Chapter Five

September 19, 1983

 

Sid, having gotten back fairly late from his party the night before, got up too late to go running. I was crushed. I managed to get up early enough to see him off, then headed for the store, getting there at eight thirty.

A liver spotted springer spaniel scratched at the back door and whined as I came up.

“Shoo! Go away!” I hissed at him.

He sat there and looked at me with big forlorn brown eyes and whined.

“You don’t belong here,” I told him as I unlocked the door.

He barked once, then squeezed past me into the stockroom.

“Hey,” I yelped. “Get out of here.”

I turned on the lights. The dog barked twice more then sniffed around, looking for something.

“Come on, get out,” I said. “You don’t belong.”

The dog barked again, then scratched at the door leading down to a little rough cellar that Murray sometimes used for extra storage.

“Come,” I commanded, getting irritated.

To my surprise, the dog trotted over to me and sat at attention at my feet just as the best obedience trained dog would. Almost automatically, I bent down and praised him.

“Good boy.” I scratched his neck. “You obviously belong to someone.” He wasn’t wearing a collar. “So what’s your name?” [I never could understand why people talk to animals as if they could answer – SEH]

The dog barked once.

“What am I going to do with you?” [How was he supposed to tell you? – SEH]

He whined softly. He looked full-grown, maybe a little younger. He whined again. I went over to the desk. Rita had left a note asking if the tuna sandwich in the refrigerator was being saved for any reason. I could have eaten it for lunch, but at that moment tuna didn’t do anything for me. The dog whined again.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re hungry?” I asked.

He barked.

“How does a tuna sandwich grab you?”

He barked again.

“Okay.” I went over to the refrigerator and got out the sandwich.

The dog ate it in seconds.

“You eat almost as fast as I do,” I said. I went to the back door and opened it. “Okay, outside with you now.”

The dog barked and ran outside. I went back to the desk. As I yawned and stretched, my eyes fell on the phone without really seeing it. But then something else came into focus.

It was innocent enough, one of those promo pen doohickeys that salespeople are always giving out in the hopes that you’ll push their product. This one, in red plastic, was stuck to the phone and had a round base, about the diameter of a quarter, and a half inch thick. It had a hole through the middle to hold the pen, which was attached to the base with a thin, tightly coiled cord.

Call me paranoid, but the fact that it advertised Sunland Products and that I was sure I hadn’t seen it on the phone Saturday gave me pause. I got my bug finder out of my purse. Sure enough, it flashed, and when I checked the dial, it registered the new pen holder. There really wasn’t much I could do about it just then, so I left it and went about getting the store opened.

The dog was sitting next to the front door when I unlocked it. He pushed the door open and ran in, trotting comfortably behind the counter and sitting down in a corner near the register, but out of the way.

“Now wait a minute, buster,” I said. “You don’t belong here.”

The dog just barked twice and stayed put.

He was still there at two o’clock when Rita came in.

“Hello, dog-dog,” she said, petting him.

“I take it he’s a regular,” I said.

“He’s Murray’s dog.” Rita put her purse under the counter. “It’s the only thing his wife left him. She took the rest of the dogs with her.”

“I thought they raised retrievers.”

“No. Springers.”

“Oh. Well, that explains a lot. What’s his name?”

Rita shrugged. “Murray just calls him dog. You know how he can be. Says he’ll name the dog when he sends the papers in to the Kennel Club.”

“That dog is at least a year old.”

“Just about. Murray’s been pretty messed up since the divorce.”

“Hm.” I looked the dog over again. “If he’s Murray’s, then he hasn’t eaten since Friday. I’m going on my break now anyway. I’ll get him some food, too.” I patted the dog. “You stay put.”

The dog barked but didn’t follow me.

I came back twenty minutes later with a can of dog food, a twelve-inch roast beef sub, with provolone, guacamole, and the works, a large bag of Cheetos, a quart of milk and a pint of Haagen Daz ice cream – I passed the freezer section while looking for the dog food. I found the can opener in the desk and retrieved an old pan for gold plate that someone had returned years ago.

