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BOOK: Sleep of the Innocent
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With those words Lucas felt that Carl Neilson had all the obituary that he deserved, and he took his leave.

Chapter 2

By the time Rob Lucas was back downtown, it was dark—dark, late, cold—and even people who were supposed to have been working that day were home tucked up cozily in front of their television sets.

“Anything come in on the girl's fingerprints?” he asked, and sat down to tackle the clutter on his desk.

Patrick Kelleher glanced up. “Yeah. They're all over the apartment, including on that phone. She was the last person to have used it. And in my book that makes her the one who called in.”

Kelleher's words were lost in the rustle of paper. “Where in hell are my reports?” said Lucas, sorting rapidly through the mess.

“Baldy came in and got everything,” said Kelleher.

“Why?”

Kelleher shrugged.

“Anybody get anything else from the girl?”

Kelleher shook his head. “Don't think so. You going to let her go?”

“What do I hold her for? Lying to a cadet?” he said wearily. “Look, I'm leaving as soon as I talk to her again. Tell Baldy if he comes by.”

“Oh,” said Kelleher. His voice turned mock-official. “Inspector Baldwin has requested that you report to him as soon as possible. If you step into the hall, you might bump into him. He's kind of upset.”

“Thanks,” said Lucas, “a helluva lot,” and headed out the door.

He collided with him as he rounded the corner. “Ah, Lucas. Good. A word with you,” said Baldwin, leading him away from his office. “I'm assuming control of this case. Not anything against you, understand—”

“No need to apologize, sir. It's not my case. I was supposed to be off this afternoon.”

“Whatever,” he said irritably. “Anyway, you and Patterson—you understand, Neilson was influential. And Mrs. Neilson is very involved—charities, fundraising, horses, opera, you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, you and Patterson just don't have the clout, or maybe even the tact, to deal with them.”

“I don't mind, sir.” Lucas yawned. “Patterson might be annoyed, though. He has lots of tact when he needs it.”

Baldwin grunted. “That may be—but he has trouble remembering when to use it. Look, I've got Marty Fielding sitting in my office right now, bitching about police harassment of Neilson's widow. What in hell did you say to her?”

“Not much. We chatted about her horses, I asked her where she was during the relevant time period—”

“You asked Mrs. Neilson where she was?” said Baldwin. He looked incredulous. And then, in spite of himself, he added, “Where was she?”

“Out riding. Alone. She does it all the time.” He paused to let that sink in. “Do you think someone would kill someone to prevent him from getting rid of a favourite horse, sir? Because if that's possible—”

“Oh, for chrissake, Lucas, leave Neilson's widow to me. And I want you to check in with me personally before you do anything; and I want reports—detailed reports—on everything you do, say, or find out. Have you got that? I'm going over to the hotel, and I'll pass the word on to Patterson. What are you doing now?”

“Releasing the witness we found at the hotel—and then going home.”

“Oh—right,” he said vaguely. “Don't lose track of her.”

“I won't,” Lucas said and yawned.

Jennifer Wilson was sitting at a table, flipping through the pages of a magazine, when Lucas opened the door of the room she had been stashed in. “Miss Wilson?” he said, and yawned again.

She continued to stare at the page in front of her. Maybe singing in a rock band had deafened her.

“Hey—you,” he said louder. “Jennifer. You can go home now.”

She whirled around. “Sorry—I didn't hear you. It's not often you get a chance to read last year's news. Did you say I could go? Really?”

“Sure. You want a ride home?”

“That'd be nice,” she said. “If I had a home to go to. Maybe you could drive me to a motel. How far out do you go?”

“How far out do you want to go?” he asked. “This time of night, it doesn't take that long to get anywhere, really.”

“How about around the airport, then?”

He had asked for that one. “Sure. What the hell. I guess you could say it's on my way—sort of. Get your stuff.” He stopped to think for a second or two. “Right, you don't have any stuff, do you? Well, then let's go.” He went first, followed by the quick clicking of her little black half-boots, paused to grab his parka, and headed out to the parking lot.

