G is for Gumshoe - Page 95/98

My mouth was dry. I cleared my throat. "How did you know where I was?"

"I put a bug on the Porsche the first night it was parked in front of your place. See this? My receiver. I've been following you guys everywhere in a couple of different rental cars."

"Why'd you kill Patrick?"

"Why not. He's a dickface."

I glanced over at him curiously. "Why'd you spare Ernie?"

"That old fart? Who knows? Maybe I'll go back and do him now you mention it," he said. His tone was teasing. A little hit-man humor to show what a devil-may-care kind of guy he was. He'd taken the gun away from my head and it rested now on his knee. "What's the story with this bodyguard? He's a pain in the ass. Two times I nearly had you and he stepped in."

I kept my eyes on the road. "He's good at his job."

He looked over at me. "You makin' it with him?"

"That's none of your business."

"Come on…"

"I've only known him four days!" I said, righteously.

"So what?"

"So I don't jump into bed with guys that quick."

"You should have done while you had the chance. Now he's a dead man. I'll make you a deal. How's this? Him or you. Better yet, Rochelle or him. Take your pick. If you don't choose, I kill all three of you."

"You're only getting paid for one."

"True, but I'll tell you, the money doesn't mean that much. When you do what you love, you'd do it for free, am I right?" He leaned toward the tape deck. "Want some music? I got jazz, classical, R B. No heavy metal or reggae. I hate that shit. You want Sinatra?"

"No thanks." I saw the off-ramp for the university and the airport and eased right. The road curved up and to the left, crossing the freeway, which now passed underneath. It was gone and we hit the straightaway. Two more minutes to the airport and what was I going to do? The digital clock on the instrument panel showed that it was 8:02. A mile farther on, the access ramp to Rockpit Road came into view on the right. I took the turn. I knew the ocean was close by, but all I could smell was the rotten-egg odor of the slough that hugged the road. A fog was rolling in, a dense bank of white against the blackened sky. The university sat up on the bluffs like a walled city, all lights and buff-colored towers. I'd never gone to college. I was strictly blue-collar lineage-like this guy, come to think of it. Like Dietz.

I took Rockpit for half a mile until the hangars and assorted outbuildings of Neptune Air appeared on the left. "Here," he said. I slowed the Rolls and turned in. Messinger sat forward, peering through the windshield, which had been spritzed with fine mist.

There were four miscellaneous vehicles parked in the lot, but there was no sign of Rochelle's rental car. Messinger had me park the Rolls in the lee of a metal-sided hangar. Under the inverted V of the roofline, illuminated by a single bulb, the sign read: flight instruction, FAA REPAIR STATION, 24 HOUR CHARTERS, PIPER dealer, and avionics sales services. The perimeter fence was made of chain link, wrapped with barbed wire on top, and padlocked. Warnings were posted at intervals. Floodlights on the far side of the hangar glowed blankly on the empty runway.

We left the car. It was cold and a wind whipped along the tarmac, blowing my hair in all directions. As we crossed the parking lot, Messinger took me by the elbow in a gesture so reminiscent of Dietz that the air caught in my throat.

The offices of Neptune Air were closed, the interior darkened, one dim light shining through the plate glass. We circled the building. A broad redwood deck stretched out across the rear. A picnic table and two benches had been set up for those waiting for their charter flights. I pictured the Neptune employees (all three of them) eating lunch out here, watching planes land, drinking canned sodas from the vending machine. To the right, there was a line of small private planes tied down on the tarmac. Beyond them, half a mile away, I could see the Santa Teresa Airport, the upper portion of its tower peeking up above a row of storage sheds. On one of the runways, a United 737 was lumbering across the field in preparation for takeoff. Messinger gestured and we sat down on opposite sides of the picnic table. "It's fuckin' cold out," he said.

I heard voices behind me. I turned and watched as two workmen, probably fuelers, locked the exit door to the hangar and moved off toward the parking lot. Messinger rose to his feet, peering in their direction. He pulled the nose of the.45 up and pointed, making little noises with his mouth… pow, pow. He blew imaginary smoke away from the barrel and then he smiled. "They don't know how lucky they are, do they?"