“I only remember meeting him once,” she said. “Fred had some of the guys over, and Joe Sims was sitting right here. He was interested in all the Sinatra stuff. Then when he was leaving, he said something to me. He said, ‘The one problem with that collection is that Frank Sinatra can’t sing.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Frank Sinatra can’t sing.’ The hackles on my neck stood up. Literally. I mean it. When Fred came back, I said, ‘He’s bad news, Fred. I can tell you right now, he’s bad news.’ But Fred pooh-poohed it. He said something like, ‘Ah, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

It is the central mystery of the case. (…) By all accounts, Fred Thomas had lived an exemplary life of loyalty and leadership, with a devoted wife, a son nearby, a secure pension income, and a dream home to show for it. Joe Sims (…) was a man of unsavory associations and catastrophic divorces, a man who when he tells the truth, tells it slant, a man who stands accused of raping his stepdaughter in a house with her old swing set still planted in the backyard.

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