Before Mr. Sumerset and I left, he told Anna to get the name of the person who owned the deed to the house on Sullivan. The county had digitized its files a year or two ago; you had to pay a fee to access their website, but after that you pull up anything that was in the public record.
After that, we got into Sumerset's car--Pearl white 5th Avenue Chrysler. Little more than a block of metal with wheels. Only thing that could have stopped one of these things was a gas station.
"We need to scope out the place," he told me. "While we still got daylight."
"Out of costume?" I asked.
"I'll do the snooping."
"Then why am I tagging along?"
"So I can keep an eye on you and make sure you don't do anything stupid," he said, before adding: "And I want to talk to you a bit. Away from your girlfriend."
"I hardly know--"
"And you told her about the Skull," he said. "Great policy. What's next, the mail-man? 'Thanks for the delivery, Joe. By the way, did I mention that my mother was actually the Skull?'."
I glared at him. "Come on--these were--these were extenuating circumstances, okay? It's not like I'm some sort of professional cape--I'm going to make mistakes."
"That's the thing," he said. "You don't get to make mistakes in this business. Amateurs? They end up dead. You've gotta hit the ground running. You're either a pro from day one or nothing at all."
"Good thing I'm not planning on sticking with the family business then, isn't it?"
We drove in silence for a little while after that. Finally, I ventured the question.
"What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Plan B. Didn't want to parade it out in front of your friend back there."
"This guy. 'Sharkface', or whatever. Like I said, it's possible that he's figured out who you are, or at least he's got enough intel to put the pieces together at some point down the road," he said.
"Yeah, I know. I'll just have to deal with that when it happens."
"You don't seem to understand. Even if we put him in prison, that don't mean he can't figure things out. Prisons got computers, now. And he can talk to other inmates. Point is, he's a liability."
I felt a little shiver go up my spine. Something about the way he said it--all business. Brisk. Easy. Like he was talking about a local sports team.
"Yeah, I know. So?"
"So? Dead people ain't liabilities."
A wave of nausea surged up through my stomach. "You can't be serious."
"Relax. You wouldn't be the one to do it," he said. "I mean, Christ. You're just a kid."
"No. That isn't--that isn't an option," I said, surprised at the force in my own voice. "Look--I made this mess. I'll clean it up. And--and if he figures things out, or if it looks like he might do it in the future--I'll just have to deal, okay?"
"Just something to keep in mind," he said. "You know, if the government found out where the Skull's gear was stashed--it wouldn't be a good thing. And not just them--there's quite a few groups who would make a move."
"Drop it. Let's just pretend we never had this conversation, okay?"
"If that's how you want to play it."
I turned and stared at the window, watching the scenery flick by. Another question gnawed at the back of my head--after several minutes of trees, I finally asked it.
"Did my mother ever kill anyone?"
"Is that really a question you want me to answer?"
I turned back to the trees.