K is for Killer Page 87

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"I hope so. I'm really bushed," I said. "Are you going to work?"

"I'm going home to bed. For a couple of hours, at any rate. I'll give you a call later. If you're up for it, we can get a bite to eat someplace."

"Let me see how my day shapes up. If I'm not in, leave a number. I'll get back to you."

"You going into the office?"

"Actually, I thought I'd go over to Danielle's and clean. Last I saw, the place was covered with blood."

"You don't have to do that. The landlord said he'd have a crew come in first thing next week. He can't get ' em till Monday, but it's better than you doing it."

"I don't mind. I'd like to do something for her. Maybe pick up her robe and slippers and take 'em over to St. Terry's."

"Up to you," he said. "I'll watch 'til you take off. Make sure your car starts and the boogeyman don't get you."

I opened the car door and got out, reaching down for my handbag. "Thanks for the ride and for everything else. I mean that."

"You're welcome."

I slammed the door, moving over to my car while Cheney hovered like a guardian angel. The VW started without a murmur. I waved to demonstrate that everything was okay, but he wasn't ready to let go. He followed me home, the two of us winding up and down the darkened streets. For once, I found a parking space right in front of my place. At that point he seemed to feel I was safe. He shifted into first and took off.

I locked the car, went through the gate, and walked around to the back, where I unlocked my front door and let myself in. I scooped up the mail that had been shoved through the slot, flipped a light on, set my bag down, and locked the front door behind me. I started peeling off my clothes as I climbed the spiral stairs, littering the floor with discarded articles of clothing like those scenes in romantic comedies where the lovers can hardly wait. I felt that way about sleep. Naked, I staggered around, closing the blinds, turning off the phone, dousing lights. I crawled under the quilt with a sigh of relief. I thought I was too tired to sleep, but as it turned out I wasn't.

I didn't wake until well after five p.m. For a moment I thought I'd slept all the way around the clock until the next dawn. I stared up at the clear Plexiglas dome above my bed, trying to orient myself in the half-light. Given the early February sunsets, the day was already draining away like gray water from the bottom of a bathtub. I assessed my mental state and decided I'd probably had enough sleep, realized I was starving, and hauled myself out of bed. I brushed my teeth, showered, and shampooed my hair. Afterward I pulled on an old sweatshirt and worn jeans. Downstairs, I collected a plastic bucket full of rags and cleaning products. Now that the immediate crisis had passed, I found myself tuning into the rage I felt for her assailant. Men who beat women were almost as low as the men who beat kids.

I tried Cheney's number, but he was apparently already up and out. I left a message on his machine, indicating the time of day and the fact that I was too hungry to wait for him. When I opened my front door, a manila envelope dropped out of the frame where it had been tucked. Across the front, Hector had scrawled a note: "Friday. 5:35 p.m. Knocked but no answer. Amended transcript and tape enclosed. Sorry I couldn't be more help. Give me a call when you get back." He'd jotted down his home number and the number for the studio. He must have stopped by and knocked while I was in the shower. I checked the time. He'd apparently been there only fifteen minutes before, and I had to guess it was too soon to catch him at either number. I tucked both the tape and the transcript in my handbag and then took myself to a coffee shop where breakfast was served twenty-four hours a day.

I studied Hector's notations while I made a pig of myself, hastily consuming a plate full of the sorts of foodstuffs nutritionists forbid. He hadn't managed to decipher much more than I had. To my page of notes, he'd added the following:

"Hey… I hate that stuff… myself think. You're not…"

"Oh, come on. I'm just kidding… [laughter] But you have to admit, it's a great idea. She goes in at the same time every day… deify…"

"You're sick.

"People shouldn't get in my… [clatter… clink]"

Sound of water… squeak…

"If anything happens, I'll…"

Thump, thump…

"I'm serious… stubby - "

"No link Laughter… chair scrape… rustle … murmur…

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