A is for Alibi Page 25

Gwen was the biggest chump who ever lived," she said without much interest. "I don't like the type myself and I don't know how she held on to him as long as she did. Laurence Fife was one cold cookie, which was why I was so crazy about him if you haven't guessed. I can't stand a man who fawns, you know what I mean? I can't stand a man sucking up to me, but he was the kind who took you right on the floor and he didn't even look at you afterwards when he zipped up his pants.

"That sounds crude enough," I said.

"Sex is crude, which is why we all run around doing it, which is why I was such a good match for him. He was crude as he was mean and that's the truth about him. Nikki was too refined, too lah-de-dah. So was Gwen.”

"So maybe he liked both extremes," I suggested.

"Well now, I don't doubt that. Probably so. Maybe he married the snooty ones and fooled around with flash.”

"What about Libby Glass? Did you ever hear about her?”

"Nope. No dice. Who else?”

God, this woman made me wish I had a list. I thought fast, trying to milk her while she was in the mood. I had the feeling the moment would pass and she'd turn sullen again.

"Sharon Napier," I said, as though it were a parlor game.

"Oh yeah. I checked that one out myself. The first time I ever laid eyes on that little snake, I knew something was off.”

"You think he was involved with her?”

"Oh no, it's better yet. Not her. Her mother. I hired a private dick to look that up. Ruined her life and Sharon knew about it, too, so up she pops years later and sticks it to him. Her parents broke up over him and Mommy had a nervous breakdown or turned to drink, some damn thing. I don't know all the details except he fucked everyone over but good and Sharon collected on that for years.”

"Was she blackmailing him?”

"Not for bucks. For her livelihood. She couldn't type. She barely knew how to spell her own name. She just wanted revenge, so she shows up every day for work and she does what she feels like doing and thumbs her nose at him. He took anything she dished out.”

"Could she have killed him?”

"Sure, why not? Maybe the gig wore thin or maybe just taking his pay from week to week wasn't good enough." She paused, pushing the ember out on her cigarette with a number of ineffectual stabs. She smiled over at me with cunning.

"I hope you don't think I'm rude," she said with a glance at the door. "But school's out. My esteemed husband, the good judge, is due home any second now and I don't want to sit and explain what you're doing in my house.”

"Fair enough," I said. "I'll let myself out. You've been a big help.”

"I'll bet." She got to her feet, setting her drink down on the glass-topped table with a resounding crack. There was no harm done and she recovered herself with a long slow look of relief.

She studied my face briefly. "You're gonna have to get your eyes done in a couple of years. Right now, you're okay," she pronounced.

I laughed. "I like lines," I said. "I earn mine. But thanks anyway.”

I left her on the patio and went around the side of the house to where my car was parked. The conversation wasn't sitting that well with me and I was glad to be on my way. Charlotte Mercer was shrewd and perhaps not above using her drunkenness for its effect. Maybe she'd been telling the truth and maybe not. Somehow the revelation about Sharon Napier seemed too pat. As a solution, it seemed too obvious. On the other hand, the cops are sometimes right. Homicide usually isn't subtle and most of the time, you don't have that far to look.


It took me a day and a half to come up with an address on Sharon Napier. By means I'd just as soon not spell out, I tapped into the Department of Motor Vehicles computer and discovered that her driver's license had expired some six years back. I checked with the Auto Title Department, making a quick trip downtown, and found that a dark green Karmann Ghia was registered in her name with an address that matched the last known address I had for her locally, but a side note indicated that the title had been transferred to Nevada, which probably meant that she'd left the state.

I placed a call to Bob Dietz, a Nevada investigator whose name I looked up in the National Directory. I told him what information I needed, and he said he'd call me back, which he did that afternoon. Sharon Napier had applied for and had been issued a Nevada driver's license; it showed a Reno address. His Reno sources, however, reported that she'd skipped out on a big string of creditors the previous March, which meant that she'd been gone for approximately fourteen months. He'd guessed that she was probably still in the state so he'd done some further nosing around. A small Reno credit company showed requests for information on her from Carson City and again from Las Vegas, which he thought was my best bet. I thanked him profusely for his efficiency and told him to bill me for his time but he said he'd just as soon trade tit for tat at some point, so I made sure he had my address and home phone if he needed it. I tried Information in Las Vegas, but there was no listing for her so I called a friend of mine down there and he said he'd check around. I told him I'd be driving to Los Angeles early in the week and gave him the number so he could reach me there in case it took him a while to pick up a lead on her.

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