O is for Outlaw Page 74

He'd since been promoted to lieutenant and was now working homicide. We remained buddies of a sort, though I hadn't set eyes on him for months. The last time I'd run into him was at a homicide scene, where he confessed Camilla was pregnant-by someone else, of course.

"What's up?" he said, once I'd identified myself.

I gave him a rundown on the situation. The LAPD detectives had filled him in on the shooting, so he knew that much. I gave him a truncated version of my dealings with them and then filled in additional details: the money Tim owed Mickey, the biker appearing at his Culver City apartment and again at the Honky-Tonk.

Jonah said, "Did you get the license plate?"

"There wasn't one. I'm guessing the bike's stolen, but I can't be sure. I can't swear he's connected to the shooting, but it seems too coincidental he'd show up in both places, especially since he's said to be a friend of Tim's. Can you ask Traffic to keep an eye out? I'd love to know who he is and how he's mixed up in this."

"I'll see what I can do and call you back," he said. "What's the story on the gun that was left at the scene? Was that really yours?"

"Afraid so," I said. "That was a wedding gift from Mickey, who purchased it in his name. Later, we switched the registration. It's a sweet little Smith and Wesson I haven't seen since the spring of '74, which is when I left. Maybe Mickey had it on him and the shooter took it away."

"How's he doing?"

"I haven't heard. I'll try calling In a bit, but the truth is, I don't want to ask for fear the news won't be good.

"I don't blame you. Scary shit. Is there anything else?"

"What's the word on the Honky-Tonk? What's going on out there?"

"Nothing that I've heard. As in what?"

"I don't know. It could be dope," I said. "I've been in there twice, and it feels off to me. I guess, at the back of my mind, I'm wondering if Mickey picked up on it too. I'm assuming he came up at first to bug Tim about the money owed. But why the return trips?"

"I'll ask around. It's possible the vice guys know something that I don't. What about yourself? How are you these days?"

"Doing great, considering I'm suspected of trying to kill my ex. Speaking of which, how's Camilla?"

"She's big. Baby's due July fourth, and according to the amnio it's a boy. We're excited about that."

"She's living with you?"



"Well, yeah. Her turd of a boyfriend abandoned her as soon as he found out she was pregnant. She's got nobody else."

"The poor thing," I said, in a tone of voice that went over his head.

"Anyway, it gives me a chance to spend time with the girls. "

"That it does," I said.. "Well, it's your life. Good luck."

"I'm going to need it," he said dryly, but he sounded pretty cheerful for a guy whose nuts were being slammed in a car door.

After he hung up, I dialed UCLA and asked for ICU. I identified myself to the woman who answered and asked about Mickey. She put me on hold. When she came back on, an eternity later, I realized I'd stopped breathing.

"He's about the same.

I said, "Thanks," and hung up quickly before she changed her mind.

I spent the bulk of the day in a fit of cleaning, armed with sponges and rags, a bucket of soapy water, a dustcloth, and a vacuum cleaner, plus newspapers and vinegar water for the windows I could reach. The phone rang at four. I paused in my labors, tempted to let the answering machine pick up. Of course, curiosity got the better of me.

"Hey, Kinsey. Eric Hightower here. I hope I didn't catch you at a bad time."

"This is fine, Eric. How are you?"

"Doing good," he said. "Listen, Dixie and I are putting together a little gathering: cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. This is strictly impromptu, just a couple dozen folk, but we wanted you to come. Any time between five and seven."

I took advantage of the moment to open my mail, including the manila envelope Bethel's secretary had sent. Inside was his curriculum vitae. I tossed it in the wastebasket, then took it out again and stuck it in the bottom drawer. "You're talking about tonight?"

"Sure. We've got some friends in from Palm Springs so we're geared up anyway. Can you make it?"

"I'm not sure. Let me take a look at my calendar and call you right back. "

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