A is for Alibi Page 82

I put in a call to Dolan at Homicide. He was out but I left a message, "important" underlined, that he should call me back when he got in. I tried Nikki at the beach and got her on the third ring.

"Hi, Nikki, it's me," I said. "Is everything okay?”

"Oh yeah. We're fine. I still haven't quite recovered from the shock of Gwen's death, but I don't know what to do about that. I never even knew the woman and it still seems a shame.”

"Did you get any details from Dolan? I just tried to call him and he's out.”

"Not a lot," she said. "He was awfully rude. Worse than I remember him and he wouldn't tell me much except the car that hit her was black.”

"Black?" I said with disbelief. I was picturing Charlie's pale blue Mercedes and I'd fully expected some detail that would tie that in. "Are you sure?”

"That's what he said. I guess the detectives have been checking with the body shops and garages but so far nothing's turned up.”

"That's odd," I said.

"Are you coming out for a drink? I'd love to hear what's going on.”

"Maybe later. I'm trying to clean up a couple of loose ends. I'll tell you what else I need. Maybe you can answer this. Remember the letter I showed you that Laurence wrote ...”

"Sure, the one to Libby Glass," she broke in quickly.

"Yeah, well I'm almost sure now that the letter was written to Elizabeth Napier instead.


"I'll fill you in on that later. I suspect that Elizabeth Napier was the one he got involved with when he was married to Gwen. Sharon Napier's mother.”

"Oh, the scandal," she said, light breaking. "Oh sure, it could well be. He never would tell me much about that. Messy business. I know the story because Charlotte Mercer filled me in on that, but I was never really sure of the name. God, that would have been way back in Denver, just after his law-school days.”

I hesitated. "Can you think who else would have known about that letter? Who could have had access to it? I mean, could Gwen?”

"I suppose so," she said. "Certainly Charlie would. He was working as a law clerk in the firm that represented the husband in that divorce and he lifted the letter from what I heard.”

"He what?”

"Stole it. Oh I'm sure that's the one. Didn't I ever tell you the end of that? Charlie snitched the letter, just cleaned out all the evidence, and that's why they ended up settling out of court. She didn't do that well but at least it got Laurence off the hook.”

"What happened to the letter? Could Charlie have kept the letter himself?”

"I don't know. I always assumed it had been destroyed but I guess he could have hung on to it. He never did get caught and I don't think the husband's attorney ever figured it out. You know how things disappear in offices. Probably some secretary got fired.”

"Could Gwen have testified to any of this?”

"What am I, the district attorney's office?" she said with a laugh. "How do I know what Gwen knew?”

"Well, whatever it was, she's quiet now," I said.

"Oh," she said and I could tell her smile had faded fast. "Oh, I don't like that. That's a terrible thought.”

"I'll tell you the rest when I see you. If I can get out there, I'll call first and make sure you're home.”

"We'll be here. I take it you're making progress.”

"Rapidly," I said.

Her good-byes were puzzled and mine were brief.

I hauled out my typewriter and committed everything I knew to paper in a lengthy and detailed report. Another piece had fallen into place. The night the storage bin was broken into, it was Charlie, not Lyle, who was planting the letter among Libby's belongings, hoping I'd find it, hoping he could shore up his own tale about Laurence Fife's "affair" with Libby Glass. Which probably also explained the key to her apartment that had been found on Laurence's key ring in the office. It wouldn't have been hard for Charlie to plant that one too. I typed on, feeling exhausted but determined to get it all down. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking of it as a safeguard, an insurance policy, but I wasn't sure what kind of coverage I needed. Maybe none. Maybe I didn't need protection, I thought. As it turned out, I was wrong.


I finished my report and locked it in my desk drawer. I went out to the parking lot and retrieved my car, heading north toward Charlie's house on Missile Avenue. Two doors down from his place was a house called Tranquility for reasons unknown. I parked in front of it and walked back. Charlie's house was a two-story structure with a painted—yellow—shingle exterior and a dark shingled roof, a bay window in front, a long narrow driveway to the left. It was the sort of house that might appear in an establishing shot for a television family show, something that might come on at 8:00 P.m., everything looking regular and wholesome and suitable for kids. There was no sign of his car in the drive, no sign of occupants. I eased along the driveway toward the garage, looking back over my shoulder as I went. There weren't even any nosy neighbors peering out at me. When I reached the one-car garage, I went around to the side, cupping my hands so that I could peer into the window. It was empty: a woodworking bench along the back wall, old lawn furniture, dust. I looked around, wondering whose black car it was and why the cops hadn't gotten a line on it yet. If I could fill in that blank, then I'd have something to talk to Con Dolan about. I was going to have something concrete.

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