H Is For Homicide Page 30

’’Uh, excuse me,’’ I said. ’’Hey!’’ It was a strain to try to hold my head in that position, so I laid it down again. Several pairs of regulation cop shoes appeared in my line of vision. I hoped none of them belonged to Lieutenant Dolan. Somebody gave an order. Suddenly, there was an officer on either side of me. I felt myself hooked under the armpits and I was lifted to my feet, levitating into an upright position effortlessly. After a quick pat-down, I was hustled off to a squad car and shoved into the backseat. The door was slammed shut.

An unmarked car came down the street from the opposite direction, sliding to a halt on the rain-lubricated asphalt. I saw Bill Blair, the coroner's deputy, get out on the driver's side, taking a moment to shrug himself into his raincoat. Head bowed against the rain, he moved over to the body without looking in my direction. All the various crime scene personnel had begun to assemble: two guys from the Public Works Department setting up barricades, running tape around the perimeter, the CSI unit, along with the supervisor in a separate vehicle. As in the early moments of a play, the actors were appearing on stage, each with the necessary props, each with a bit of business to perform. Little by little, the drama of homicide was being played out again.

I sat forward slightly, peering through the metal screen that separated the front of the squad car from the rear. It was 1:17 A.M. and my head had begun to ache. The rain now formed a hazy curtain that seemed to blow against the streetlights, sending up whiffs of steam. The sound was homely, like uncooked rice grains falling on a cookie sheet. Within minutes, the precipitation increased rapidly to a steady drumming on the roof of the black-and-white. Ordinarily, I like sitting in a parked car in a downpour. It seems cozy and safe and surprisingly intimate, depending on the circumstances, of course. The same smattering of people stood outside on the darkened street, avoiding the sight of me as if I were leprous. Anyone sitting in the rear of a cop car looks guilty somehow. The emergency vehicle had been moved to one side to allow the coroner's deputy access to the body. Chago had been covered with a length of yellow plastic to shield him from the rain. Blood had coagulated on the sidewalk like a sticky patch of motor oil, and I could still smell cordite. The police radio was squawking incomprehensibly. There was a time in my life - during my days in uniform - when I understood every word. Not so, tonight. I'd lost my ear for it, like a foreign language I no longer had a use for.

Bibianna was being questioned by the police inspector, who'd appeared at some point. She was being pelted by the rain, the red dress clinging to her stained to a dark bloody hue. She looked like she was complaining, though I couldn't hear a word she said. Judging from the inspector's expression and the set of Bibianna's shoulders, she was subdued, but uncooperative. The inspector waved a hand at her impatiently. The same officer who'd ushered me to the patrol car steered Bibianna in my direction. She was frisked for weapons, a ludicrous formality under the circumstances. In the little mini she was wearing, what kind of weapon could she possibly conceal? The rear door of the squad car was yanked open and the officer pushed her head down and shoved her into the backseat beside me. She'd recovered some of her energy, jaws snapping at the guy's hand like a rabid dog. ’’Get your f*kin'hands off me, you cock-sucker!’’ she screamed.

Nice talk, huh? When you get arrested, these are the kind of people you're forced to associate with. Because of the handcuffs, her arms were pinioned awkwardly behind her, which meant she ended up lying halfway across my lap. Before the officer could close the door, she lashed a kick at him with one of her spike heels. He was lucky she missed. She'd have torn a hunk of flesh out of his thigh if she'd caught him right. He was amazingly polite - probably heartened by the fact that he could look up her dress - but I noticed he managed to get the door shut before she could kick at him again. She was a firecracker, absolutely fearless. For a minute, I thought she'd lie there and kick the windows out. She muttered something to herself and straightened up.

She flicked her hair away from her face with a shake of her head. A few drops of water flew off on me. ’’Did you see that? I could have been killed tonight! Those assholes tried to kill me!’’ She was referring to the cops, not Chago and the blonde.

’’The cops didn't try to kill you,’’ I said irritably. ’’What did you expect? You haul off and sock a cop, what'd you think was going to happen?’’

’’Look who's talking. You hit that bitch twice as hard as me.’’ She turned a calculating look on me and I could see now that I had garnered a spark of admiration for my pugilistic skills. She began a staring contest with one of the cops standing near the car. ’’God, I hate pigs,’’ she remarked.

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