N Is For Noose Page 21

Surprised, Selma turned from the counter where she was putting together sandwiches. ’’Absolutely. It was a little loose-leaf notebook with a black leather cover, about the size of an index card, maybe a little bigger, but not much more than that. It must be around here some place. He always had it with him.’’ She began to cut sandwiches in half, placing them on a platter with sprigs of parsley around the edge. Every time I buy parsley, it turns to slime. ’’Are you sure it's not there?’’ she asked.

’’I haven't come across it. I checked his desk drawers and his coat pockets.’’

’’What about his truck? Sometimes he left it in the glove compartment or the side pocket.’’

’’Good suggestion. I should have thought of that myself.’’

I opened the connecting door and moved into the garage. I skirted Selma 's car and opened the door to the pickup on the driver's side. The interior smelled heavily of cigarette smoke. The ashtray bulged with cigarette butts buried in a shallow bed of ash. The glove compartment was tidy, bearing only a batch of road maps, the owner's manual, registration, proof of insurance, and gasoline receipts. I looked in the side pockets in both doors, looked behind the visors, leaned over and scanned the space under the bucket seats. I checked the area behind the seats, but there was only a small tool kit for emergencies. Aside from that, the interior revealed nothing. I slammed the driver's side door shut, glancing idly along the garage shelves in passing. I don't know what I thought I'd see, but there was no little black notebook within range.

I returned to the kitchen. ’’Scratch that,’’ I said. ’’Any other ideas?’’

’’I'll have a look myself later on today. He could have left the notebook at work, though he seldom did that. I'll call Rafer and ask him.’’

’’Won't he claim the notes are department property?’’

’’Oh, I'm sure not,’’ she said. ’’He told me he'd do anything he could to help. He was Tom's best friend, you know.’’

But not yours, I thought. ’’One thing I'm curious about,’’ I said tentatively. ’’The night he died... if he'd had any warning... he could have called for help if he'd had a radio. Why no CB in his truck? Why no pager? I know a lot of guys in law enforcement who have radios installed in their personal vehicles.’’

’’Oh, I know. He meant to do that, but hadn't gotten around to it. He was always busy. I couldn't get him to take the time to drop it off and get it done. That's the sort of thing you tend way to deal with it.’’

Brant reappeared, wearing the blue uniform that identified him as an emergency medical technician for the local ambulance service. s. NEWQUIST was embroid ered on the left. His skin radiated the scent of soap and his hair was now shower-damp and smelled of Ivory shampoo. I allowed myself one small inaudible whine of the sort only heard by dogs;neither Brant nor his mother seemed to pick up on it. I sat at the kitchen table, just across from him, politely eating my sandwich while I listened to them chat. Midway through lunch, the telephone rang again. Selma got up. ’’You two go ahead. I'll pick that up in Tom's den.’’

Brant finished his sandwich without saying much and I realized it was going to be my job to initiate conversation.

’’I take it Tom adopted you.’’

’’When I was thirteen,’’ Brant said. ’’My... I guess you'd call him a birth father... hadn't been in touch for years, since my mom and him divorced. When she married Tom, he petitioned the court. I'd consider him my real dad whether he adopted me or not.’’

’’You must have had a good relationship.’’

He reached for the plate of cookies on the counter and we took turns eating them while we continued our conversation. ’’The last couple of years we did. Before that, we didn't get along all that great. Mom's always been easygoing, but Tom was strict. He'd been in the army and he came down real hard on the side of obeying rules. He encouraged me to get involved with Boy Scouts-which I hated-karate, and track, stuff like that. I wasn't used to having restrictions laid on me so I fought back at first. I guess I did just about anything I could think of to challenge his authority. Eventually he shaped up,’’ he said, smiling slightly.

’’How long have you been a paramedic?’’

’’Three years. Before that, I didn't do much of anything. Went to school for a while, though I wasn't any great shakes as a student back then.’’

’’Did Tom talk to you about his cases?’’

’’Sometimes. Not lately.’’

’’Any idea why?’’

Brant shrugged. ’’Maybe what he was working, on wasn't that interesting.’’

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