Hit Me Page 36

Keller thought it over. “There is one thing,” he said at length.

“I’m all ears.”

No, he thought. Griffey was all ears, and might have flown if he’d been able to flap them. As for Rombaugh—well, never mind.

“Figure out the absolute maximum the collection is worth to you,” he told the man. “The most you can pay and still make your employers happy.”


“And that’s your bid,” Keller said. “Write it down and seal the envelope. If it’s higher than either of the others, you win.”

The address Dot had furnished was on Arapahoe Street, in that part of downtown Denver known as LoDo. Keller wasn’t clear on where the term came from, but if he had to guess he’d have opted for LOwer DOwntown, the same way New York’s SoHo and NoHo were NOrth and SOuth of HOuston Street.

He programmed the GPS accordingly, and halfway to Denver he thought about Dot, and how she’d driven all the way to Flagstaff to use a rental computer to chase down Joanne Hudepohl’s phone listing. Because if she used her own computer, there’d be an electronic trail you couldn’t rub out.

Well, what about his GPS? He’d already punched in the address on Otis Drive, including the precise number of the house that had burned to the foundation. And now he’d added another address, the LoDo loft that was home to Trish Heaney, and it didn’t have to go up in smoke to draw attention from the authorities. All the trouble he’d gone to, flying in and out of Cheyenne, and he’d be returning his Cheyenne rental car with a GPS showing just where he’d been in Denver.

He took the next exit off the interstate, found a place to park, thought the whole thing over. The simplest thing, he realized, was to take out the Pablo phone, call Dot, and tell her he wanted to scrap the whole thing. They had the first payment, and that was plenty. Then he could turn the car around and have a romantic dinner with Denia Soderling.

“I’m going to have to go to Denver this evening,” he’d told Denia, after Marty Rombaugh had delivered his sealed envelope and taken his leave.

She’d offered to hold dinner, and he said he wasn’t sure how long his business might take. “Here’s a house key,” she said. “In case you’re very late. But I’ll probably be up, and if you’re back before ten we can dine together.”

And if he went back now? The sun wasn’t even down yet, and he’d have to explain how his urgent business engagement had wrapped itself up in no time at all. Various possibilities suggested themselves—a medical emergency, a canceled flight—and he told himself he was overthinking the situation.

He could delete the Arapahoe Street address, but wouldn’t it still be recorded somewhere in the gadget’s history? Probably, and he’d only saddle himself with the difficulty of finding Tricia Heaney’s loft without the patient guidance of the nice GPS lady.

He started the car, got back on the road. “Recalculating route,” the voice said, infinitely patient, and only the slightest bit judgmental. He beamed the invisible woman a silent apology for deviating from the script, and followed her instructions all the way to LoDo.

“You have arrived,” she said, and there was the address he wanted, a squat six-story brick building with big industrial-type windows.

Keller was glad he wasn’t contemplating arson. The building looked like a hard structure to burn down.


Keller, returning to Arapahoe Street from where he’d parked the car, reminded himself that he didn’t have to do anything. He was simply a private citizen, paying a call on a woman at her residence. If she wasn’t home, or if she wouldn’t let him in, or if the right opportunity failed to arise, he’d go back to Cheyenne and eat a good dinner.

And there was Trish Heaney’s building, right where he’d left it, with a row of buttons next to the windowless red door. Helpful little cards marked each button, and he pressed the one that said HEANEY.

Waiting, he reminded himself that he’d committed himself to nothing. That he’d neither misrepresented himself nor broken any laws.


Just a citizen, ringing a doorbell.

“Hello? Who is it?”

“Officer Griffey,” he said. “Police.”

There was a lengthy pause.

Well, he’d just broken a law. It shouldn’t take too long to drive back to Cheyenne. He wouldn’t even need the GPS, although it would probably be simpler to use it. The Soderling address was already programmed into the system, and the woman with the soothing and infinitely patient voice was waiting to guide him home, and get him there in plenty of time for dinner. And Denia was a good cook, no question about it, and—

The buzzer sounded. He pushed the door open and went on in.

The elevator was industrial, but it had been converted to self-service when the building turned residential. There’d been a 4 next to the bell marked HEANEY, so he pushed the appropriate button and rode to the fourth floor. The elevator door glided open, and there she was, holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

While he hadn’t formed a mental picture of her in advance, it would have been hard to improve on reality. Trish Heaney was no more than five foot four, but she made an impression. She wore wheat-colored jeans and a fuzzy pink sweater, both garments skintight. The jeans would have been tight on anyone who wasn’t severely anorexic, but most women who could have squeezed themselves into the jeans would have found the sweater a loose fit.

