H Is For Homicide Page 15

She wasn't at her desk, but she appeared a half second later, eyes pinned on a Dixie cup filled with water to the brim. She wore a red cashmere sweater with the sleeves pushed up. Her complexion was fresh and clear, her skin shiny with good health. Her coloring was the stuff of magazine ads. ’’Here we are,’’ she said, and then she glanced up at me with some surprise. ’’Oh. Did they leave? The pair that was here?’’

’’They went that-a-way. You missed them by a half a second.’’

She peered out into the corridor, but there was no sign of them. ’’Well, that's weird. She said she wasn't feeling good, so I went to get her this.’’

’’She looked okay to me.’’

Mary's mouth pulled down with puzzlement and she set the cup of water on her desk. ’’I wish they'd hung around. I was hoping you could talk to them.’’

’’About what?’’

She shook her head. ’’They're investigators from the Insurance Crime Prevention Institute. She was, at any rate. He's a special agent with the California Department of Insurance.’’ She handed me the woman's business card.

’’Him? Are you sure?’’

’’He was hired last month. She's been showing him the ropes.’’

’’He looked like a hood.’’

She laughed uncomfortably as if she were somehow responsible for his appearance now that I'd mentioned it. ’’He did, didn't he? It's that tacky coat, I'm sure. I'd never let Peter out in public in a thing like that. Have a seat. Did you talk to Bibianna Diaz? God, now where'd I stick her file?’’ She sat down and began to sort through a stack of fat manila folders on her desk.

’’Nope. She's still out. I may take my camera with me next time I go over there. Maybe I can snap a picture of her doing backflips on the lawn.’’ I passed on the information about ’’Lola Flores’’ and the two other insurance companies. ’’Bibianna has to be running a second scam as Lola Flores. There's no telling how many other claims she's filed concurrently.’’

Mary was properly incensed. ’’Oh, God, I don't believe this. I'll get on it right away and let 'em know what's going on.’’

’’Just make sure they start documenting any dealings they have with her. When we send the files to ICPI, they can send theirs along, too. It should make quite a splash.’’

I was still half distracted by the couple who'd just left. I checked the woman's business card. The ICPI logo was legitimate, looking somehow like a place mat complete with cutlery. According to the card, she was Karen Hedgepath from an office in Los Angeles. The problem was she didn't look like any ICPI investigator I'd ever met. Most of them are real button-down types - ties, white shuts, dark conservative business suits. This woman looked like a rock star in civilian clothes. I couldn't believe the regional manager would tolerate the punk hairstyle, let alone the spike-heeled shoes.

’’Here we go,’’ Mary said, extracting a file from the middle of the stack. The folder was marked ’’Diaz,’’ a piece of scratch paper with the new address clipped to the front. She reached for an invoice stapled to the envelope it had arrived in. ’’I just got a whole new sheaf of bills. I guess she saw a chiropractor.’’

’’Probably a subluxation specialist,’’ I said, using the only chiropractic term I'd ever heard.

She punched some holes in the invoice and pronged it in the file. ’’Actually, they were here about Bibianna. That's why I wanted them to talk to you. I guess ICPI got wind she'd moved up here. She ran a couple of scams in Santa Monica last year and they were hoping to track her down.’’

’’Well, that's nice. Insurance scams?’’

’’They didn't spell it out, but it almost has to be insurance-related, don't you think?’’

I considered the situation briefly, wondering why an ICPI employee would ’’show the ropes’’ to someone working for another agency. It's not as though the ICPI and the Department of Insurance don't cooperate, but the Insurance Crime Prevention Institute isn't a law enforcement agency. And why would investigators make the trip up here in the first place? Why not put a call through to CF instead of driving the hour and a half? It just made no sense. Unless they lied. ’’Did you give them this address?’’ I asked, indicating the penciled note.

’’I didn't give 'em anything. That's why I was so surprised when you said they'd left. All I did was confirm we were checking on a claim here. Why?’’

’’They could have spotted this while you were off at the water cooler. All they had to do was rifle the stack of files on your desk.’’

’’Oh, come on. You don't think they'd really do that.’’

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