One hour. That’s how long it took the FBI agents to have a healthy list of suspects.
Alex had been insightful to insist Mark wear his crown.
A little birdie may have hinted to the mayor that the prince would be in formal attire, much more formal than most people would think to wear to a barbeque. Word spread from there. Most people in attendance were dressed for a garden party at a mansion with dignitaries, which is exactly the case.
Noah’s new home truly was elegant. Nested on the hillside overlooking Kingston, the six-bedroom, eight bath home boasted Italian marble flooring, a den almost the size of a small library, a kitchen to entice an amateur chef, and a game room with a billiard table, a full bar, and a movie screen.
But the inside wasn’t the most impressive thing about the home. The professionally manicured gardens featured a three-foot maze of yew hedging that would grow taller than a man within another ten years or so. Wraparound decking and patios surrounded the home in a full circle of entertaining spaces overlooking the gardens and the valley below.
Even with Noah’s one-quarter ownership of Domrey Incorporated and his mayor’s salary, there was no way he brought in enough money to afford the estate.
His arm wrapped possessively around the tiny waist of his trophy wife, Nikki, Noah mingled with his guests, flitting from one group to another, gracing them with his presence as their doting mayor.
Alex could barely contain a straight face. He wondered if Nikki realized she was no longer Noah’s sole focus of attention, if she ever had been. The way she flirted with other men, even while tucked within Noah’s ever-present hands, was unsettling.
Amber and Joshua Roland arrived with Prince Marcos and Hazel, stealing Noah’s limelight. Alex could almost see Noah’s clenched jaw beneath his fake smile. His façade shifted again to his game face and he welcomed his guests of honor, making quick work to introduce them to all the right people, most of whom were the very individuals the agents could easily identify as corrupt. That’s what they were trained to do.
Joshua was a master at creasing his brows and cocking his head in such a way that made people feel he was listening with interest to whatever they were rambling on about, then would take them by the elbow and quietly say, “I’d like to talk to you more about that. Do you have a business card?”
Amber used her casual flower-patterned sundress to blend into her husband’s side, taking careful mental notes of the man talking to Joshua as well as everyone surrounding them.
Mark was the perfect distraction, drawing the undivided attention of everyone else with his quick wit and celebrity status.
Hazel was a draw for every woman who needed to ask when she was due, if they knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, and what they planned to name the little prince or princess. She played her part perfectly.
Alex and Krystina stood together, leaning against the railing of one of the outer decks, watching everyone at once, and leaning close to compare mental notes.
As the evening wore on, and grilled kabobs and salmon steaks had been replaced with chocolate fondues and flowing champagne, the guests became more animated and looser lipped. That was when the true intel was exposed.
The list of suspects became a slam dunk case against Mayor Noah Adlin and his business partner-in-crime, Councilman Andrew Huron. There were also a couple of contractors who were very obviously in cahoots with Noah and Drew, as well as two insiders at city hall.
Alex made the rounds to say goodnight to his now-inebriated hosts a few minutes prior to his team of detectives and drove Krystina home before heading up to Mark and Hazel’s.