H Is For Homicide Page 83

Raymond's eyes were glittering, his voice too soft to suit me. ’’Dawna says Tate was the one killed my brother. Did you know that?’’

Oops. Actually I did know that. I said nothing, wondering why my mouth was suddenly so dry. I couldn't think of an adequate response and for once the glib lie didn't spring that readily to mind.

’’Answer me,’’ he said. ’’Tate killed my brother?’’

I picked my way through the possibilities, not wanting to commit myself to a course of action just yet. ’’I don't know,’’ I said. ’’When the shooting started, I hit the pavement.’’

’’You didn't see Tate with a gun?’’

’’Well, I knew Tate had a gun, but I don't know what he did with it because I wasn't looking.’’

’’What about Chago? You knew he was hit. Who you think did that?’’

’’I have no idea. Honestly. I didn't have a clue what was happening. All I know is Tate and I run into Bibianna, we go next door for a bite to eat, and next thing I know these two goons show up and take Bibianna off at gunpoint. Shooting breaks out, cops show up. Bibianna and I are hauled off to jail...’’

I was on slightly safer ground here because I knew Dawna had disappeared about the time Chago was hit. I was working on the assumption that she didn't have any idea what had gone on after that. Actually, I wasn't as nervous about the current subject as I was about the possibility of her remembering she'd seen me at the California Fidelity offices.

She'd been studying my face, her brow furrowed with one of those quizzical looks that indicate a marine layer blanking out memory. Any minute now the fog might begin to lift. ’’She's bullshitting you, Raymond.’’

’’Just let me handle this,’’ he said irritably. He turned away and lit a cigarette, watching my face as he took the first drag of smoke.

The phone rang. The four of us turned and stared. Luis moved first, picking up the receiver. ’’Hello?’’ He listened briefly, then covered the mouthpiece with his right palm. ’’Cop on the line says they found the car.’’

Raymond took the phone. ’’Hello?... Yeah, this is him... Anybody hurt? Oh, really. Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Where is that? Uh-huh... yeah. Where's the car now? Yeah, right. I know the place... Hun, he did? Hey, that's too bad.’’

Raymond got off the phone with a glance at Luis. ’’Bibianna had an accident up in Topanga Canyon. Chopper pushed the Caddy off a cliff, from what this guy says.’’

’’No shit,’’ Luis said.

I could feel my heart beating in my throat. ’’What happened to Bibianna? Is she okay?’’

Raymond waved dismissively. ’’Don't worry about it.

She's at St. John's. Get a jacket, baby-doll. We got work to do.’’ He flashed a grin at Luis. ’’This is great. Caddy's totaled. We're talking twenty-five hundred bucks.’’ He caught sight of my face. ’’What are you lookin'at? I got a legitimate auto claim here,’’ he said self-righteously.

’’What about me?’’ Dawna said, protesting.

’’You can come with us if you want or you can stay here and sleep. You look beat. We'll be back in an hour and then go over to the funeral home.’’

She stared indecisively, then conceded. ’’You go on. I'll grab some rest.’’

Raymond drove way too aggressively for traffic conditions. I was sandwiched between him and Luis in the front seat, one hand braced on the dashboard, making small involuntary sounds each time Raymond changed lanes without warning or pushed the Ford up within a few feet of somebody's back bumper before he pulled out and around, passing them with a dark backward scowl. His jaw was set, his tics almost constant, and everything in life was someone else's fault. Even Luis began to react, murmuring, ’’Jesus,’’ at one of Raymond's hair-raising near misses.

The two talked across me as if I were empty space, so it took me a moment to realize what they were saying.

Raymond said, ’’Stupid bitch must have got off the 101 at Topanga. God, how dumb can you get? That's the middle of nowhere. You know that road?’’

’’Hey, that's rugged,’’ Luis said.

’’The worst. Mountains sticking straight up. Sheer drops off the sides. She should have stayed in the populated areas and found a cop. She's not going to get any help out there. All Chopper had to do was wait till she hit one of those hairpin turns and boom!’’ Raymond gestured his contempt. ’’Cop says he must have rammed into the Caddy's rear end and got himself hung up but good.’’ He made a diving motion with his hand.

I glanced at Raymond. ’’He went off, too?’’

Raymond gave me a look like I'd suddenly started speaking English. ’’What do you think we've been talking about? Chopper's dead and she's not that far from it. Serves her right. You didn't figure that out? Bibianna's in whatchacal-lit... intensive care.’’

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