And that might have been true of this woman, he thought, before some obliging nip-and-tuck artist had put her in competition with Dolly Parton. The result was impressive, he had to admit, but no more convincing than the vivid red hue of her upswept hair. She had a butterfly tattoo on her neck, and the Geico gecko inked onto the back of one hand, and enough piercings to put a metal detector on tilt, and God knows what else she had underneath the sweater and jeans.

“You’re a cop,” she said. “You don’t look like a cop.”

“You don’t look like a kindergarten teacher.”

“Who said I was—” She broke off, frowned, took a deep drag on her cigarette. “That supposed to be a joke? You want to show me some ID?”

“I could,” he said.

Or, he thought, he could cut to the chase. One hand cupping her chin, one hand grabbing that mop of red hair. Be over before she knew it.


“But once I do,” he said, “this becomes official. You sure that’s what you want?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“There’s a guy in the hospital, touch and go whether he lives or dies. I won’t mention his name, but you wouldn’t be living here if he wasn’t paying for it.”

“This is my place,” she said. “The deed’s in my name. And I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Was this working? Keller wasn’t sure. The cigarette smoke was bothering him, and so was her perfume, an overpowering floral scent redolent with musk.

He said, “Sure you do, Trish. You were all set to get Richard Hudepohl away from his wife, and then you realized he’d be broke after the divorce. But suppose he didn’t have to go through a divorce? Suppose something happened to his wife and kids?”

“Not the kids,” she said, and put her hand to her mouth.

“Not the wife, either,” Keller said, “because old Tyler burned the house down with the wrong person in it.”

“She took his car,” she said, “and all Tyler saw was the car, and the kids in the backseat. He couldn’t see who was driving it. If you’re wearing a wire, that’s too fucking bad. You never did read me my rights.”

“Or show you my ID,” he reminded her. “Because this isn’t official. Trish, there’d be nothing easier than hanging this on Tyler, and if he’s in it then you’re in it, and having your rights read to you isn’t going to help you. But I’m the only person who made the connection, and why would I want to see you go to prison?”

She looked at him, breathed in, breathed out. Really a bad idea, that perfume she was wearing. He could see how it might work on a primitive level, but it was so blatant, and so unpleasant—

“What do you want?”

“Your boyfriend’s professional services, Trish. I got property that’s underwater.”

She frowned. “How can it burn if it’s underwater?”

“It’s an expression,” he said. “It means I owe more money on it than it’s worth. The bank’s set to foreclose on the mortgage, and when that happens, my investment goes up in smoke.”


“Unless the property goes up in smoke first. Call him, get him to come over here. You’ll both make a few dollars, and I’ll forget what I happen to know about you and a man named Hudepohl. And Trish? Have you got a gun in the house?”


That was as good as a yes. “Get it for me,” he said.


Halfway to Cheyenne, he spotted a sign for a country-style chain restaurant and found it at the next exit. The menu ran heavily to quaint—Grampa Gussie’s Crispy Taters, hand-cut wif his own Bowie knife—but the food was what you’d get pretty much anywhere. He ate half of a grilled cheese sandwich and drank a few sips of his iced tea and let it go at that.

He stopped at La Quinta and caught the late local news on the CBS affiliate in Denver. A jeweler on Colfax Avenue had been robbed, apparently by a gang who’d been making a habit of this sort of thing. And the weather was going to be more of the same, although it took the weather girl ten minutes to convey that information.

Nothing about anyone named Hudepohl, or Heaney, or Crowe.

At first he thought Denia had retired for the night. The ground-floor lights were mostly turned down, and he used the key she’d given him and softened his step once he was inside.

The dining room table was cleared, the room dark. He padded across the carpet toward the staircase when she spoke his name. He turned, and saw her in an armchair in the dimly lit parlor. She was wearing a robe, and her feet were bare.

“It won’t be any trouble to warm something up for you,” she said. “But I’ve a feeling you’ve eaten.”

“The fellow I had to meet was hungry,” he said, “so I kept him company.”

“I didn’t have any appetite,” she said, “so I had a couple of drinks instead and wound up going to bed on an empty stomach. And then I couldn’t sleep after all, and I still didn’t have any appetite, and I was too restless to lie there and wait for sleep to come. Do you ever have nights like that?”

“Once in a while.”

“This is a robe of Jeb’s. That’s his actual name, incidentally. J-E-B, it’s not short for anything, though people assume it’s short for Jebediah. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone named Jebediah. Have you?”

“I don’t believe so.”

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