O is for Outlaw Page 33


"Really. How would you characterize it? Friendly? Distant? Cordial?"

"What is this?" I said. "What's the relevance? I mean, come on, guys. You can't be serious. Why would I shoot my ex-husband with my own gun and leave it at the scene? I'd have to be nuts."

Aldo smiled to himself. "People get rattled. You never know what they'll do. We're just looking for information. Anything you can give us, we'd appreciate."

"Tell, me your theory," I said.

"We don't have a theory," Claas said. "We're hoping to eliminate some angles. You could save us a lot of time if you'd cooperate."

"I'm doing that. This is what cooperation looks like, in case you're not accustomed to it. You're barking up the wrong tree. I don't even know where Mickey lives these days."

The two detectives stared at me.

"I'm telling you the truth."

Detective Claas asked the next question without reference to his notes. "Can you tell us where you were on March twenty-seventh?"

My mind went blank. "I haven't the faintest idea. Where were you?" I said. I could tell my hands were going to start shaking. My fingers were cold, and without even thinking about it, I crossed my arms and tucked my hands against my sides. I knew I looked stubborn and defensive, but I was suddenly unnerved.

"Do you have an appointment book you might check?"

"You know what? I think we should stop this conversation right now. If you're here because you think I was somehow involved in a shooting, you'll have to talk to my attorney because I'm done with this bullshit."

Detective Aldo seemed surprised. "Hey, come on. There's no call for that. We're not accusing you of anything. This is an exchange of information."

"What was exchanged? I tell you things, but what do you tell me? Or did I miss that part?"

Aldo smiled, undismayed by my prickliness. "We told you he was injured and you told us you never talked to him. See? We tell you and then you tell us. It's like a dialogue. We're trading."

"Why did you ask where I was March twenty seventh? What's that about?"

Claas spoke up. "We checked his telephone bills. There was a call to this number that lasted thirty minutes. We assumed the two of you talked. Unless someone else lives here, which you've denied."

"Show me," I said. I held out my hand.

He leaned down and reached into the partially opened briefcase, sliding out a sheaf of phone bills, which he passed to me without comment. On top of the stack was Mickey's bill for April, itemizing his March service. I glanced at the header, noting that the phone number on the account was the same one I had. At that point, his February bill was already in arrears. The past-due notice warned that if his payment wasn't received within ten days, his service would be terminated. I let my eye drift down the column of toll calls and long-distance charges for March. Only two calls had been made, both to Santa Teresa. The first was March 13, made to Mark Bethel's office. I'd heard about that from Judy. The second was to my number. Sure enough, that call was made on March 7 at 1:7 P.M. and lasted, as specified, for a full thirty minutes.

NINE.

I'm not sure how I got through the remainder of the conversation. Eventually the detectives left, with phony thanks on their part for all the help I'd given them, and phony assurances on mine that I'd contact them directly if I had anything more to contribute to their investigation. As soon as the door closed, I scurried into the bathroom, where I stepped into the empty bathtub and discreetly spied on them through the window. I kept just out of sight while Detectives Claas and Aldo, chatting in low tones, got into what looked like a county-issued car and drove away. I'd have given anything to know what they were saying-assuming the discussion was about Mickey or me. Maybe they were talking sports, which I don't give a rat's ass about. As soon as they were gone, I returned to my desk and flipped back through my desk calendar to the page for March 7. That Thursday was entirely empty, as were the days on either side: No appointments, no meetings, no notation of events, professional or social. Typically, I'd have spent the day at the office, doing God knows what. I was hoping my desk calendar would jump-start my recollection. For the moment, I was stumped. All I knew was I hadn't talked to Mickey on March 7 or any other day in recent years. Had someone broken into my apartment? That was a creepy prospect, but what other explanation was there? Mickey could have dialed my number and spoken to someone else. It was also possible someone other than Mickey made the call from his place, establishing a connection that didn't actually exist. Who would go to such lengths? A person or persons who intended to shoot my ex-husband and have the finger point at me.

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