Read The Moche Warrior Online

Authors: Lyn Hamilton

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Detectives, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Social Science, #Toronto (Ont.), #Antique Dealers, #McClintoch; Lara (Fictitious Character), #Archaeology, #Archaeological Thefts, #Women Detectives - Peru, #Moche (Peru)

The Moche Warrior (5 page)

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
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“I’ve got to get up,” I said. “I have to clean up the shop: I can’t leave it all to Sarah, and we’ve got to get back in business. We can’t afford to be closed for long.” I tried to stand up.

“No. Listen,” Moira said, pushing me back. “Your friends are on this. You can’t get into the building, anyway. The police won’t let you. As soon as they do, we’ll get a group together and do whatever needs doing. Sarah will be back soon. Until she gets here, the rest of us will pitch in.”

I thought about that. “What do you mean, the police won’t let me in? Why not?” I demanded. “It’s my shop!”

“I don’t know,” she said vaguely. “I expect they have to investigate things, and don’t want a lot of people getting in the way. I’m sure that’s it.”

Moira tried very hard to get me to rest, but I couldn’t. I decided that I would call my insurance adjuster and arrange to have him meet me at the store the next morning, by which time, I was sure, I’d be up and around. I’d been dealing with the same insurance company for years, had never had a claim, and did not expect any problems.

The person I usually dealt with was not in, but I was referred to an agent by the name of Rod McGarrigle. Rod and I did not hit it off. In the first place, he had a rather distracted air about him. I had the impression that he was doing something else while talking on the phone to me, because from time to time I could tell that he put his hand over the mouthpiece while I was talking to him. His answers to my questions about coverage, the possibility of payment for lost business, and so on were discouragingly vague.

Finally, in exasperation, I asked him bluntly, “Am I or am I not covered for this?”‘

“You are covered for this, Ms. McClintoch,” he replied, “unless, of course, you, your partner, or anyone in your employ is found to be guilty of a felony.”

A felony. How nice. “Then I will expect payment promptly,” I said tartly before hanging up in his ear.

I told Moira what he’d said, and she made sympathetic noises, but she changed the subject immediately and began to tell me droll little stories about how Brian had been traumatized by meeting her friends the previous day. I gathered the relationship had not survived drinks with her friends, but she didn’t seem perturbed about it. Even in my painkiller-induced grogginess, I was beginning to wonder what exactly was going on that I was missing. It did not take long to find out.

PC Chu went off duty soon after that but was immediately replaced by PC Mancino, a fresh-faced young man who insisted upon calling me ma’am, and who told me several times how proud he was to have worn blue, to use his expression, for seven years now. I took this to be his way of telling me that he was older and more experienced than he looked.

Shortly thereafter he was joined by his sergeant, Lewis he said his name was, and if he had a first name, he didn’t reveal it. He struck me as a man who had no perceptible imagination or sense of humor, and who was on top of that a stickler for detail. He began by asking Moira to leave, which she did, reluctantly, telling him she would return in forty-five minutes, implying by her tone and her glance that he should be gone by the time she got back. Moira is not to be messed with, I’ve learned, and as Sergeant Lewis seemed in imminent danger of finding out for himself.

Lewis talked in phrases punctuated by emphasis rather than sentences, almost as if he thought he was restricted to a finite number of words in his lifetime and didn’t want to run out before his final exit. He also had a disconcerting habit, whether by design or just because his mind worked that way, of asking questions in what appeared to be an entirely random order. He asked, in my opinion, an inordinate number of questions about where I’d been from 7:35 on, and with whom, and what I had done from the time I’d left the bar in the Four Seasons until the police and fire truck had arrived at the shop. None of my answers seemed precise enough to satisfy him. PC Mancino took laborious notes.

I told him in great detail about drinks in the bar, who had been there, when people had arrived, and then added, “I’m sure my friends can confirm all of this for you.”

“Taken
their
statements already,” he replied noncommittally.

“All right, then,” I said. Why exactly would he need to do that? I wondered. Only minutes into the interview and I was beginning to realize that Lewis and I were not going to get along. Here one of my dearest friends has been badly hurt, I said to myself, some stranger has ended up dead in my store, which just happens to be in flames at the time, and this fellow wants to know how many drops of vermouth there were in my martini and where I parked my car.

