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Authors: Elizabeth Gunn

Eleven Little Piggies (19 page)

BOOK: Eleven Little Piggies
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‘I leaned over him and said, “Pull yourself together. We got work to do”. And for once, he didn't object. He seemed almost anxious to talk.'

LeeAnn said, ‘Ray, your man's here. Shall I—'

‘Put him in the interview room, please. Get him a glass and some water? Tell him we'll be right there.' He met my eyes. ‘Do you love this? Ethan Kester
wants
to talk to me?'

‘Let's go help him with that.'

Ethan was perched on the little seat, drinking the last of a big glass of water. He set the glass down and carefully poured more out of the pitcher LeeAnn had left for him. He licked his lips and said, ‘I don't know why I'm so thirsty.' He had stopped shaking, but all his arrogance was gone.

Ray said, ‘Here we go now – I want Jake to hear the story from the beginning. You drove your car to work this morning at . . . what time?'

‘Few minutes after six. Like always.'

‘And parked it in your spot behind the building there, where I found you, is that right?'

‘Just as I always do. Yes.'

‘And you never went near it again until near one o'clock when you were going to lunch?'

‘Well . . . that's right, but—' He was starting to look queasy again, like there might be more to come up.

‘Take it easy, now,' I said. ‘Think about it. Was it sitting in the lot all morning or wasn't it?'

‘Well, no, that's what I remembered on the way down here. But I don't want you to think Nicole had anything to do with . . .'

‘Who's Nicole?'

‘My wife. She just needed to put her car in the shop today and then . . . Thanksgiving . . . she needed to run some errands. She had my car back before lunch, just as she promised. That really has nothing to do with . . . it's just a coincidence.'

‘Tell us about it anyway,' I said. ‘Your wife phoned, did she? And said what?'

‘Said, “My car's getting its window fixed and I just remembered I need sweet potatoes and those little pearl onions. My mother will have a fit if I don't have creamed onions the way she always fixed them”. Something like that.'

‘Very good,' I said, thinking it probably took a lawyer to remember details like that. ‘So she came and got the keys from you?' He was shaking his head. ‘What then?'

‘She has her own set of keys for everything. We both do. She said, “I'll send one of the yard men for the car”, and hung up, and I remembered she had a crew there today, trimming the trees and bushes. So I went back to work and forgot about it because Nicole, you know, is quite capable of arranging things to suit herself.' The usual whiff of rancor blew through as he talked about his wife, and for a moment he sounded restored.

‘Keep going,' Ray said, ‘you came down for lunch and the car was back, just as she promised.'

‘But with a man I didn't know sitting in the passenger's seat.'

‘You're sure you never saw him before?'

‘To tell you the truth he looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place him. Maybe he's somebody who's worked for one of us, a lot of people have. Anyway, he had no business sitting in my car, so I opened the door to tell him to get out of there, and—'

‘It wasn't locked?'

‘No. Is that a clue?' His health was coming back fast; he got great contempt into his voice and upper lip when he asked that question. ‘I pulled it open and—'

‘You opened the door for a man who was holding a gun?'

‘He wasn't holding it. I didn't see the gun until I opened the door and he began to fall out. Then I tried to close it again quickly, but I couldn't because . . . he must have been leaning against it—'

‘The gun?'

‘No, the door, the door! As soon as I opened the door he began to fall out, and the gun was coming out with him . . . sort of on top of him. And this is where . . .' Looking miserable, he said, ‘Oh, God, I should have told you this before.' It burst out of him like an eruption.

‘What?'

‘I told you I never touched him but that isn't exactly true. His head and shoulders fell sideways out of the car and the gun slid out on top of him, but . . . see, he didn't come all the way
out.
He was hanging upside down with his feet in the car and I didn't know – how could I know? – whether he was dead or . . . I thought he might be injured, or drunk, and he certainly shouldn't be hanging there like that, so I – I tried to pick him up to put him back in. But he was so
heavy
and kind of . . . 
slidey
 . . . if people aren't helping they're very hard to pick up, did you know that?'

Ray and I both nodded.

