F is for Fugitive Page 66


Quintana flicked a look in my direction as I passed the door. I was on my way to the kitchen, escorted by a female deputy whose law-enforcement paraphernalia must have added ten inches to her waist measurement; heavy belt, portable two-way radio, nightstick, handcuffs, keys, flashlight, ammunition, gun and holster. I was reminded uncomfortably of my own days in uniform. It's hard to feel feminine in a pair of pants that make you look like a camel from the rear.

I took a seat at the kitchen table. I kept my face neutral, trying to act as if I wasn't sucking in every detail of the crime scene activity. I was frankly relieved to be out of sight of Ori, who was beached in death like an old sea lion washed up on the sand. She couldn't even be cold yet, but her skin was already suffused with the bleached, mottled look of decay. In the absence of life, the body seems to deteriorate before your very eyes. An illusion, of course-perhaps the same optical trickery that makes the dead appear to breathe.

Ann must have told them about injecting the insulin, because an evidence technician came into the kitchen within minutes and removed the vial of insulin, which he bagged and labeled. Unless the local labs were a lot more sophisticated than usual in a town this size, the insulin, plus all the samples of Ori's blood, urine, gastric content, bile, and viscera would probably be shipped off to the state crime lab in Sacramento for analysis. Cause of death was almost certainly anaphylactic shock. The question was, what had triggered it? Surely not the insulin after all these years-unless somebody'd tampered with the vial, a not unreasonable guess. Death might have been accidental, but I doubted it.

I looked over to the back door, where the thumb latch on the lock had been turned to the open position. From what I'd seen, the motel office was seldom secured. Windows were left open, doors unlocked. When I thought back to all the people who'd been trooping through the place, it seemed clear that anybody could have sauntered over to the refrigerator for a peek. Ori's diabetes was common knowledge, and her insulin dependency was the perfect means of delivering a fatal dose of who-knew-what. Ann's administering the injection would only add guilt to her grief, a cruel postscript. I was curious as to what Detective Quintana was going to make of it.

As if on cue, he ambled into the kitchen and took a seat at the table across from me. I wasn't looking forward to a chat with him. Like many cops, he took up more than his share of psychological space. Being with him was like being in a crowded elevator, stuck between floors. Not an experience you seek out.

"Let's hear how you tell it," he said.

To give him credit, he seemed more compassionate than he had before, perhaps in deference to Ann. I launched into my account with all the candor I could muster. I had nothing to hide, and there wasn't any point in playing games with the man. I started with the telephone harassment in the dead of night and proceeded to the moment when I'd taken the receiver from Ann and asked for the police. He took careful notes, printing rapidly in a style that mimicked an italic typeface. By the time he finished quizzing me, I found myself trusting his thoroughness and his attention to detail. He flipped his notebook closed and tucked it in his coat pocket.

"I'm going to need a list of the people who've been in and out of here the last couple of days. I'd appreciate your help with that. Also, Miss Fowler says the family doctor isn't in the office on Fridays. So, you might keep an eye on her. She looks like she's one step away from collapse. Frankly, you don't look all that hot yourself," he said.

"Nothing that a month of sleep won't cure."

"Give me a call if anything comes up."

He gave instructions to the deputy in charge. By the time he left, much of the dusting, bagging, tagging, and picture-taking was finished and the CSI team was packing up. I found Ann still seated at the dining room table. Her gaze traveled to my face when I entered the room, but she registered no response.

"Are you all right?" I asked.

No reply.

I sat down next to her. I would have taken her hand, but she didn't seem like the type you could touch without asking permission first. "I know Quintana must have asked you this, but did your mother have allergies?"

"Penicillin," she said dully. "I remember she had a very bad reaction to penicillin once."

"What other medications was she taking?'

Ann shook her head. "Just what's on the bed table, and her insulin, of course. I don't understand what happened."

"Who knew about the allergy?"

Ann started to speak and then shook her head.

"Did Bailey know?"

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