A is for Alibi Page 63

I dropped the film off to be developed, making sure it was properly dated and identified. Still photographs were not going to be much good to us, especially without a witness to corroborate my testimony as to the date, time, and circumstance, but the pictures might at least persuade the claims manager at California Fidelity to pursue the case, which was the best I could hope for at this point. With his authorization, I could go back with a video outfit and a real photographer and pick up some footage that would stand up in court.

I should have known he wouldn't see it that way. Andy Motycka is in his early forties and he still bites his nails. He was working on his right hand that day, trying to gnaw off what remained of his thumb. It made me nervous just to look at him. I kept expecting him to rip loose a big triangle of flesh at the comer of his cuticle. I could feel my face set with distaste and I had to stare just over his shoulder to the left. Before I was even halfway through my explanation, he was shaking his head.

"Can't do it," he said bluntly. "This chick doesn't even have an attorney. We're supposed to get a signed release from the doctor next week. No deal. I don't want to mess this one up. Forty-eight hundred dollars is chicken feed. It'd cost us ten grand to go into court. You know that.”

"Well, I know, but—”

"But nothing. The risk is too great. I don't even know why Mac had you check this one out. Look, I know it frosts your ass, but so what? You set her off and she'll go straight out and hire a lawyer and next thing you know, she'll sue us for a million bucks. Forget it.”

"She'll just do it again somewhere else," I said.

Andy shrugged.

"Why do I waste my time on this shit," I said, voice rising with frustration.

"Beats me," he said conversationally. "Let me see the pix, though, when you get 'em back. Her tits are huge.”

"Screw you," I said and moved on into my office.


There were two messages on my answering service. The first was from Garry Steinberg. I called him back.

"Hey, Kinsey," he said when I'd been put through.

"Hi, Garry. How are you?”

"Not bad. I've got a little piece of information for you," he said. I could tell from his tone that he was feeling satisfied with himself, but what he said next still took me by surprise.

"I looked up that job application on Lyle Abernathy this morning. Apparently he worked for a while as an apprentice to a locksmith. Some old guy named Fears.

"A locksmith?”

"That's right. I called the guy this morning. You'd have loved it. I said Abernathy had applied for a job as a security guard and I was doing a background check. Fears hemmed and hawed some and finally said he'd had to fire the kid. Fears was getting a lot of complaints about missing cash on jobs where Lyle had worked and he began to suspect he was involved in petty thievery. He never could prove it, but he couldn't afford to take the chance, so he let Lyle go.”

"Oh God, that's great," I said. "That means Lyle could have gotten into the Fifes' house anytime he wanted to. Libby's too.”

"It looks that way. He worked for Fears for eight months and he sure picked up enough information to give it a try, judging from what Fears said. Unless they had burglar alarms or something like that.”

"Listen, the only security system they had in effect was a big German shepherd that got hit by a car six weeks before Laurence Fife died. He and his wife and kids were away when the dog was killed.”

"Nice," Garry said. "Nothing you could prove after all this time, but it might put you on the right track at any rate. What about the application? You want a copy?”

"I'd love it. What about Fife's accounts?”

"I've got those at my place and I'll look at 'em when I can. It's a lot of stuff. In the meantime, I just thought you might want to know about that locksmith stint.”

"I appreciate your help. Jesus, what a shmuck that guy is.”

"I'll say. Hey, I got another call coming in. I'll be in touch." He gave me his home phone in case I needed him.

"You're terrific. Thanks.”

The second message was from Gwen at K-9 Korners. One of her assistants answered and I listened to assorted dogs bark and whine while Gwen came to the phone.


"Yeah, it's me. I got your call. What's happening?”

"Are you free for lunch?”

"Just a minute. I'll check my appointment book," I said. I put my palm against the mouth of the receiver and looked at my watch. It was 1:45. Had I eaten lunch? Had I even eaten breakfast today? "Yes, I'm free.”

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