A is for Alibi Page 45

I smiled and tossed my shoes up on the beach, starting to jog.

"Do you jog?" I called back over my shoulder.

"Yeah, some," he said, catching up. He began to trot at my side.

"What happens if I work up a sweat?" I asked. "Can we get cleaned up?”

"The neighbors let me use their shower.”

"Great," I said and picked up the pace.

We ran, not exchanging a word, just taking in sun and sand and dry heat. The whole time, the same question came up over and over again. How could Sharon Napier fit into this scheme? What could she possibly have known that she didn't live long enough to tell? So far, none of it made sense. Not Fife's death, not Libby's, not Sharon's death eight years later. Unless she was blackmailing someone. I glanced back at the little trailer, still visible, looking remarkably close in the odd perspective of the flat desert landscape. There was no one else around. No sign of vehicles, no boogeymen on foot. I smiled at Greg. He wasn't even panting yet.

"You're in good shape," I said.

"So are you. How long do we keep this up?”

"Thirty minutes. Forty-five.”

We chunked along for a while, the sand causing mild pains in my calves.

"How about I ask you three?" he said.


"How'd you get along with your old man?”

"Oh great," I said. "He died when I was five. Both of them did. In a car wreck. Up near Lompoc. Big rock rolled down the mountain and smashed the windshield. Took them six hours to pry me out of the back. My mother cried for a while and then she stopped. I still hear it sometimes in my sleep. Not the sobs. The silence after that. I was raised by my aunt. Her sister.”

He digested that. "You married?”

"Was. " I held up two fingers.

He smiled. "Is that for 'twice' or question number two?" I laughed. "That's number three.”

"Hey come on. You cheat.”

"All right. One more. But make it count.

"You ever kill anyone?”

I glanced over at him with curiosity. It seemed like a strange follow-up. "Let's put it this way," I said. "I did my first homicide investigation when I was twenty-six. A job I did for the public defender's office. A woman accused of killing her own kids. Three of them. Girls. All under five. Taped their mouths, hands, and feet, then put them in garbage cans and let them suffocate. I had to look at the glossy eight-by-ten police photographs. I got cured of any homicidal urges. Also any desire for motherhood.”

"Jesus," he said. "And she really did it?”

"Oh sure. She got off, of course. Pleaded temporary insanity. She might be back on the streets again for all I know.

"How do you keep from getting cynical?" he asked.

"Who says I'm not?”

While I showered in the trailer next door, I tried to think what else I might learn from Greg. I was feeling restless, anxious to be on the road again. If I could get to Claremont by dark, I could talk to Diane first thing in the morning and then drive back to Los Angeles after lunch. I toweled my hair dry and dressed. Greg had opened another beer for me, which I sipped while I waited for him to get cleaned up. I glanced at my watch. It was 3:15. Greg came into the trailer, leaving the door open, sliding the screen door shut. His dark hair was still damp and he smelled of soap.

"You look poised for flight," he said, getting himself a beer. He popped the cap.

"I'm thinking I should try to get to Claremont before dark," I said. "You have any messages for your sister?”

"She knows where I am. We talk now and then, often enough to keep caught up," he said. He sat down in the canvas chair, propping his feet up on the padded bench next to me. "Anything else you want to ask?”

"Couple of things if you don't mind," I said.

"Fire away.”

"What do you remember about your father's allergies?”

"Dogs, cat dander, sometimes hay fever but I don't know what that consisted of exactly.”

"He wasn't allergic to any kind of food? Eggs? Wheat?”

Greg shook his head. "Not that I ever heard. Just stuff in the air—pollens, things like that.”

"Did he have his allergy capsules with him when the family came down here that weekend?”

"I don't remember that. I would guess no. He knew we'd be out in the desert and the air down here is usually pretty clear even in late summer, early fall. The dog wasn't with us. We left him at home, so Dad wouldn't have needed the allergy medication for that, and I don't think there was anything else he needed it for.”

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