G is for Gumshoe - Page 93/98

"All the blood on the wall for one."

The pause was of the wrong length. "What blood? That's a redwood stain. I refinished a piece of porch furniture and knocked the can off on the floor. Stuff sprayed all over, went everyplace. You never saw such a mess."

"Arterial blood will do that. You get a pumping effect." I tromped over the crumpled strip of paper, with a scrabbling sound, and washed my hands at the kitchen sink.

He put a half gallon of ice cream in the freezer, taking a moment to rearrange boxes of frozen vegetables. His rhythm was off. An accomplished liar knows how important the timing is in conveying nonchalance.

I dried my hands on a kitchen towel of doubtful origin. It might have been a part of a pillow case, a paint rag, or a diaper. "I drove over to Mt. Calvary and looked for Anne's grave."

"Make your point. I got work to do. She's buried with the family on the side of the hill."

"Not quite," I said. I leaned against the counter, watching him unload canned goods. "I went into the office and asked to see the interment card. You bought her a stone, but there's no body in the grave. Anne left town with Irene in January nineteen forty."

He tried to get huffy, but he couldn't muster any heat. "I paid to bring her all the way from Tucson, Arizona. If she wasn't in the coffin, don't tell me about it. Ask the fellow on the other end who said he put her there."

"Oh, come on," I said. "Let's cut to the chase. There wasn't any husband in Arizona and there weren't any little kids. You made that stuff up. You killed Charlotte and Emily. You killed Sheila, too. Anne was alive until late last night and she told me most of it. She said Emily wanted to sell the house and you refused. She must have pressed the point and you were forced to eliminate her just to end the argument. Once you got Emily out of the way, there was only Anne to worry about. Have her declared dead and you collect the whole estate…"

He began to shake his head. "You're a crazy woman. I got nothing to say to you."

I crossed to the wall-mounted telephone near the hall door. "Fine with me. I don't care. You can talk to Lieutenant Dolan as soon as he gets here."

Now he was willing to argue the point, any means to delay. "I wouldn't kill anyone. Why would I do that?"

"Who knows what your motivation was? Money is my guess. I don't know why you did it. I just know you did."

"I did not!"

"Sure you did. Who are you trying to kid?"

"You don't have a shred of proof. You can't prove anything."

"I can't, but somebody can. The cops are really smart, Patrick, and persistent? My God. You have no idea how persistent they are where murder's concerned. The whole of modern technology will be brought to bear. Lab techs, machinery, sophisticated tests. They've got experts out the wazoo and what do you have? Nothing. A lot of hot air. You don't stand a chance. Fifty years ago you might have fooled 'em, but not these days. You're up shit creek, pal. You are totally screwed…"

"Now see here. You wait a minute, young lady. I won't have that kind of talk used in my house," he said.

"Oh, sorry. I forgot. You've got standards. You're not going to tolerate a lot of smutty talk from me, right?" I turned back to the telephone. I had picked up the receiver when the window shattered in the back. The two acts came so close together, it looked like cause and effect. I pick up the phone, the window breaks out. Startled, I jumped a foot and dropped the phone in the process, jumping again as the handset thumped against the wall. I saw a hand come through the shattered window and reach around to unlock the door. One savage kick and the door swung back abruptly and banged against the wall. I had grabbed my handbag and was just reaching for my gun when Mark Messinger appeared, his own gun drawn and pointed at me. The suppressor created the illusion of a barrel fourteen inches long.

This time there was no smile, no aura of sexuality. His blond hair stood out around his head in damp spikes. His blue eyes were as cold and as blank as stone. Patrick had turned, heading toward the front door in haste. Messinger fired at him casually, not even pausing long enough to form an intent, the shooting as simple as pointing a finger. Spwt! The sound of the silenced.45 semiautomatic was almost dainty compared to its effect. The force of the bullet drove Patrick into the wall where he bounced once before he fell. Blood and torn flesh bloomed in his chest like a chrysanthemum, shreds of cotton shirting like the calyx of a flower. I was staring at him mesmerized when Messinger grabbed me by the hair, hauling my face up within an inch of his. He shoved the barrel of his gun under my chin, pressing so hard it hurt. I wanted to protest the pain of it, but I didn't dare move. "Don't shoot me!"