G is for Gumshoe - Page 59/98

"Happy to be of help," the man said.

We moved down a carpeted hallway to the right, following the room numbers in descending order. Dietz kept an eye on the corridor behind us, the ever-present hand on my elbow for leverage. At any unexpected occurrence, he had a modicum of control.

Vera's room was located in the same wing as the banquet room. "Did you set this up?" I asked him when I saw how close it was.

"I didn't want you hiking the length of the hotel, getting there and back." He knocked once. There was a pause. My guess was that Vera was peering through the tiny fish-eye porthole in the door. We heard a bolt turn, and there she was, squinting at us from behind the burglar chain. She was in a green silk kimono with a lot of cleavage visible where the fabric gaped in front.

She glanced down and pulled the yawning lapels together with one hand. "I kept the chain on. Wasn't that smart?"

Dietz said, "You're a peach, Vera. Now let us in."

She tilted her head, gazed angling down the hall. "How do I know somebody's not holding you at gunpoint?"

Dietz laughed. I looked at him quizzically. I'd only heard him laugh once. "Good point," he said.

I personally didn't think the point was that good, but nobody was asking me, right?

Vera closed the door so she could slide the chain off and then let us in. The room was enormous: king-size bed, king-size antique armoire housing a king-size television set. The dominant color was pale yellow: thick pale yellow carpet, wallpaper strewn with delicate white Japanese irises. The pattern of the wallpaper had been repeated in the polished cotton bedspread and matching polished cotton drapes, pulled back on brass rods. The sheers were closed, lights outside indicating that the room faced the entrance drive. The two upholstered chairs were done in pale green with white latticework cut on the diagonal. Through a doorway, I spied a bathroom that continued the color scheme: a vase of white silk flowers, fat yellow hand towels rolled up in a willow basket on the sink.

Vera had her personal effects on every conceivable surface: discarded clothing tossed on the bed, hanging clothes hooked on the closet door, which stood open to the room. There were cosmetics on the chest of drawers, hot rollers and a curling iron on the bathroom counter, a damp towel on the toilet seat. A suitcase open on the luggage rack revealed a frothy tumble of soft chiffon lingerie. A pair of panty hose had been flung on one of the upholstered chairs, sprawling there with the legs spread and the diamond-shaped cotton crotch looking like an arrow, pointing up. Dietz headed straight for the door to the adjoining room, making sure it was locked. Then he closed the drapes.

Vera crossed to the coffee table. She'd had a bottle of champagne delivered, resting in a frosted silver ice bucket with four champagne flutes on a tray. She picked the bottle up by the neck and began to loosen the foil. "Grab a seat. We can have a drink."

"Not for me, thanks. I have to work," he said. And then to me, "Keep the door locked. If the phone rings, you can answer it, but don't identify yourself. If it's someone you know, keep the conversation brief. Don't give out information of any sort to anyone. If you get a wrong number, let me know. It's probably someone checking to see if the room is still occupied." He glanced at his watch. "I'll be back at seven, straight up, to walk you over to the banquet room."

Once Dietz left the room, she held her arms up and shimmied. "Let's get down!" she said and then did a little bump and grind, accompanied by a whoop. She twisted the wire off the champagne bottle and draped a towel across the top, working the cork back and forth with both thumbs until it popped. She filled two flutes and handed me one. "I've already done my makeup," she said. "Why don't you hop in the shower while I get dressed. Then we'll do your hair."

"I've already showered. All I have to do is put on the jumpsuit and I'm done."

She gave me a look to let me know how wrong I was.

Under her critical gaze, I slipped out of my jeans and into the jumpsuit. She only winced a little bit at the sight of my bruises. Meanwhile, my facial expression was probably the equivalent of an ailing dog on its way to the vet's. Ugh. Makeup. I pulled the suit on and started tucking the pants up at the waist.

She smacked at my hand. "Don't do that," she said. She knelt and turned my pant legs under to a length that suited her and then secured them with fabric tape she'd brought in her purse.

"You think of everything," I said.

" 'Prepared' is my middle name, honeybun."

Then she went to work on the rest of me.