Parker opens these chapters with some actual investigation, going to talk to one of Rita’s neighbors, a single mother who sometimes acted as babysitter for Donald. Rita, it transpires, had been working “at nights” to make ends meet for Lester Biggs, a crooked businessman with aspirations of running an escort agency. Biggs doesn’t have much information to offer, only that the last client Rita took scared her so badly she quit and tried to leave town-the incident being what prompted her to ask Parker for help in getting the child support money Billy Purdue owed her. The only description Rita gave of the man was that he was old and wore clothes several decades out of date. Any further attempts to chase down Billy Purdue only result in Parker learning that Purdue hired a private investigator of his own several weeks ago.
Marvin Willeford is an aging alcoholic and the only investigator Purdue could afford, and even then he couldn’t pay him to complete his investigation. What Purdue was looking for was the identity of his birth parents, but Willeford only encountered dead ends; ones seemingly designed to end. Purdue was mostly raised in foster homes, mostly upstate, the last in the town of Dark Hollow. The records of his birth were sealed and his placement into the foster care system was facilitated by Cheryl Lansing-whom Parker briefly encountered leaving money and clothes with Rita for Donald, and the nuns of a local convent-since turned into a nursing home. The same nursing home where a woman killed herself rather than face Caleb Kyle, a tragedy overshadowed in the local imagination by the gang killings. Parker concludes his interview with Willeford only to get kidnapped and roughed up by Tony Celli, the mobster at the center of the recent activity, who is also looking for Billy Purdue.
Angel and Louis arrive in town to watch Parker’s back. Word has reached them of Tony Celli’s involvement and they are able to explain/exposition the missing details. Celli made a bad investment in currency bonds with other people’s money, and so he is hiding from his bosses. He kidnapped the daughter of an ex-Khmer Rogue agent turned smugger for the Cambodian mob and Billy Purdue made off with the ransom money when that deal went pear-shaped. Meanwhile, a pair of sexual sadists/assassins, Abel and Stritch, are looking to retire and have set their eyes on the Cambodian ransom money, believing Celli and/or Purdue to be easy marks. Of Abel, conveniently, there is no description, but Stritch fits the description of the fat man who had been following Parker. Louis, in a nice touch indicating that the characters are at least as quick on the uptake as the readers, points out that Rita and Donald’s death do not match up with the methods used by anyone looking for the money.
The chapters close out with Angel and Parker traveling to meet Cheryl Lansing. When they arrive at her address there is no answer at her door and they can see rotting food through a window. In the backyard the pool has been filled in with leaves, and Parker finds the bodies of Lansing, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughters inside. Lansing’s tongue has been cut out, in a “don’t talk” message similar to Rita’s mouth being sown shut.
In contrast to the previous books, it’s nice that Parker is doing actual investigations and the characters are drawing logical conclusions based on the information they find, rather than following along in a killer’s trail and waiting for convenient murder attempts to clue them in. It goes a long way towards removing the “Parker is a chump” theme of the previous book. It’s also a nice touch that Connolly subverts the “all the cases are related” trope here. While Billy Purdue is at the center of both the murder story and the mob money story, he is the only common point of contact, and even the characters recognize that they are in the midst of two separate stories. The “all cases are related” trope is so widespread in mystery fiction, that it’s frankly a relief whenever it’s not used.