“Southwest corner Yorkville and Avenue Road.
Then
what?”

“I realized I’d forgotten my keys, left them at the shop, so I went back hoping to catch Alex before he left. As I’ve already told you,” I added. This was the third time he’d asked for some clarification on a matter I considered perfectly straightforward.

“These your
keys!”
Lewis asked, oblivious to my dislike, pulling a black-and-white photo of a key ring from his briefcase.

I nodded.

“Sure?”

“I can’t imagine they would be anyone else’s. The key ring’s a gift from a friend in Mexico. It’s silver, and an unusual design—the Chac Mool from Chichen Itza.”

I looked over at the puzzled PC Mancino. In seven years of wearing blue, he had not encountered the Maya/Toltec city of Chichen Itza, nor the angry god that guards one of the temples. I spelled both for him. He blushed.

“Keys all there?”

“I think so: house, Alex’s place, Moira’s, car, shop door—same key opens the back and the front doors— warehouse, storage room. That’s it. Yes, all there.”

“Partner out of town, is she?” he asked, taking one of those little mental leaps I found so hard to follow.

“Yes. She’s gone on a wilderness camping trip in Algonquin Park with her friend and his two sons. She’ll be back tomorrow or the day after.” There I was being imprecise again. He scowled.

“Business been good lately, has it?”

“Fine. Yes.”

“Don’t owe a bit of
money
or anything, do you?”

“No, as a matter of fact, we’ve actually turned a small profit the last few months.” I could predict the next question, and sure enough, out it came.


Insured
, are you?”

“Yes, of course.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out where he was going with this one: insurance fraud. Maybe that explained why Rod McGarrigle had been so evasive. But it was much worse than that.


Then
what?”

“Then what, what?” I asked, baffled by all the mental hopping around Lewis was doing.

He looked at me as if I were of subnormal intelligence and said, “What did you do after you realized you’d left your keys behind?” He clearly resented having to use all those words to get me back on track.

I told him how I’d gone to the shop, peered in the front door, realized something was wrong and gone round to the back to try to get in.

“Door
locked
, was it?”

“Yes. I used a chair to smash the window. Come to think of it, the chair was lying on its side close to the door. It had been knocked over.”

“Wind?”

“I don’t think so. It’s wrought iron and pretty heavy.”

“And then?”

“I reached through the broken window, pushed the bar, and got the door open, and went over to Alex.”

“Who was where,
exactly!”
Lewis went on. Clearly my answers were not yet precise enough.

“Wandering around in a daze,” I replied.

“His
precise
position?”

“Near the tan sofa.”

“Near?”

“In front of it. A couple of feet, more or less, in front of it.”

“His appearance,
in detail
?”

“Dazed, as I said. He had a cut over his left ear, and he was sort of staggering around.”

Lewis winced. He didn’t like expressions like more or less and sort of, I could tell, but at this moment I was too tired and sore to care.

“Say anything?”

“I think I asked him what happened, and then suggested he leave with me,” I replied, misunderstanding the question.

“He
say anything?” Lewis asked, impatient at my inability to answer the question he was asking.

“He was babbling really. The only coherent thing he said was something about not being able to go because he had some unfinished work, an account he had to settle.”

For a second or two both policemen sat motionless, Mancino with his pen poised over his notebook, Lewis looking like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary. I looked from one to the other. Knowing Alex, it had simply never occurred to me that there was more than one way of interpreting what he’d said. Lewis, I knew right away, also thought there was only one interpretation, and it was not the same as mine.

“You can’t think Alex is to blame for this,” I gasped. “He would never do such a thing.”


Exact
words?” Lewis said finally.

“He was worried he hadn’t got all his work at the shop done!” I exclaimed. “That’s all.”


Exact
words?” Lewis repeated.

“He said, ”Not finished. Something I have to do. I have an account to settle with someone,“ ” I replied reluctantly. “It’s an old-fashioned expression, settle an account,” I added, horrified at the direction this conversation was taking, and upset that my report would reflect so badly on him. “Alex is getting on a little, and he’s lived all over the world, and he uses some rather quaint expressions. It means pay a bill. He’s been looking after the finances while my partner is away.”

