Grave Surprise Page 20

"You don't think he's a virtuous man?"

"I think he is. I don't think he's a crook, or a secret addict, or a cheater."

"So, your sole objection is that he doesn't have to work for love?"

"I'm saying, there's something wrong about getting so much invested in you without setting out to earn it."

Tolliver shrugged. "I'm still not sure I understand," he said.

I couldn't explain it any better. I'm not real good at explaining things, especially emotional things. But I knew what I meant. And I didn't entirely trust Joel Morgenstern.

Chapter eleven

WHEN we got back to the hotel, Rick Goldman was waiting for us, sitting in the same chair in the lobby he'd used before.

"I should've figured he'd show up, considering the scene last night," I told Tolliver. "I wonder if he's told the cops yet."

I introduced Rick to Tolliver as politely as if Rick had come to ask us to tea. But there was a muscle jumping in the private detective's jaw, and his whole body was tense.

"Can we have this talk somewhere a little more private?" he growled at me.

Tolliver said, "That would be best, I think. Come with us."

The ride up in the elevator was silent and ominous.

The maids had been in, and the room looked clean and welcoming, I was glad to see. There's something kind of seedy in having guests in your hotel room when the evidence of your stay is strewn all around you in disorderly heaps; room service cart, crumpled newspapers, discarded books, a shoe here and there. I'd been enjoying having a sitting room at this hotel, though I never forgot I was paying for it through the nose.

"You didn't have to kill Nunley," Rick Goldman said. "I know he was an obnoxious drunk, but he didn't hurt you." He switched his level gaze to Tolliver. "Or were you so angry he manhandled your sister that you tracked him down after I left?"

"I might just as well suspect you," I retorted, not a little pissed off. "You're the one laid hands on him. You can leave right now if you're going to sit there and accuse us of stuff without having the slightest bit of evidence that we ever saw the man again."

I took my jacket off and walked over to the door of my room, tossing it inside. Tolliver unbuttoned his more slowly. "I take it you've been to the police already with your little story about what happened in the lobby," he said.

"Of course," said Rick. "Clyde Nunley was an asshole, but he was a professor at Bingham. He had a family. He deserves to have his murder solved."

"I saw he was married, on the news," I said. "Though, come to think of it, he didn't wear a wedding ring."

"Lots of men don't," Rick said.

"Not in my experience," I said, surprised.

"He had a metal allergy," Rick said.

"You knew him a little better than I thought."

"I read his personnel file," the private detective admitted.

"I'm betting the weird content of Clyde Nunley's classes wasn't the only reason he was being investigated," Tolliver said. "I'm betting he had some affairs, maybe with a student or two? And the college decided they'd better check him out. Am I right?"

"There was a certain amount of talk on campus."

"His wife wasn't so amazed when he didn't come home at night," I said. "She didn't even call the police until the next morning." I sat on the couch and crossed my legs, lacing my fingers together in my lap. Tolliver was still hovering around the room, too restless to perch. Our guest had thrown himself down into one of the wing chairs without waiting for us to ask him to be seated.

"Rick, do you still have a lot of friends on the force?" Tolliver asked.


"So you won't mind when they ask the staff what they saw last night?"

"Of course not."

"Even when they tell your former colleagues that they watched you throw a guy out of the lobby, while my sister was absolutely passive?"

I made my eyes look all big and tearful. I look frail anyway, no matter how tough I actually can be.

"I wonder who they'll remember being violent and forceful, you or Harper?"

"Damn. And I was helping her out." Rick Goldman looked at us as if he could not believe people like us were walking the earth unjudged. "You people!"

"I did appreciate your helping me, right up until the time you insulted me," I said. "But Clyde Nunley was a pest, not a danger. Now he's dead, and I had nothing to do with it. We were just over at the Morgensterns', and they heard the news while we were there. Pretty upsetting."

"They asked you to their house?" This, again, got a big reaction.

I said, "Some people don't treat us as if we were frauds and murderers."

He threw up his hands, as if I'd stepped over a dearly held boundary. "I give up," he said.

A little drama on the part of the old Rickster.

"You two are no better than scam artists," he said. "It makes me crazy that I can't figure out how you do it. You were right on the money about those deaths, right on the money. How'd you get the documents ahead of time? I really want to know how you did it!"

There's no convincing someone who's not open to reason, or to anything else, for that matter.

"You're not going to believe I'm the real thing, anytime soon," I said. "There's no point in talking to you. Besides, the police will be coming, and I want to shower before they get here." That wasn't true. I'd already showered. I just wanted Rick Goldman to leave, right away.

Chapter twelve

MANFRED Bernardo called us from the lobby about three o'clock, asking if he could come up. I smiled when I imagined what the staff was making of Manfred, with his metallic face.

"I wonder what happens when he goes through airport security detectors?" I said to Tolliver. He'd been reading a Robert Crais mystery, one of the earlier ones featuring Elvis Cole, and he'd been smiling to himself from time to time.

"I don't think that's a problem Manfred confronts often," Tolliver said, but not as if he cared one way or another.

Manfred enjoyed touching people. When I answered the door, I observed that he was perhaps only an inch or two taller than I, but even as I was registering that, he leaned over to give me a kiss on the cheek.

I didn't give him one in return, because casual kissing's not my way. But I think I was smiling as I showed him into the room.

"Hello, Tolliver," he said, as Tolliver rose to shake his hand. Tolliver just goggled at Manfred for a second. Manfred was wearing all black again; this time he was encased in leather pants, a sheer black T-shirt, and a leather jacket. He was wearing heavy boots and a small fortune in silver on his hands, face, and neck. His platinum hair had been touched up, and his goatee matched. I wondered if all this was for my benefit, or if Manfred just loved looking remarkable for its own sake.

