Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights (4 page)

“Bob? What happened to Bob?”

There was absolutely no delicate way of putting this. “He was shot.” I thought I saw the corners of Anatoly’s mouth twitch in amusement.

“I don’t understand.”

“I know it’s shocking. We have no idea who did it—a burglar maybe. Leah’s an absolute wreck. Would it be all right if Jack spent the night with you?”

“Of course, of course.” Miranda sounded a little dazed. “Consuello will make sure he’s comfortable.”

Sorry, Consuello, you lose. “Great, Leah will pick him up tomorrow, before nine.”

“No rush, you can pick him up as late as eleven-thirty if you like. Just…give Leah hugs and kisses from us.”

“Will do. I’ll have Leah call before she comes over.” I hung up just as Anatoly was pulling into a parking spot five blocks away from my home.

He tossed the keys onto my lap and made eye contact with Leah through the rearview mirror. “Leah, I’m going to have to ask you a few questions.”

“No more questions. I can’t take it.”

Anatoly sighed. We both got out of the car and Anatoly opened the door for Leah. “I know how hard it is to lose someone you care for,” he said, “but if you’re going to get through this, we’re going to have to put the pieces together so we can figure out what happened tonight.”

“The police are already doing that.”

“Yeah, but unlike the police, Anatoly works for us, not the state,” I said. “He’ll be more sensitive in his approach to this and he’ll conduct his investigation in a way that will best ensure your protection.”


My
protection? Do you think whoever did this is planning on shooting me?”

No, I thought that the police had plans to arrest her for being the “whoever” who did this. “I think you should answer Anatoly’s questions.”

Leah shifted her weight from foot to foot. She is an inch taller than me, but right then she seemed much smaller.

Anatoly put a gentle guiding hand on her shoulder. “Let’s walk.”

Leah nodded and fell into step with him as I trailed behind.

“When was the last time you saw Bob?”

God, Anatoly’s tone sounded so comforting that even I felt myself lulled into a sense of tranquility.

“This morning when he…told me.”

Anatoly nodded and slowed his pace. “Sophie tells me you went to see Bob’s secretary after you left her place a little after five.”

“Erika wasn’t home.”

Anatoly’s pace didn’t change but his shoulders seemed to get a little more rigid. “What did you do then?”

“I parked my car in front of her house and waited for about a half hour. Then I just drove. Erika lives in Daly City, so I got back on Highway 1 and drove down the coast for a while. Then I came back up to the city and drove around the Presidio. I just drove.”

“So you have no—you were alone.” His voice remained steady.

“Yes, that’s right. I needed some space so I could figure out how to get Bob back, and now—now he’s gone forever. I’m a widow.” She stopped in her tracks and turned to look at me. “I don’t know how to be a widow, Sophie.”

Leah didn’t look so steady on her feet, and I contemplated whether it was necessary to remind her to breathe.

“Let’s keep walking,” Anatoly said. We all resumed our journey to my apartment. “When you came home did you see anything unusual? Any people walking around nearby or cars pulling out of parking spots?”

“No, nothing unusual or out of place. I don’t think there were any pedestrians out, and the streets were quiet. I had no idea…I just had no idea.”

“Was the front door locked when you came in?”

“Yes, double locked. Bob is always so careful.”

I stopped myself from correcting her use of the present tense.

“Sophie said that when you got inside there were a few frames containing your wedding pictures that had been smashed on the floor.”

“In the living room, next to him. The rest of the house was in order, just as I had left it. But all three of the framed photos we display in the living room had been broken, and there was a broken highball glass.”

“A highball glass?”

“Shattered right next to Bob. And there was all this blood.” Leah blinked a few times. “Do you think it will always be there?”

Anatoly shook his head uncomprehendingly.

“The blood. Will it stain the floor? I have a book that tells you how to get the worst stains out…but there was so much.”

Leah was in shock. That was obvious. I wanted to reassure her that Pergo didn’t stain, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the moment. “The blood’s going to go away, Leah. It’s all going to get better. Why don’t we go upstairs and I’ll make you a little tea with brandy?”

“Yes, if all else fails, get her drunk,” Anatoly muttered.

