I Is for Innocent
shadows from the roof. He was probably with a client.
The days were getting steadily shorter, and a gloom settled over the town at that hour. Something in the air generated a longing for a wood fire, companionship, and the kind of cocktail that looks elegant in the print ads and tastes like liniment. I told myself I had work to do, but in truth it was just a way to postpone going home.
I locked my car and headed for the stairwell, which was tucked into a hollow core that extended up the center of the building like a chimney flue. The stairs were inky, and I had to use my little keychain flashlight to break up the darkness. The third-floor corridor was in shadow, but I could see lights in the reception area through the frosted glass in the front door. By day, the whole third-floor complex was cheerful and well lighted, with white walls, burnt orange carpeting, a forest of greenhouse plants, Scandinavian furniture, and original artwork in bright crayon tones. The office I was renting had served as a combination conference room and kitchen, and was outfitted now with my desk and swivel chair, file cabinets, a small flop-out couch that could double as a bed in an emergency, a telephone, and my answering machine. I was still listed in the yellow pages under Investigators, and people calling the old number were advised of the new. In the weeks since the move, while some business had trickled in, I'd been forced to resort to process serving to make ends meet. At twenty bucks a pop, I was never going to get rich, but on a good day I could sometimes pick up an extra hundred bucks. Not bad, if I could sandwich it in with other investigative work.
I let myself in quietly, not wanting to disturb Lonnie if he was in the middle of a conference. His office door was open and I glanced in automatically as I went past. He was chatting with a client, but when he caught sight of me, he raised his hand and beckoned. "Kinsey, could you spare a minute? There's someone here I want you to meet."
I backtracked to his doorway. Lonnie's client was seated in the black leather wing chair, with his back to me. As Lonnie stood up, his client stood, too, turning to look at me as we were introduced. His aura was dark, if you buy that kind of talk.
"Kenneth Voigt," Lonnie said. "This is Kinsey Millhone, the private investigator I was telling you about."
We shook hands, going through the usual litany of greetings while we checked each other out. He was in his early fifties with dark hair and dark brown eyes, his brows separated by deep indentations that had been set there by a scowl. His face was blunt, his wide forehead softened by a tongue of thinning hair that was brushed to one side. He smiled politely at me, but his face didn't brighten much. A pale sheen of perspiration seemed to glimmer on his forehead. While he was on his feet, he shed his sport coat and tossed it on the couch. The shirt he wore under it was dark gray, a short-sleeved Polo with a three-button placket open at the neck. Dark hair curled from his shirt collar and a mat of dark hair covered his arms. He was narrow through the shoulders and the muscles in his arms were stringy and undeveloped. He should have worked out at a gym, for his stress levels, if nothing else. He took out a handkerchief, dabbing at his forehead and his upper lip.
"I want her to hear this," Lonnie was saying to Voigt. "She can go through the files tonight and start first thing in the morning."
"Fine with me," Voigt said.
The two sat down again. I folded myself into one corner of the couch and pulled my legs up under me, considerably cheered by the prospects of a paycheck. One advantage in the work for Lonnie is he screens out all the deadbeats.
Lonnie offered me a word of explanation before the conversation continued. "The P.I. we were using just dropped dead of a heart attack. Morley Shine, you know him?"
"Of course," I said, startled. "Morley died? When was this?"
"Last night about eight. I was gone over the weekend and didn't get back till after midnight so I didn't hear about it myself until this morning when Dorothy called me."
Morley Shine had been around ever since I could remember, not a close friend, but certainly a man I could count on if I found myself in a pinch. He and the fellow who'd trained me as a P.I. had been partners for years. At some point, they'd had a falling-out and each had gone into business for himself. Morley was in his late sixties, tall and slump-shouldered,
Weitere Kostenlose Bücher