Doylestown was a quaint township of about eight thousand in Bucks County. The Ulrich Art Supply store was a standalone building, a converted ivy-veined coach house on North Main Street, across the road from the Mercer Square Shopping Center. The front windows held a display of paints, canvases, brushes, easels. Halloween decorations ringed the window and door.
On the way to Doylestown Jessica and Byrne decided not to approach the store in any official capacity. Because this was the only store within reach of the city that carried the paper used in these homicides, there was a chance that they might tip their hand by approaching the store as law-enforcement officers looking for information. If someone in the store was acquainted with the killer they might get on the phone the minute they left. If Plan A failed, they could always come in with guns and badges blazing.
They watched the store for a few minutes. There was a woman behind the counter, working on a small display rack. No one entered the store and they did not see anyone else working.
'Looks like you're up,' Jessica said.
'I thought you were the undercover queen.'
'I am,' Jessica said. 'But I think metrosexual is out of my range.'
'What did we say about that word?'
Byrne took a moment, scoping the terrain. 'Who am I again?'
Jessica gave it some thought. 'I'm thinking Bennett Strong.'
Byrne nodded. It was a good choice. Tough but suitably fey, given the venue. 'Where was the show?'
Jessica turned her iPhone so that Byrne could see it. She had searched the web on the way into Doylestown and found a recent print show in Philadelphia. She had also looked up the art supply store's website. There she found the owner's name. Alicia Webster.
Byrne pulled his badge from his belt, along with his weapon and his holster, put it all in the back seat. He took off his jacket.
'Want some hair gel?' Jessica asked.
Byrne just gave her a look.
Alicia Webster was in her mid to late thirties. She wore a beige knit cardigan and black corduroy slacks. Her eyeglasses hung around her neck on a rawhide lace.
She glanced up as Byrne entered the store accompanied by a ring of a bell. 'May I help you?' she asked. Pleasant smile, bright eyes.
Byrne proffered a business card. On it was simply a name - no phone number, no address, no email, no website. He had a stack of them in his briefcase. Ten different names. You never knew.
'My name is Bennett Strong,' he said. 'I am the owner of Strong Galleries, New York City.'
The woman's face lit up.
'You are Miss Webster?'
The woman looked surprised that he knew her name.
'I am.' She held up her left hand, wiggled her ring finger. 'But it's Mrs.'
Byrne put a hand to his heart. 'Mea culpa.' He smiled at her. 'Mrs. Of course.'
A blush. 'How can I help you, Mr. Strong?'
'I love your store, by the way. Did I see Kolinsky sables on the way in?' It was something Byrne had seen on the store's website. He knew that the woman carried the brushes.
'Yes,' she said. 'You know your brushes.'
'And now to the point. I recently attended the PortPhilio show in Philadelphia. Did you manage to make it to the affair?'
Say no, Byrne thought. Please say no.
'No. I wanted to, but I'm all alone here since my son went back to school. I couldn't get away.'
'It was fabulous.'
The door opened behind them, ringing the bell again. A woman entered the store. Alicia's eyes flicked over to the new customer, then back.
'Anyway, I met a man there, a printmaker, who recommended your shop. He showed me some of his work and it was fantastic.'
'I would really like to contact him, but I'm afraid I lost his card and I don't remember his name.'
'And he said he purchased supplies here?'
'He was from Doylestown?'
'I don't know.'
'What did the man look like?'
Shit, Byrne thought. He had no idea what to say. He didn't even know if it was a man. He aimed for the middle, culling from a standard profile. 'I'm terrible at these things. But I'd say he was thirty to forty. Medium height and weight. I'm not sure of his hair because he was wearing a ball cap.' This was as vague as Byrne could get. He smiled at Alicia. 'I'm a lot better with remembering women.'
Another blush. 'Well, that's not too much for me to go on.'
'Maybe this will help. During the course of our conversation he mentioned his printmaking technique, and said he was enamored of a certain brand of paper. An Italian paper. Quite expensive.'
'Do you remember the line?'
'I do not. But he showed me a sample and the watermark was Venus de Milo.'
Byrne snapped his fingers. 'That's it.'
The woman frowned. 'That's not an item we generally keep in stock. I've only sold a few dozen sheets in the past year or so.'
Alicia turned to her computer, tapped a few keys. In a moment a screen came up. Byrne could see the reflection in her glasses. It was a database program and she had found an entry. She nodded, perhaps remembering the man.
'I'm afraid I can't give you anyone's name. Our mailing list is confidential, of course.'
'If you'd like, I could take your information and have them get in touch with you.'
'That would be great.'
Just then there was a loud crash at the back of the store. Alicia spun around to see a woman at the rear, next to a toppled display rack of oil paints.
'Shoot!' the woman at the back exclaimed.
'Oh my,' Byrne said. 'Look, why don't you tend to this terribly clumsy woman and I'll stop back in a few minutes. I have to hit the ATM, anyway.'
'That would be fine.'
As Alicia walked to the rear of the store to help Jessica pick up the spilled merchandise, Byrne spun the LCD monitor to face him. His eyes scanned the screen. The problem was that he was not wearing his glasses. The customer's name was a little larger than the rest of the entry. He got that with no problem. It was a company called Marcato LLC.
Beneath that: Attention JP Novak. Byrne looked at the bottom. Philadelphia. In between, it was mostly a blur.
He spun the monitor back, turned on his heels, and left the store.
They pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to route 611.
'Did we get it?'
'I got the name,' Byrne said. 'And a partial address.'
'A partial address?'
Byrne fell silent.
'You weren't wearing your glasses.'
Byrne plowed forward. He checked the notes that he'd scribbled after leaving the store. 'The paper was purchased by a company called Marcato LLC. Contact name is JP Novak. The address is in Philly. Something something something something Ashingdale Road. Or Arlington. I think the number was 8180 or 5150. Maybe 6160.'
Jessica shook her head. 'You know, those glasses do serve a purpose.'
'I don't see you wearing yours all the time.'
'Mind your own business, Mr. Strong. Now, drive the car and let me start sleuthing.'
On the way back to Philadelphia Jessica called in the name. There was no phone listing for a JP Novak, nor anyone with that name in PCIC with a criminal record. They found more than three dozen listings for Novaks with J as an initial: John, Joseph, Jerry, Jerszy, Jacob, Joshua.
She also looked up Marcato and did not find any company with that name, LLC or otherwise. She did find a definition of the word and found that it was Italian for marked, and when it was applied to music it meant performing the note with an 'attack' and a sustain of two-thirds of the original written length, followed by an audible counted rest.
According to one source the marcato sound was 'a rhythmic thrust followed by a decay of the sound.'
Who would name their company this? Jessica wondered.
When they returned to the Roundhouse they searched every database for a JP Novak, as well as for Philadelphia streets named Ashingdon or dozens of possible permutations. They asked everyone on the floor if they knew of any Philly streets or courts or lanes by that name or similar names. There were a few close matches but nothing exact.
After twenty minutes of strikeouts Jessica stood, began to peruse the large paper map on the wall. You could only look at a computer screen for so long before going six-eyed with fatigue. Somehow she put her finger on two possibilities.
'Look at this,' she said. 'There's a street in West Philly called Abingdon.'
Byrne shot to his feet. 'That's it.' 'There's also one called Ashingdale.' 'Shit.'
Josh Bontrager grabbed his coat. 'I'll take Ashingdale.' Jessica and Byrne headed to the door. 'Kevin?'
'Bring your glasses.'