K is for Killer Page 43

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I gave her my business card by way of introduction. "Could I have a few minutes with the plant supervisor?"

"That's his truck behind you. He just arrived."

I turned in time to see a county truck turn into the driveway. Roger Bonney emerged and headed in our direction with the preoccupied air of someone on his way to a meeting, focus already leapfrogging to the encounter to come.

"Can I tell him what this is in regards to?"

I looked back at her. "Lorna Kepler."

"Oh, her. That was awful."

"Did you know her?"

She shook her head. "I've heard people talk about her, but I never met her myself. I've only been here two months. She had this job before the girl I replaced. There might have been one more in between. Mr. Bonney had to go through quite a few after her."

"You're part-time?"

"Afternoons. I got little kids at home, so this is perfect for me. My husband works nights, so he can keep ' em while I'm gone."

Bonney entered the reception area, manila envelope in hand. He had a broad face, very tanned, tousled curly hair that had probably turned gray when he was twenty-five. The combination of lines and creases in his face had an appealing effect. He might have been too handsome in his youth, the kind of man whose looks make me surly and unresponsive. My second husband was beautiful, and that relationship had come to a demoralizing end… at least from my perspective. Daniel seemed to think everything was just swell, thanks. I was inclined now to disconnect from certain male types. I like a face marked by the softening processes of maturity. A few sags and bugs are reassuring somehow. Bonney caught sight of me and paused politely at Melinda's desk lest he interrupt our conversation.

She showed him my card. "She asked to talk to you. It's about Lorna Kepler."

His gaze leapt to mine. The brown eyes were unexpected. With silver-gray hair and his fair coloring, I'd imagined blue.

"I'll be happy to make an appointment for later if this is not convenient," I said.

He looked at his watch. "I have the annual state health services inspection in about fifteen minutes, but you're welcome to come with me while I walk the plant. Shouldn't take long. I like to satisfy myself everything's in order before they come."

"That'd be great."

I followed him down a short corridor to the left, pausing while he stopped in his office and dropped the envelope on his desk. He wore a pale blue dress shirt, collar unbuttoned, tie askew, stone-washed blue jeans, and heavy work boots. With a hard hat and clipboard, you could place him at a construction site and mistake him for an engineer. He was a little under six feet tall, and he'd picked up the substantial look of a man in his mid-fifties. He wasn't fat by any means, but he was broad across the shoulders and heavy through the chest. My guess was that he controlled his weight now with constant exercise, probably tennis and golf, with an occasional fierce game of racquetball. He didn't have the lean muscle mass of a long-distance runner, and he somehow struck me as the sort who'd prefer competition while he kept himself in shape. I pictured him playing high school football, which in ten more years would inspire his joints to disintegrate.

I followed on his heels as we started off again. "I appreciate your talking to me on such short notice."

"It's no problem," he said. "Ever had a tour of the water treatment plant?"

"I never even knew it was here."

"We like to educate the public."

"In case the rates go up again, I'll bet."

He smiled good-naturedly as we pushed through a heavy door. "You want the spiel or not?"

"Absolutely."

"I was sure you would," he said. "Water from the reservoir across the road comes through the intake structure, passing under the floor of the reception area. You might have been aware of it if you'd known what to listen for. Fish screens and trash racks minimize the entry of foreign material. Water comes down through here. Big channel runs under this part of the building. We're about to shut down for a maintenance inspection in the next few days."

In the area we passed, a series of gauges and meters tracked the progress of the water, which was pouring through the facility with a low-level hum. The floors were concrete, and the pipes, in a tangled grid across the wall, were painted pink, dark green, brown, and blue, with arrows pointing in four directions. A floor panel had been removed, and Bonney pointed downward without a word. I peered into the hole. Down about four feet, I could see black water moving blindly through the channel like a mole. The hair along my arms seemed to crawl in response. There was no way to tell just how deep it was or what might be undulating in its depths. I stepped away from the hole, picturing a long suckered tentacle whipping out to grab my foot and drag me in. I'm nothing if not suggestible. A door closed behind us with a hollow clank, and I was forced to suppress a shriek. Bonney didn't seem to notice.

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