A is for Alibi Page 6

The room itself is fifteen feet square, outfitted as living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, closet, and laundry facility. Originally this was Henry's garage and I'm happy to say that it sports no stucco, red Spanish tile, or vines of any kind. It is made of aluminum siding and other wholly artificial products that are weather-resistant and never need paint. The architecture is completely nondescript. It is to this cozy den that I escape most days after work and it was from here that I called Nikki and asked her to meet me for a drink.


I do most of my hanging out in a neighborhood bar called Rosie's. It's the sort of place where you look to see if the chair needs brushing off before you sit down. The plastic seats have little rips in them that leave curls of nylon on the underside of your stockings and the tables have black Formica tops hand etched with words like hi. To the left above the bar, there's a dusty marlin, and when people get drunk, Rosie lets them shoot rubber-tipped arrows at it with a toy gun, thus averting aggressions that might otherwise erupt into vicious barroom snits.

The place appeals to me for a couple of reasons. Not only is it close to my home but it is never attractive to tourists, which means that most of the time it's half-empty and perfect for private conversations. Then, too, Rosie's cooking is inventive, a sort of devil-may-care cuisine with a Hungarian twist. It is with Rosie that Henry Pitts barters baked goods, so I get to eat his breads and pies as a dividend. Rosie is in her sixties with a nose that almost meets her upper lip, a low forehead, and hair dyed a remarkable shade of rust, rather like the color of cheap redwood furniture. She also does tricky things with an eyebrow pencil that makes her eyes look small and suspect.

When Nikki walked in that night, she hesitated, scanning the place. Then she spotted me and moved through the empty tables to the booth where I usually sit. She slid in across from me and eased out of her jacket. Rosie ambled over, eyeing Nikki with uneasiness. Rosie is convinced that I do business with Mafia types and drug crazies and she was probably trying to determine the category into which Nikki Fife might fit.

"So are you eating something or what?" Rosie said, getting straight to the point.

I glanced at Nikki. "Have you had dinner?”

She shook her head. Rosie's eyes moved from Nikki to me as though I might be translating for a deaf-mute.

"What have you got tonight?”

"It's veal porkolt. Veal cubes, lotta onion, paprika, and tomato paste. You'll love it. You'll go nuts. It's the best kinda stew I make. Henry's rolls and everything, and on a plate I'm gonna put some good soft cheese and a coupla gherkins.”

She was already writing the order down as she spoke, so it didn't require much from us in the way of consent. "You gonna have wine too. I'll pick the kind.”

When Rosie had left, I related the information I'd picked up in the files about the murder of Libby Glass, including the telephone calls that had been traced to Laurence's home phone.

"Did you know about her?”

Nikki shook her head. "I heard the name but it was through my attorney, sometime during the trial, I think. I can't even remember now what was said.”

"You never heard Laurence mention her? Never saw her name written down anyplace?”

"No little love notes if that's what you mean. He was meticulous about that sort of thing. He was once named as correspondent in a divorce action because of some letters he wrote and after that, he seldom put anything personal in writing. I usually knew when he was involved with someone but never because he left cryptic notes or telephone numbers on matchbook covers or anything like that.”

I thought about that one for a minute. "What about phone bills though? Why leave those around?”

"He didn't," Nikki said. "All the bills were sent to the business-management firm in Los Angeles.”

"And Libby Glass handled the account?”

"Apparently she did.”

"So maybe he called her on business matters.”

Nikki shrugged. She was a little less remote than she had been but I still had the feeling that she was one step removed from what was happening. "He was having an affair with someone.”

"How do you know?”

"The hours he kept. The look on his face." She paused, apparently thinking back. "Sometimes he would smell of someone else's soap. I finally accused him of that and afterwards he had a shower installed at the office and used the same kind of soap there that we used at home.

"Did he see women down at the office?”

"Ask his partner," she said with the faintest tinge of bitterness. "Maybe he even screwed 'em on the office couch, I don't know. Anyway it was little things. It sounds stupid now, but once he came home and the edge of his sock was turned down. It was summer and he said he'd been out playing tennis. He had on tennis shorts and he'd worked up a sweat all right, but not out on a public court. I really zapped him that time.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies