G is for Gumshoe - Page 57/98

"They provide me office space and I provide them services maybe two or three times a month. It varies. Usually I investigate fire and wrongful death claims, but it could be anything."

"Nice arrangement. How'd you set that up?"

"My aunt worked for them for years so I knew a lot of those guys. She used to get me occasional summer jobs when I was still in high school. I went through the academy when I was nineteen and since I couldn't actually join the PD till I was twenty-one, I worked as the CF receptionist. Later, after I finally left the police force, I joined a private agency until I could get licensed, and then I went out on my own. One of the first big investigations I did was for CF."

"A lot more women getting into it," he said.

"Why not? It's fun, in some sick sense. You end up feeling pretty hard-bitten sometimes, but at least you can be your own boss. It's in my nature. I'm curious at heart and I like sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong," I said. "What about you? What will you do if you leave the field?"

"Hard to say. I'm talking to a guy out in Colgate who sets up antiterrorist training exercises for military bases overseas."

"Simulated attacks?"

"That's right. Dead of night, he takes a crew in, breaches perimeter fences, infiltrates the compound, and puts the whole maneuver on film to show 'em where they need to beef up their defenses."

"Cops and robbers without the firepower."

"Exactly. All the hype and none of the jeopardy." He paused, mopping the bottom of his bowl with a folded tortilla. "You look like you've got all your ducks in a row."

"I feel that way," I said. "Vera would disagree. She thinks I'm hopeless. Too independent, unsophisticated…"

"What's the story on her?"

"I've never figured it out, to tell you the truth. She's the closest thing to a friend I've got and even then, I can't claim we know each other very well. I'm gone a lot so I don't socialize much. She tends to circulate in the singles scene, which I've never been good at. I do admire her. She's smart. She's got style. She doesn't take any guff…"

"What is this, a sales pitch?"

I laughed, shrugging. "You asked."

"Yeah, well she's one of those women I've never figured out."

"In what way?"

"Don't know. I never figured that out either. Just something about her puzzles me," he said.

"She's a good soul."

"No doubt." He finished cleaning his bowl without another word on the subject. It was hard to tell sometimes what he was really thinking and I didn't know nun well enough to press.


We left for the hotel at six. Dietz had already cleaned up and was dressed for the occasion in casual pants, a dress shirt, patterned tie, and dark sport coat, cut western-style: broad across the shoulders, tapered at the waist. He was wearing black boots, visible where his cuffs broke, the toes polished to a hard shine. Under his sport coat, of course, he was wearing a Kevlar vest that would stop a.357 Magnum at ten feet. I'd also watched him strap on a holster that he wore behind the hip on his right-hand side, and into which he'd tucked his.45.

I'd showered and hopped right back in my jeans, turtle-neck, and tennis shoes, intending to slip into the silk jumpsuit once I reached Vera's room. I'd tried it on quickly just before we left the house. The pants were slightly too long, but I'd bunched 'em up at the waist and that took care of it. I'd packed black pumps, panty hose, black underpants, and some odds and ends in a little overnight case. Dietz had excused me from the bulletproof vest, which would have looked absurd with spaghetti straps. The Davis was tucked in an outside pouch of my big leather handbag, which looked more like a diplomatic pouch than an evening purse. The normally bulky bag was further plumped up by the inclusion of a nightscope Dietz had asked me to carry. The scope only weighed about a pound, but it was the size of a zoom lens for a 35-millimeter camera and made me list to one side. "Why're we taking this thing?" I asked.

"That's my latest toy. I usually keep it in the car, but I don't want to leave it in the hotel parking lot. Cost me over three thousand bucks."


Dietz took a roundabout route, saying little. Despite his assurances that Mark Messinger would be laying off me for a day or two, he seemed on edge, which made my stomach chum in response. He was focused, intense, already vigilant. He pushed the car lighter in and then reached reflexively toward his cigarettes. "Shit!" he said. He shook his head, annoyed with himself.