A is for Alibi Page 78

"Thanks." I hung up the phone.

"Is someone dead?" Arlette asked. "Was it someone you knew?”

I looked right at her but I drew a blank. Why Gwen? What was happening?

She followed me out of the office and toward my room.

"Is there anything I can do to help? Do you need anything? You look awful, Kinsey. You're pale as a ghost.”

I closed the door behind me. I thought about that last image of Gwen, standing on the street, her face white. Could it have been an accident? Coincidence? Things were moving too quickly. Someone was beginning to panic and for reasons I still couldn't quite understand.

A possibility flashed into my head and out. I stood stock still, running it by me again like an old film clip. Maybe so. Maybe yes. It was all going to come together soon. It was all going to fit.

I threw everything into the backseat of my car, not even bothering to check out. I'd mail Arlette the damn twelve bucks.

The drive to the Valley was a blur, the car moving automatically, though I paid no attention whatever to road, sun, traffic, smog. When I reached the house in Sherman Oaks where Lyle was laying brick, I saw his battered truck parked out front. I didn't have any more time to waste and I didn't want to play games. I locked the car and went up the drive, going around the side of the house to the back. I caught sight of Lyle before he caught sight of me. He was bending over a pile of two-by-fours: faded jeans, work boots, no shirt, a cigarette in the comer of his mouth.


He turned around. I had the gun out and trained on him. I held it with two hands, legs apart, meaning business He froze instantly where he stood, not saying a word.

I felt cold and my voice was tight, but the gun never wavered an inch. "I want some answers and I want them now," I said. I saw him glance to his right. There was a hammer lying on the ground but he made no move.

"Back up," I said, stepping forward slightly until I was between him and the hammer. He did as instructed, the pale blue eyes sliding back to mine, hands coming up.

"I don't want to shoot you, Lyle, but I will.”

For once, he didn't look sullen or sly or arrogant. He stared straight at me with the first sign of respect I'd seen from him.

"You're the boss," he said.

"Don't fuckin' smart-mouth me," I snapped. "I'm not in the mood. Now sit down in the grass. Out there. And don't move a muscle unless I tell you to.”

Obediently, he moved out to a small stretch of grass and sat down, eyes on me the whole time. It was quiet and I could hear birds chirping stupidly but we seemed to be alone and I liked it that way. I kept the gun pointed right at his chest, willing my hands not to shake. The sun was hot and it made him squint.

"Tell me about Libby Glass," I said.

"I didn't kill her," he shot back uneasily.

"That's not the point. I want to know what went on. I want to know what you haven't told me yet. When did you see her last?”

He shut his mouth.

"Tell me!”

He didn't have Gwen's poise and he didn't have her smarts. The sight of the gun seemed to help him make up his mind.


"The day she died, right?”

"That's right, but I didn't do anything. I went over to see her and we had a big fight and she was upset.”

"All right, all right. Skip the buildup. What else?”

He was silent.

"Lyle," I said, warningly. The muscles in his face seemed to pull together like a drawstring purse and he started to weep. He put his hands up over his face pathetically. He'd kept it in for a long time. If I was wrong about this, I was wrong about everything. I couldn't let him off the hook.

"Just tell me," I said, tone dead, "I need to know.”

I thought he was coughing but I knew what I heard were sobs. He might have been nine years old, looking squeezed up and frail and small.

"I gave her a tranq," he said with anguish. "She asked for one and I found this bottle in the medicine cabinet and gave it to her. God, I even gave her a glass of water. I loved her so much.”

The first rush subsided and he dashed at the tears on his face with a grubby hand, leaving streaks of dirt. He hugged himself, rocking back and forth in misery, tears streaming down his bony cheeks again.

"Go on," I said.

"I left after that but I felt bad and I went back later and that's when I found her dead on the bathroom floor. I was afraid they'd find my fingerprints and think I'd done something to her so I wiped the whole place down.”

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