“Known Mr. Stewart
long,
have you?” Lewis said, this time very quietly.

“Long enough,” I retorted. “About four years, long enough to know that he would never hurt a flea.”

Lewis said nothing. Mancino scribbled furiously.

“Have you figured out
precisely
what that other person was doing in my store?” I asked, anxiety making me belligerent as I desperately tried to get the investigation back on what I saw to be a more reasonable track. “Did he break in, not realizing Alex was still there? We don’t keep much cash in the shop, just a small float in the safe in the tiny office behind the front desk. Most people pay by credit card these days, so there’s rarely a large amount of money in the shop, but a thief wouldn’t necessarily know that,” I rattled on.

How had the thief got in? I wondered as I spoke. While the shop was open, perhaps, hiding in the storage room and then surprising Alex? Once the store was closed, both the front and back doors were locked. The back door was always locked: It had a panic bar for ease of exit but locked automatically behind you. It had been locked when I got there, that I knew for certain.

And the fire? We didn’t keep all that much in the storage room. We had a warehouse several blocks away where we kept the bigger pieces of furniture until there was room on the floor. The storage room contained some of our records, a place for our coats, and some of the smaller decorative items which we kept there to replace objects as they were sold. We didn’t keep anything flammable, and I couldn’t imagine how a fire could have started. Did that mean the fire had been deliberately set? Was the thief trying to cover his tracks? Was he even trying to make sure Alex could never identify him? It was a horrible thought.

My thoughts turned back to the present, and I found Sergeant Lewis watching me carefully. “So,” I said, “was it a robbery?”‘

“One possibility,” Lewis said.

I told him about the security alarm going off three times in the previous week. “I thought they were false alarms, but now I’m not so sure,” I said, pressing on despite his refusal to tell me anything. “Do you think someone was trying to break in then? Was the fire deliberately set?”

Lewis ignored me. Suddenly he leaned forward.

“Know
this person?” Lewis asked, taking an eight by ten black-and-white photo out of his briefcase and setting it before me. If he’d wanted to shock me, he was very successful. It was the dead man in the store, photographed in such a way that I could see his face, his hair singed and one cheek burned, a dark ugly line on his neck. I gasped. Lewis waited.

“No!” I finally blurted out. Technically that was true, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be hooked up to a polygraph at that very moment.

“Certain?”

I nodded. There was no question I was being a trifle too literal here. I really didn’t know who the victim was. But I had seen him before. The problem was, every time I opened my mouth, I seemed to implicate Alex: Surely Lewis would never have suspected Alex if I hadn’t said what I had. I determined I would have to be very careful what I said from now on. Volunteering more than was asked for was not a good idea, it seemed.

“You
know who he is?” I asked, adopting Lewis’s particular style of speech as my own.

It was his turn to nod. “Then why ask me?” I responded.

“Turned up in
your
storage room for starters. A little
crispy
have to say, but recognizable. Ever been to Peru?” he asked without missing a beat.

Now why did that question not surprise me? “No,”‘ I replied.

“Ever done business with anyone in Peru?”

“Again, no.”

“Any reason to be dealing with someone in Peru, in an official capacity or otherwise?”

“Not that I can think of.”

“Your friend Stewart has, I expect,” he countered.

I didn’t reply, cautiously deciding to take this as a question, not a statement.

“Seen there, has he?”

“He may have,” I replied. “I don’t know. He was in the merchant marine for twenty years. He went a lot of places.”

“Merchant marine, was it? Down on the docks, I expect. Lots of things go down around the docks. Went to Peru. Not so long ago, either,” he replied evenly. “Purser too. Dealt with customs officials very likely.”

What was I supposed to infer from that? Lewis’s elliptical references were definitely getting on my nerves. “What do you think happened that evening?” I said, forgetting my determination to keep quiet. “Alex tied this guy up, killed him, set fire to the place and then bopped himself on the head? So badly he has a concussion, I might add?”

BOOK: The Moche Warrior
7.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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