O is for Outlaw Page 32


"Strange wedding present," Aldo remarked.

"He's a strange guy," I said.

"Where's the gun at this time?"

"Beats me. I haven't laid eyes on it for years. I assumed Mickey took it with him when he moved to L.A."

"So you haven't seen the gun since approximately . . ."

I looked from Claas to Aldo as the obvious implications began to sink in. I'd been slow on the uptake. "Wait a minute. That was the gun used?"

"Let's put it this way: Yours was the gun that was found at the scene. We're still waiting for ballistics."

"You can't think I had anything to do with it."

"Your name popped up in the computer as the registered owner. We're looking for a starting point, and this made sense. If Mr. Magruder carried the gun, it's possible someone took it away from him and shot him with it."

"That puts me in the clear," I said facetiously. I felt 1like biting my tongue. Sarcasm is the wrong tack to take with cops. Better to play humble and cooperative.

A silence settled between the two. They'd seemed friendly and confiding, but I knew from experience there'd be a sizable gap between the version they'd given me and the one they'd withheld. Aldo took a stick of gum from his coat pocket and tore it in half. He tucked half in his pocket and slipped the paper wrapper and the foil from the other half. He slid the chewing gum into his mouth. He seemed disinterested for the moment, but I knew they'd spend the return trip comparing notes, matching their reactions and intuitions against the information I'd given them.

Claas shifted on the couch. "Can you tell us when you last spoke to Mr. Magruder?"


"It's Mickey. Please use his first name. This is hard enough as it is. He left Santa Teresa in 1977. I don't remember talking to him after we divorced."

"Can you tell us what contact you've had since then? "

"You just asked that. I've had none."

Claas's gaze fixed on mine, rather pointedly, I thought. "You haven't spoken to him in the past few months," he said, not a question, but a statement infused with skepticism.

"No. Absolutely not. I haven't talked to him."

While Detective Claas tried to hold my attention, I could see that Aldo was making a discreet visual tour of the living room. His gaze moved from item to item, methodically assessing everything within range. Desk, files, box, answering machine, bookshelves. I could almost hear him thinking to himself: Which of these objects doesn't belong? I saw his focus shift back to the cardboard box, So far, I hadn't said a word about the delinquent payments on Mickey's storage bin. On the face of it, I couldn't see how withholding the information represented any criminal behavior on my part. What justice was I obstructing? Who was I aiding and abetting? I didn't shoot my ex. I wasn't in custody and wasn't under oath. If it seemed advisable, I could always contact the detectives later when I "remembered" something relevant. All this went through my mind in the split second while I was busy covering my butt. If the two picked up on my uneasiness, neither said a word. Not that I expected them to gasp and exchange significant looks.

Detective Claas cleared his throat again. "What about him? Has he been in touch with you?"

I confess a little irritability was creeping into my response. "That's the same thing, isn't it, whether I talk to him or he talks to me? We divorced years ago. We don't have any reason to stay in touch. If he called, I'd hang up. I don't want to talk to him."

Aldo's tone was light, nearly bantering. What are you so mad about? The poor guy's down for the count."

I felt myself flush. "Sorry. That's just how it is. We're not one of those couples that turned all lovey-dovey once the papers were signed. I have nothing against him, but I've never been interested in being his best friend, nor he mine, I might add."

"Same with my ex," he said. "Still, sometimes there's a piece of business, you know, a stock certificate or news of an old pal. You might forward the mail, even if you hate their guts. It's not unusual for one ex to drop the other a note if something relevant comes up."

"Mickey doesn't write notes."

Claas shifted in his seat. "What's he do then, call?"

I could feel myself grow still. Why was he so determined to pursue the point? "Look. For the fourth or fifth time now, Mickey and I don't talk. Honest. Cross my heart. Scout's honor and all that. We're not enemies. We're not antagonistic. We just don't have that kind of relationship."

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