I leaned out of the stockroom door into the store.

“Hey, dog, come.” He trotted over. “It’s chow time, you fool.”

The dog yipped and bounced, but did not jump up on me, as I opened the can. I dished up and he could barely contain himself, poor little baby. He whined and yipped. I put the plate on the floor next to the desk, then tucked into my own lunch. The dog gobbled contentedly. In between bites, I scratched his head.

“You need a name, you motley old fool, you.”

The dog licked his plate clean and looked at me.

“What do you want, you motley fool?” I ruffled his neck fur with both hands. “Are you a motley fool? Hmmm?”

The dog barked. Okay, he would have anyway, probably, but I took it for inspiration.

“Oh, is that what I’m supposed to call you? Are you the Fool’s Motley? How about if we call you Motley for short? You like Motley?”

What he liked was the attention, I guess, and I know he had designs on my Cheetos. So call me a sucker. I gave him a few.

As I finished, I noticed the bug on the phone. Inspiration was in the air. I went to the stockroom door.

“Rita, could you come here for a second?” I asked.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“This pen,” I said pointing it out. “I didn’t see it Saturday. Were the Sunland reps in yesterday?”

Rita shook her head. “I don’t think any of the sales reps came in. We were pretty busy yesterday.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” I’d balanced the register tape from the day before. “Did you stick this here?”

“No.” Rita snorted. “One of the reps must have come in and did it while I was helping customers. They are so nervy anymore.”

“I’ll say. Well, they’re not getting away with it this time.” I yanked and pulled the bug off the phone and slammed it onto the desk. “The gall of some people.”

“I agree.”

The bell jangled out front and Rita went to help the customer. I checked my bug finder. No flash. I’d killed it. I picked it up and looked it over. The microphone was in the base. It looked vaguely familiar. I decided to let Sid check it out.

He showed up a little before six. I was taking a break and playing tug of war with Motley over an old rag. Sid came in from the front.

“Oh hi,” I said when I finally noticed him standing in the doorway.

“Hello.” He looked at the dog with a puzzled frown. “Would you kindly satisfy my curiosity? A- Why is there a dog in a place of business? And B- Why are you playing with him?”

“He’s a total sweetheart,” I said. “Apparently, he’s Murray’s dog and has been abandoned. Rita said he doesn’t have a name, so I named him the Fool’s Motley, only I call him Motley for short.”

“Lovely. Have you considered your position legally with regards to Murray’s property?”

“He’s a dog, Sid. And besides, somebody has to take care of him until we find Murray.”

“I suppose. How was your day?”

I went to the desk. “Largely uneventful, except for my new buddy and this.”

I tossed the pen and holder at him. He caught it gracefully and looked it over.

“Uh-oh. Was this here Saturday?”

“Nope. Rita figures some sales rep stuck it on the phone when she was helping somebody yesterday.”

Sid examined it more closely. “Curiouser and curiouser. This is a Company bug.”

“You think Tom Collins planted it?”

“I think we should ask him, but I doubt it. Remember our target is supposed to have gotten some of their stuff.”

“We only have Tom Collins’ word on that. What if he went bad?”

Sid shook his head. “I called Henry while I was in the city. He says we can trust Collins. I picked up some other interesting tidbits, too. The DEA is very interested in Sunland Products.”

“DEA?” I frowned. “And CIA. How many other acronyms are we going to pull in on this?”

“Well, we’re sort of FBI, and there’s the IRS. They’re always looking for their cut. But the really interesting part is that Della had called the DEA in.”

“What?”

“According to Henry’s friend over there, Della was asked to take a delivery to a client in the area. She was told it was just a back order but checked, and it was the coke. She called the police, and the officer she talked to arranged for her to connect with the DEA person here and told her to keep the lid on what she’d found. By the way, the DEA person is undercover and wants to stay that way, too.”

“Oh, goody. But why would Della drop the coke on me?”

