H Is For Homicide Page 36


Dolan leaned out into the hall and said something to someone, then closed the door and pulled a chair up, straddling it. The other man sat down at the same time and crossed his legs at the knee with a slight adjustment of his trousers. He held his big hands loosely in his lap and made no eye contact.

Dolan seemed positively perky by comparison. ’’I'm having some coffee brought in. You look like you could use some.’’

’’How'd you know I was here?’’

’’One of the deputies recognized you when you were booked in and called me,’’ he said.

’’Who's this?’’ I asked with a glance at the other man. I didn't think he should have the advantage of anonymity. He clearly knew who I was and enough about me to adopt an attitude of disinterest.

’’Lieutenant Santos,’’ Dolan said. Santos made no move. What was this, my week to meet hostile men?

I got up and leaned across the table with my hand held out. ’’Kinsey Millhone,’’ I said. ’’Nice to meet you.’’

His reaction was slow and I wondered briefly just how rude he intended to be. We shook hands and his eyes met mine just long enough to register a stony neutrality. I had thought at first he disliked me, but I was forced to amend that assessment. He didn't have an opinion of me at all. I might be useful to him. He hadn't decided yet.

There was a rap at the door. Dolan leaned over and opened it. One of the deputies passed him a tray with three Styrofoam cups of coffee, a carton of milk, and a few loose packets of sugar. Dolan thanked him and closed the door again. He set the tray on the table and passed a cup to me. Santos reached forward and took his. I poured some milk in mine and added two packs of sugar, hoping to jump-start myself for the questions coming up. The coffee wasn't hot, but the flavor was exquisite, as soft and sweet as caramel.

’’What happened to Jimmy Tate?’’ I asked.

’’Right now, he's looking at homicide, murder two. A good attorney might get it knocked down to voluntary manslaughter, but I wouldn't count on it, given his history,’’ Dolan said. ’’You want to fill us in on the shooting?’’

’’Sure,’’ I said glibly, knowing I'd have to stretch the truth a bit. ’’California Fidelity asked me to investigate Bibianna Diaz for possible fraud in a claim she filed. I've been trying to get close enough to pick up concrete evidence, but so far all I've netted are some fashion tips. The dead man's name is Chago. He's the brother of Raymond Something-or-other, who's an old flame of Bibianna's. I gather Raymond sent Chago and his wife, Dawna, up here to abduct Bibianna for reasons unknown. I can't get Bibianna to tell me what's going on, but they're clearly pissed...’’

Santos spoke up. ’’She and Raymond Maldonado were supposed to get married. She backed out. He doesn't take kindly to that sort of thing.’’

’’I believe it,’’ I said. ’’He apparently gave Chago instructions to 'smoke'her if she didn't cooperate.’’

Santos shifted in his chair, his voice flat. ’’That's all bluff. Raymond wants her back.’’

I looked from one to the other. ’’If you already know all this stuff, why ask me?’’

Both men ignored me. I could see there wasn't going to be any point in getting crabby about the situation.

Dolan consulted a small spiral-bound notebook, leafing back a page. ’’What's the story on Jimmy Tate? How'd he get involved?’’

’’I'm not sure,’’ I said. ’’I gather he and Bibianna have been embroiled in some kind of heavy-duty se*ual relationship for the past couple of months. It seems to be serious - for the moment, at any rate.’’ I went on, detailing the day's work, filling in as much as I knew about the dead man, which wasn't much, and about Jimmy Tate, which was considerable. As fond as I was of Tate, I couldn't see any reason to shield him from police scrutiny when it came to the shooting. There were other witnesses at the scene, and for all I knew, Dolan had already talked to them.

When I finished, there was a silence. I looked down at my hands, realizing that I'd systematically destroyed my now empty cup in the course of my narrative. I placed fragments on the table.

’’And Tate did the shooting,’’ Dolan said at length.

’’Well, I didn't actually see that, but it's a fair assumption. He fired twice at the car, and after I hit the pavement, there were several more shots fired. I don't think Bibianna was armed.’’

’’What about the other woman, Dawna? She have a gun?’’

’’Not that I saw, at least not in the restaurant. She could have had one stashed in the car, I suppose. Hasn't she turned up?’’ I didn't think Dolan was going to answer, but I liked pretending we were equals. Just us law enforcement types having a friendly little tete-a-tete here at the county jail.


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