H Is For Homicide Page 28

’’Help,’’ she called hoarsely. She couldn't get any volume in her voice. ’’Please help this man. Can't anybody help?’’

No one moved.

Already, there were sirens. Jimmy Tate lifted his head.


I CROSSED TO the Ford. The left rear door was open and Bibianna sat sideways in the backseat, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees. She was shaking so hard that she couldn't keep her feet flat on the pavement. Her spike heels seemed to do a little tap dance as she pressed her hands together and clamped them between her thighs. I thought she was humming, but it was a moan she was trying to suppress through tightly clamped teeth. Her face was starchy white. I hunkered beside her, placing one hand on the icy skin of her arm. ’’You okay?’’

She shook her head, a hopeless gesture of terror and resignation. ’’I'm dead meat. I'm dead. This is my fault. There's going to be hell to pay.’’ Her gaze strayed vaguely toward the street corner, where a crowd had gathered. Tears rose in her eyes, not from sorrow as much as from desperation.

I gave her arm a shake. ’’Who is that?’’

’’His name is Chago. He's the brother of this guy I was living with before I came up here. He said Raymond sent him up here to bring me back.’’

’’Bullshit, Bibianna. They weren't going to take you anyplace. They were going to kill you.’’

’’I wish I could have gotten it over with. If anything happens to Chago, Raymond's going to kill me anyway. He'll have to. Like a blood debt. My life's not worth shit.’’

’’I thought Jimmy was the one who shot him. Why is it your fault?’’

’’What difference does it make? Raymond doesn't care about that. It's my fault I left. It's my fault he had to send Chago up here. It's my fault the car got wrecked. That's how he sees things.’’

’’I take it the blonde was Chago's girlfriend,’’ I said.

’’His wife. Her name's Dawna. D-a-w-n-a. Do you love that? Shit, she'll kill me herself if Raymond doesn't kill me first.’’

Jimmy Tate approached and put his hand on the back of Bibianna's neck. ’’Hey, babe. How are you?’’

She took his hand and pressed it against her cheek. ’’Oh, God, oh, God... I was scared for you.’’

He pulled her to her feet and took her in his arms, enfolding her, murmuring against her hair.

’’Jesus, what am I going to do?’’ she wailed.

An emergency vehicle came barreling around the corner, orange light flashing as the siren ground abruptly to a halt. Two paramedics got out, one of them toting a first-aid kit. I rose to my feet, watching over the hood of the Ford as the two of them crossed rapidly to the guy, who was lying facedown on the sidewalk. His lurching journey to the corner had come to a sudden halt. I noticed he'd left a long, smeared trail of blood in his wake like a snail. The woman who knelt beside him was crying uncontrollably. I was certain she was a stranger, only connected to him by the quirk of fate that had placed her at the scene. Her two companions tried to coax her away, but she refused to relinquish her hold.

One of the paramedics knelt and placed his fingers against the guy's carotid artery, trying to get a pulse. He and the other paramedic exchanged one of those looks that in a television episode replaces six lines of dialogue. Two squad cars swung into view, tires squealing, and pulled up behind the emergency vehicle. A uniformed patrolman got out of the first car and Jimmy Tate walked over to meet him. The beat officer in the second turned out to be a woman, tall, sturdily constructed, her pale hair skinned away from her face and secured in a small, neat knot at the back of her neck. She was hatless, in dark regulation pants and a dark jacket with Santa Teresa Police Department patches on the sleeves. She crossed to the paramedics and had a quick conversation. I noticed that none of them jumped into any emergency procedures, which suggested the guy in the sport coat had already departed this life. The beat officer moved back to her patrol car and radioed the dispatcher, asking for someone from the coroner's office, the CSI unit, and backup on a Code 2 - no sirens. She was going to need help securing the crime scene. The rain had begun again, drizzle lending the night air a softening haze. The crowd was subdued and there was no suggestion of interference, but someone was going to have to begin interviewing witnesses, collecting names and addresses, before people got restless and started leaving the area.

Bibianna slumped back into the backseat of the car again. Long minutes passed. Bibianna had lapsed into silence, but when the first backup unit arrived, she stirred, shooting a dark look in the direction of the two officers emerging from the black-and-white. ’’I don't want to talk to any cops,’’ she said. ’’I hate cops. I don't want to talk to them.’’

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