Read Sleep of the Innocent Online

Authors: Medora Sale

Sleep of the Innocent (10 page)

BOOK: Sleep of the Innocent
12.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

There she was. Right in front of him, tacked to the wall behind the order desk. Boots, short black skirt, tiny black top, long black hair. Posed with her foot on a chair, looking bold and sluttish, with one hand on the backrest, the other on her hip.

“May I help you with something?” asked the young man at the order desk, who had by then risen to his feet.

“Yes,” said Lucas. “You certainly may. Who is that?”

“Lulu?” he asked. “The main character in the opera. Berg's opera. The soprano,” he added, as though talking to a mentally deficient.

“No, no,” said Lucas. “I know that. But that girl in the poster. Is she the one who's singing Lulu? Or did they hire a model?”

“Oh, no,” he said, shocked. “They don't do that. No, that's the Lulu. Annie Hunter. I was the tenor,” he added. “That's why I still have the poster up. Can't bear to take it down. That's me, Peter Johnstone. I sang Alwa. My first big part.”

“This is an old production then? I see it says it's on April eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth. Is that last year? Who put it on?”

He nodded. “Last year. It was a student production, really. We're all at the Faculty. Of Music,” he added condescendingly. “Opera.”

“You mean this Annie Hunter is a student?” His surprise must have been evident on his face as he spoke.

“Well, I don't know what she's doing now. Annie and I were in the performance program together—last year was our first year in the Opera School. I really haven't seen her this year at all. Once or twice on the street, maybe, but not to talk to.”

“She had the lead?” Lucas's astonishment was palpable.

“Sure. She's pretty good. Actually, she was a terrific Lulu,” he added generously. “Good voice and a great actress—that's why she got the part. There was no one else at the school who could have
Lulu. Sort of vicious and bitchy, yet seductive and pathetic, you know?”

Lucas did know, but had no intention of discussing the point with Mr. Johnstone. “You have no idea where I could find her now?”

“Why do you want to find her?” he asked, dragging himself from dreams of past glory to a present-day suspicious practicality.

He drew out his ID silently.

“Is she in trouble?” Lucas could feel the pull of fellowship, the closing of ranks in the face of the enemy in the tenor's every word.

“I certainly hope not,” he said. “She may have witnessed a crime—a serious crime—and she could be of great help to us.”

“I see. And what in hell do you mean by witness? Cops seem to mean some pretty funny things when they call someone a witness.”

Lucas tried to sound nonthreatening. “Just that. We think she was an eyewitness to a serious crime. We think that the people who committed the crime knew she saw them. And are looking for her.”

“Just a witness.” Lucas could see the clerk wavering. “So if anyone else asks you about her, it'd be nice if you had a memory lapse.”

“You mean, she may be in real trouble,” he said flatly. “I see.” He sat down to his order books again. “I don't actually know where she is myself. But if I were you, I'd check with the secretary at the Faculty. She knows everybody and everything.” He swiveled around in his chair and looked back at the wall behind him. “And I think I'll just take this poster down for a while. It's time I replaced it anyway.” As Lucas walked away, he saw the young man carefully removing the thumbtacks from his poster and rolling it up.

As he walked by the opera section, he paused at
for Berg and pulled out a copy of
. “What the hell,” he muttered, “I don't have it,” and he walked back to the order desk to pay.

He looked at his watch as he left the record store and was startled to discover that it was almost five. If he ate now, the secretary at the music faculty would be gone by the time he got there. He could wait. He began dodging his way across four lanes of rush-hour traffic to the music school. But the administration offices were locked, lights out, silent as the grave. He knocked loudly, in case someone was working late. Not a sound. He rattled the doorknob vehemently. A pleasant-looking girl who was walking past tried to put him out of his misery.

“It's no good knocking,” she said. “Even if they were hiding in there, they'd rather go out the window than answer. Believe me. You can get them at nine o'clock tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” he muttered. Then, inspired by sudden hope and her friendly face, he added, “You wouldn't know a girl named Annie Hunter, would you? She was here last year, I think.”

She shook her head. “Sorry. I'm only in first year. What was she doing?”

“Opera,” he said, hoping that was the right category of response.

“That's a graduate program,” she said. “And anyway, I'm in strings,” she added, and trotted on her way.

