K is for Killer Page 7

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Dead silence.

I said, "Janice?"

Her expression was stubborn. "I didn't take it to them. I wouldn't even show it to Mace, because he'd die of embarrassment. Lorna was his angel. He'd never be the same if he knew what she'd done." She picked up the tape and put it back in the paper bag, folding the top down protectively.

"But why not show it to the cops? At least it would give them a fresh avenue…"

She was already shaking her head. "No, ma'am. No way. I'd never in this world turn it over to them. I know better. That's the last we'd ever see of it. I know it sounds paranoid, but I've heard of cases like this. Evidence they don't like disappears into thin air. Get to court and it's mysteriously vanished. Period, end of paragraph. I don't trust police. That's the point."

"Why trust me? How do you know I'm not in cahoots with them?"

"I have to trust someone. I want to know how she got into this… blue movie stuff… if it's why she was killed. But I'm not trained. I can't go back in time and figure out what happened. I have no way to do that." She took a deep breath and changed gears. "Anyway, I decided if I hired an investigator, that's the person I'd give the tape to. I guess now I have to ask if you're willing to help, because if you're not, I'll have to find someone else."

I thought about it briefly. Of course I was interested. I just wasn't sure about my chances of success. "An investigation like this is likely to be expensive. Are you prepared for that?"

"I wouldn't have come up if I wasn't."

"And your husband's in agreement?"

"He's not wild about the idea, but he can see I'm determined."

"All right. Let me nose around first before we sign any contracts. I want to make sure I can do you some good. Otherwise, it's a waste of my time and your money."

"Are you going to talk to the police?"

"I'll have to do that," I said. "Maybe unofficially at first. The point is, I need information, and if we can get their cooperation, it will save you some bucks."

"I understand that," she said, "but you have to understand one thing, too. I know you feel the police here are competent, and I'm sure that's true, but everybody makes an occasional mistake, and it's just human nature to want to cover it up. I don't want you to decide whether or not you can help on the basis of their attitude. They probably think I'm crazy as a loon."

"Believe me, I'm capable of making up my own mind about things." I could feel a crick in my neck, and I took a look at my watch. Time to wind it up, I thought. I asked for her home address, her home phone, and the number at the coffee shop, making notes on my legal pad. "Let me see what I can find out," I said. "In the meantime, can you leave that with me? I'd like to get myself up to speed. The meter won't actually start ticking until we have a signed contract."

She glanced down at the paper sack beside her but made no move to lift it. "I guess so. I suppose. I wouldn't want anybody else to get their hands on the tape. It'd kill Mace and the girls if they knew what was in here."

I crossed my heart and held my hand up. "I'll guard it with my life," I said. I didn't think there was any point in reminding her that pornography is a commercial venture. There were probably thousands of copies of the tape in circulation. I tucked the notes in my briefcase and snapped the lid down. She stood up when I did, hefting the bag to one hip before she passed it over to me.

"Thanks," I said. I picked up my jacket and my handbag, setting them on top of the bag, juggling the armload of items as I turned off lights. She followed me across the hall and watched me uneasily as I locked up. I glanced back at her. "You're going to have to trust me, you know. Without that, there's no point doing business together."

She nodded, and I caught a glimpse of tears in her eyes. "I hope you remember Lorna really wasn't like what you see."

"I'll remember," I said. "I'll get back to you as soon as I know anything, and we'll work out a game plan."

"All right."

"One more thing. You're going to have to tell Mace about the tape. He doesn't have to see it, but he should know it exists. I want complete honesty among the three of us."

"All right. Anyway, I've never been good at keeping secrets from him."

We parted company in the little twelve-car parking lot behind the building, after which I drove home.

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