Read So Like Sleep Online

Authors: Jeremiah Healy

So Like Sleep (8 page)

BOOK: So Like Sleep
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Groovy.

Ten

I
TURNED THE
key in the Fiat. It wasn’t even dark yet. I took out my list and saw that group member Donald Ramelli lived in Wellesley, on my way home. I drove to Wellesley center, got directions from a gas station attendant and followed them to Ramelli’s house.

It was an old wide-bodied ranch on too small a lot. The hedge was scraggly and the lawn rough-cut, with big brown patches. There was a late-model Cadillac sedan in the driveway. However, as I walked to the house, I noticed the left front of the Caddy was staved in. There were also a couple of deep scratches beginning at the driver’s door and traveling nearly to the rear fender.

I rang the bell. No answer.

I rang again. From inside the house, a male voice: “Awright, awright. Coming, coming.”

The man in the doorway carried a tall glass, half-full of clear liquid. He was early forties and medium height, potbellied, in a golfing shirt and Bermuda shorts. His features were thin and red-lined, his still full head of black hair too much for the face it framed.

“Mr. Ramelli?”

“I don’t vote, I don’t buy, and I don’t contribute, even at the office.”

It sounded a practiced line, so I laughed. He laughed too.

“I’m John Cuddy, Mr. Ramelli. I’m investigating the shooting in Dr. Marek’s building, and I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

He rocked back, but pushed open the screen door for me. “Sure, sure, come on in. The Sox are on the tube, downstairs.”

We descended to a basement that, unlike Linden’s, was mostly bar, a little den, and no gymnasium. A forty-eight-inch projection television was at one end, Jim Rice flexing a bat. There were water stains on the ceiling and an odor of mildew masked insufficiently by a pine-scented air freshener.

Ramelli moved behind the bar. “What’ll you have?”

Not “Would you like a drink?” The dented car, sunburst complexion, and opened bottle of vodka on the counter painted a pretty complete picture.

“Screwdriver?”

“Sure.” He opened the refrigerator. “Shit, she forgot the o.j. again. How about a vodka tonic?”

“Fine.”

Ramelli made it quick and strong. No lime. He paused to freshen his. About three ounces’ worth. No mixer.

Ramelli came back around, gave me the drink. “Sit down, sit down.” He gestured toward the TV. “Twi-nighter, to make up for the rainout. The score’s already three to one, Oakland.”

I watched Rice send the next pitch towering toward the left-field wall at Fenway. It caught the screen halfway up. Nobody was on base in front of him.

“Christ, he’s something, isn’t he? Fucking eight other guys like him, though, they’d still lose ten to nine every game. No pitching. Never had any pitching.”

I remembered Jim Lonborg and Dick Radatz and half a dozen others, but said, “I understand you were there the night Jennifer Creasey was shot?”

“You ‘understand’? Aren’t you a Calem cop?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Which department you with, then? Not ours.”

“No, no department. I’m a private investigator.” I dug out my ID. Ramelli studied it from several angles, then handed it back.

“Who you workin’ for?”

“Willa Daniels, William’s mother.”

“Hoo, you’d better be Magnum, P.I., buddy. They got Daniels so wrapped up, Houdini couldn’t get out of it.” He drank from his glass as though it were lemonade. “Poor shit.”

“Did you know William well?”

“Just through the group,” said Ramelli, answering me but watching the game. “C’mon, Tony. Lose one, lose one.”

“What’d you think of him?”

“Think of him? Shit, that was way outside, Ump, way out. Think of him, huh? Well, I thought William was a pretty good kid who was getting sucked in way past his depth.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well”—drinking—“here he is, a kid who would probably be a top-ten-percenter in his element, at U Mass, you know, and instead he comes out here. And look.” Ramelli spread his hands, sloshing a little liquor. He changed hands, licked the wet fingers. “I got nothing against the colored, they never took anything from me, but one look at that Jennifer, and you knew old Willie wasn’t going to be her ‘one-and-only,’ you know?”

“Did she have somebody else on the string?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. Jennifer was a real”—he looked at me, trying to gauge something—“she was like a blond-haired Katharine Ross, from
The Graduate
? Refined like that, but a hooker at heart. She had plenty before old Willie, if I’m any judge.”

“Do you think she had somebody along with William Daniels, though?”