Only slightly discouraged, he headed for the restaurant and a telephone call to report to Baldy that his witness had a name—a real name, he thought, although not yet verified from other sources. He was beginning to feel cautious about things like that. Baldy wasn't around to hear the happy news; he left the message to be added to the pile on his desk. He thought gleefully of the inspector spending his evening plowing through hours and hours of reports—every one of which he had summarily demanded, each one his own fault. It must be a shock to his system, thought Lucas, to be back to the routine of endless hours of actual work. He was probably out right now buttering up Marty Fielding over a Martini, assuring him that all was well for his client, before heading back to the grind. Thank God. And that meant that instead of being hauled down to report in person, he was going to be able to eat and drink himself into a pleasant haze, go back to his apartment, take the phone off the hook, put up his aching feet, and listen to his new recording of

Chapter 7

Lucas pushed aside his coffee and stared down at the soggy pastry on his desk. It had been 2:00 a.m. when he had given up trying to get to sleep. Neither books nor late-night television had been able to lull his jumpy brain, and he had prowled around the apartment until five-thirty or six, when he had slumped onto the couch and fallen into restless slumber for a couple of uneasy hours. A lousy way to start a lousy day. He had to get away from his desk. Maybe he should try the Faculty of Music. Not that inquiring there was likely to get him anywhere, he thought with more than his usual pessimism. Some sort of curse layover this case. “I'm off,” he muttered to the room in general. No one paid any attention.

The secretary at the Faculty of Music glowered at him across the counter. “Annie Hunter?” she said, her voice tight with suspicion and dislike. “I don't give out information about students to unauthorized people.” He pulled out his ID. She glanced at it, and the atmosphere in the room chilled several more degrees. “Is this supposed to make a difference?” She walked back to her desk. A flash of stubborn anger kept Rob Lucas standing immobile where he was. After a lengthy pause, she vouchsafed him one more glance. “Is she in some sort of trouble?”

“No, she is not in trouble,” he said, exasperated. “She's a witness. That's all. But we do have to talk to her.”

She was not convinced. “I'm afraid I couldn't tell you where she is right now,” said the secretary briskly. “She dropped out last spring.”

He looked at the name plate propped up on the desk. “Mrs. Dubchek, I have to get in touch with her. She witnessed a crime. And the person—or persons—who committed it know she saw them. Can you understand that? And they're looking for her.”

She studied him, pondering. “Well, she really did drop out last year. That is, she didn't re-register in the fall. Her father had died a few months before that, and I think she had financial problems. Of course there was no need for the little fool to leave,” she added. “She could have applied for extra grant money. But Annie always worried about money. She may have been too discouraged to think of asking for help—or was afraid we'd turn her down. Students,” she went on. “A fragile lot, some of them. Very hard on themselves.”

“You have no idea where I might look for her? Who her friends are?”

“She hasn't seen any of her old friends. I asked around in the fall, trying to get an address for her. They won't be any help, I'm afraid. But, just let me look. Don't despair.” She disappeared into another room, emerging very shortly waving a manila folder. “I haven't retired her file yet—there are advantages to sloth, you know. I don't have a valid address, but, as I remember, I do have a copy of an odd letter that we wrote to her lawyer when she was in first year—something about her official status at the Faculty. Don't ask me why. I think her father requested it. Wanted proof she really was a student before he would continue to send support money. Parents,” she added sadly, shaking her head. “Unpleasant, some of them. No wonder she always thought she was on the edge of starvation. Anyway, the lawyer ought to know where she is if anyone does.” As she spoke she flipped through the contents of the folder in front of her. “Here we are. This is the address. And she had a lot to do with those lawyers over her father's will, I know that. Because she was in here worrying about it a lot last year. The poor thing needed a mother figure in her life,” she explained, and Lucas began to understand why he had received so hostile a reception. “She's an orphan now. Such a sad word, isn't it? Even for a girl of”—she looked down at the file in front of her—“twenty-three.” She picked up another piece of paper. “In fact, I have that address here as well. She listed her next of kin as her lawyer. It made me want to cry. But then, I get sentimental over them. Some of them, anyway. Some of them are absolute—well, I won't go into that.” She picked up her file and turned to go, and then changed her mind and turned back to him. “Look, Sergeant, if you see her, will you do me a favour?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Tell her to come back. Not to worry about the money. Tell her we won't let her starve. Please?”