“She must have panicked. Either she missed her connection or thought she was being tailed. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.”

I plopped down in the desk chair. “Hm. How was the funeral?”

“Depressing. It was a funeral.” Sid leaned against the shelf. “Interesting tidbit number two, though, I picked up a tail at the cemetery. Unfortunately, I had to ditch it.”

I grimaced. Ditching a tail usually points up the ditcher as a professional.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and it was the cops,” I said.

“It may have been. And speaking of the cops, tidbit number three, I talked to the Sunnyvale police to confirm what Henry told me and found out that they haven’t talked to anyone up here about anything, let alone deliveries.”

“But what about the guy that talked to Della?”

“He says he only talked to the DEA, and I talked to him as Ed Donaldson, FBI. He had no reason to lie to me.”

I shook my head. “Sid, when we’re working here as ourselves, wasn’t that taking a chance?”

“It might have been, but Henry pointed out that Detective Daly wouldn’t have any information on the murder, since he turned Della over to the DEA, and he was right.”

“But if it was a cop tailing you.”

“Probably someone from up here. Sunnyvale P.D. has nothing to do with this. Of course, it could also have been whoever the cocaine was intended for. Since Della missed her connection, there’s got to be some pretty antsy people around here wanting their fix.”

I thought it over. “Sid, why would Lehrer tell us Sunnyvale wanted to know about the package when they didn’t unless he was looking for it himself and needed an excuse for knowing about it?”

“I’ve been pondering that myself, as well as tidbit number four, which is that the CIA has got their eye on him.”

“Then why didn’t Tom Collins say anything?”

“I plan to ask him that very question, but it’s always possible he doesn’t know. Company people are notorious for not sharing information, and they have their eyes on a lot of people that have nothing to do with secrets.”

“But how did Lehrer know about the cocaine in the first place?”

“The obvious answer is that the DEA has stuck their noses in and asked about it.”

I looked down at Motley and petted him. “Yeah, that makes sense. He wouldn’t say anything about that to us, and he’s probably trying to recover it before the DEA does and make himself look good. He sure is working pretty hard to pin Della on me. Of course, that’s probably his feud with Daddy.”

Sid sighed. “And his animosity towards you seems to have spread to me.”

“Well, it’s about time I got a little of my own back,” I chuckled.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I got up. “Your reputation has sullied mine beyond repair. I am now a fallen woman, and I haven’t even had the fun to deserve it.”

Sid’s sexy little smile spread across his lips. “I could take care of that.”

I looked out at the front, trying to get my heart to stop its racing.

“Except that I don’t care to be a fallen woman in fact,” I said turning slowly. “The talk is bad enough, but I do have to live with myself.”

“Which is essentially why I’m not doing anything about it.” He straightened. “Are you going to stay here all night?”

“No, but I do think I will give Jimmy Roth a call. Maybe I can get some more information on Lehrer. In the meantime, we’d better get home. Mama said she’d hold dinner for us.”

“Okay. The car’s out front.”

I got my purse. “And I’ve got the jeep. I’ll see you over there. Motley, heel.”

“You’re taking him with you?” Sid was less than enthused.

“Yeah. Rita can’t, and somebody’s got to take care of him until we find Murray.”

“The likelihood of finding Murray is lessening every day. That is going to make things rather sticky legally.”

I shrugged. “I’ll call your lawyer.”

Sid frowned. “I’m not entirely sure I want a dog around.”

“But, Sid, we can’t just leave him at the pound. They’ll kill him. And besides, he’s really well trained. He fetches and even finds things I’ve dropped.”

“I’m impressed.” Sid sighed. “You’d better be careful about getting too attached to him. He is Murray’s dog and Murray could still be alive.”

“I hope so.”

“Not half as much as I do at the moment.”

Motley barked once and looked up at Sid, big eyes shining and tail thumping.

I’d called Mama about Motley, so she was expecting him. Richmond and Murbles weren’t too thrilled about a new dog on their turf, but they let Motley alone. Motley stuck close to me, which didn’t make Sid any too happy. He could see what was coming.

