A is for Alibi Page 80

"She might have. She had a head for that kind of thing. She'd have had to trace the dividends through Moody's Dividend Book, which gives the amount of each dividend by company. Then if there was some kind of discrepancy, she might have asked for records or documentation—bank statements, canceled checks, stuff like that.”

"Yeah, well Lyle told me last week that there were lots of phone calls back and forth, some attorney driving down for dinner. It finally occurred to me that Charlie might have engineered an affair with her in the hopes that she'd cover for him.”

"Or maybe he offered her a cut," Garry said.

"Oh God, would she have done that?”

Garry shrugged. "Hey, who knows? Would he?”

I stared down at his desk top. "Yeah, I think so," I said. "You know, everybody kept saying that she was involved with some Santa Teresa attorney and we all assumed it was Fife because, both died the same way. But if I'm right about this embezzlement business then I need proof. Are the files still at your place?”

"No, I've got 'em right here as a matter of fact. I thought I'd take a look at 'em during my lunch hour. I've been having cottage cheese but I don't think that counts as food so I thought I'd do without. I brought 'em in yesterday and then I got tied up. Now that you mention it, I do think she was working on that account when she died, because the cops found her briefcase at her place," he said. He gave me a curious look. "How'd you fix on him?”

I shook my head. "I don't know. It just popped into my brain and it fit. Charlie told me that Fife made a trip to Los Angeles sometime in the week before he died, but I don't think that's true. I think probably Charlie made the trip himself and it would have been within a day or two after Laurence died. Libby had a bottle of tranqs and I think he doctored some, who knows, maybe all of 'em. We'll never know about that.”

"Jesus. He killed Fife too?”

I shook my head. "No, I know who killed Fife. My guess is that Charlie saw a way to bail himself out. Maybe Libby wouldn't play ball with him or maybe she'd threatened to turn him in. Not that I've got any evidence one way or the other.”

"Hey, it'll come," he said soothingly. "If it's there, we'll find it. I'll start on the files this afternoon.”

"Good," I said, "I'd like that.”

"Take care.”

We shook hands across the desk.

I drove back to Santa Teresa, resolutely refusing to think of Gwen. Thinking about Charlie Scorsoni was depressing enough. I would have to check his whereabouts at the time Sharon died, but he could easily have checked out of the hotel in Denver and flown straight to Las Vegas, picking up my location from the answering service, finding my motel, and then following me to the Fremont. I thought about Sharon that moment in the coffee shop when I thought she'd seen someone she knew. She'd said it was the pit boss signaling the end of her break, but I was sure she was lying. Charlie may have put in an appearance then, pulling back when he spotted me. Maybe she thought he had shown up to pay her off. I was relatively certain she'd been leaning on him for bucks, but then again, I'd have to pin that down. Sharon must have known that Fife was never involved with Libby Glass sexually. It was Charlie who'd been making the trips down to Los Angeles to discuss the accounts. Sharon must have kept her mouth shut during the trial, watching the whole tale unfold, biding her time, eventually cashing in on whatever information she had. It was also possible that Charlie Scorsoni hadn't known where she was, that I'd led him straight down the path to her door. I was aware, as I went over the sequence of events, that much of it sounded like a lot of fancy guesswork, but I felt I was headed in the right direction and I could probe now for corroborating evidence.

If Charlie had killed Gwen in that hit-and-run accident, there were bound to be ways to trace it back to him: hair and fibers on the fender of his car, which probably sustained some damage that would have to be repaired; paint flakes and glass fragments on Gwen's clothes. Maybe even a witness somewhere. It would have been much wiser if Charlie'd never made a move, just held tight and kept his mouth shut, lying low. It probably would have been impossible to put a case together against him after all these years. There was an arrogance in his behavior, a hint that he considered himself too smart and too slick to get caught. No one was that good. Especially at the rate he'd been operating these days. He had to be making mistakes.

And why not just go down for the count on the original embezzlement? He must have been desperately trying to cover for himself in Laurence Fife's eyes. But even if he'd been exposed, even if he'd been caught, I didn't believe Laurence would have turned him in. As sleazy as Fife had been in his personal life, I knew he was scrupulously honest in business matters. Still, Charlie was his best friend and the two went a long way back together. He might have warned Charlie off or smacked his hand, perhaps even dissolved the partnership. But I didn't think Charlie would have gone to jail or been disbarred from the practice of law. His life probably wouldn't have been ruined and he probably wouldn't have lost what he'd worked so hard to achieve. He would have lost Laurence Fife's good opinion and his trust perhaps, but he must have known that when he first put his hand in the cookie jar. The ludicrous fact of the matter is that in this day and age, a white-collar criminal can become a celebrity, a hero, can go on talk shows and write bestselling books. So what was there to sweat? Society will forgive just about anything except homicide. It was hard to shrug that one off, hard to rationalize that one away and whereas before, Charlie might have come out somewhat tarnished but intact, he was in big trouble now and things just seemed to be getting worse.

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