We had a wrap party, as they call it in Hollywood.
Charlie fixed Lobster Newburg, if you can believe that.
We didn't. So we harangued him. Then I accused Amita of cooking for him. Amita merely smiled. But I knew enough harassment would cause Charlie to crumble.
I was right, as usual, Charlie finally confessed that it came from a can that he'd bought from Vermont Country Store.
Larry examined his plate dubiously.
"I said a lobster dinner, Larry," Charlie teased. "I didn't say it would be fresh lobster, much less at a nice restaurant."
Larry shot Charlie an ironic look. Then delicately nibbled on his lobster and bow tie pasta.
I wasn't sure if Charlie was teasing Larry about his dinner, or if he was trying to fool us into thinking that Charlie wasn't going to pay for Megan and Larry to go to a fancy restaurant. For a guy who is so crappy at lying, Charlie can be pretty sneaky.
As witness this whole NSA/top security level thing.
No, I'm not going to forget that any time this decade.
"You didn't go on the raid?" Dad challenged me.
I shook my head. "Dad, if I had arrested Matzurath, any first year law student could have gotten the case thrown out of court. Even if my team had gone, they could have cried about 'conflict of interest', among other things."
I took a few minutes to roll the Canned-Lobster-Stuff over my tongue. It was actually pretty good, I'd have to remember this. "Besides, it turned out to be moot. There is a reason why those pictures had been abandoned."
"That poor girl," murmured Amita.
We had a moment of silence in honor of the victims.
"So, you're sure that Matzurath was the man behind the pictures?" Larry asked. "How did his gear wind up in that hotel?"
Edna shook her head. "We're not certain about that, most of the hotel records are long gone, but we're still looking into that aspect of the case," she said.
"But the case is close, right? The monster's dead?" Dad asked. He warily tasted his Lobster Newburg before deciding it was edible.
"Oh, yes," Edna said. "Sixteen years ago, he fell into his inside pool after it had been emptied for cleaning. The pool cleaners found his body."
"What happened to the outside pool?" Charlie asked.
"How did you know he had an outside pool?" Dad demanded.
Charlie blinked. "Um, Edna said an 'inside pool'," he said nervously. "That implies that there was an inside pool."
Dad looked at Charlie suspiciously. Obviously, Charlie wasn't fooling him, but Dad decided to let it drop, thank heavens.
"The outside pool had been filled in," Edna continued hurriedly. She looked at her plate, came to the same conclusion that I had about it being okay to enjoy being alive and dug into the Lobster Newburg.
"His niece inherited his house," Megan went on. "She never lived there, just used it as a rental. She's probably gonna sell it now."
"Why? What did you find?" Amita asked.
"A lot of blood evidence," David said. "The house had been thoroughly cleaned many times, but you can never completely get rid of blood."
"Blood? Any chance of identifying it?" Larry asked.
I shook my head. "After all this time and all the cleaning fluids that have been used on it? Probably not," I said. "The lab techs are doing what they can. The real damning evidence was in the filled in pool."
Dad and Charlie's eyes went wide.
"Not bodies," I said quickly. "Just a lot of clothing and toys and stuff that might still be identified and linked to an owner."
"Speaking of identify," David said. "As Charlie pointed out, not all of the pictures were of different children. Some of them were the same child at different ages."
"Really?" Dad put his hand on his knee and tilted his head to examine Charlie.
Charlie had his mouth full, so I jumped in. "Yeah, guess you passed on some good eyesight genes, even if you didn't pass on any height genes."
Dad gave me a look that said that I wasn't fooling him, but he'd graciously let this pass until the guests had left. I decided to leave with the crowd and let Charlie handle this. OK, it was cowardly of me, but it had been a long week.
"We think the total is twelve to fourteen children dead," Edna said, studying her plate. "Which is horrible, but not as bad as we originally feared."
"Some of the pictures turned out to be of child performers… actors, musicians, gymnasts… that Matzurath never actually met," Colby said. "Some of the other children have been tracked down. They remembered Dr. Maths, but none of them had been close to him. He never got a chance to get them alone."
"So he gave up on them, as he gave up on Charles," Larry murmured.
"Good," Dad said.
"Can we change the subject?" Charlie said.
"Sure," Dad said. "So, what's going on with you and Amita?"
"Dad!" Charlie yelped, scandalized.
"Math," Amita said blandly.
She and Charlie smiled at each other. I keep hoping they'll get married and start providing Dad with those grandchildren that he wants so much. Then maybe he'll stop nagging me.
Hey, a man can dream, can't he?
"You want to help serve dessert?" Charlie asked Amita.
"Sure," Amita said. She followed Charlie into the kitchen.
Dad watched them with a paternal smile on his face. Obviously, he was thinking about grandchildren, too. Or maybe he was just thinking about his child. The one who was alive and well and, judging from the giggles emerging from the kitchen, happy.
I thought about the horror story we had just closed, and felt gratitude that Charlie was one of the ones who got away.