H Is For Homicide Page 78


No more than fifteen seconds had passed when Raymond strode across the room, snatched the receiver, and slammed it into the cradle. He ripped the phone cord from the jack and flung the instrument at the wall. The plastic housing cracked, splitting open to expose the internal mechanism. Bibianna's horrified gaze jumped from the telephone to his face. ’’I know what you did to her...’’

’’To who?’’

’’My mother's in the hospital.’’

Raymond hesitated, sensing from the break in her voice that he was losing control. ’’What I did? What'd I do?’’

Bibianna's lips moved. She was repeating a phrase... a mere murmur at first, gradually raising her voice. ’’You cut her face, you son of a bitch. You cut her face! You cut my mother's face right here in this apartment! You cut her beautiful face, you son of a bitch. You bastard...’’

She flew at Raymond, her fingers curved as claws digging into his face. She plowed into him, the force of her fury driving him back against the table. One of the kitchen chairs tipped over backward with a clatter. Bibianna reached the kitchenette in two steps, caught a kitchen drawer by the handle, and gave it a yank. Raymond lunged and grabbed her from behind. He half lifted her off her feet and dragged her back, Bibianna clinging to the drawer by the handle. The whole drawer was jerked free, a jumble of utensils flying everywhere. Raymond dropped, pulling her down on top of him. She struggled, half turning, kicking at Raymond with her spike-heeled shoes, long legs flashing. He tried to punch her and missed. She caught him in the chest with a kick and I heard the ’’oof’’ as the air was knocked out of him. She torqued around to her hands and knees, scrambling back into the kitchenette, where she snatched up a butcher knife that had skittered across the kitchen floor. She swung around, bringing the knife down. Raymond's hand shot out. He locked her wrist in an iron grip, squeezing so hard I thought he'd crush the bone. She cried out. The knife dropped. For a moment, they lay together. His body half covered hers and both were panting hard.

Her face began to crumple, tears welling up in her eyes. ’’Get off me, you bastard,’’ she said. Raymond seemed to think the worst of it was over. He lifted himself away from her and extended his hand, pulling her to her feet again. The moment she was upright, she lashed a kick at his groin, the pointed toe of her spike heel making contact slightly off center, but with sufficient force to cause him to grab at himself, hunching forward protectively. The sound he made was a churlish mix of pain, surprise, and fury.

I had lost track of the car keys, which must have sailed out of Bibianna's hand at some point in the struggle. I scanned the floor in haste, spotted them near the wall, and scooped them up. I tossed them to her underhand, a perfect throw. She caught the keys and took off. The front door banged back and she was gone, high heels pounding rapidly toward the stairs and out of earshot. I headed for the door at a dead run myself.

Raymond tackled me from behind. I stumbled, flinging my hands out, and he brought me down. We grappled, making grunting sounds. He pounded me with his fist, venting his fury in a succession of blows, which I warded off with my arms raised in an X across my face. He grabbed me by the hair and hauled me to my feet. He whipped my right arm behind my back and jerked upward, propelling me out the door and along the gallery. All he had on was a pair of pants. His chest was rosy from blows that had been landed on his bare skin. I longed to stomp his bare feet, but I knew he'd break my arm in retaliation.

Out in front of the building, I could hear Bibianna revving up the Cadillac, which peeled out with a shriek of tires. Raymond marched us to the Ford. He popped open the trunk lid with one hand and grabbed a tire iron, pulling me around with him to the driver's side. He smashed backward at the window until enough glass was gone to allow him to reach in and pull up the door lock. He yanked the door open and shoved me into the car. He pulled a set of keys from under the front seat, along with a handgun. He cocked it and pointed it at me, then reached under the steering column with his left hand and started the car.

21

WE TOOK OFF. Bibianna had no more than a two-minute head start. Raymond placed the handgun between his thighs. At fifty miles an hour, he really didn't have to worry that I'd bolt from the moving vehicle. He jammed down on the accelerator, pushing the shimmying Ford to sixty, sixty-five. Streetlights streamed by. I hung on for dear life, my eyes pinned to the road with all the horrified fascination of a funhouse ride. Judging from the consternation of the drivers on all sides of us, Bibianna must have been cutting through red lights at the intersections just ahead.

Raymond didn't seem nearly as concerned as I was with the cars or pedestrians, with the niceties of stoplights or the sanctity of crosswalks. People were diving out of his path, a string of honking horns and curses flying up in our wake. He picked up the car phone and held it against the steering wheel so he could punch in a number with his thumb. He listened for one ring, two. Someone picked up on the other end.


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