K is for Killer Page 100


"That's certainly a plan," I said. I was missing something, but I couldn't figure out what. "Could we get back to the money for just a minute here? After you drove back from Simi, you still had Lorna's driver's license along with the cash. I'm trying to understand what you did next. Just so I can get a picture."

"I don't understand. What do you mean?"

"Well, her driver's license was listed on the police report, so you must have put it back."

"Oh, sure. I put the license right back where it was. Yeah, that's right."

"Uhn-hun. Like in her wallet or something?"

"Right. Then I realized I better make it look like she'd closed the account herself, you know, like she took some money out before she left town."

"I'm with you so far," I said with caution.

"Well, everybody thought she was already gone, so all I had to do was create the impression that she was alive all day Friday."

"Wait a minute. I thought this was Saturday. This all happened Friday?"

"It had to be Friday. The bank's not even open on Saturday, and neither is the travel agent."

My mouth did not actually drop open, but it felt as though it did. I turned to stare at her hilly, but Berlyn didn't seem to notice. She was caught up in her narrative and probably wasn't tuned to my look of astonishment. She was really the most amazing mix of cunning and stupidity, and way too old to be so unaware.

"I went on home. I was really really upset, so I told Mom I had the cramps and went to bed. Saturday afternoon, I went back to her place and brought the mail in with the morning newspaper. I couldn't see any harm. I mean, dead is dead, so what difference did it make?"

"What'd you do with the bank book?"

"Kept it. I didn't want anybody to know the money was gone."

"So you waited a month and opened a couple of savings accounts." I was monitoring myself, trying to keep from using what an English teacher would probably refer to as the screaming accusative verb tense. Berlyn must have picked up on it to some extent because she nodded, trying to look humble and repentant. Whatever she'd told herself in the ten months since Lorna died, I suspect it sounded different now that she was explaining it to me.

"Weren't you worried about your fingerprints showing up at her place?" I said.

"Not really. I wiped off everything I touched so my prints wouldn't show, but even if I slipped up, I figured I had a right to be there. I'm her sister. I've been there lots of times. Anyway, how can they prove when a fingerprint was made?"

"I'm surprised you didn't buy yourself some new clothes or a car."

"That wouldn't be right. I didn't ask her for that stuff."

"You didn't ask her for the jewelry, either," I said tartly.

"I figure Lorna wouldn't mind. I mean, why would she care? I was so heartbroke when I found her." She ceased making eye contact, and her expression took on a troubled cast. "Anyway, why would she begrudge me when there wasn't anything she could do by then?"

"You do know you broke the law."

"I did?"

"Actually, you broke quite a few laws," I said pleasantly. I could feel my temper beginning to climb. It was like being on the verge of throwing up. I should have kept my mouth shut because I could feel myself losing it. "But here's the point, Berlyn. I mean, aside from grand theft, withholding evidence, tampering with a crime scene, obstructing justice, and God knows what other laws you managed to violate, you've completely fucked up the investigation of your own sister's murder! Some asshole's out there walking around free as a bird right this minute because of you, do you get that? What kind of fuckin' twit are you?"

That's when she finally started crying in earnest.

I leaned across the car and opened the door on her side. "Get out. Go home," I said. "Better yet, go to Frankie's and tell your mother what you did before it shows up in my report."

She turned to me, nose red, mascara streaking down her cheeks, nearly breathless from my betrayal. "But I told you in strictest confidence. You said you wouldn't tell."

"I didn't actually say that, but if I did, I lied. I'm really a wretched person. I'm sorry you didn't understand that. Now get out of my car."

She got out and slammed the door, her grief having turned to fury in ten seconds flat. She put her face close to the window and yelled, "Bitch!"

I started the car and backed out, so mad I nearly ran her down in the process.

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