“Like I said, wouldn’t be surprised. Never saw her with anyone, but you never know with kids these days. Not like us, you know?”

I said I knew. Over the next two innings we covered Ramelli’s profession (selling wholesale auto parts) and avocation (watching any sport involving a ball). Regarding the night of the killing, Ramelli was a little fuzzy on certain points, but said nothing to contradict what Homer and Lainie had given me. I didn’t bother asking him why he’d joined the group.

I glanced at the set. Jim Rice was back up, which seemed an omen. I stood to leave. Ramelli and his booze escorted me back upstairs.

“Thanks again for the information and the drink.”

“Hey, no problem. Sorry about the o.j. Fuckin’ Bliss, I don’t know where her head’s at anymore.”

A cat scooted across my path and out of sight. A cat with only one ear.

Ramelli closed the door. I got into my car and out of town as fast as I could find my way.

Between Cointreau’s and Ramelli, I was too depressed and tired to drive to Goreham College and hunt for Richard McCatty. He’d be easier to find through a student directory the next morning.

When I got in the apartment, the tape machine’s window showed one message. I called my answering service as I rewound the tape. My service said Lieutenant Murphy had called and that I had the number. I thanked the woman and played back the tape. It was Murphy also. “Call me tonight.”

I dialed his home number and got a mellow female voice.

“Yes?”

“This is John Cuddy returning Lieutenant Murphy’s calls.”

“Just a minute, please.”

I waited. Murphy came on. “Just a second,” he said.

I waited again. “Okay,” he said, “what’ve you got?”

“Lieutenant,” I said, as gingerly as possible, “I’m returning your call to be polite, but my client is Willa Daniels, not you. All I’ll say is that so far the police report checks out down to the commas.”

“Now look, mister—”

“Lieutenant, before we get so mad we can’t sleep, let’s be straight on what the dispute is. If I find out something, you want me to tell you. I’m saying I won’t. Since there’s nothing to tell yet, there’s nothing to fight about.”

Murphy stayed silent. It must have been very hard for him.

“Call me if you need anything,” he said in a businesslike voice, and rang off.

I stared at the telephone. I wondered why Murphy didn’t blow up.

I dialed Mrs. Daniels. I summarized my day for her, and she said she would try to persuade William to talk to me. I told her that the lieutenant wanted to be kept abreast of what I found out and that my doing so probably couldn’t hurt William. She agreed that I could tell Murphy anything I thought could help.

I hung up and thought about calling Nancy, even on a pretext. Instead, I broiled a steak with some canned mushrooms and drank two Molson Golden ales. I carried my landlord’s color portable into the bedroom and watched two fires, one robbery scene, and three traffic accidents on the eleven o’clock news before drifting off to dreamland.

Eleven

I
HATE WAKING UP
to
Sunrise Semester
. I shook the pins-and-needles sensation from my right leg and turned off the set. The clock radio said 6:35 A.M. A little early for investigating.

I did calisthenics for about an hour, including maybe a quarter as many sit-ups on the horizontal as I had watched Homer Linden perform on the slant. Before I went in to shower and shave, I poured milk on a half bowl of granola, which I then put in the fridge. Twenty minutes later, I watched Jane Pauley interview some weather expert about the jet stream while I sat down to breakfast. Granola may be good for you, but even tenderized it’s like eating a dirt road.

At eight-thirty, I called the Goreham College general number and got no answer. I fetched my
Times
from downstairs, read for a while, and tried again. After two transfers, I got the student directory operator, who gave me McCatty’s dorm address and room telephone. Six rings, no answer.

I next tried Mariah Lopez at U Mass. Somebody’s secretary said she would be in by 11:00 A.M. The secretary took my and William’s names and gave me brief directions.

I got dressed and first drove down to Boston Garden. I easily found a parking space and walked the three blocks back up to 100 Cambridge Street, one of the state office buildings. The lobby directory listed room 1507 for the Board of Registration in Medicine. Despite Homer’s and Lainie’s endorsements, Marek’s experimental hypnosis therapy still smacked of quackery, and I wanted to check on his background. I took the elevator to the fifteenth floor.

Around two corners I found a powder-blue wall with a reception window cut into it and the board’s designation on a silver and black sign. I looked through the window into a multidesked office area. A well-dressed young woman with short dark hair noticed me and smiled brightly. She said, “Can I help you?” as she walked toward me.