‘Yes, I suppose you would know that. Policemen know all kinds of wretched things, don't they? Anyway, without thinking I finally just pulled him all the way out, so at least he could be lying flat. And so I suppose' – he was sweating now and almost weeping – ‘I bet those lab people are going to find my DNA all over him, aren't they? And then think I killed him!'

‘That's quite a stretch. Why would anybody think you killed a man you don't even know?'

‘Because of Owen! Everybody thinks I killed Owen and now they're going to think I'm some kind of a crazy . . . Hannibal Lector or something, just killing people for the fun of it.'

I wanted to reassure him that nobody would ever think he did anything just for the fun of it, but I suppressed that thought and asked him, ‘Have you talked to your wife since you found the man in your car?'

‘No. Why? You think I should have phoned and asked her, “Oh, by the way, love, did you leave a body in my car?”'

It was wonderful to see what malice did for him. He sounded almost like his old self.

Ray, not amused, said, ‘Maybe not, but I'd like to talk to her about it. Let me have her number.'

Ethan shoved his card across the little table. ‘The bottom one of those home numbers is the only one she'll answer. But I strongly advise against calling her this afternoon, Detective. She'll be having her annual cream sauce tantrum about now.'

Ray's phone rang. He excused himself and went outside to answer it, came back in and said, ‘Will you excuse us for a minute, please, Mr Kester?' He nodded to me and we stepped outside.

‘His uncle's here to pick him up. We need to decide right now if we have enough to arrest this guy.'

‘It's all very circumstantial, isn't it? And I don't read him as a flight risk at all. Why don't we squeeze his toes a little and let him go, see what we come up with in the next few days?'

‘That's what I think too. And then . . . You know it's almost four-thirty? We'll have crews back in here in a few minutes. And as soon as we get them debriefed,' he said, in a voice that expressed my feelings exactly, ‘I guess we all have to face Thanksgiving, ready or not.'

Ray went back inside and let Ethan sweat for a few more minutes, made him beg for his freedom over Thanksgiving and promise that he would not even think about leaving town.

‘If you do,' Ray said, ‘I'll put an ankle bracelet on you and you can check in with my office twice a week till this case is settled.'

While he finished up with Ethan, I went out and had a word with Jonas Robbins. He was courteous as ever but ‘very distressed about this bizarre cluster of misfortunes that's being visited on our family'. He hoped we could quickly find whatever ‘pernicious agency' seemed to be ‘bent on doing us harm'. With the serenity I'd begun to recognize as breathtaking self-confidence, he simply assumed no one could possibly suspect a Robbins or Kester of criminal intent.

In front of his uncle, we thanked a pale and quiet Ethan for his help. Then Jonas tucked him, almost literally, under his wing, and wafted him out of there on clouds of self-assurance.
The poor sod has a lot to measure up to
, I thought as I watched Ethan trying to grow more magisterial in his uncle's shadow.

Ray never really got around to debriefing his detectives about what they found at the farm, though. And Thanksgiving eve had to wait a little longer than our families might have wished, because Clint and Rosie, as they walked back to the oblong conference table where everybody had clustered, saw the picture Ray had put up on the computer monitor and said, with one voice, ‘What's up with Maynard?'

ELEVEN

E
verybody talked at once. Ray said, ‘That's Maynard?'

Bo, walking in just then, said, ‘Who's Maynard?'

Andy said, ‘Is that the guy Clint calls “My Pet Gossip?”'

I said, unreasonably, ‘Now you tell us, when we're all ready to go home?' The question was way out of line since they had just walked in. But the need to go get Benny was pulling at me like a magnet.

Rosie gave me a withering look and turned to Ray. ‘Why do you have his picture up?'

Winnie said, ‘He looks dead!'

‘He is dead,' Ray said. ‘I guess you never heard about this out at the farm, did you?' He told them where we'd just been and why Maynard's picture was there.

Clint said, ‘Holy cow, Maynard,' and they all sat down. Every synapse in my brain pleaded,
No, No, don't sit down!

Ray told them about calling Pokey, getting him there in time to rescue the body from the ambulance, get it looked at, certified, put away. ‘So we can all go have Thanksgiving instead of spending the night making phone calls.' He felt quite proud of his achievement; he wanted some gratitude.

