A is for Alibi Page 49

"What is that thing?”

"Trimline Diet Snack Bar," she said. "Six calories each." Some of the filling seemed to be stuck to her teeth like dental putty and she ran a finger along her gums, popping goo into her mouth again. "Look at this label. I bet there's not one natural ingredient in this entire piece of food. Milk powder, hydrogenated fat, powdered egg, and a whole list of chemicals and additives. But you know what? I've noticed real food doesn't taste as good as fake. Have you noticed that? It's just a fact of life. Real food is bland, watered-down-tasting. You take a supermarket tomato. Now it's pathetic what that tastes like," she said and shuddered. I was trying to sort through my messages but she was making it hard.

"I bet this isn't even real flour in this thing," she said. "I mean, I've heard people say junk food just has empty calories, but who needs full ones? I like 'em empty. That way I figure I can't gain any more weight. That Charlie Scorsoni sure kept in touch, didn't he? He called once from Denver and then he called from Tucson and last night from Santa Teresa. Wonder what he wants. He sounded cute.

"I'll be in my room," I said.

"Well all right. Good enough. You want to return those calls, you just give me a buzz up here and I'll put you through.”

"Thanks," I said.

"Oh yeah, and I gave your telephone number in Las Vegas to a couple of people who didn't want to leave messages. I hope that's okay. You didn't say I couldn't refer calls.”

"No, that's fine," I said. "Any idea who it might have been?”

"Male and female, one each," she said airily.

When I got to my room, I kicked my shoes off and called Charlie Scorsoni's office and talked to Ruth.

"He was supposed to get back last night," she said. "But he didn't plan to come in to the office. You might try him at home.”

"Well, if I don't get him there, will you tell him I'm back in Los Angeles? He knows where to reach me here.

"Will do," she said.

The other message was a bonus. Apparently Garry Steinberg, the accountant at Haycraft and McNiece, had come back from New York a few days early and was willing to talk to me on Friday afternoon, which was today. I called and talked to him briefly, telling him I'd be there within the hour. Then I called Mrs. Glass and told her I should be out at her place shortly after supper. There was one more call I felt I should make, though I dreaded the necessity. I sat for a moment on the edge of the bed, staring at the phone and then I said to hell with it and dialed my friend in Las Vegas.

"Jesus, Kinsey," he said through his teeth. "I wish you wouldn't do this to me. I get you the lowdown on Sharon Napier and next thing I know she's dead.”

I gave him the situation as succinctly as I could but it didn't seem to ease his anxieties. Or mine. "It could have been anyone," I said. "We don't know that she was shot because of me.

"Yeah, but I got to cover myself anyway. Somebody remembers that I was asking around after this lady and then she's found with a bullet in her throat. I mean, how does that look?”

I apologized profusely and told him to let me know anything he found out. He didn't seem that eager to keep in touch. I changed clothes, putting on a skirt, hose, and heels, and then I drove to the Avco Embassy building and took the elevator to the tenth floor. I was feeling bad about Sharon Napier all over again, guilt sitting in my gut like a low-level colic. How could I have missed that appointment? How could that have happened to me? She knew something and if I'd gotten there on time, I might be wrapping this investigation up instead of being where I was—which was nowhere in particular. I made my way back into the imitation barnyard of Haycraft and McNiece, staring at the dried corn on the wall while I whipped myself some more.

Garry Steinberg turned out to be a very nice man. I guessed him to be in his early thirties, with dark curly hair, dark eyes, and a small gap between his front teeth. He was probably five feet, ten inches and his body looked soft, his waist puffing out like rising bread dough.

"You're noticing my waist, am I right?" he asked.

I shrugged somewhat sheepishly, wondering if he did or did not want me to comment. He motioned me into a chair and then sat down behind his desk.

"Let me show you something," he said, lifting a finger. He opened his top desk drawer and took out a snapshot, which he handed to me. I glanced at it.

"Who's this?”

"Perfect," he said. "That was the perfect response. That's me. When I weighed three hundred and ten pounds. Now I weigh two-sixteen.”

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