O is for Outlaw Page 112

I sat down opposite her, wondering how to begin. These transitions can be awkward, especially when you're trying to shift the discussion from niceties to the subject of murder.

She said, "What were you doing in Louisville? We used to go for the Derby, but it's been ages."

A maid came to the door. "I left Mr. Bethel's plate in the warming oven. Will there be anything else?"

"No, dear. That's fine. We'll see you in the morning, "

"Yes, ma'am," the woman said, and then withdrew.

I said, "Actually, I went to Louisville on a research trip. Do you remember Benny Quintero, the fellow who was killed here a few years ago?"

"Of course. Mark represented Mickey."

"Well, as it happens, Benny was from Louisville. He went to Manual the same time you were at Louisville Male High."

Her lips parted in expectation. "What kind of research was this? I can't imagine."

"I keep thinking there's a connection between Benny Quintero's death and Mickey's being shot last week."

Laddie's frown was delicate. "That's quite a leap."

"Not really," I said, "though it does seem odd. Here the four of you come from the same hometown."

"Four? "

"Sure. You, Mark, Benny, and Duncan Oaks. You remember Duncan," I said.

"Of course, but he's been gone for years.

"My point exactly," I said. Gee, this was going better than I'd thought. "During his stint in Vietnam, Mark was at la Drang, right?"

"You'd have to verify that with him, but I believe so."

"Turns out Benny was there too.

Laddie blinked. "I'm not following. What does any of this have to do with me?"

"Let me back up a step. Didn't Duncan Oaks interview you for the Louisville Tribune?"

She said, "Kinsey, what is this? I don't mean to be rude, but you're skipping back and forth and I'm confused. I really don't see the relevance."

"Just hear me out," I said. "Duncan was doing a series for the local paper. He interviewed army wives, like you, who'd been left behind, you know, talking about the war from their perspective. His idea was to tell the same story through the eyes of the husbands off fighting in Vietnam."

Laddie shook her head, shrugging. "I guess I'll have to take your word for it."

"At any rate, he did talk to you."

She took a sip of wine. "It's possible. I don't remember."

"Don't worry about the date. I've asked his editor to send a copy of the article. We can pin it down from that. Anyway, Duncan's editor says he flew to Vietnam in September of '65. He ran into Mark and Benny at la Drang, which was where Duncan disappeared." I was doling out pure theory, but I noticed she'd stopped offering much in the way of objections. "Seven years later Benny shows up in Santa Teresa with Duncan Oaks's ID. The next thing you know, Benny's been murdered. You see the link?"

"Benny wasn't murdered. You're overstating the situation. As I remember, Benny had a subdural hematoma, and his death was the result of an arterial bleed. Given the nature of his injury, it could have happened any time. Even the coroner's report said that."

"Really? You're probably right. You have quite a memory for the details," I said.

"Mark and I discussed it at the time. I suppose it stuck in my mind."

"Mickey's another link. He went off to Louisville on Thursday, May eighth. He came back on Monday, and in the wee hours of Wednesday morning he was shot, as you know."

Laddie's smile was thin. "Not to sound superior, but you're committing what's called a post hoc fallacy. Just because one event follows another doesn't mean there's a cause-and-effect relationship."

"I see. In other words, just because Benny knew something doesn't mean he died for it."

"Is this what you wanted to discuss with Mark?"

"In part."

"Then let's leave that. I'm sure it's more appropriate to wait till he comes in."

I said, "Fine. Could we talk about your relationship with Duncan?"

"I'd hardly call it a relationship. I knew him, of course. We went all through school together."

"Were you pals, confidants, boyfriend/girlfriend?"

"We were friends, that's all. There was never anything between us, if that's what you're getting at."

"Actually, it is," I said. "I thought since you were the king and queen of the senior prom, you might have been sweet on each other."

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