Winnie said, ‘Funny thing, you know, I never saw that guy out there at the farm.'

‘No, because while you were all out there he was dead in Ethan's car.'

Rosie said, ‘That makes no sense at all.'

‘I know,' Ray said, ‘but it just happens to be true.'

‘And it's too late to do anything about it tonight,' I said. ‘And we are definitely not going to put in any double overtime talking about it tomorrow when everybody's off in the labs so we can't accomplish anything. So let's get everything put away here and come back Friday morning ready to work.'

That sounded pretty reasonable when I said it, but it left out some things.

To begin with, Doris and Henry heard the news from Ethan. They both phoned Ray and then me, wanting to know what had
really
happened. (We were cops, they thought we should know). Doris had a predictable reaction when I told her I didn't know who killed Maynard.

‘There, you see?' she said. ‘Aggie said this was going to spread and it's spreading. I can't make Thanksgiving for my children here with this black cloud hanging over us! I'm going to get my mother to take them home with her. Including Alan, if he'll go.'

‘What about you?'

‘Somebody has to take care of all the animals. Charlie Blaise says he'll stay and help me. And Elmer, of course.'

‘Why do you say “of course”? Is Elmer on a chain?'

‘Elmer lives here. Always has. But nobody else wants to stay, they're all quitting. For me, actually, work is better than sitting idle. I'll be fine.'

As soon as I was off the phone with her, Henry called to ask, ‘Have you figured out yet what that tramp was doing in Ethan's car?'

‘No,' I told him, ‘and we can't get to work on that until all the lab people come back from Thanksgiving, Mr Kester.'

‘What, you don't work on – oh, I suppose it's the damn unions, isn't it?' He knew, he said, that the damn unions were always trying to turn us all into godless Communists.

‘Gotta give lab technicians the holidays off, yes, sir,' I said, walking a neutral line. ‘Pretty strict rules about that.'

I knew better than to wish him a happy one. He said he was going out to Home Farm now to see if he could help Doris.

‘She keeps saying, “Don't worry, Dad, Charlie and I will get it all done”. She's a strong, clever girl but she still can't be in two places at once, so I'm gonna try to convince her I ain't quite old enough to be useless yet.'

‘She said Elmer's staying too.'

‘Well, sure. Where would he go? When will any of them scientists get back to work?'

‘Friday,' I said. ‘I'll let you know on Friday how the autopsy went.' With that, he got off the phone and let me drive the rest of the way home in peace – or as much peace as Benny would allow me. My son had rediscovered Father Torture as a hobby. Even a teething ring wouldn't get him to stop complaining.

Trudy was not inclined to be forgiving, either, about my late arrival with Benny.

‘I thought at least tonight you could make an effort,' she started, but I leaned across my ferociously chewing child and cut her off with a big warm kiss on the mouth. She came out of it grinning, saying, ‘What was that for?'

‘For being a reasonable human being who is not named Kester,' I said. ‘And' – I took a deep breath and jumped – ‘for being an intelligent professional who is going to understand when I say I have to go back to work.'

‘What?' It took her a while to get her expression to the right degree of horrified shock. ‘You have to do what?'

‘I have to go back to work. Maybe for quite a while because there's nobody to help me. But we just got a fresh body dumped in our laps. Possible suicide or overdose but we don't know for sure. There's a gun with the body but he wasn't shot . . . it's freaking bizarre, and I just can't walk away and let all the evidence deteriorate for thirty-six hours while I fool around out here preparing to eat fat birds and sing stupid songs, can I? Believe me, you would not want to be married to a Chief of Detectives who would do that.' She was still standing in front of me with her mouth open, evidently shocked speechless. ‘Trudy?'

Ben quit chewing suddenly, let out an eardrum-piercing roar and dropped his teething ring on the floor. His bad behavior did wonders for his mom, who snapped back into focus, took our son out of my arms and dumped him unceremoniously in his high chair. ‘I'll call my mother,' she said, above his wails, ‘and my sister. They'll help me, we'll get it done. Shouldn't you have a snack before you go?'

BOOK: Eleven Little Piggies
6.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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