G is for Gumshoe - Page 77/98

"You think it's been tampered with?"

"It's possible. Dab some kind of correction fluid on the original. Type over the blanks and then make a copy. It couldn't be used for much, but it'd be sufficient for a school project. Maybe that's why it took Agnes a day to produce the damn thing. The point of certified copies is that they're certified, right?" He gave me that crooked smile, gray eyes clear.

"Wow, what a concept," I said. "Wonder what she had to hide?"

Dietz shrugged. "Maybe Irene was illegitimate."

"Right," I said. "Can you think of anyone we can contact in Sacramento?"

"Department of Health? Not right offhand. Why not check with the county recorder here and have them call?"

"You think they'd do that?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Well, it's worth a try," I said. "Besides, if we do the research now, Irene will pay for it. Wait two weeks and she'll forget she ever gave a damn."

"Let's give it a shot, then," he said. "You want me to look at any other documents?"

"Nope. That's it."

"Great." He handed me the will and the birth certificate, both of which I tucked back into the file. He started the car and headed out to the street.

"Where to?" I asked.

"Let's hit the office first and call Rochelle Messinger."

We parked in the back lot and went up the exterior stairs. Dietz was, as usual, paranoid about everyone within range. He kept a hand on my elbow, his gaze scanning the area, until we were safely in the building. The second-floor corridor was empty. As we passed the rest rooms, I said, "I need to pop into the ladies' room. You want the office keys?"

"Sure. I'll see you in a few minutes." Dietz started to check out the ladies' room and was greeted by a shriek of outrage. He moved on down the corridor while I went into the John.

Darcy was standing at one of the sinks, splashing water on her face. From her pasty complexion and the eyes pinched with pain, I gathered she was still hung over from the banquet the night before. She stared at herself in the mirror, hair mashed flat in two places. "You know you're really in trouble when your hair goes out on you," she remarked, more to herself than to me.

"What time did you get in?" I asked.

"It wasn't that late, but I'd been drinking anisette and I was wrecked. I started upchucking about midnight and haven't stopped yet," she said. She rubbed her face and then pulled her lower lids down so she could inspect the conjunctivas. "Nothing like a hangover to make you long for death…"

A toilet flushed and Vera emerged from one of the four stalls. She was buttoning up an olive and khaki camouflage outfit, a jumpsuit with big shoulder pads and epaulettes, looking like she was moments away from a landing on Anzio Beach. The glance she gave me was not friendly. "What happened to you last night?" she said waspishly. I was exhausted and my nerves were on edge, so her tone didn't sit well and neither did her attitude.

I said, "Well, jump right in, Vera. Agnes Grey died, among other things. I didn't get to bed till after three a.m. How about you?"

Vera crossed to the sinks, her high heels snapping against the ceramic tiles. She turned the water on way too hard and splashed herself. She jumped back. "Shit!" she said.

"Agnes Grey?" Darcy said. She was watching our reflections in the mirror, her expression wary.

"My client's mother," I said. "She dropped dead of a heart attack."

Darcy frowned. "That's weird."

"Actually it was weird, but how did you know?"

"Do you mind?" Vera said to Darcy pointedly. Apparently, she wanted to talk to me alone. It occurred to me belatedly that she and Vera had been discussing me just before I came in. Oh boy.

Darcy shot me an apologetic look. She dried her hands hastily under the wall-mounted blower, blotting the residual water on the back of her skirt. "See you later, gang," she said. She took her purse and departed with a decided air of relief.

The door hadn't closed behind her when Vera turned and looked at me. "I don't appreciate the crap you told Neil last night," she said. Her face was tense, her gaze fiery.

I felt a rush of heat go through me. I needed to pee, but it seemed inappropriate. "Really," I said. "Like what?"

"I am not smitten with him. We're strictly friends and that's all it is. Get it?"

"What are you in such a snit about?"