"Please, have a seat. I hope your grandmother's well?" I asked. I sat on the love seat, expecting Manfred to take the wing chair next to Tolliver's, but he sat down beside me.

"She's not doing real good," Manfred said. His smile faded, and I could see he was worried. "She's having bad dreams about people in graves they weren't supposed to be in."

"Have you been watching the news? I don't know how close you live to Memphis, but you get the Memphis news in the evening?"

"We don't watch television," Manfred said simply. "Grandma thinks it interferes with her brain waves. If I want to catch a program, I go over to a friend's."

"Then let us show you what an FBI agent brought us today," Tolliver suggested, and after he turned on the television, he ran the tape.

Manfred watched silently. He had taken hold of my hand, which was odd, but it didn't seem sexual. It seemed as if he was trying to connect with some emanation I was giving off. The Bernardo family must have some very interesting family reunions if they were all as sensitive as Xylda and Manfred.

"No, we're the only ones," Manfred said absently, still focused on the television. His many silver rings were just now warming to room temperature after his walk into the hotel.

My eyes widened for a moment, and Tolliver glanced at me as if to ask me what was wrong, but I shook my head. He looked at Manfred's hand on mine, and raised his eyebrows to ask if I was uncomfortable. I shook my head, letting him know it wasn't a problem.

After the tape had run, Manfred said, "The man in the grave was the man who asked you to come here to do the reading?"

"Yes," I said.

"So there was an old burial first, when the church was still open, am I right?"

I nodded. Manfred's eyes were very blue, and though they were focused on me, they weren't seeing me.

"And then the little girl was in there?"


"Then you found the man last night, when you were in the cemetery?"

I jumped, but Manfred's hand kept mine prisoner, gently but firmly.

"Yes," said Tolliver slowly. "We found him last night."

"My grandmother was doing a reading for you, at the time you found him, and she knows you saw the visitor."

Manfred said. I had the uncomfortable feeling his eyes were looking right through me.

"Visitor?" I asked.

"That's what she calls ghosts," Manfred said, and suddenly he was just a very young man again, holding hands with a woman he thought was cute, and giving her a big grin. The stud in his tongue winked at me. "Grandma uses a lot of her own terminology."

This was a most interesting boy. He seemed not to have had much experience of the world, and yet he knew some unexpected things. I had the feeling Manfred would not be overawed or even impressed by riches or sophistication.

"Not a boy," he said, smiling, looking directly into my eyes. The sexual tone was back with a roar. "I'm definitely a man."

I didn't know if I was a bit excited, or if I wanted to run screaming into my room. I smiled at him.

"Grandma wanted me to tell you you'll see Tabitha's first grave," he said. "I didn't understand when she gave me the message. Her hip is acting up too bad for her to leave home today, so she asked me to come see you. She likes you a lot, you know. She wanted to warn you. Watch out for that grave."

As he had in the coffee shop, he bent and kissed my hand, making sure I got the gamut of sensations for the second time. He looked up at me from his bent posture. "Makes you think, doesn't it?" he said softly.

"Thinking isn't doing," I said practically.

"Not yet," he said. He stood, shook Tolliver's hand, and left as suddenly as he'd arrived.

"What was all that about?" Tolliver said, looking distinctly suspicious.

"Evidently, when he's touching you, he can read your mind, sort of," I said, feeling a little uncomfortable that some of my thoughts had been fairly graphic. "I don't know if that applies to the populace in general, or to people who have some kind of psychic talent, or what."

"But Xylda is the only one who makes predictions," Tolliver said. "And she's added to them today. You'll be happy in the time of ice, whatever that means, and you'll see Tabitha's original grave."

"I don't think I want to hang around Xylda anymore," I said. "And if she reads the cards for me, I don't want to know about it. It just creeps me out."

"What about Manfred? You want to hang around him?" At least Tolliver was smiling when he said it.

"Oh," I said deprecatingly. "You know, he's more than a little different. I mean, you can't help but wonder, when you see someone so extreme..." Then I couldn't figure out how to finish the sentence.

Tolliver had mercy on me. "If I knew a girl with that many piercings, I'd wonder, too," he said.

"Well, it's already mid-afternoon, and we've had a helluva day. What could we do next that would make it just one round of fun?"

"I could balance the checkbook."

"Big whoop."

"We could see what the in-room movie service has to show."

"I'm sick of this room, and I'm ready to do something a little more active than watch a movie."

"You got an idea?"

"Yeah. Let's go down to the riverfront park to run."

"What about the reporter?"

"We'll sneak out the back."

"It's cold and it looks like rain."

"Then we better run fast."


WE avoided the reporters, but not the Memphis police. Detectives Young and Lacey were less than thrilled at our choice of activity when they tracked us down. I'd been wondering when we'd be hearing from them. I was only surprised they hadn't called the hotel and told us to get our asses down to the station.

They had on their London Fogs, their gloves, and their scarves. Lacey looked morose but resigned. Young looked resentful. Come to find out when we jogged over to them, Young had a cold. In the middle of her narrow face, her reddened nose stood out like a reindeer's, and she had a tissue clutched in the hand not occupied with an umbrella.

"Are you nuts?" she snarled. "Out here in your skintight whatevers, when it's freezing!" She made a vague gesture toward my running pants. I ran in place for a minute, slowing down gradually. I felt cold and wet, but I also felt exhilarated, as if the chilly damp air had blown away some of the cobwebs in my head.

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