N Is For Noose Page 73


’’At least your tetanus shot's up to date.’’

’’Yeah, and my butt still hurts. I got a knot on my hip the size of a hard-boiled egg.’’

’’So what worries you?’’

’’What worries me is I got my fingers dislocated before I knew jack-shit. Now that I'm getting closer, what's the guy going to do? You think he'll go down without trying to take me with him?’’

’’Phone's ringing,’’ he remarked.

’’God, Henry. How can you hear that? You're eightysix years old.’’

’’Three rings.’’

I was off the chair and halfway across the yard by then. I left my door open and caught the phone on the fly, just as the machine kicked in. I pressed STOP, effectively cutting off the message. ’’Hello, hello, hello.’’

’’Kinsey, is that you? I thought this was your machine.’’

’’Hi, Selma. You lucked out. I was out in the yard.’’

’’I'm sorry to have to bother you.’’

’’Not a problem. What's up?’’

’’Someone's been searching Tom's study. I know this sounds odd, but I'm sure someone came in here and moved the items on his desk. It's not like the room was trashed, but something's off. I can't see that anything's missing and I don't know how I'd prove it even if there was.’’

’’How'd they get in?’’

She hesitated. ’’I was only gone for an hour, maybe slightly more. I hardly ever lock the door for short periods like that.’’

’’What makes you so sure someone was there?’’

’’I can't explain. I'd been sitting in Tom's den earlier, before I went out. I was feeling depressed and it seemed like a comfort just to sit in his chair. You know how it is when you think about things. You're aware of your surroundings because your gaze tends to wander while your mind is elsewhere. I guess I was realizing how much work you'd done. Anyway, when I got home, I set my handbag on the kitchen table and went back to the car. I'd picked up some boxes to finish packing Tom's books. The minute I walked into his den I could see the difference.’’

’’You haven't had any visitors?’’

’’Oh, please. You know how people have been treating me. I might as well hang out a sign... 'Town siren. Straying husbands apply here.’’'

’’What about Brant? How do you know he wasn't in there looking for something on Tom's desk?’’

’’I asked him, but he was at Sherry's until a few minutes ago. I had him check the perimeter, but there's no sign of forced entry.’’

’’Who'd bother to force entrance with all the doors unlocked?’’ I said. ’’Can Brant tell if anything's missing?’’

’’He's in the same boat I'm in. It's certainly nothing obvious, if it's anything at all. Whoever it was seemed to work with great care. It was only coincidental that I'd been in there this morning or I don't think I'd have noticed. Do you think I should call the sheriff's office?’’

’’Yeah, you better do that,’’ I said. ’’Later, if it turns out something's been stolen, you can follow up.’’

’’That's what Brant said.’’ There was a tiny pause while she changed tacks, her voice assuming a faintly injured tone. ’’I must say, I've been upset about your lack of communication. I've been waiting to hear from you.’’

’’Sorry, but I haven't had the chance. I was going to call you in a bit,’’ I said. I noticed how defensive I sounded in response to her reproof.

’’Now that I have you on the line, could you tell me what's happening? I assume you're still working even if you haven't kept in touch.’’

’’Of course.’’ I controlled my desire to bristle and I filled her in on my activities the past day and a half, sidestepping the personal aspects of Tom's relationship with Colleen Sellers. Telling a partial truth is much harder than an outright lie. Here I was, trying to protect her, while she was chiding me for neglect. Talk about ungrateful. I was tempted to tell all, but I repressed the urge. I kept my tone of voice professional, while my inner kid hollered Up yours. ’’Tom came down here in June as part of an investigation. Do you remember the occasion? He was probably gone overnight.’’

’’Yes,’’ she said, slowly. ’’It was two days. What's the relevance?’’

’’There was a homicide down here Tom felt was connected to some skeletal remains found in Nota County last spring.’’

’’I know the case you're referring to. He didn't say much about it, but I know it bothered him. What about it.?’’

’’Well, if we're talking about an active homicideinvestigation, I don't have the authority. I'm a private investigator, which is the equivalent of doing freelance research. I can't, even on your say-so, stick my nose into police business.’’


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