H Is For Homicide Page 82


’’It's Dawna,’’ Luis said.

As Raymond moved to the door, I leaned over the upholstered chair and eased my handbag out from under it, closing the flap across the butt of the gun.

Luis had turned. ’’Sit down.’’

’’I'm sitting,’’ I said irritably. I took a seat in the upholstered chair, feigning boredom while Raymond and Dawna went through murmured greetings. Her face had crumpled at the sight of him. Raymond put his arms around her and rocked her where they stood. Wait till she got a load of me. The only comfort I had was the handbag, which now rested to the right of the chair, just beyond my fingertips. Luis had moved into the kitchen and he was leaning against the kitchen counter, rolling a joint with complete absorption. Stoned on Sunday morning. Just what we all needed. Dawna sat down on the couch, still crying into Raymond's handkerchief.

Her face was Kabuki white, her mouth a pout of bright red. Her hair had been newly bleached to the color of typing paper, standing up in spikes as if somebody'd folded it in quarters and cut it with a pair of scissors. The effect was of an albino rooster. Where her suit jacket gaped open, I caught sight of a thickly padded gauze bandage, secured with adhesive tape. She didn't look so hot and my guess was her injury had taken its toll. I could see Perro lying on the floor near the couch, staring at the juicy part of Dawna's leg. I studied her with dread and anxiety. Once she regained her composure, she was going to notice me. There was a fair chance she'd remember me from the CF offices, but what was I going to do?

22

THE TRICKY PART of any lie is trying to figure out how you'd behave if you were innocent. I couldn't act like I didn't know Dawna Maldonado at all. We'd both been there Tuesday night when Chago was killed. Should I treat her as a friend or foe? Under the circumstances, it seemed wise to keep my mouth shut and let the scenario play out as it would, like improvisational theater. As there was no escaping, I tucked the handbag under my arm and moved over to the kitchen table. I sat down, placing the bag casually near one leg of my chair. I picked up Bibianna's ragged deck of cards. I shuffled the cards, trying to remember how Bibianna set up the solitaire she always played.

Meanwhile, conversation between Raymond and Dawna had turned to the shooting. It was just at that point that Dawna finally caught sight of me. ’’What's she doing here?’’

Oh, well, I thought, here we go.

Raymond seemed startled by her reaction, which had a distinctly hostile tone to it. ’’Oh, sorry. This is Hannah. She's a friend of Bibianna's.’’

Dawna's eyes were ice blue, lined with black, her gaze calculating. ’’Why don't you ask her! She was with 'em that night.’’

’’She was?’’

’’She was there at the restaurant, sitting at the table with 'em when I got off the phone.’’

Raymond seemed confused. ’’You're talking about Hannah?’’

’’God, Raymond. I just got done sayin'that, didn't I?’’

He turned to me. ’’I thought you met Bibianna in jail. I thought you said you were cellmates.’’

I started laying cards out like this was no big deal. Seven stacks, first card up, the other six facedown. ’’I never said that. We got thrown in the slammer together, but I'd met her before that, at a singles bar. I figured she'd told you or I'd have said something myself.’’

Next round, skip the first pile. The face-up card went on the second pile, the other five facedown. Just playing solitaire here, casual as all get-out. Luis was eavesdropping, being careful not to call attention to himself lest Raymond take off after him.

’’What the f*k were you doin'there with her and Jimmy Tate?’’

Ah, he'd figured out it was Tate, probably from the description Dawna'd given him of the guy. ’’I wasn't doing anything. We'd just gone next door for a bite to eat when those two showed up.’’

’’Bibianna was with Jimmy Tate?’’

Dawna snorted. ’’Jesus, Raymond. What's the matter with you? You sound like a parrot.’’ Out of the corner of my eye, I could see how much she was enjoying herself. In her family dynamic, she was probably the kid who puffed up her self-importance by tattling on all her siblings.

Raymond ignored her, focusing on me. ’’How come you never told me she was with him that night?’’

’’Jimmy Tate was with me. We ran into Bibianna at the bar and asked her to join us for a bite to eat. What's the big deal?’’

’’I don't believe it.’’

I stopped dealing out the cards. ’’You don't believe me?’’

’’I think you're lying.’’

’’Wait a minute, Raymond. I've known you all of five days. So how come I'm suddenly accountable to you for my behavior?’’


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