Chapter 79


    In the Loss Prevention office Jessica stood behind John Shepherd. He rewound the video files. The recordings shuttled between different views, so there was a six-second rotation between each of four cameras on the twelfth floor. Even in a hotel as pricey and profitable as Le Jardin, they did not have the resources to devote a hard drive to each of the scores of cameras in and around the property.

    Shepherd rewound the recording to when Jessica and the other detectives came to Room 1208, then kept going. A handful of people backed up to their rooms, as well as the stairwell at the end of the hallways. Shepherd carried on until he saw one of the room attendants exit the room backward, then retreat down the hall. He stopped, played it forward.

    In normal time the view showed the room attendant walking down the hall, toward Room 1208. The attendant was female, petite and slender, with her light-colored hair in a braid. Here the view began its rotation, shifting to the area near the guest elevators.

    'Do you know who this is?' Jessica asked.

    'Hard to tell,' Shepherd said. 'I know a lot of the room attendants - most of them, in fact. But from this angle it's difficult.'

    When the view returned to the eastern hallway, they saw the attendant stop in front of 1208 for a few seconds. She didn't knock, she didn't try the door. She just stood there, perhaps listening. The camera then cut away to another view, again to the elevators, where it stayed for six seconds. No one came or went. It then cut to a view of the other end of the hallway, the western wing. Two women came out of a room there. The next cut was to the service elevators. Empty. Back to the young woman in front of 1208. The recording caught up with her as she knocked on the door. There was no audio, but Jessica could see her lips move. In the split second before the cut-away she lifted her hand, and appeared to swipe a card in the electronic lock.

    The recording moved again to its other locations. No other people were visible.

    They watched the rotation for the next minute and saw no activity. When they returned to the eastern hallway they saw a man heading away from the camera. He was in costume, a wizard's costume. He moved slowly, so that by the time he reached 1208 the camera had rotated. When the camera returned he was gone, and the door to the stairwell was just closing.

    'Shit,' Shepherd said. He rewound the recording with the joystick, and toggled it back and forth. There were no details visible. It was impossible to tell if the man had entered the room or just passed by. With his hat, long coat and what appeared to be gloves on his hands, there were no identifiable details.

    Shepherd pointed to the time code in the lower right-hand corner of the frame.

    'Right around here is when we went up,' he said.

    A minute later Jessica saw herself and Josh Bontrager walking down the hall. A few seconds later Shepherd joined them. They went inside the room.

    'I'm going to interrogate these locks,' Shepherd said. 'I'll be right back.'

    While Shepherd was gone Jessica toggled the video back and forth. She saw nothing new. She looked at the menu down the right side of the screen. She saw that one of the selections was the rear loading dock. She clicked over. It was a static shot from above one of the three docks behind the hotel, showing the loading bay, a pair of Dumpsters, and the hotel's shuttle bus parked in a space. There was no movement. In the upper right-hand corner she could see a sliver of Seventeenth Street.

    She was just about to click back over - she was certain that John Shepherd didn't want her messing around with the computers - when she saw a view that she had not seen before. It was above the side door to the loading dock, the man door, not the huge corrugated steel door. The view cut away, but before it did she saw something. She ran it back.

    There was no mistake. It was Kevin Byrne standing near the mouth of the alley.

    Jessica checked the time code.

    Was this when Byrne dropped off the package with the concierge? If so, what was he doing at the rear of the hotel?

    Jessica heard the door open in the outer office. She clicked back to the paused recording at the beginning of the clip of the twelfth floor. Shepherd reentered the office.

    'I interrogated all four locks along the path,' Shepherd said. 'The lock on 1208, the service elevator, the security door leading out to the loading dock, and the door on the dock itself. All four locks register the same card. It is signed out to one of the room attendants. Lucinda Doucette.'

    Why is that name familiar? Jessica thought. 'Do you know her?'

    'Oh yeah,' Shepherd said. 'Sweet kid. Shy.'

    'Do you have a photograph of her?'

    'Sure,' Shepherd said. He moved to another computer terminal, tapped a few keys. He input Lucinda's name and a few seconds later her ID page came up. He hit print and the color printer began to cycle. Seconds later, Jessica was looking at Lucinda Doucette's young face. Jessica knew her. She was the young woman at the Hosanna House, the one who'd been sitting at the little table with Carlos.

    Jessica had no choice. She called in an all-points bulletin on the girl.

    Shepherd hit a few keys, printing off one hundred copies of Lucinda Doucette's photograph. 'We need to get this to all the sector cars in the area.'

    When John Shepherd grabbed the printed photos and left the office, Jessica's cellphone rang. It was Nicci Malone.

    'Nicci. Why aren't you on channel with this?'

    'I'm not in the hotel anymore.'

    'What do you mean? Where are you?'

    Nicci gave her the location. It was a few blocks away.

    'What's going on?' Jessica asked.

    Detective Malone hesitated. 'You better get over here right away.'

The Echo Man
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