H Is For Homicide Page 42


’’Who's that?’’

’’It's Raymond. Oh, God.’’ Her voice broke. Tears leapt to her eyes and she made a peculiar squeaking sound in her throat. I assessed the situation rapidly, without knowing quite what to do. Of all the bad luck. Apparently, Dawna had managed to put a call through to him.

He'd been leaning on the front fender, watching cars pass on the frontage road. When he caught sight of us, he began to amble in our direction.

’’Bibianna, cool it. Just calm down. Let's head back to the jail...’’

She shook her head. ’’Even if the cops took us home, he'd catch up eventually. Don't leave me. Swear you won't. Whatever happens, just go along with it. Don't set him off or he'll tear the place apart and you along with it.’’

’’All right, all right. Come on now. Just be cool. I'm not going anywhere.’’

’’Promise you won't leave me.’’

’’I promise,’’ I said.

At first, I didn't get it. At that distance, the guy looked like anybody else. He was tall and very slender, with wide shoulders and a narrow waist. From what I could see of him, he was dressed like a fashion plate: leather sport coat, pleated trousers, pointy black patent-leather shoes capped with silver at the toes, mirrored sunglasses. He could have been Latino or Italian, dark hair and olive skin. I placed him in his early thirties. He had his hands in his pockets and his manner seemed relaxed.

Bibianna's fingers were ice cold. She clung to my hand the way a friend might in the middle of a horror movie just before the guy with the butcher knife leaps out. I couldn't see anything in his appearance that would warrant her response.

When he reached us, he took his sunglasses off. He had dark thick lashes, a full mouth, a dimple in his chin. Once he was in close range, I realized there was something wrong. His eyes had rolled back in his head, leaving narrow slits of white along the lower rims. His face and body underwent a series of convulsive movements;he blinked his eyes, the comer of his mouth jumped involuntarily, his lips opened wide, then his head jerked back twice. The effect was weird - a sequence of behaviors that set his whole body in motion, culminating in a sound that was half shout, half cough. He moved his right arm, rolling it in its socket as if to loosen tension. In memory, a buzzer sounded dimly, and I recalled the existence of some medical condition that produced just this effect - tics and shouts. He made no reference to it, nor did Bibianna, who seemed more concerned about his reaction to Chago's death.

’’I didn't do it. I swear to God. I didn't kill him. I'm sorry. It was an accident. Oh, please. Raymond, I didn't have anything to do with it...’’

His expression had softened, becoming nearly wistful as he took her by the shoulders and pulled her in close to him, rubbing his hands up and down her bare arms. ’’You don't know how happy I am to see you...’’

I could see her tense up, holding herself away from him slightly, though she couldn't do much without perhaps risking some kind of outburst. He began to nuzzle her hair. ’’Oh, baby. Angel. Sweet thing, I'm glad to see you,’’ he murmured, his voice soft. ’’This is beautiful. I really missed you, you know that?’’ He drew back from her then, clamping his fingers around her jaw so that she was forced to look at him. ’’Hey, it's all right. Everything's okay. Don't worry.’’ His gaze moved across to me. ’’Who is this?’’ His head jerked twice.

’’Hannah Moore,’’ I said.

She flicked a look at him. ’’This is Raymond Maldonado.’’

He held his hand out. ’’Nice to meet you. Sorry about all this. My brother was killed last night.’’

We shook hands. His were warm and soft, his grip firm.

’’I'm sorry about your brother. That's terrible,’’ The pleasantries created an air of unreality.

Raymond glanced at Bibianna. ’’You ready?’’

’’I'm not going. Raymond, I mean it. I'm done with all that. I don't want to go back to Los Angeles. I told you. I didn't have anything to do with...’’ He took her arm and began to walk her toward the car. I could see her mouth twist and his fingers dug into her elbow painfully. She babbled on. He raised a hand as if to silence her, warding off the spill of words. She pressed a hand to her lips. He turned his head to one side. He hunched a shoulder, did a neck roll, and took a deep breath, eyes sliding up in his head. His face jerked to the right, once, twice. His eyes came open, the irises sliding into view - large, dark brown, and clear. He continued toward the car.

I followed without invitation, calculating rapidly. Here was my quarry, Raymond Maldonado in the flesh. I knew I was being offered the perfect opportunity, but I'd had no prep time. If I went in without a briefing, I could blow the whole operation. I couldn't afford to start playing undercover cop, but what choice did I have? He was walking so rapidly, I had to do a quickstep to keep up.


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