“Sure,” he said. “And thanks for the help.” He ran lightly down the steps of the music building. The morning sun warmed his forehead, the cold north wind that had been blowing for days had died down at last, and his spirits rocketed upward. It was spring. Luck was cartwheeling along the sidewalk in front of him; failure was an unthinkable proposition. He stood irresolute in front of the building, debating whether to drop in on the lawyer unannounced or to find a phone and make an appointment. He had left his car down at headquarters, and the law office was only a mile or so away. Fate murmured in his ear. Clearly, he should walk and chance that the lawyer could and would see him.

Either Mr. Hennessy, of Hennessy and Garside, had a miserable law practice, or he, too, had been infected by the shift in the weather. When Lucas arrived at his office, the receptionist had looked coldly at him, muttered about people arriving without notice and expecting to see people, and then, after a brief telephone conversation, said with a glare, “Mr. Hennessy will see you now.”

The lawyer was short, rotund, florid, and cheerful-looking. He belonged at the head of a gleaming mahogany table with a snifter of his namesake's cognac in his hand, gently infusing the surrounding company with good fellowship. At the moment, however, he was leaning forward across his almost-bare desk; he tilted his head like a suspicious and potentially hostile bird when Lucas sat down in front of him. “You were asking about Annie Hunter, I believe,” he said, mildly enough. “Yes, I know her. I think I might even add that she is a client. And now that I've told you that much, perhaps you'll tell me what your interest in her is.”

“First of all,” said Lucas, “is this Annie Hunter?” He put the artist's sketch down on the lawyer's desk.

Hennessy nodded. “I've seen better pictures, but this does seem to be Annie,” he conceded. “And again, now that we know we're both talking about the same person, perhaps you could explain your interest.”

Lucas took a breath and launched into a fairly straightforward and moderately complete version of the trouble that Annie Hunter was in. Mr. Hennessy looked at him intently, his fingers laced together somewhere near his chin, and nodded occasionally.

“Just let me see if I understand you,” he said, widening his eyes innocently. “You say my client was stopped for questioning on a staircase in a public building some distance from where a murder had been committed, because you assumed that she had something to do with the murder?” He smiled and continued on in mild tones. “Did you hold everyone who happened to be in the building on their lawful occasions that afternoon?”

“Her fingerprints were found in the apartment,” said Lucas, grateful that he wasn't in court right then, trying to justify their actions. “And she did admit, uh, say that she found the body. I'm not accusing her of anything, Mr. Hennessy. I don't think she's done anything, but I think she saw more than she said she did. And I believe that my hunch is confirmed by some odd things that have happened since: her hotel room was broken into; she gave us a false name—and a girl of that name has been killed. Possibly in error for Miss Hunter.”

“Aren't you assuming a great deal on very little evidence, Sergeant?”

“Look, I'm not trying to prove her guilty of anything. We simply need her evidence, and we'd like to make sure that she's safe. Anyway, I don't think so,” he added. “That I'm jumping to conclusions. Or if I am, so is someone else, which amounts to the same thing. The victim, Mr. Neilson, was killed with a twenty-two pistol, very—”

“Professionally? Is that what you mean?”

“Exactly. Do you see now why we're concerned for her safety? Do you know—do you have any idea where she might be?”

Mr. Hennessy swiveled his chair around and looked out the window at the soft blue sky and hazy, trailing clouds for a perceptible length of time. “You put me in a difficult situation, Sergeant,” he answered at last. “I have information that you might find useful, but I'm not sure that I'm being very wise in passing it on. However—” He leaned forward and picked up his telephone. “Mrs. Green? Could you bring in the Hunter files? Thanks.” He looked back at Lucas. “It was her father, really, who was my client. I inherited Annie, so to speak. We were joint executors of her father's estate. Ah, thank you, my dear. You are a marvel,” he said to his secretary as she dropped two files on his desk. He sounded as if he meant it. “A copy of his will,” he said, opening the top file. “Mr. Hunter left his second wife—Annie is his daughter by his first wife—a large sum of money; the residue of the estate he left to Annie, making her, with me, his executor as well. Sounds fair on paper, doesn't it? Well, in order to settle debts and pay the second wife the amount named in the will, we had to sell almost everything. His house, a few next-to-worthless stocks, and some bonds. Annie was left—after legal fees, which I pared down to next to nothing—with about three thousand dollars, his car, and a little cabin. Not at all what he intended, I suppose, but there was little I could do about it short of going into court for relief and using up most of the estate's assets in the process. I suggested that she sell the cabin and the land it was on to finance her schooling, but she said that she preferred to keep it, arguing that she liked it and that it wasn't worth much. She was right about that. It lacks amenities, and it's not on a lake. Her father bought it as a hunting cabin. Anyway . . .”

