A is for Alibi Page 26

The next day was Sunday and I devoted that to myself: laundry, housecleaning, grocery shopping. I even shaved my legs just to show I still had some class. Monday morning I did clerical work. I typed up a report for Nikki and put in another call to the local credit bureau just to double-check. Sharon Napier had apparently left town with a lot of money owed and a lot of people mad. They had no forwarding address so I gave them the information I had. Then I had a long talk with California Fidelity on the subject of Marcia Threadgill. For forty-eight hundred dollars, the insurance company was almost ready to settle with her and move on, and I had to argue with as much cunning as I could muster. My services on that one weren't costing them anything out of pocket and it pissed me off that they were halfway inclined to look the other way. I even had to stoop so low as the mention principles, which never sits that well with the claims manager. "She's cheating your ass," I kept saying, but he just shook his head as though there were forces at work that I was too dim to grasp. I told him to check with his boss and I'd get back to him.

By 2:00, I was on the road to Los Angeles. The other piece of the puzzle was Libby Glass and I needed to know how she fit into all of this. When I reached L.A., I checked into the Hacienda Motor Lodge on Wilshire, near Bundy. The Hacienda is not even remotely hacienda-like—an L-shaped, two-story structure with a cramped parking lot and a swimming pool surrounded by a chain-link fence with a padlock. A very fat woman named Arlette doubles as manager and switchboard operator. I could see straight into her apartment from the desk. It's furnished, I'm told, from her profits as a Tupperware lady, a little hustling she does on the side. She leans toward Mediterranean-style furniture upholstered in red plush.

"Fat is beautiful, Kinsey," she said to me confidentially as I filled out the registration card. "Looka here.”

I looked. She was holding out her arm so that I could admire the hefty down hang of excess flesh.

"I don't know, Arlette," I said dubiously. "I keep trying to avoid it myself.”

"And look at all the time and energy it takes," she said. "The problem is that our society shuns tubbos. Fat people are heavily discriminated against. Worse than the handicapped. Why, they got it easy compared to us. Everywhere you go now, there are signs out for them. Handicapped parking. Handicapped johns. You've seen those little stick figures in wheelchairs. Show me the international sign for the grossly overweight. We got rights.”

Her face was moon-shaped, surrounded by a girlish cap of wispy blonde hair. Her cheeks were permanently flushed as though vital supply lines were being dangerously squeezed.

"But it's so unhealthy, Arlette," I said. "I mean, don't you have to worry about high blood pressure, heart attacks ...”

"Well there's hazards to everything. All the more reason we should be treated decently.”

I gave her my credit card and after she made the imprint she handed me the key to room #2. "That's right up here close," she said. "I know how you hate being stuck out back.”


I've been in room #2 about twenty times and it is always dreary in a comforting sort of way. A double bed. Threadbare wall-to-wall carpeting in a squirrel gray. A chair upholstered in orange plastic with one gimpy leg. On the desk, there is a lamp shaped like a football helmet with "UCLA" printed on the side. The bathroom is small and the shower mat is paper. It is the sort of place where you are likely to find someone else's underpanties beneath the bed. It costs me $11.95 plus room tax in the offseason and includes a "Continental" breakfast, instant coffee and jelly doughnuts, most of which Arlette eats herself. Once, at midnight, a drunk sat on my front step and yelled for an hour and a half until the cops came and took him away. I stay there because I'm cheap.

I set my suitcase on the bed and took out my jogging clothes. I did a fast walk from Wilshire to San Vicente and then headed west at a trot as far as Twenty-sixth Street, where I tagged a stop sign and turned around, jogging back up to Westgate and across to Wilshire again. The first mile is the one that hurts. I was panting hard when I got back. Given the exhaust fumes I'd taken in from passing motorists on San Vicente, I figured I was about neck-and-neck with toxic wastes. Back in room #2 again, I showered and dressed and then checked back through my notes. Then I made some phone calls. The first was to Lyle Abernathy's last-known work address, the Wonder Bread Company, down on Santa Monica. Not surprisingly, he had left and the personnel office had no idea where he was. A quick check in the phone book showed no listing for him locally, but a Raymond Glass still lived in Sherman Oaks and I verified the street number I had noted from the police files up in Santa Teresa. I placed another call to my friend in Vegas. He had a lead on Sharon Napier but said it would take him probably half a day to pin it down. I alerted Arlette that he might be calling and cautioned her to make sure the information, if she took it, was exact. She acted a little injured that I didn't trust her to take phone messages for me, but she'd been negligent before and it had cost me plenty last time around.

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