I shot him a warning glance before escorting them up to my place. Leah took a seat on my couch without bothering to take off her jacket, and I went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Mr. Katz strolled into the living room undoubtedly hoping to cajole some food out of me, but once he saw both Leah and Anatoly he pulled a U-turn. He was too proud a cat to beg in front of company.

“After you found him you called Sophie. Did you call anyone else before you talked to the police?”

“Not before, no. After the police arrived and right before I came out and saw you I called Cheryl, Bob’s sister.”

Shit, I had forgotten about Cheryl. Usually that was a good thing, but in this case even Ms. Shallow deserved some consideration. “That couldn’t have been a fun phone call,” I said. “How did she take it?”

It was hard to tell from where I was standing, but I could have sworn that I saw a spark of annoyance in Leah’s eyes.

“She reacted like she always reacts—lots of dramatics and lamentations. You’d think that this whole thing was a personal assault against her, as if I weren’t suffering at all.”

I did a quick double take. That was a bit judgmental. Maybe Leah was returning to her old self again. “Well, he is her only living relative,” I pointed out.


Please.
She reacted the same way when Jason Priestley crashed at NASCAR.”

Yep, she was definitely coming around.

Anatoly seemed less impressed with her sarcasm. “Did the police find the murder weapon while you were there?”

“No, I showed them where Bob kept his gun, but it was missing.”

Great, just great. I could easily remember the debate Leah and Bob had over that stupid gun. She didn’t want to have one with a child around but he had insisted that it was a good security measure for the family. Apparently Bob was wrong.

Anatoly leaned against the counter that divided the living room and kitchen and shot me a look that said
We’re in deep doo-doo
. “Leah, I’m almost done. Do you know of anyone who might have wanted to kill Bob, or for that matter, anyone who held any kind of grudge against him at all?”

“No, everybody loved Bob.”

What drug was she on? Nobody loved Bob, not even her.

“He had lots of friends,” she continued. “The people who worked with him loved him. He was just offered a promotion. It was going to be announced in a few days. His employees couldn’t have been more loyal. Erika thought the sun rose and set around his head. No one wanted to hurt him—to my knowledge. Unless that slut he’s been sleeping with wanted to do him in. That’s always possible.”

I felt like screaming. The woman he had been sleeping with had no motive. Leah did. She had to see that. She had to realize how bad this all looked.

Anatoly cleared his throat. “Last two questions. Did you tell the police about Bob’s affair, or that he told you he was leaving you?”

“No, I…I couldn’t. The only people who know about that are the two of you, Erika and Miranda.”

I could tell by the look on his face that we were thinking the same thing. That was two too many.

“Leah, what’s Bob’s e-mail and password?”

I handed Leah a Post-it and she scribbled down Bob’s private e-mail address and handed it to Anatoly. “The password is June21.” She hesitated a moment before adding in a much quieter voice, “That’s our anniversary.”

Anatoly waited a few seconds for her to reflect, but I sensed his chivalry was close to used up.

“Any other addresses? His work e-mail, for example?” he asked.

“It’s [email protected] I don’t know what password he used there. I tried accessing his messages when I suspected…” Leah got another faraway look in her eyes.

Anatoly motioned with his hand for her to continue. “I know what you suspected. So what passwords did you try?” he prompted.

“Well, I started with our anniversary, of course. We use that code for all of our accounts, our checking, our various online retailers….”

“What other passwords did you try?”

“My birthday, the date of our engagement, my name, and I tried one other before I gave up…what was it? Oh, of course, the day we first met. None of them worked.”

Anatoly jotted it all down. “Did you try
narcissistic?
” he whispered under his breath.

I shot him a dirty look, but Leah didn’t appear to have heard him.

“Last thing,” he said. “Are there any questions that the police asked you that I haven’t, or vice versa?”

“No, I’ve answered all these questions before,” Leah said. “I don’t think newly widowed women are supposed to answer all these questions right away. I think they’re supposed to be too distraught to talk. Maybe I’m being callous.”

Maybe she was being crazy.

Anatoly studied her. I got the feeling he was trying to pull information out of her—that she didn’t want to voice. Finally, he shrugged and joined me in the kitchen.

