still had trouble believing she could have been so blind.
So she walked and changed up her routine and checked gates that were always locked. And rather than berate herself again over her foolish trust in Derrick, she thought of white bones encased in dark earth, and a Navajo man who tried to ease the suffering of ghosts.
On Tuesday, she was anxious to see the captain, although as she drove over to the office, she realized she wasn’t sure what tack to take. No longer a member of the force, talking off the cuff about a medium—it certainly wasn’t the usual topic for either of them.
As soon as she walked into the office, Shirley jumped up and came to give her a hug.
“How are you, honey?” she asked with genuine concern.
Lacey smiled broadly, hoping it didn’t look fake. “I’m fine, Shirley. Working, staying busy, you know. How are you?”
“Oh, everything’s the same here.” Shirley motioned Lacey to the chair beside her desk as she took her own seat. “Captain’s on the phone. He’ll be right with you.”
Lacey nodded. Shirley looked good. Her straight black hair framed her face, the brown oval eyes sparkling. The small woman handled the captain and the office with little need for physical strength. Sweet looking on the outside, small and petite, she could cut a man down with just a look. No one messed with Shirley.
“Oh, he’s off now,” she said abruptly. “Go on in. And, hey, we should do lunch sometime.”
“We should,” Lacey said, rising and heading for the captain’s office. “I’ll call you.”
She entered the office and closed the door carefully behind her. Not quite sure of her welcome, she walked hesitantly to the chair opposite his desk.
To her surprise, the captain pushed himself up from his own chair, came around the desk and folded her into his arms. His hugs were the best: gentle but enveloping. She felt her body relax and sighed contentedly.
“Sit down,” he offered as he let her slip from his grasp. “You want a cup of coffee?”
“No, thanks, Captain, I’m fine.” She settled in the chair and let him regain his seat. “Thanks for seeing me.”
He frowned. “I’m not sure how much help I can be,” he said. She knew he was warning her; he couldn’t speak out of turn again.
“That’s where you’ve got it wrong, sir,” she said. “I’m here to help you.”
His eyebrows shot up toward his hairline and he steepled his fingers. “Oh?”
She nodded. “Have you talked to the medium?”
He indicated a file about three inches thick on his desk. “It’s on my list, but we’ve been kinda busy digging up bones.”
“Any ID yet?” she asked. She was pretty sure she knew the answer.
“No. Still analyzing.”
“It’s Isabel Ramirez.”
The captain’s coffee-colored eyes regarded her intently. “And you know this… how?”
She leaned back in her chair. “I took the medium to lunch.”
The captain’s eyes searched her face. “And…?”
“I think he’s on the level. He described what he felt in the basement, a little girl crying and scared. I could tell her fear and panic affected him. He said she wanted her parents to know where she was, and she told him where she was buried. I asked him if he knew her name, and he said Izzy. That was Isabel’s nickname, what her parents called her. I read the transcripts of the interviews, and I remembered that.”
The captain leaned back in his chair, the unlucky construction made with slighter bodies in mind; it groaned under Shaw’s considerable bulk.
“He could have looked that up,” he said.
“Why would he?” Lacey posited. “He had no idea what was bothering the lady there; he said he wouldn’t let her tell him anything until he did his walk. If he knew the bones were there, yes, he could have constructed the rest of the scenario, but how would he have known? He’s too young to be a suspect. He’s a few years older than me, mid to late thirties. Even if he’s forty, that would make him born in 1976; he’d have been about ten when the Stalker was most active. Even the most diabolical serial killers don’t start that young.”
The captain listened, his expression studiously blank. He tapped the fingers of both hands together, a light, thoughtful gesture.
“Well,” he said finally, “we’ll find out when we get the DNA results.”
“In the meantime,” she said, “you need to dig up the rest of that yard.”
The captain’s body lurched forward in the protesting chair. “Why?”
“Because the rest of them are there. Sam told me.”
“The medium. He said the others are there, too.”
She dared him to argue.
The captain turned his head and glanced at the fat file on his desk. “If this body is Isabel’s, you can bet your ass we’ll dig up the rest of that yard. But I’m not going to take a backhoe to old lady Levin’s rose garden on the say-so of a no-name psychic with no batting record.”
“Her name is Levinson. And she bought the property in 1999 from people who bought it in 1991 from a guy named Lester Morehouse. That’s the year of the last disappearance—of Isabel Ramirez.”
The captain blew out a frustrated breath and impaled Lacey with his eyes. “You know damn good and well we’re working this from every angle. If it is the Stalker or if it’s not—”
“You need Sam.”
The captain shook his head. “This investigation is not going to be based on mumbo-jumbo. It’s going to be conducted scientifically with the best and most advanced technical expertise available.”
Period, she heard in the still silence of the room.
The captain was right and she knew it. He couldn’t base an investigation on a psychic—not generally and most especially not just six months after the LAPD had been dragged through a scandal involving racketeering and drug dealing by one of its senior vice officers. Derrick had done a job on both of them, tainting the force and tainting her at the same time.
“I know that, sir,” she said apologetically. “I wasn’t suggesting you abandon any of that. I just wanted to let you know that there’s more to it than you might think. And I just feel that Sam’s talents could bring considerable benefit to the investigation.”