Steamed (A Maid in LA Mystery) (4 page)

BOOK: Steamed (A Maid in LA Mystery)
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“No,” he said, then in a softer tone he muttered, “You’re absolutely driving me insane.”  His voice rose again as he finished, “I thought you could ride with me because it will simplify things.”

Now it was my turn.  I sighed one of my big you’re-driving-me-nuts-as-well sighs.  I normally reserved them for my ex-husband or the boys, but I didn’t figure they’d mind me using one on Detective Parker. 

“Fine,” I said.

I sucked in my stomach and started down the stairs.  I stopped at the bottom, gripped the rail hard.  I felt sort of light-headed.

He turned.  “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” I said again, but I lied.  I didn’t feel fine at all.  I felt shaky at best.

Detective Parker gave me a hard look.  Not the sort of oh-baby look he probably gave other women.  This was an assessing sort of look.  He’d given me those before and I recognized it.

But even if it wasn’t designed to, that look made my knees feel weak in a way that had nothing to do with my light-headedness.

“When’s the last time you ate?” he asked.

I thought about it.  It’s never a good sign when you have to think about when your last meal was.  “This morning.”

“Lady, you need a keeper.  Come on,” he grumbled and took my elbow.  It wasn’t a police hold, but more of a supportive sort of thing.

He mumbled to himself about ditzy women who cleaned up murder scenes and couldn’t even remember to eat.

I should have felt insulted—I am many things, but I am not ditzy—but the day had been too bizarre for me to feel anything but sort of numb.

He tucked me into a very plain looking dark sedan and got in on the other side.  I was thankful to find myself in the front seat, not the back, although his car didn’t have that plastic police barrier and the back seat looked rather normal from where I was sitting.

I glanced from the normal back seat I wasn’t in, to the man driving.  “What’s your name?” I asked.  “I don’t like referring to you as Detective Parker.  It reminds me that you want to send me up the river.  Or is it down the river?”

“I don’t want to send you in any direction on any river.  To be perfectly honest, I want to finish this interview, clear you, then get as far away from you as I can.”

“Yeah, men tend to have that reaction to me.”  He hadn’t told me his name, and I wasn’t about to ask again.

I had my pride.

We drove a few minutes in silence.

I jumped when he said, “It’s Caleb.  You can call me Cal.”

“Cal.  That’s nice,” I said. 

It was a good solid name.  The name of someone you could count on. 

“You can call me Quincy,” I added.

“I’d planned to.”

That was sort of rude, but I didn’t comment on his lack of manners.  Instead, I asked the question that had been burning away at my brain.  “Hey, Cal, do you know if California has the death penalty?”

“What?” he asked.  He took his eyes off the road and glanced at me.

“Watch the road,” I scolded.  I didn’t need a traffic accident on top of everything else that had happened today. 

“I mean,” I said, when he’d turned his attention back to the road, “I just want to know if you convict me for murdering Mr. Banning, am I facing life in prison, or death row?  I already know that if I go to jail I’ll end up tattooed like Uncle Bill.  I’m thinking a unicorn...a permanent statement of my innocence. But I’m not sure a unicorn tattoo would age well.  What do you think?”

“Listen, lady—”

“Quincy.  You were going to call me Quincy, remember?”

“You are not going to jail, Quincy.  You are not going on death row.  And you are not getting a tattoo, unicorn or a skull and cross-bones.  You’re going for pasta.  My buddy makes the best in LA.  You look like crap.  I’m going to feed you and then you’re going to tell me everything you can remember about Banning’s place.  Then I’m taking you home and hopefully that will be the last you hear from me.”

“But about the death penalty?” I pressed.

“Just sit there and be quiet will you?”

“First you want me to talk, then you want me to shut up.  You need to make up your mind.”

He didn’t respond to that.  He just made this strangled, growling sound.

“Do men have PMS?  If so, I think you’ve got it.  I recognize the symptoms.  Short tempered, surly.  You have those two nailed.”

“Real men don’t get PMS, but they do get surly with suspects who won’t shut up.”

“Ah ha, you just admitted I’m a suspect.”  Despite the fact he thought I was a suspect, I felt triumphant.  I got him.  Man, I was going to make a great detective.  I’d wrap up Mr. Banning’s murder in a week and clear my name no problem, no death row and no tattoos.

“Yes, I suspect you,” he said, pausing a moment before adding, “Suspect you of severe stupidity, and possibly of having some sanity issues, but I do not suspect you of murder.”

“See, surly.  Very, very surly.  And you just called me dumb.  I’m not, you know.”  Even in the dim light, I could see his lips moving, even though he was silent.  I think he was praying.  That made me feel a bit better. 

A guy who talked to God, probably wasn’t in favor of the death penalty and maybe that would help my case.

He pulled up in front of
Big G’s Italian Restaurant

“Big G’s?” I asked.

“Yeah.  Tony’s last name is Garrakowski.  That doesn’t exactly say Italian food, does it?  And Tony’s is a bit cliché as far as names go.  So he went with Big G’s.”


Detective Parker—Cal—got out and walked around the car as if he were going to open my door for me, but I didn’t wait.  I opened the door myself and got out.

