N Is For Noose Page 56


I found a pay phone outside the building, scrounged a couple of coins from the bottom of my handbag, dialed the Santa Teresa County Sheriff's Department, and asked for Detective Boyd.

’’Boyd.’’ The tone was flat, professional, all business. All he'd done so far was give me his name and already I knew he wasn't going to be my best friend.

’’Hi, my name is Kinsey Millhone,’’ I said, trying not to sound too chirpy. ’’I'm a local private investigator working on a case that may connect to the death of Alfie Toth.’’

Pause. ’’In what way?’’

’’Well, I'm not sure yet. I'm not asking for confidential information, but could you give me an update? The last mention in the paper was back in January.’’

Pause. This was like talking to someone on a time delay. I could have sworn he was taking notes. ’’What's the nature of your interest?’’

’’Ah. Well, that's tricky to explain. I'm working for the wife-I guess I should make that the widow-of a sheriff's investigator up in Nota Lake. Tom Newquist. Did you know him by any chance?’’

’’Name doesn't sound familiar.’’

’’He drove down last June to talk to Alfie Toth, but by the time he reached the Gramercy, Toth had moved out. They might have connected later-I'm not sure about that yet-but I'm assuming this was part of an ongoing investigation.’’

’’Uh-unh.’’

’’Do you have any record of Newquist's contacting your department?’’

’’Hang on.’’ He sounded resigned, a man who couldn't be accused later of thwarting the public's right to know.

He put me on hold. I listened to the mild hissing that signals one's entrance into telephone hyperspace. I sent up a little prayer of thanks that I wasn't being subjected to polka music or John Philip Sousa. Some companies patch you into news broadcasts with the volume pitched too low and you sit there wondering if you're flunking some bizarre hearing test.

Detective Boyd clicked back in. He apparently had the file open on the desk in front of him as I could hear him flipping pages. ’’You still there,’’ he asked idly.

’’I'm here.’’

’’Tom Newquist didn't get in touch with us when he was here, but I do show we've been with Nota Lake.’’

I said, ’’Really. I wonder why he didn't let you know he was coming down.’’

’’Gosh, I don't know. That's a stumper,’’ he said blandly.

’’If he'd gotten in touch, would there be a note of it?'

’’Yes ma'am.’’

I could see how this was going to go. I was on a fishing expedition and Detective Boyd was responding only to direct questions. Anything I didn't ask, he wasn't going to volunteer. Somehow I had to snag his interest and inspire his cooperation. ’’Why don't I tell you my problem,’’ I said conversationally. ’’His widow's convinced her husband was deeply troubled about something.’’

’’Uh-unh.’’

I could feel my frustration mount. How could this man be so pleasant and so completely obtuse at the same time? I switched gears. ’’Was Alfie Toth wanted for some crime at the time of his death?’’

’’Not that I'm aware of. He'd just finished serving time on a conviction for petty theft.’’

’’The desk clerk at the Gramercy says a plainclothes detective came in with a warrant for his arrest.’’

’’Wasn't one of ours.’’

’’You don't show any outstanding warrants?’’

’’No ma'am, I don't.’’

’’But there must have been some connection or Tom Newquist wouldn't have bothered to drive all the way down here.’’

’’I'll tell you what. If this is just a question of satisfying Mrs. Newquist's curiosity, I can't see any reason to share information. Why don't you talk to Nota Lake and see what they have to say. That'd be your best bet.’’

’’Are you telling me you have information?’’

’’I'm telling you I'm not going to reveal the substance of an ongoing investigation to any yahoo who asks. You have knowledge of the facts-something new to contribute-we'd be happy to have you come in.’’

’’Has there been a resolution to the case?’’

’’Not so far.’’

’’The newspapers indicated that this was being investigated as a homicide.’’

’’That's correct.’’

’’Do you have a suspect?’’

’’Not at this time. I wouldn't say that, no.’’

’’Any leads?’’

’’None that I'm willing to tell you about,’’ he said.

’’You want to make a trip out here, I could maybe have you talk to the watch commander, but as far as giving out information by phone, it ain't gonna fly. I don't mean to cast aspersions, but you could be anyone... a journalist.’’


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