K is for Killer Page 103

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I noticed activity at the side of the house closest to the pool: the electrician talking with the two detectives. He gestured his explanation, and I could see all of them looking from the electrical panel to the equipment shed that housed the pump, the filter, and the big heater for the pool. The electrician moved over to the side of the pool near the far end. He hunkered, still talking, while one of the detectives peered down into the water, squinting. He got down on his hands and knees and leaned closer. He asked the electrician a question and then took off his sport coat and rolled up his sleeve, reaching into the depths. The photographer was summoned, and the detective began to detail a new set of instructions. She reloaded her camera and changed the lens.

The other detective crossed to the coroner's assistant, and they conferred. The coroner had stepped back, and the two paramedics began to prepare the bodies for removal to the ambulance. From where I was standing, I could see the news ripple across the assembled personnel. Whatever the information, it spread from twosome to twosome as the group rearranged itself. The detective moved off, and I eased my way toward the coroner's assistant, knowing if I were patient, the news train would eventually reach my little station. The electrician had left his toolbox on the patio table, and he came over to pick it up. In the meantime, the deputy was talking to the fingerprint tech, who hadn't had much work to do so far. The three of them began to chat, looking back toward the pool. I overheard the electrician use the word deify , and my thoughts jumped to the transcript I'd been discussing with Hector.

I laid a hand on his arm, and he glanced back at me. "Excuse me. I don't mean to butt in, but what did you say?"

"I said there's a problem with the GFI. Wire's come loose, which is why the circuit breaker didn't trip like it should have. One of the pool lights is busted out, and that's what sent current through the water."

"I thought the term was GFCI, ground fault circuit interrupter."

"Same thing. I use both. GFI's easier, and everybody knows what you mean." The electrician was a clean-cut kid in his twenties, one of that army of experts who make the civilized world run a little more smoothly. "Damnedest thing I ever saw," he remarked to the deputy. "Break an underwater flood like that, you'd have to take a stick and poke it out from on top. Detective's going to find out when the pool was last serviced, but somebody really blew it. We're talking a big lawsuit. And I mean big."

The fingerprint technician said, "Think the gardener could have done it?"

"Doing what? You don't punch out a pool light by accident. I told the detective, that glass is tough. It takes work. If it'd been at night with the pool lights on, somebody might have noticed. Daytime like this and all that black tile, you can hardly see the near end, let alone the far."

From the other side of the patio, the detective motioned the electrician back, and he moved in that direction. Where I was, the deputy and the fingerprint technician had shifted the discussion to somebody who'd been electrocuted by his electric lawn mower because his mother, trying to be helpful, stuck the three-pronged plug into a two-pronged extension cord. The insulation on the neutral wire was defective, which caused direct contact between the cord and the metal handle of the mower. The deputy went into quite a bit of detail about the nature of the damage, comparing it to another case he'd seen where a child bit through an electric cord while standing in a puddle of water in the bathroom.

I kept thinking about the tape recording, thinking about the phrase ' she goes in at the same time every day'. Maybe Esselmann wasn't the intended victim. Maybe Serena was meant to die instead. I looked for Cheney but couldn't seem to find him. I approached the nearest of the two detectives. "Would you have any objection if I talked to Mr. Esselmann's daughter? It won't take but a minute. I'm a friend of hers," I said.

"I don't want you discussing Mr. Esselmann's death. That's my job."

"It's not about him. This is about something else."

He studied me for a moment and then glanced away. "Keep it brief," he said.

20

I went through the kitchen toward the front of the house. In the foyer, I took a right and headed up the stairs. I had no idea how the bedrooms were laid out. I moved down the hallway from room to room. At the end of the corridor, there was an intersecting T with a sitting room on the right and a bedroom on the left. I could see Serena lying on a four-poster bed, covered with a light blanket. The room was sunny and spacious, yellow-and-white paper on the walls in a tiny rosette print. There were white curtains at the window, and all the woodwork was done in white.

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