K is for Killer Page 64


"Aren't you cold? It's really freezing out here."

"You must never have lived in the East. It's probably fifty degrees. With this jacket I got on, I'm as warm as toast."

"What's the F stand for?"

"What do you think?" she said drolly.

I smiled as I unlocked the door and flipped the lights on. She followed me in, pausing at the threshold to assess the premises. Her eyes looked enormous, the green offset by dark liner, her lashes headed with mascara. Under all the makeup she had a smooth, baby face: snub nose, sulky mouth. She strolled the perimeter of my living room, tottering on her high heels as she peered at all the bookshelves. She picked up the framed photograph of Robert Dietz. "Well, he's cute. Who's this?"

"A friend."

She lifted her brows and gave me a look that suggested she knew what kind of friend he was. She put the picture down again and shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. I hung my own jacket across the back of a director's chair. She sat down on my sofa and rubbed a hand across the surface of the fabric as if to test the weight. Tonight her fingernails were long and perfect, painted a vivid fire-engine red. She crossed one long, bare leg across the other and swung a foot while she completed her survey. "This is not bad. They got any other units as good as this?"

"This is the only rental. My landlord's eighty-five."

"I don't discriminate. I like old guys," she said. "Maybe I could give him a discount."

"I'll pass the word along in case he's interested. What are you doing here?"

She got up and moved over to the kitchen, where she opened my cabinets to check the contents. "I was bored. I don't go in to work until eleven. It's a problem sometimes what to do before. Mr. Dickhead's in a bad mood, so I'm avoiding him."

"What's his problem?"

"Oh, who knows? He's probably raggin' it," she said. She flapped a hand in the air, dismissing his ill temper. She pulled a couple of teabags out of her jacket pocket and dangled them in the air. "You want some peppermint tea? I got some bags if you boil the water. It's good for digestion."

"I'm not worried about digestion. I haven't had dinner yet."

"Me neither. Sometimes all I have is tea if Lester's taken my money. He doesn't want me getting fat."

"What a pal," I said.

She shrugged, unconcerned. "I look after myself. I'm into megavitamins and high colonies and like that."

"There's a treat," I said. I filled the kettle with hot water and put it on the stove. I flipped the burner on.

"Laugh all you want. I bet I'm healthier than you."

"That wouldn't take much, the way I eat," I said. "Speaking of which, you want dinner? I don't cook, but I can have a pizza delivered. I have to go out in a bit, but you're welcome to join me."

"I wouldn't mind some pizza," she said. "If you just do the veggies, without all the sausage and pepperoni, it's not even bad for you. Try that place around the corner. I bonk the owner sometimes. He gives me a big discount because I chew his bone."

"I'll mention that when I call the order in," I said.

"Here, I'll do it. Where's the phone?"

I pointed to the phone on the table beside the answering machine. We both noticed the blinking light.

"You got a message," she said. She reached down automatically and pressed the replay button before I had a chance to protest. It seemed as rude for her to listen as to open my mail. A mechanical computer voice announced that I had one message. Beep.

"Oh, hi, Kinsey. This is Roger. I just wanted to touch base and see how things were going. Anyway, you don't have to call back, but if you have any more questions, you can reach me at home. Bye. Oh, I guess I better give you the number." He recited his home phone and then hung up with a click.

"Lorna's boss," she said. "You know him?"

"Sure. Do you?"

She wrinkled her nose. "I met him once." She picked up the phone and punched in a number she seemed to know by heart. She turned and looked at me while the phone rang on the other end. "I'm going to have 'em leave the cheese off. It cuts the fat," she murmured.

I left her to the negotiations while I made us each a cup of tea. The night I'd met her, she'd seemed wary, or maybe that was just her working persona. Tonight she seemed relaxed, nearly buoyant. Her mood was probably drug-induced, but there was actually something charming about her ingenuousness. She had a natural goodwill that animated every gesture. I heard her conducting business with the kind of poise that must come from "bonking" guys from every walk of life. She put a hand over the mouthpiece. "What's the address here? I forgot."

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