“Come to help me with the tea?”

Anatoly didn’t even bother acknowledging the question. “Meet me at Leah’s at ten-thirty tomorrow morning.”

“Is that a request or an order?”

“Ten-thirty, Sophie. And if you hear anything from the police, call me.” Anatoly left as the kettle began to whistle.

Leah entered the room and crossed to the stove to turn it off. “Skip the tea. Just give me the brandy.”

 

The next morning I awoke to the sound of grinding coffee beans, which would normally fill me with the kind of inner peace others only experience after visiting the Dalai Lama. However there was an odd pattern to the noise this morning. Normally when you grind coffee you press the top of the coffee grinder for a minute or so until the beans are as fine as grains of black sand. However the person preparing these beans was pressing the grinder for five seconds at a time, and, taking two-minute breaks in between to utter phrases like “Oh, my head!”

I pulled on a robe and went out to the kitchen to see Leah braced against the sink, the grinder currently silent beside her.

Her angry, bloodshot eyes zoomed in on me. “Look at me! Look what you’ve done to me!”

I didn’t immediately answer. I understood that she was hungover but I missed the part that made it my fault.

“Why did you let me drink all that brandy?” She ran her fingers through her hair, inadvertently molding it into a wing formation. “How am I going to reevaluate my life if I feel like my head is going to explode?”

I pulled out a filter and began to prepare the coffeemaker for the beans that I was clearly going to have to grind myself. “Maybe you shouldn’t reevaluate your life just yet.”

“Of course, I have to reevaluate! Weren’t you listening to me last night? I’m not the wife of a comptroller anymore. I’m the
widow
of a comptroller. That’s an entirely different situation. I have to figure out—OH MY GOD!”

I almost dropped the coffeepot. “What? What is it?”

“This nightgown I’m wearing! You lent me a pink nightgown!”

I blinked. “I thought you liked pink.”

“I’m in mourning! I’m supposed to be wearing black.”

“To the funeral maybe…”

“No, no, no, no.” Leah shook her head hard enough to cause her hair wings to make a flapping motion, then abruptly stopped as she struggled to regain her equilibrium. “There is a period of time in which widows are supposed to wear black, I’m sure of it.”

“Leah, this isn’t
Gone with the Wind
. No one is going to blackball you for wearing a pink nightgown.”

She started pacing the narrow kitchen. “There’s a way to do this…I know, a book! There’s got to be a book that explains the proper protocol for a newly widowed woman.”

“Like what?
Mourning for Idiots?
Why don’t you pick up Emily Post’s book on how to be a socially gracious murder suspect while you’re at it, because that seems to be the more pressing problem.”

Leah stopped pacing. “Murder suspect? I didn’t kill Bob.”

“I didn’t say you did, but I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘perception is the greater part of reality.’ And I’m pretty sure I know what the police department’s perception is right now.”

Leah looked bewildered, although how this could have been news to her was beyond me.

“But once the police start investigating, they’ll see it wasn’t me. There’s no evidence that could say otherwise because I really am innocent.”

“Wake up, Leah. Innocent people go to jail all the time on bogus charges. It was barely a month ago that Anatoly was charged with assault and murder.”

“But that’s because
you
set him up, Sophie. You invited him up to your place, kicked a few chairs over or something and then called 911.”

“Okay, forget about that. How many times in the past couple of years have forensic scientists used old DNA evidence to prove that some of the people who have served time for various crimes were actually innocent? While researching
Words To Die By,
I found out that Ray Krone was in prison for
ten years
before DNA evidence proved him innocent. What about the cases when DNA evidence isn’t available? Do you think the courts get all those right? You need to look at this realistically and prepare to fight the accusations that are going to come your way.”

In one fluid movement Leah picked up an empty coffee mug and threw it across the room. It exploded against my cabinet door in a burst of ceramic.
“I didn’t do it!”

I stood motionless, looking at the remnants of the cup. I had a long history of throwing things, but that’s because I have no self-control. Leah, on the other hand, had always managed to be on the verge of a breakdown without ever actually having one—until now.

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