“Around here is okay,” said the girl suddenly. They had been traveling for twenty minutes or so through light traffic and had reached an area of plazas, parking lots, cheap family restaurants, and motels.

“This is quite a ways from the airport, lady,” said Lucas.

“It's not as though I was catching a plane. I just want a place to stay for a few days that's off the beaten track. Off my beaten track, anyway.”

“Have you eaten?” asked Lucas suddenly. “Because I haven't, and I'm hungry.”

“Not since breakfast,” she said. “Except for that stale muffin.”

A stab of guilt pierced his fatigue. “How about there?” he said, waving to their right. “Italian, with lots of parking.” She made a small sound that might have been assent, and he pulled into the lot.

The waitress stood over them, balancing on one foot, as though the other one hurt too much to use, and waited. “You want something to start with?” she asked. “A cocktail or anything?”

He looked up from the oversize plastic-covered menu. “I'll have a Blue and she'll have—what would you like? Beer? Wine? Something?”

“I thought you weren't supposed to drink—”

“I'm not on duty. What'll you have?”

“The same,” she said, turning to the waitress.

“And bring us a whole lot of garlic bread to start with,” added Lucas, “unless it's going to take too long. We're starving.”

“Won't take long at all,” she said comfortingly. “I'll be right back.”

He put the menu down and looked across the table at Jennifer, puzzled. “You look different,” he said.

“They let me use the washroom down at the police station,” she said. “I washed my face.”

That was it. Those great black smudges, the caked white quality of the skin, they were all gone. Now she looked pale and tired, but human. “The bruise looks worse now,” he said, touching the discolored patch on her cheek. Its center was still dark. “It must have been a good one. And this one doesn't look too healthy, either,” he added, touching her shoulder, where the angry red mark was turning to a purple stain. She winced. “You have a left-handed friend, I take it?” he asked.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because your visible bruises are on your right side. I suspect that's where the others are, too.”

“What others?”

“I doubt if he only marks you where the world can see. Look, Jennifer, I don't know who it is you're mixed up with, but has it ever occurred to you you'd be better off without him? I've seen what guys like that can do to a woman, you know, and it isn't very pretty. Why don't you get out while you still have some teeth?”

She turned her head back from her study of the parking lot and fixed her eyes steadily on him. “You really know how to make a girl feel good, don't you? Well, maybe I already know that. Maybe that's why I'm out here and not downtown,” she said, and shivered.

“You're shaking,” said Lucas, touching her arm.

“I'm freezing,” she said. “This sweater isn't very warm, I'm afraid. Neither is the skirt.”

“Jesus,” he said. “I forgot you don't have a coat. Just a minute.”

When he got back from the car, he was carrying a heavy dark-blue-and-white-patterned sweater in his hand. The beer had arrived and so had the garlic bread. She ripped a piece in two and ate most of the first half as he walked to their booth. “Have some,” she said. “It's heavenly.”

“Put this on first,” he said. She wiped the butter off her fingers, slipped out of the booth, and dived into the sweater. It covered her skirt almost completely. She carefully folded up the cuffs until her wrists were visible and looked down at the effect.

“It's beautiful,” she said. “A bit large, but very warm and beautiful. It must look good on you.” She slipped back into the booth.

“So my stepmother says. She knit it, she claims, and the color is supposed to be the same as my eyes.” He picked up a piece of garlic bread and realized just how hungry he was.

“I ordered lasagna and salad for both of us. She said it was the best thing on the menu.” She looked over at him, holding up her arm in the direction of her face. “Your stepmother's right. It is the same color as your eyes. Wow. A beautiful cop. It doesn't seem fair, somehow. How did you break your nose? And why didn't you have it fixed?”

To his horror, he felt himself blushing. “Playing rugger. And I felt it improved my face. You've never been a blue-eyed blond male with a cute little nose in a men's washroom, or you wouldn't ask me that.”

“I can't say I have been. You poor lamb,” she said with a grin of mock sympathy.

He shrugged, as if her tone didn't matter. “Anyway, life got a bit easier for me after the nose was smashed a couple of times.”