“Yes. I’d like to see the file on a doctor.”

The smile never wavered. “I’m sorry, but the only information we can give out over the counter is the doctor’s current address, alma mater, and graduation and licensing dates.”

“How can I get permission to see the rest of the file?”

She half-turned and called to another young woman, with shoulder-length blond hair. The colleague came over, echoed the first one’s version, and politely suggested that I telephone after 3:00 P.M. to speak with the board’s general counsel.

I had a better idea. I thanked them and went back downstairs to the lobby and a pay phone.

I reached Murphy at his office. He said he would see what he could do about getting me a copy of Marek’s file. Murphy’s voice didn’t telegraph any hard feelings from our talk the night before.

I tried McCatty’s number at Goreham again. His roommate said McCatty was at an exam and would be back about two. Without identifying myself, I said I’d call back then.

It was only ten-fifteen. Plenty of time to catch Dr. Lopez, then drive to Goreham.

I went back to the car, circled downtown Boston, and picked up Morrissey Boulevard. I passed the sprawling, red-brick Boston Globe building on the right and the equally red-bricked but more academic B.C. (for Boston College) High School on the left. Shortly thereafter, the U Mass access road squiggled off toward the water.

The University of Massachusetts is spread over a number of sites. Its main Boston campus is at Columbia Point, a peninsula jutting out into the harbor. The school shares grounds with the John F. Kennedy Library and a huge but abandoned sewage pumping station. From a distance, the U Mass buildings are a monolithic brown, rather foreboding and depressing. Up close, you see that the walls are made of an impossible number of individual, chocolaty bricks, with dark-green windows like polarized sun lenses peeking out well above rock-throwing height.

I parked my car in the indoor garage and climbed to the second floor of the harborside wing. Following my directions further, I found Mariah Lopez’s office and knocked. A woman opened the door and smiled at me.

“Dr. Lopez?”

“Yes?”

“I’m John Cuddy. I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice.”

“Please come in.”

We sat down. Dr. Lopez was fiftyish and slim, with gray, curly hair and gold-framed glasses. “I’m told that you’re here about William Daniels?”

“That’s right.”

“Could I see your identification, please?”

I showed her.

“And you’re working for William?”

“Working for his mother to help William.”

“Last week, I spoke with a Mr. Rothenberg on the telephone,” Lopez said.

“That’s William’s attorney.”

“Yes. He didn’t mention you.”

“I started only two days ago.”

“I see.”

When she didn’t continue, I said, “May I ask you some questions about William?”

Lopez fussed with the collar of her blouse. “We’re under a great deal of scrutiny here. At the university, I mean. Are you familiar with us?”

“I know that you try to provide higher education to people of lower means.”

Her expression remained neutral. “Nicely put. Our mission is to advance students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to obtain college degrees. Many of them take more than the classic four years. Many eventually finish, most do not.”

I said, “And therefore?”

“And therefore our ability, our financial ability to pursue this mission is terribly threatened by … by …”

“By the legislature seeing one of your best and brightest up on a murder charge?”

Lopez flinched. “Yes.”

“That’s already happened.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“William’s already been charged. That damage has been done. Getting him off may not reverse the damage, but his being convicted can only make matters worse.”

She paused. “I was under the impression, from the news and Mr. Rothenberg, that there isn’t much doubt—any doubt, really—that William shot the girl.”

“If that’s the case, then your indulging me in a few questions probably can’t hurt either the university or William.”

The hint of a smile. “I have the feeling, Mr. Cuddy, that you are a very good investigator.”

“Not measured by what I know so far. When did you first meet William?”

“When he enrolled here, something over two years ago. Do you need specific dates?”

“No. How did you come to know him?”

“Well, when the students register, they’re given information about the variety of services provided here. We call me ‘Personal Counseling’ to try to take the sting out of seeing a ‘headshrinker.’ William came to me shortly after he started classes.”

BOOK: So Like Sleep
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Dead Survive by Lori Whitwam
Three Hard Lessons by Nikki Sloane
Skyfall by Anthony Eaton
How I Got This Way by Regis Philbin
No Ordinary Love by J.J. Murray
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark
Highland Grace by K. E. Saxon