N Is For Noose Page 94


’’Barrett, tell the truth. Please, please, please? Pretty please with sugar on it? Trust me, I won't say a word to anyone about your having it.’’

’’I'm telling you the truth.’’

I shook my head. ’’I hate to contradict you, but Tom always kept it with him and yet nobody's seen it since he died.’’

’’So?’’

’’So everybody's been assuming he was by himself that night. Now it turns out you were in his truck.

Where else could it be? He was anxious to protect the notebook so he must have given it to you. That's the only way it adds up. If you can think of another explanation, I'd love to hear it.’’

The silence was exquisite. I let it drag on a bit without breathing another word.

’’I went for help.’’

’’I'm sure you did,’’ I said. ’’The CHP officer saw you on the road. What about the notebook?’’

Barrett looked out the window. ’’You don't have any proof,’’ she said, faintly.

’’Well, yeah, I know. I mean, except for the fact that Cecilia saw you on the motel porch that night,’’ I said. ’’She says your dad came and picked you up, which is what you said yourself. You just fudged a tiny bit about the sequence of events. I can't prove you have the notebook, but it stands to reason.’’

Nancy poked her head out of the Rainbow's back door. Barrett opened the door and leaned out, calling, ’’I'll be right there!’’ Nancy nodded and waved.

’’So where's the notebook?’’

’’In my purse,’’ she said, glumly.

’’Could you give it to me?’’

’’What's so important about the notes?’’

’’He was investigating two murders so I'm assuming his notes are somehow relevant. Did you read them yourself?’’

’’Well, yeah, but it's just a bunch of interviews and stuff. Lots of dates and abbreviations. It's no big deal.’’

’’Then why does it matter if you pass it on to me?’’

’’He told me to hide it 'til he could decide what to do with it.’’

’’He didn't know he would die.’’

’’What a bummer,’’ she said.

’’Look, if you'll give it to me now, I'll make a copy first thing tomorrow and give it back to you.’’

After an agonizing moment, she said, ’’All right.’’

She got out of the car on her side and I got out on mine, locking the doors quickly before I followed her in. She kept her handbag in the storage room to the left of the kitchen door. Barrett took the notebook out of her bag and passed it to me. She seemed irritated that I'd managed to outmaneuver her somehow. ’’The other thing he said was the key's on his desk,’’ she said.

’’The key's in his desk?’’

’’That's what he told me. He said it twice.’’

’’In or on?’’

’’On, I think. I have to go.’’

’’Thanks. You're a doll.’’ I put my finger to my lips. ’’Top secret. Not a word to anyone.’’

’’Shit. Then why did I tell you?’’

Nancy stuck her head in the kitchen door. ’’Oh, Kinsey. You're here. Brant's on the phone,’’ she said.

I went out into the cafe proper, which was virtually deserted. The receiver was face down on the counter by the register. ’’Brant, is that you?’’

He said, ’’Hi, Kinsey.’’

’’Where are you? How'd you know I was here?’’

’’I'm at Mom's. I drove past the Rainbow a while ago and saw your car parked out back. I just wanted to check and make sure you're okay.’’

’’I'm fine. Is your mother home yet?’’

’’She won't get back 'til close to nine,’’ he said. ’’You need something?’’

’’Not really. If you have a way to call her, would you let her know I got it?’’

’’Got what?’’

I curled my fingers around the mouthpiece, feeling like a character in a spy movie. ’’The notebook.’’

’’How'd you manage that?’’

’’I'll explain later. I'll be home in a few minutes. Can you wait?’’

’’Not really. I just stopped by for some stuff I'll be taking to Sherry's later.’’

’’You work weekends?’’

’’Not usually,’’ he said. ’’I'm filling in for someone and hoping to run some errands first. We'll talk tomorrow.’’

’’Right. I'll see you then,’’ I said.

I let myself into Selma's house and headed out to the kitchen. The house was dim, silent, insufferably warm. Everything was much as I'd left it, except for a plastic wrapped plate of brownies with chocolate frosting sitting on the counter with a note attached: HELP YOURSELF. The condensation on the wrap suggested it had been refrigerated or frozen until recently. Brant must have assumed the note was meant for him because a plate and fork, showing telltale traces of chocolate, were sitting on the table at the place he occupied. I was sorry I'd missed him. We could have put our heads together.


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