O is for Outlaw Page 54

I was suddenly feeling restless and needed to move. I started walking again and Wary followed, catching up with me. I said, "What about the woman he was seeing? "

He gave me an odd look, equal parts surprise and embarrassment. "How'd you know about her?"

I tapped my temple. "A little birdie told me. You know who she was?"

"Nope. Never met her. Mickey made sure."

"How come?"

"Maybe he thought I'd try to hustle her myself."

"Did you actually see her?"

"In passing. Not to recognize later. She always came up the back stairs and let herself in that way."

"She had her own key?"

"She must have. Mickey never left his doors unlocked. Some days she showed up before he got home from work."

"What about her car? Did you ever see a vehicle parked out back?"

"Never looked. I figured it was his business. Why should I butt in?"

"How often was she there?"

"I'd say every two to three weeks. Not to be gross about it, but the walls in the building are not exactly soundproof. I have to say Mickey's alcohol intake never seemed to hamper him in the performance of his duties. "

"How do you know it was him? Isn't there a chance he lent his apartment to someone else? Maybe he had a friend who needed a place to misbehave."

"Oh, no. It was him. I'd take an oath on that. He's been involved with this woman for at least a year."

"How do you know there was only one? He might have had a string of women."

"Well, it's possible, I guess."

"Any chance she lived in the building?" I asked.

"In our building? I doubt it. Mickey would've felt hemmed in by anybody living that close. He liked his freedom. He didn't like anybody checking up on him. Like sometimes, say, he was gone for the weekend. I might ask him, you know, How's the weekend, where'd you end up? Simple shit like that. Mickey wouldn't answer questions. If you pressed, he changed the subject."

"What about since the shooting? Do you think the woman's been there?"

"I really couldn't say for sure. I go to work at four and don't get home till after midnight. She could have gone in while I was off. Actually, come to think of it, I thought I heard her yesterday. Again last night, too, before that biker geek showed up. What an asshole. Glass company says it'll cost me a hundred bucks to get that fixed."

"Wary, that was me you heard last night. I went in and pulled his personal belongings before they had a chance to change the locks. I suspected his girlfriend'd been there, because a couple of personal articles I'd seen suddenly came up missing."

We'd reached the building by then. It was time to hit the road. I thanked him for his help. I made a note of his phone number and then gave him my business card with my home number jotted on the back. We parted company at the stairs.

I watched Wary go up, and then I went back to the Hatfields' to collect the two duffels. They invited me for lunch, but I'd just finished breakfast and I was anxious to get back. We said our good-byes. I thanked them profusely, including Dort in my expressions of appreciation. I didn't dare be rude in case they were right about her incarnation.

Their door closed behind me, and I was just heading for my car when I chanced to glance over at the line of mailboxes under the stairs. Mickey's was crammed with mail. I stared, transfixed. Apparently, the cops had neglected to put a hold on the mail coming in. I wondered how many civil and criminal codes I'd violated so far. Surely, one more transgression wouldn't add that much to my sentence. I felt along the bottom of my shoulder bag, extracted my key picks, and went to work on the lock. This one was so easy it would have yielded to a hairpin, which I don't happen to carry. I pulled out the wad of mail and perused it in haste. The bulk of it consisted of an oversized pulp weekly devoted to survivalist lore: ads for mercenaries, articles about pending gun legislation, government cover-ups, and citizens' rights. I put the magazine back in the box so the contents would appear untouched. The remaining two envelopes I shoved in my shoulder bag for later consideration. I'll tell you right now, they turned out to be nothing, which disappointed me greatly. I hate risking jail time on behalf of third-class mail.

When I arrived in Santa Teresa at 1:35, I snagged the morning paper from the doorstep and let myself in. I tossed the paper on the counter, set the duffels on the floor, and crossed to my desk. There were several messages waiting on my answering machine. I played them, taking notes, aware that it was probably time to get down to paid employment. In the interest of earning a living, I drove over to the office and devoted the rest of the afternoon to servicing the clients with business pending. In any given month, I might juggle some fifteen to twenty cases, not all of them pressing. Despite the fact I had money in the bank, I couldn't afford to neglect matters already in the works. I'd just spent the past three days chasing down Mickey's situation. Now it was time to get my professional affairs in order. I had calls to return and receipts to tally and enter on the books. There were numerous invoices to be typed and submitted, along with the accompanying reports to write while my notes were still fresh. I also had a few stern letters to compose, trying to collect from slow-pays (all attorneys, please note), plus bills of my own to pay.

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