Agent Boone left me in an interrogation room for what felt like hours before he finally came in. He set a folder at least half an inch thick down in front of me. Even if he’d spent every second since I left him researching my life, there was no way he’d found that much information. I was tempted to flip through to see if he’d filled the file with blank papers or something else to pad it. Instead, I forced myself to keep a neutral expression and wait him out. I didn’t kill Peter, and something told me he didn’t believe I did. Despite my distrust of the DPI, I’d gotten a decent read on Agent Boone. He wanted to catch the actual killer, not just close the case as quickly as possible.
“You lead an interesting life,” Boone said, “even by magical standards.”
“It’s all a matter of relativity. I’m sure there are plenty of people who make my life look tame.”
“You’re in over your head with debt, have a terramancer with a grudge hunting for you, and you perform fake seances among other odd jobs to pay the bills. And that’s just what we got from one person at the market under East Lyndale,” he said. I did my best not to react. How did they even know about that marketplace? There were protections in place to keep mundane people from finding it.
“Do I get a lawyer?” I asked. If they’d been to the Lyndale Market, I couldn’t guess what they’d dug up on me.
“If you want one,” he said casually.
“Yes, please,” I said. I’d already allowed him to bring me in to keep from looking guilty, but I couldn’t let my confidence overshadow my common sense.
“Casper, the DPI’s patience only stretches so far,” he said.
“Well, it better extend far enough to get a lawyer here because I’m not talking about Lyndale Market without one,” I said.
“All right,” he said. He got up and left. The file sat on the table inches away, begging me to pick it up.
It might not be as trumped up as I first thought. I’d fallen behind enough that Holly wanted to make me an example. Not everyone I owed shared her overzealous ideas of how to handle me. A lot of people don’t like to get their hands dirty. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t sell me out or put me in a precarious position if the opportunity came right up to them to ask questions. Two or three minutes passed before I caved and pulled the file closer.
Clearly, I’d underestimated Agent Boone. He couldn’t have found all this out on his own. Had he assigned an entire team to track me down? My debts, listed in order from highest to lowest, filled the first few pages. There weren’t any blank pages as I’d initially thought. Instead, the file held photos, paperwork for open cases, and profiles on several people I knew, including Hugh and Flynn. Some pictures featured us taking the plants from the house where Peter died. I closed the file and pushed it back to the center of the table. Only a minute or so later, someone knocked on the door.
“Casper Clark?” asked a middle-aged woman in a grey dress with a black blazer over it. She came to the table and offered me her hand. “I’m Joanna Barnes. Public defender.”
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Barnes,” I said, standing and shaking her hand.
“If I understand the situation correctly, they have you on obstruction of justice and a collection of minor charges. The obstruction one gives me the most concern,” she said.
“Agent Boone found me carrying the weapon that killed my friend Peter,” I explained.
“So it isn’t a misunderstanding. You involved yourself in the investigation and concealed evidence. That’s not great. Have the DPI offered you any sort of deal?” Joanna asked.
“No. I asked for a lawyer before we got into deep conversation,” I told her.
“Right, let’s see how Agent Boone wants to play this out, and I’ll advise you from there,” she said.
“Sounds good to me,” I said, not seeing another choice.
“Agent Boone,” Joanna said, poking her head out the door without leaving the room.
“So, is your client ready to talk?” he asked as he came in.
“We’re ready to hear you out,” she responded.
“There’s not much to go over. He confessed to carrying a murder weapon and refused to explain where he’d gotten it,” Agent Boone said.
“But you don’t think that he’s the murderer,” Joanna said matter-of-factly. “Possession of the weapon is enough to make anyone suspect him of killing.“
“That’s right,” Boone said.
“So, what’s your angle?” I asked.
“I don’t want to lock you up. But I can’t have you working against me either,” he said. “I don’t believe for a second that you’d stop looking for your friend’s killer, even if that were the only condition I put on you walking without charges.”
“You can’t just hold him indefinitely. You have no idea how long it will take to solve this murder,” Joanna said.
“Than what do you propose?” she asked.
“I want to hire Casper. We’ll drop the obstruction charges, and he’ll become an official part of the investigation,” Agent Boone said. He’d adopted a completely neutral expression. Was my poker face this good?
“I’d like a moment alone with my client,” Joanna said.
“Take your time.” Boone got up and walked out.
“Is he right?” she asked.
“About what?” I asked.
“If you get out of this obstruction charge, you’ll go right back to investigating the murder?” she clarified. I didn’t answer her, but she must have seen it on my face. “You should take his deal. In my professional opinion, you have more to gain than to lose. I can help you negotiate conditions if you want, but I don’t think any other deal I could get you would be so advantageous.”
“What happens if I don’t take the deal?”
“Since there’s evidence that you have already worked against them in this investigation, they could hold you. Depending on how things went, you could get up to five years in prison. I’d probably get them down to something lower, but I can’t guarantee you no jail time,” she said.
“Okay. Let’s see what working for the DPI entails,” I said.
If signing on with Agent Boone for his official investigation was the only way I’d be able to find Peter’s killer, I’d do it. I could find a way out of it once the case ended. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad having backup from a government agent. At the very least, I doubted Holly, or anyone else I owed, would make a move while I worked with Agent Boone. He came back into the room, and we started negotiating.