H Is For Homicide Page 5

’’Thanks, but I better not. I have some work to do.’’

’’Well, you missed the big excitement. The legendary Mr. Titus showed up Friday afternoon with three of his own hand-picked lieutenants. Two reps and a claims adjuster got canned to make room for them.’’

’’You're kidding! Who?’’

’’Tony Marsden, Jack Cantheas, and Letty Bing.’’

’’Letty? She'll sue!’’

’’I sincerely hope so.’’

’’I thought he wasn't due here for another three weeks.’’

’’Surprise, surprise. I'll probably be fired next.’’

’’Oh, come on. You're doing a great job.’’

’’Yeah, right. That's why claims posted six hundred thousand in losses.’’

’’That was Andy Motycka's fault, not yours.’’

’’Oh, who cares? I'm getting married. I can do something else. I never liked the job that much anyway. How's goes the shopping so far?’’

’’The shopping?’’ I said blankly. I was still trying to cope with the disaster at CF.

’’For the wedding. A dress.’’

’’Oooh. For the wedding. I've got a dress.’’

’’Bullshit. You only own one dress and it's black. You're the maid of honor, not a pallbearer.’’ Vera and her beloved were getting married in eight days, on Halloween. Everyone had given her infinite grief over her choice of dates, but Vera was adamant, claiming her natural cynicism was at war with sentiment. She'd never thought to marry. She'd been dating (she said) since she was twelve years old and had gone through countless men. Despite the fact that she was absolutely nuts about her fiancee, she was determined to turn tradition on its ear. I thought a black dress would be perfect for Halloween nuptials. Once the reception was over we could go trick-or-treating together and maybe pool the take. I wanted dibs on the Hershey's Kisses and Tootsie Rolls.

’’Besides, you've had that damn dress for five years,’’ she went on.


’’And last time you wore it you said it still smelled like a swamp.’’

’’I washed it!’’

’’Kinsey, you cannot wear a six-year-old smelly black dress in my wedding. You swore you'd get a new one.’’

’’I will.’’

She gave me a flat look, filled with skepticism. ’’Where will you go to shop? Not K Mart.’’

’’I wouldn't go to K Mart. I can't believe you said that.’’

’’Well, where?’’

I looked at her uneasily, trying to come up with an answer that would satisfy. I knew the hesitation was just an invitation for her to step in and boss me around, but to tell you the truth, I hadn't the faintest idea what kind of dress to buy. I've never been a maid of honor. I don't have a clue what such maidens wear. Something useless, I'm sure, with big flounces everywhere.

She stepped in. ’’I will help you,’’ she said, as though to a half-wit.

’’You will? That's great.’’

Vera rolled her eyes, but I could tell she was thrilled that I was yielding control. People like to take charge of my personal life. Many seem to feel I don't do things right. ’’Friday. After work,’’ she said.

’’Thanks. We can have dinner afterward. My treat.’’

’’I don't want a Quarter Pounder with cheese,’’ she said.

I waved at her dismissively and headed toward the door. ’’See you in the morning. You want to let me out?’’

’’Hang on a minute and I'll go, too. Why don't you go ahead and pick up the case I tried to give you Friday. It's in the file in my out box. The woman's name is Bibianna Diaz. If you can nail her, maybe all of us will end up looking good.’’

I detoured into the glass cubicle she now occupied as claims manager, spotting the Diaz file, which was right on top. ’’Got it,’’ I called.

’’You can talk to Mary Bellflower once you've had a chance to review it. It was Parnel's to begin with, but she's the one who flagged it.’’

’’I thought the cops took all his files.’’

’’This wasn't in with the files on his desk. He'd given it to Mary the month before, so the cops never saw it.’’ She emerged with her photocopies clamped between her teeth while she fished out her car keys.

’’I'll see if there's a way to check the woman out before I talk to Mary. At least I can get the lay of the land that way first,’’ I said.

’’Suit yourself. You can work it out any way you want.’’ Vera flipped the lights off and let us out of the office, locking the doors behind her. ’’If you have any questions, I'll be home by ten.’’

We left the building together, chatting idly as we trotted down the stairs. Ours were the only two cars in the lot, parked side by side. ’’One more thing,’’ she said as she unlocked her car door. ’’Titus has asked to see you first thing tomorrow morning.’’

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