H Is For Homicide Page 86


She looked at me with the blank contemplation of somebody assessing information. It must have been something in the tone I used, pure desperation overlaid with ’’earnest.’’

It certainly wasn't anything in the way I looked. For once, I was telling the truth, using every cell in my being to convey my sincerity. She listened, brown eyes intent on my face as I spoke. It's possible the tale I told was so preposterous she just didn't think me capable of making it up. Without a word, she pointed toward a telephone on the desk behind the counter.

23

I WENT THROUGH the hospital operator, placing a person-to-person call to Dolan at the number he'd given me. While I waited for the call to be patched through, I read the bulletin board, which seemed devoted in equal parts to medical cartoons, notices of classes coming up, and menus for neighborhood fast-food restaurants offering free delivery. I was starving to death.

When I heard Dolan's voice, I closed my eyes and put a hand on my chest, patting myself with relief. ’’Lieutenant Dolan, this is Kinsey Millhone. I'm calling from St. John's Hospital and I don't have long.’’

’’What's up?’’

I started talking, my mind racing ahead, trying to organize the information as I spoke. ’’First of all, Bibianna Diaz is in ICU down here. She was run off the road last night - ’’

’’I heard,’’ Dolan interjected.

’’You know about that?’’

’’One of Santos's men called me the minute the report came through. Hospital has orders to be polite to Raymond without letting him get anywhere near her hospital bed. They know what to do.’’

’’Well, thank God for that.’’ I filled him in quickly on the situation to date, including the file I'd seen at Buddy's Auto Body Shop. ’’I think I've figured out who the leak is up there.’’ I told him about Dr. Howard, the chiropractor, and the photo of his daughter. I had no idea what her married name was, but I gave him an accurate (though acid) description of her. As a civilian clerk working for the county sheriff's department, she was in a perfect position to funnel information to her father, and through him to Raymond. The minute Bibianna was first arrested in Santa Teresa, Raymond would have known her whereabouts. A sudden thought occurred to me. ’’Lieutenant, do you know anything about the gun Parnell was murdered with? Raymond's got a thirty-caliber broomhandle Mauser. I saw it in his dresser drawer.’’

Dolan cut in. ’’Forget Parnell for now and do me a favor. I want you to hang up and get the hell out of there.’’

’’Why, what's happening?’’

’’Tate's probably already on the premises. Hospital notified him late last night and he took off, heading south. If Raymond finds out he's there, they'll have a showdown for sure.’’

’’Oh, shit.’’

Behind me, a woman doctor came into the nurses'station, wearing surgical greens. She pulled off her cap and shook her hair out wearily. She paused to study me, hair rumpled, lines of exhaustion weighting down her face. I couldn't tell if she wanted the telephone or the chair.

Dolan was saying, ’’I got somebody down there who can help you out. Hold on. I got a call coming in...’’

I saw Raymond pass the desk, heading toward the elevators, probably in search of me. I couldn't wait for Dolan. ’’I gotta go,’’ I said into dead air, and hung up. Every brain cell in my head was screaming at me to get out, but I couldn't leave Jimmy Tate here without backup. I left the nurses'station and trotted down the hall behind Raymond, finally catching up with him.

I tapped him on the shoulder. ’’Hi, where did you go?’’

He turned and looked at me irritably. ’’Where the hell have you been? I'm off lookin'for you.’’

’’I went over to the nursery to see the newborns,’’ I said.

’’What for?’’

’’I like babies. I might want to have one of my own someday, you know? They're really cute, all tiny and puckery. They look like Cornish game hens -’’

’’We ain't here for that,’’ he said gruffly, though he seemed mollified by my explanation. He grabbed my arm and turned me, walking us back down the corridor toward ICU.

’’Why don't we take a break and get some coffee,’’ I said.

’’Forget that. I'm jumpy enough as it is.’’ We reached the ICU waiting room and Raymond sat down again. He took a magazine from a nearby stack and flipped through it with an air of distraction. The pages made little snapping sounds in the quiet of the room. Two women seated at the other end of the room stared at him, frankly curious about his tics.

Raymond glanced up, catching them in the act, and stared back at them until they broke off eye contact. ’’Jesus, I hate it when people stare at me. They think I like doing this?’’ He gave me an exaggerated jerk, glaring darkly at the two women, who were stirring with self-consciousness.


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