N Is For Noose Page 99

’’What did they talk about? Why did he do that?’’

’’Something. I can't remember.’’

’’Didn't you press her for answers? You had the girl right there in the palm of your hand,’’ he said. His words appeared in the air, written in big capital letters.

’’Quit yelling.’’

’’I'm not yelling. What's the matter with you?’’

’’Barrett never said a word about Rafer.’’ I remembered then. She did say Tom had asked about her father.

’’Why would she? She doesn't know you from Adam. She's not going to confide. She wouldn't tell you something like that. Her own father? For god's sake, she'd have to be nuts,’’ he shrilled.

’’But why give me the notes? Wouldn't she assume they'd be incriminating?’’

’’Barrett doesn't have a clue. She has no idea.’’

’’How do you know what he did?’’

’’Because I can add,’’ he said, exasperated. ’’I put two and two together. Listen, Tom met with Barrett. He was probably trying to find out about Rafer's whereabouts when Pinkie was murdered. Same with Alfie Toth. He saw the connection. He was worried someone in the department would get wind of his suspicions, didn't you say that? Someone had already ripped him off for the information about Toth. Who do you think it was? Rafer.’’

’’Rafer,’’ I said. I was nodding. I could see what he was saying. I'd been thinking the same thing. Tom's friendship with Rafer was such that he'd think long and hard before he turned him in to the authorities, betraying their friendship. A conflict of that magnitude would have caused him extreme distress. My brain was clicking and buzzing. Click, click, click. Rafer. It was like a pinball game. Thoughts ricocheted around, setting off bells, bouncing against the rails. I thought about the clerk at the Gramercy. Why didn't he tell me the phony plainclothes detective was black? You'd think he'd remember something so obvious. My mind kept veering. I couldn't hold a thought in one place and follow it to its conclusion. Click, click. Like pool balls. The cue ball would break and all the other balls on the table would fly off in separate directions. I wished I'd talked to Leland Peck before I left Santa Teresa. I was feeling very weird. So anxious. Sound fading in and out. I could see it undulate through space, sentences like surfers cresting on the waves of air.

Brant was still talking. He seemed to be speaking gibberish, but it all made a peculiar sense. ’’Pinkie went after Barrett. She was hiking in the mountains and stumbled across their fishing camp.’’

On and on he went, creating word pictures so vivid I thought it was happening to me.

’’Barrett was assaulted. He put a gun to her head.

She was raped. She was attacked and se*ually abused. Pinkie sodomized and hurt her. He forced her to perform unspeakable acts. Alfie did nothing-offered her no assistance-ran off, leaving her to Pinkie's mercy. Barrett came back hysterical, in a state of shock. Rafer went after Pinkie and took him down. He strung him up, hung him from the limb of a tree and let him die slowly for what he had done to her. He would have killed Alfie, too, but Alfie escaped and blew town. Rafer thought he was safe all these years and then Pinkie's body turned up and Dad found the link between the two men. He drove all the way to Santa Teresa to talk to him, but Rafer got there first. He hung Toth the same way he hung Pinkie.’’ Brant was looking at me earnestly. ’’What's wrong with your eyes?’’

’’My eyes?’’ Once he mentioned it, I realized my field of vision had begun to oscillate, images sliding side to side, like bad camera work. I felt giddy, as if I was on the verge of fainting. I sat down. I put my head between my knees, a roaring in my ears.

’’Are you okay?’’

’’Fine.’’ Lights seemed to pulsate and sounds came and went. I couldn't keep it straight. I knew what he was saying, but I couldn't make the words stand still. I saw Rafer with the noose. I saw him tighten it on Pinkie's neck. I saw him hang Alfie in the wilderness. I felt his rage and his pain for what they'd done to his only daughter. I said, ’’How do you know all this?’’

’’Because Barrett told me when it happened. Jesus, Kinsey. That's why I broke up with her. I was twenty years old. I couldn't handle it,’’ he said, anguished.

’’I'm sorry. I'm sorry,’’ I said, but immediately forgot who was more deserving of my pity-Barrett for being raped, Brant for not having the maturity to deal with it.

Brant's tone became accusatory. ’’You're loaded. I don't believe it. What the hell are you high on?’’

’’I'm high?’’ Of course. Daniel playing the piano. My ex-husband. So beautiful. Eyes like an angel, a halo of golden curls and how I'd loved him. He'd given me acid once without telling me and I watched the floor recede into the mouth of hell.

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