H Is For Homicide Page 53


She watched him with caution. ’’Where'd all the blood come from?’’

’’Put your clothes on. I'll take you out to dinner. We can bring something back for her,’’ he replied.

I felt a momentary stir of excitement, longing for a short period of unsupervised time.

’’Why can't Hannah go? She's probably starving.’’

’’She can have a bowl of chili until we get back. There's a big pot on the stove.’’

I spoke up casually. ’’Really, Bibianna. I'm fine. I'll just keep the dog company.’’ Like me and Perro were old pals. I was dying to be alone, eager to get a call through to Dolan while I could.

The two of them went through a long debate - where to go, what to wear, whether they should wait for Luis and make a foursome out of it. I could feel my stomach shrivel from anxiety, but I didn't want to seem too impatient for their departure. Raymond was all in favor of waiting for Luis, but Bibianna said she didn't want to eat a meal with him and Raymond didn't press. I could feel myself mentally shifting from foot to foot.

14

THEY DIDN'T LEAVE until nearly seven, after an agony of argument and indecision. Perro remained in his usual place by the door, gnawing on his chain. He had the kind of teeth you might see on a dinosaur skeleton, perfect for grinding up alligators and other modest-size mammals. Once the door closed behind them, I headed for the spare bedroom, where I took a minute to fish the claim form out of my bodice and tuck it under one of the couch cushions for safekeeping. Then I began to search for the missing telephone. I started in the master bedroom, checking every drawer. I couldn't believe he'd have stashed the phone among her possessions, so I skipped her chest of drawers and concentrated on his. She'd probably gone through a brief search herself without luck.

His top drawer on the left was a mass of unmatched socks, clumsily folded handkerchiefs. The drawer on the right held the sorts of odds and ends you can't bear to throw out: matchbooks, cuff links, tie tacks, a roach clip, loose change, a wallet in good shape but emptied of credit cards. A flat brown bank book for a savings account showed a balance of forty-three thousand bucks. Down a drawer were folded shirts and under them the sweaters. In a box, near the back of the drawer, I found two handguns. One was a semiautomatic, a.30-caliber broomhandle Mauser in an imprinted case, with an extra magazine, cleaning brush, test target, and a box of bottleneck cartridges. I bent my head and sniffed the barrel, without touching it. It hadn't been cleaned, but it hadn't been fired recently, either. The second gun was a SIG-Sauer P220 38 Super, which probably cost three hundred and fifty bucks. Did I dare steal one for my very own? Nah, not at this point. It wouldn't be smart. Under the box was a jumbled collection of California driver's licenses with assorted ID's. I made a mental note to go through them later if I could find an opportunity. I put the guns back on top of the documents.

I checked the closet, top and bottom, sorting through any pile of articles large enough to conceal an unplugged telephone. I peered under the bed, searched the drawers in the bed tables. I went into the master bathroom, which was larger than the other but not any cleaner. The medicine cabinet was too small to hide anything. I dug through the clothes hamper. The telephone was tucked down in the bottom. I emitted a little yelp and pulled it out from under a mound of dirty underwear. I knew there was a jack in the living room, but I was too nervous to plug in the phone out there. Luis was due any minute. I didn't want him to find;me with my mouth against the receiver.

I scanned the baseboards in the bedroom for another jack. There were none in the immediate vicinity. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around the perimeter, toting the telephone along with me as I peered behind the chest of drawers and the bed table. I finally spotted a jack on the wall behind the king-size bed, just about dead center. By stretching out on my belly and extending my arm through the dust bunnies and the woofies, I contrived to press the little gizmo on the phone into the matching hole in the jack. I was lying on the floor between the bed and the closet when the dog began to bark. Luis. Shit! I snicked the line from the jack and jerked the length of it out from under the bed. Perro was barking so loud, I couldn't tell if Luis had let himself in or not. I made a beeline to the master bathroom, wrapping the cord and the phone as I went.

’’Hey! Where is everybody?’’ He was in.

’’Luis? Is that you? I'm in the bathroom,’’ I called.

I shoved the phone to the bottom of the hamper and piled the dirty clothes on top. I checked my reflection in the mirror and picked a dog hair off my lip. I just had time to wrap a bath towel around my head, turban style, when Luis appeared in the bathroom doorway. He'd pulled a flannel shirt on. Long sleeves now concealed the handsome tattoos on his arms, but I could still see the two pairs of duck feet sticking out of his sleeves. He surveyed the room. His look flicked to me, his eyes chilly with suspicion.


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