“At your size?” she asked, and then answered herself. “But of course—you weren't always that size, were you?” She paused to tackle the beer and garlic bread again. “What's your name? Besides Sergeant Lucas, that is. Since we're having dinner together.”

“Robert,” he said uncomfortably.

“But people don't call you that,” she said. “Robert's much too formal for someone who looks like you. And Bob is too casual. I bet they called you Robin at home. I shall call you Robin—unless you object violently.”

He stared at her in amazement. “And how about you?” he countered with a flash of anger. “Why do you do this to yourself?” He picked up a lock of her hair. “And wear those clothes?”

“Oh, that's nothing. Just part of my professional disguise, that's all. People expect it. Here comes the lasagna. I hope it's good.”

He pulled up in front of a reasonable-looking motel a few blocks farther on. “I guess that'll do,” she said. “I can look after myself from here. Thanks for the ride. And dinner.”

“I'm coming in with you,” he said, abruptly remembering that he was supposed to be keeping an eye on her. “Just to make sure they've got a room. Besides, what about money? If you really did lose your purse—”

“You still think I'm lying, don't you?” She laughed. “I did lose my purse, but I borrowed some money. Remember? I've got plenty.” She patted an area in the vicinity of the hipbone.

“Plenty? I figured she lent you a ten.”

“Oh, no. Her friend was pretty generous, I reckon, and she's easygoing about money. She must have thought there was more where that came from. Poor thing.”

“Okay,” he said in a voice heavy with doubt. “I'm coming in anyway, though. Just in case. But I'll stay in the background.”

“Oh, good,” she said dryly. “I wouldn't want you to sully my reputation. Let's go.”

He concealed himself tactfully behind a rack of postcards on the other side of the lobby while she checked in. “Right,” said the man behind the desk, as a key hit the desk with a muted clang. “Room one-sixteen. Right along the corridor over there. You sure you don't want something on the top floor? It's quieter.” Lucas strolled over to the desk.

She picked up her key and shook her head. “I like to be near the ground,” she said. “We all have our little oddities. Oh, hello, Robin. Thank you. It was a lousy start to a friendship, but dinner was great.”

He tried to think of something to say, nodded, and left.

Lucas walked into his apartment, dropping his parka on a chair. It was a long drive from Finch to Adelaide Street. And on one beer and a glass of wine he felt as if he'd been up all night boozing. Sleep, said his tired brain. He started for the loft that served as his bedroom, shedding clothes as he went; by the time he was up the short flight of stairs, he was down to his shorts. The ringing of the telephone came as a hideous jolt. “Shit,” he muttered, and picked up the receiver.

“Lucas. It's Baldwin. Where in the hell have you been?”

“Stashing the witness in a motel and getting myself something to eat. Sir.” Odd that he had instinctively reversed the order. “What's wrong?”

“Wrong?” he roared. “Marty Fielding's on my back. Wants to know what's being done, who killed his client, everything.” In the ensuing pause, Lucas could see him pacing fretfully back and forth. “Everyone else in the city wants to know, too. What did you get from the girl?”

“Nothing much,” said Lucas, yawning. “Calls herself a singer, but she's probably a hooker with a pretty mean-tempered pimp. Lots of bruises. I think she was in the apartment when Neilson got killed—didn't kill him but can identify the person who did. She's scared.”

“What makes you think she was there?”

“I just don't believe in this mysterious girl, Krystal, who lends her an apartment on fifteen minutes' worth of friendship. And she was wearing the perfume the bed stank of, and her fingerprints were all over. It stands to reason. Neilson brought her in for the day—or whatever—and when he was killed, she was under the bed or behind the couch or something like that. And besides, she doesn't have a coat. No one goes out without a coat on a day like this. I'll bet there was a woman's coat in the apartment. Was there? You got a list there of the stuff they found?”

“What kind of coat?”

“How the hell should I know? Probably black and not very big.”

“Just a minute.”

Lucas sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at the wall. Come on, Baldy. Get a move on.

BOOK: Sleep of the Innocent
4.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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