H Is For Homicide Page 72


We packed it in at five after a quick conference in a little pocket park where we'd pulled off to compare notes. Several nannies in uniform murmured together while the toddlers in their keeping cavorted on the play equipment. We sat on the grass, Bibianna with her shoes off, while Luis and Raymond stretched out in the fading sunlight and relived every thrilling moment. It was like hearing men talk about a golf game or a hunting trip, the two of them rehashing the experience in amazing detail. There was a quick debate about whether to try one more quick accident, but none of us were really interested. All I wanted was some aspirin and a trip back to Dr. Howard's office, where I could look forward to a back cracking that would liberate my neck.

Raymond said he had an errand to run, so he and I got back in the car. Luis peeled off in the Caddy with Bibianna while Raymond turned onto Beverly Drive and headed into the heart of the Beverly Hills business district. Two blocks down, he took a right on Little Santa Monica, which runs parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard. As we approached Wilshire Boulevard, he slowed, looking for a parking space. The meters had all been taken. With an expression of impatience, he turned into the entrance to an underground parking garage that serviced a twenty-story office building. We paused at the electronic kiosk, which buzzed, clunked once, and presented him with a ticket. The electronic ’’arm’’ shot up and Raymond slid into the nearest parking spot, clearly marked for the handicapped. He left the keys in the ignition and opened the door on his side.

’’Wait here. Somebody hassles you, move the car. I'll be right back.’’

A vertical sign on the wall indicated that the elevators were located through the double glass doors. He walked rapidly in that direction, heels tapping on the concrete, the sound echoing against the ramps sweeping up to the left. What was he up to?

The minute he was gone, I took the keys out of the ignition and slipped around to the rear of the car, where I opened the trunk. It was empty except for the spare tire and jack. Rats. I slid into the front seat again and returned the keys to the ignition. I leaned over and checked the door pocket on Raymond's side of the car, but all I came up with were a torn Los Angeles street map and some discount coupons for a local pizza joint. The pocket on my side of the car was empty, which I knew because I'd checked it slyly while we were driving around. I popped open the glove compartment, crammed with junk. I began to sort through the wad of old gas receipts, defective ballpoint pens, successive years of car registrations, the service manual, work orders from the mechanic who did the routine maintenance. Raymond was conscientious about upkeep, I had to give him that. At regular thirty-second intervals, I checked the underground reception area where I'd seen him disappear. I was assuming he'd gone up in the elevators to one of the executive offices above. I sorted through the mess of papers in my lap, uncovering rags, a beer flip, a moldy Hershey's bar suffering from heat prostration, a foil-wrapped condom. Did we once keep our gloves in our automobile glove compartments? Now, the space seemed to rank right up there with the refrigerator as a resting place for animate and inanimate debris, evidence of a lack of personal cleanliness you'd just as soon your friends never found out about. I returned the odds and ends to the glove compartment, being careful not to be too tidy about it. Frustrating. I'd hoped to come up with something. Oh, well. With snooping, you can't expect to score every time out. An illegal search might net results in four cases out of ten. The rest of the time, it simply satisfies your basic nosiness.

By the time I heard Raymond's heels tap-tapping against the concrete, everything was back in place and I was ratting my hair in the rearview mirror, which I'd swiveled around to face me. This ’’Hannah Moore’’ persona was having a distinct effect. My ’’do’’ now consisted of some really nifty spikes on top. I looked like a punker, but it was kind of fun, if you want to know the truth. Next thing I knew I'd be getting my ears pierced and chewing gum in public, social sins my auntie had always warned me about, along with red nail polish and dingy bra straps.

Raymond opened the car door and tossed the automated parking ticket on the dashboard while he shrugged out of his jacket and tucked it in the backseat. I picked up the ticket and held on to it for him, taking advantage of my little helping girl impulse to glance down at it casually. On the back, in lieu of parking validation stickers, there was the stamped imprint from the firm of Gotlieb, Naples, Hurley, and Flushing. Attorneys? Accountants? Raymond whipped the ticket out of my hand and stuck it in his mouth, clamping it between his teeth while he started the car and backed out of the space. What was his problem? Gosh, the man just didn't seem to trust me. As we turned left out of the parking garage, I silently repeated the name of the firm, like a mantra, until I'd committed it to memory. I'd have Dolan check it out if I could get a call through to him.


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