H Is For Homicide Page 56


Bibianna reappeared, fully dressed this time. She found a dog-eared deck of cards and sat on the floor next to the coffee table, where she laid out a game of solitaire. I considered hunting for the phone, but I didn't want to call Dolan with Bibianna close by. The less she knew about who I was, the better. I flipped on the television set. The day already had an odd feel to it - idle, unstructured, without purpose or appeal - like a forced vacation in a cutrate resort.

Bibianna seemed preoccupied and I hated to cut into that, but we seldom had time alone and I needed information.

’’How often does he get violent?’’ I asked.

She turned a dark look on me. ’’Not every day. Sometimes two or three times a week,’’ she insisted. ’’I talked to Chago about it once and he told me it started when Raymond was just a little kid. He'd blink his eyes and then the twitches started and pretty soon he was barking and coughing. His father figured he was doing it on purpose, just to get attention, so he used to beat him up. He did some other stuff, too, which got him thrown into prison. Poor Raymond. He was hyperactive in school, in trouble all the time. It's probably why his mother left...’’

’’And he's done it ever since? The whole time you've known him?’’

’’He got better for a while, but then it started up again, worse than before.’’

’’Can't the doctors do anything?’’

’’What doctors? He doesn't see doctors. Sometimes se* calms him down. Booze or sleep, dope. Once he got the flu and had a fever a hundred and three. He was fine, no problem, never even had a twitch. He was great for two days. Flu went away, he was at it again, this time licking his lips, doing this weird thing with his hands. I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's depressing.’’

Raymond returned just before lunch with a folded newspaper and a bag of doughnuts. Luis and the dog came in right behind him. If Raymond was in mourning for his brother, I saw no signs of it. The ticcing seemed less evident today, but I couldn't be sure. He left the room at intervals and I began to suspect he was venting in the other room. That or shooting up. I was just getting into a really trashy soap, my bare legs thrown over the arm of the chair, sandal flapping on one foot, when he and Luis sat down at the kitchen table, talking softly in Spanish. During the next commercial, I went into the kitchen and got myself a glass of water. I paused, peering over Raymond's shoulder to see what they were up to. It was pure nosiness on my part, but he didn't seem to mind. What I'd thought was the daily paper turned out to be a throwaway rag filled with classifieds. Luis flipped to the automobile section and folded back the pages. I checked the dateline. Thursday, October 27. These were probably new listings for the weekend coming up. Luis skipped over the trucks, vans, and imports and concentrated on the domestic cars for sale.

’’Here's one,’’ Luis said. With a Magic Marker, he circled an ad for a 1979 Caddy. I leaned closer, reading, ’’Good condition. $999. OBO.’’

’’What's OBO?’’ I asked. I knew, but I wanted to demonstrate some interest and I thought showing ignorance was the safest bet.

’’Or best offer,’’ Raymond said. ’’You want a Cadillac?’’

’’Who, me? Not especially.’’

’’I like that Chrysler Cordoba,’’ Raymond said to Luis, pointing to the next box. Luis drew a wobbly-sided egg around the ad for a ’’77 white, runs/looks great. $895/obo.’’ A telephone number was listed on both ads.

Raymond got up and left the room, returning with the telephone, which he plugged into the wall jack. I pulled up a chair and sat down. Luis continued to circle ads while Raymond placed call after call, inquiring about each car that interested them, making note of the address. When this exercise was complete and they'd culled out the ads of interest, Luis made a list on a separate piece of paper.

Raymond glanced at me. ’’You have car insurance?’’

’’Sure.’’

’’What kind?’’

I shrugged. ’’Whatever the state of California requires. I've been thinking I should drop it since my car's dead. Why?’’

’’You have liability and collision?’’

’’How do I know? I don't walk around with the details of my car insurance memorized. The policy's up in Santa Teresa.’’

’’Can't your insurance company give you the information?’’

’’Sure. If they looked it up.’’

’’Might be worth it to get your car fixed if you got collision coverage.’’ Raymond lifted the telephone receiver and held it out to me. ’’Call 'em.’’

’’Right now?’’

’’Is that a problem?’’

’’Not at all,’’ I said with an uneasy laugh. I could feel my heart start to bang in my chest. The thumping felt so conspicuous I checked to see if my T-shirt was pulsating in the front. For a moment my mind went blank. I couldn't remember California Fidelity's number, I couldn't remember the contact number Dolan had given me, and I couldn't decide which to try in any event. I took the receiver.


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