Rob Lucas stirred impatiently in his chair, in a vain attempt to hurry him up.

“I have heard from my client, Sergeant. She discussed her position in this matter with me, and told me that she was considering spending a few weeks at the cabin until the situation resolved itself. She doesn't feel safe here in the city.”

Under that steady, accusatory gaze, Lucas felt an upsurge of guilt. “We could assure—”

“I have the official description of the lot in the will,” Hennessy went on, paying no attention at all to Lucas's protestation, “and that ought to be enough to get you there. It's miles from the nearest town, and there's no telephone—or much of anything else—so if you want to find her, you'll have to send someone in person.” He closed the file with a snap and stood up. “I'll have my secretary photocopy that description for you.”

“Just a minute,” said Lucas, stubbornly retaining his seat. “How much did she tell you about what happened at the hotel?”

Hennessy shook his head. “Oh, no, Sergeant. My client may have let slip a few speculations under the stress of the moment, but it would be most improper for me to pass them along, even if I could remember them. Hearsay,” he added gloomily. “Idle gossip, in fact. I'm not very happy that I've given you this much. However, if you do see Annie, could you tell her something for me?”

“Certainly,” said Lucas.

“Tell her to give us a call when she gets back into town—we'd like to see her again. She and Karen—my wife—get on like a house on fire. Karen's batty about music.” As he reached to open the door, he suddenly stopped and turned around. “There was one thing,” he said. “I almost forgot. When she told me she wasn't selling the cabin, she said that she had been offered a very good part-time job. Well paid. Enough to let her finish up her degree. That's why I was startled to hear she'd dropped out of university. But she must be keeping up with her voice lessons. They meant an awful lot to her. I don't know what job it was that she was offered, but her coach was Renée LaBourdière. If you can't find Annie at the cabin, Renée might know where she is.”

Lucas hesitated in front of the keyboard as he finished his account of the interview with Hennessy. It was a stark, pared-down outline of the conversation, limited to the barest facts. He could remember with unpleasant clarity the first report he had written for Inspector Baldwin. The sarcasm it had been greeted with still made him hot with anger every time he thought about it. “Impressions, Lucas?” he had said. “Impressions? What do you think you are, a printer? Since when did a sergeant have impressions? I look for evidence, Lucas, not impressions. Save the impressions for your girlfriend.”

He had sworn that Baldwin would never get anything but the bare bones from now on. But if he didn't put down his conclusion that Hennessy already knew a great deal about the crime, and that his source was Annie Hunter, he would have little justification for driving up to the cabin to find her. And that was what he was determined to do. Of course, if she were still in town, it wouldn't matter. He reached for the telephone book and began to look for Renée LaBourdière.

It took Lucas four attempts to get past the busy signal; when he finally reached the vocal coach, he felt he'd been connected to a whirlwind. The voice at the other end crackled with impatience. “Of course I know Annie,” she said. “And I'd like to know what she thinks she's doing. She hasn't been here since before Christmas. She canceled a couple of times because of a sore throat—we all know what that means.”

“What does it mean?” he asked, curious.

“Sore throat be damned,” the coach snapped. “It means she wasn't working and couldn't face me. Tried to tell me she was depressed. How could she be depressed? She was coming along magnificently. She has no business wasting her time with depression. She hasn't taken a practice room since November, and then she simply didn't turn up for her lesson and didn't call—and when I tried to reach her, her number was out of service. What could I do? I'm sorry I can't be more helpful. But if you see Annie, could you give her a message for me?”

“Sure,” said Lucas. Why not? he thought. When I finally track her down, I'll just put an arm lock on her and make her listen to a half-hour list of messages from everyone she knows.

BOOK: Sleep of the Innocent
12.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Promise in Midwinter by Stark, Alyssa
Wild Boys - Heath by Melissa Foster
Alyx - Joanna Russ by Unknown Author
Brothers to Dragons by Charles Sheffield
Weapon of Vengeance by Mukul Deva
The Tin Collectors by Stephen J. Cannell