K is for Killer Page 71


"Thanks. This looks great."

She sat down across from me, careful to keep an eye out in case customers came in.

I opened both pats and broke off a band of hot roll, which I buttered and ate, nearly moaning aloud. The dough was soft and moist, the glaze dripping down between the coils. Nothing like fear to generate an appetite for comfort foods. "Fantastic. I could get addicted. Is this a bad time for you?"

"Not at the moment. I may have to interrupt. Are you all right? You don't seem like yourself."

"I'm fine. I have a couple of things I need to ask." I paused to lick butter from my fingers, and then I wiped them on a paper napkin. "Did you know Lorna was supposed to get married in Las Vegas the weekend she died?"

Janice looked at me as if I had begun to speak a foreign language and she was waiting for subtitles to appear at the bottom of the screen. "Where in the world did you hear such a thing?"

"Think there's any truth to it?"

"Until this very second, I'd have said absolutely not. Now you mention it, I'm not so sure. It's possible," she said. "It might explain her attitude, which at the time I couldn't identify. She seemed excited. Truly, like she was wanting to tell me something, but was holding back. You know how kids are… Well, maybe you don't. When kids have a secret, they can hardly keep it in. They want to tell so bad they can't stand it, so most of the time they just blab it right out. She was acting like that. At the time, I wasn't picking up on it consciously. I did notice, because that's what popped in my head the minute you said that, but at the time, I didn't press. Who was she going to marry? As far as I know, she didn't even date."

"I don't know the man's name. I gather it was some fellow from Los Angeles."

"But who told you? How did you find out about him?"

"His attorney got in touch with me a little while ago. Actually, it might have been the guy himself, playing games. It's hard to say."

"Why haven't we heard about him before now? She's been dead ten months and this is the first I've heard of it."

"Maybe we've finally started fishing in the right swamp," I said. "You want me to ask the girls if she said anything to them?"

"I'm not sure it matters. I have no reason to believe the story's fabricated. It's a question of filling in some blanks."

"What else? You said there were a couple of things."

"On the twentieth of April-the day before she died-she closed out a savings account she kept down in Simi Valley. It looks like she withdrew approximately twenty thousand dollars, either in cash or check. It's also possible she moved the money to another account, but I can't find a record of it. Is this ringing any bells with you?"

She shook her head slowly. "No. I don't know anything about that. Mace or me didn't come across any substantial sums of money. I'd have turned it in, figuring it might be evidence. Besides, if it was Lorna's money, it'd be part of her estate and we might have to pay taxes on it. I don't cheat the government, not even the tiniest little bit. That's one thing I taught her. You don't fool around with the IRS."

"Could she have hidden it?" I asked.

"Why would she do that?"

"I have no idea. She might have closed out the account and then tucked the money away someplace until she needed it."

"You think someone stole it?"

"I don't even know if there was really any money in the first place. It looks like there was, but I can't be sure. It's possible her landlord might have taken it. At any rate, it's a detail I need to pin down."

"Well, I sure never saw it."

"Was she security conscious? I didn't see a lot of locks and bolts at her place."

"Oh, she was awful about that. She left the door wide open half the time. In fact, I've often thought somebody might have got in while she was jogging, which is why there wasn't any sign of forced entry. The police thought so, too, because they asked me about it more than once."

"Did she ever mention a safe in the house?"

Her tone was skeptical. "Oh, I don't think she had a safe. That doesn't seem like her at all. In that crappy little cabin? It wouldn't make any sense. She believed in banks. She had accounts everywhere."

"What about her jewelry? Where did she keep that? Did she have a safe-deposit box?"

"It was nothing like that. She kept a regular old jewelry box in her chest of drawers, but we didn't find anything expensive. Just some costume stuff."

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