He just shook his head and said, “Come on.”

He led me into the small, dim restaurant.  He didn’t wait to be seated, but took me right through the restaurant and into kitchen. 

“Hey, Tony,” he said to the man at the big stove. 

The man turned.  He was shorter than Cal, but unlike the detective, he smiled at me.  All Cal did was scowl.

Cal introduced me.  “This is Quincy.  She needs food, and I need your office.”

“Help yourself to the office,” Tony said.  “Although why you’d want to hide away a woman like that, I don’t know.”

He took my hand and shook it.  “Tony.  Tony Garrakowski.  They call me the Big G.  Want to know why?”

It was such an outrageous statement that I couldn’t help but smile.  “Quincy Mac,” I said.  “And I don’t think you should tell me least not the first time we meet.”

To be honest, the Big G wasn’t all that big.  Maybe five nine, but he had a nice smile and dark black hair that was peppered with the lightest hint of grey.  He must be the same age as male-PMSing Detective Cal Parker.

I liked Big G better.  He was going to feed me, not send me to death row. 

“I’ll save it the explanation for the next time then,” he promised.  “Are you married?” 

Cal didn’t seem to like Tony’s promise to tell me next time, or maybe he didn’t like Tony asking if I was married.  Either way, Cal scowled, obviously not impressed with my conversation with his buddy.

“No, I’m not married anymore,” I said as I smiled at Cal.

“Good to know.  When you dump Cal here—women always end up dumping him so that’s a given.  Maybe it’s a cop thing, or maybe he’s got bad breath.  I don’t know which, but you can tell me which when you two are over.  Anyway, when you’ve dumped him, come see me.  I’m single, employed and have my own teeth.”

You know, when you hit almost forty, those were three qualities a woman wants in a man. 

“I use Listerine every day and I’m not a cop,” Big G added.  “So whichever Cal’s problem is, it’s not mine.”

Cal continued his very coppish scowling.

It made me feel a bit better than I had all day.

“Maybe I’ll just do that,” I said and I shot Big G my best smile. 

I was flirting.  At least, I was pretty sure I was flirting.  It had been a long time, so I couldn’t be sure. 

Cal growled that PMSy sort of growl again and I knew I must of been flirting to make him growl.

Suddenly my dead-body-in-the-bedroom sort of day seemed a little brighter.

“Help yourself to the office and I’ll bring you some food,” Tony said.

Cal took my elbow again and pulled me further back into the kitchen.

“Come on,” he said.

“PMS,” I said softly.

He must have heard me because he growled again.

For some reason, that made my smile get big enough to make my face feel stretched—stretched in a good way.  If you’d asked me earlier, I’d have said not much could make me smile, given the day I’d had.  But here I was, grinning from ear to ear.

Maybe Big G was good for me.

Or maybe Cal was. 

Cal wasn’t smiling.  He was tugging me along.

“Fine,” I said.  “Let’s get this over with.”

I let him lead me to Tony’s office.  And despite my brief bout of pleasure a minute before, I felt nervous.

I’d never been grilled by the cops before, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it.

Not like it at all.

He sat at the small round table in the corner of the office, and nodded at the other seat, then he dug in his jacket pocket and pulled out a small notebook. 

“Start at the beginning and walk me through everything.”

“Wait, aren’t you going to shine a light in my face?  Something nice and bright so I can’t see you?”

“I know this is LA, but I’m not some Hollywood actor.  I’ve interviewed hundreds of suspects, and I’ve never shined a light on any of them.  I can’t see why I should start with you.”

Suspect.  He’d called me a suspect.

I felt sick.

“You were going to take me through your day, step-by-step?” he prompted.

“It seemed like a normal day.  Well, normal except the boys left yesterday with their father and stepmother, which meant I didn’t wake up this morning to the sound of fighting.  Their stepmother, Peri, is only a couple years older than my oldest.  I’m thinking of adopting her when Jerry divorces her.  I always wanted a daughter.”

He ignored my comments about Peri and asked, “So, your day started well?”

I took a deep breath and didn’t respond, because I probably should have thought it started well, but I’d missed the boys.  “I went to work and walked into my partner’s bridal bonanza and she told me we had someone—Theresa—call in sick.  It was my turn to cover, so I spent my day in the field cleaning.  Tiny and I, we take turns filling in when someone’s sick,” I added by way of explanation.

“And when you got to the victim’s house?”

“Mr. Banning’s was the last house of the day and the worst.  It was a wreck.  There were plates and glasses everywhere.  Underwear on the ceiling fan.  I didn’t realize there was a dead body in the bedroom...” Big G walked into the office with two plates heaped high with salads.  He blanched in such a way that I knew he’d overheard the dead body mention.

“I didn’t kill him,” I assured our host.

“I didn’t imagine you did.”  He shot me a toothy smile that showed off his immaculate white teeth.  I wondered if, in addition to owning a restaurant, Tony acted, or wanted to act.  That’s the thing about Hollywood, everyone’s in the business, or wants to be.

“Thanks for that.  I’m his,” I jerked my finger in Cal’s direction, “primary suspect.”

BOOK: Steamed (A Maid in LA Mystery)
9.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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