I called Jimmy right after supper. It was his night off and he told me to come right over. I took the jeep. Sid decided to join me, only he didn’t go to Jimmy’s. He had me drop him off at the hotel where we’d been staying.

“I’ll take a cab home,” he said. “It might be late. I’ve got a meeting to arrange.”

“Okay. I’ll leave the door unlocked for you again.”

Sid snickered. “Don’t bother.”

“I wouldn’t except Mama and Daddy would wonder how you got in.”

“True. Have a nice time.”

I pulled away and headed to Jimmy’s cabin in the hills above Stateline. It was a tiny three room affair, not counting the bathroom, which was little more than a closet as it was. Terri was a teacher at the local elementary school and had papers to grade.

“I should have done it over the weekend,” she said, laughing. “But I got lazy. I’ll just work in the kitchen. You two won’t bother me at all.”

At first, Jimmy and I just chatted about people we both knew, catching up. Most of the kids I’d known in high school either had gotten married or still lived in the area or both. Jimmy knew all about the people who’d stuck around. The only person I’d really kept contact with was Leslie Bowan, and that was sporadic, even if we were still pretty close.

“She’s been awfully busy since she got on with that radio station in Denver,” I said. “She’s already been promoted to news director, and it’s an all-news station.”

“Did she give up on her anchorwoman dream?” Jimmy asked.

I laughed. “Are you kidding? She’s talking a lot to the television people in her area. There just aren’t that many tv stations in that market. She wants to go to L.A. and get on a news radio station there, then weasel her way onto one of the independent tv stations and work up from there. She says her biggest handicap is that she’s not blonde or a minority.”

“That sounds like her.” Jimmy sighed. “At least she hasn’t changed.”

“Oh, she has.”

“Maybe. I don’t know, Lisa. It seems like everybody’s changed, and not a lot of it’s for the better. Remember Mike Tipton? He’s gone gay.”

“He always was,” I said sourly. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

“And John Leland. He graduated from medical school last May. He got his residency at UCLA. He was at his folks’ place all last June. He came over a couple times, but all he could talk about was med school.”

I laughed. “And you’re saying he’s changed? Good lord, John never talked about anything but what he was immediately involved in.”

“And what about you?” Jimmy looked at me, his face with a funny pained look.

“What about me?”

“First you turn up in that hotel room with a guy who’s sleeping with anything female within reach.”

“We’re not lovers,” I said crossly. “I just work for him.”

“I believe you. If you were lovers he wouldn’t be running around like that, and I don’t think even you would put up with it. It’s just you were always so religious.”

“I still am,” I said. “Sid has different values is all. I respect that and he respects mine. I’d like to think I’ve always been that way.”

Jimmy thought that over. “Yeah. You have. You always made friends with the weirdest people. But you were such a mouse. I mean in a nice way. And the way you told Lehrer off. Lisa, I would have never thought you could be that tough.”

I shrugged. “He got me mad. It’s Lehrer’s problem, as far as I’m concerned. I just can’t figure out why he was such a jerk.”

“Well, he doesn’t like your dad too much.”

“He was acting like a total jerk before he knew who I was.”

Jimmy shrugged. “That’s Lehrer. I hate to say it, but sometimes I think he gets his kicks pushing everybody’s buttons. He’s always getting yelled at for doing things he’s not supposed to, like crossing the state line while he’s on duty.”

“Why would he do that?”

“You didn’t know? Lehrer and Murray Waters are buddy-buddy. Lehrer’s always going over to see Murray, usually right around midnight.”

“Really? That’s weird. I mean what would they have in common?”

“Who knows? I sometimes get the feeling Murray doesn’t like Lehrer all that much, to hear him talk.”

I feigned interest in my fingernail. “You know Murray?”

“Well, to say hi and stuff. He and my older brother used to hang out until Steve got into Gambler’s Anonymous. Did you know Steve?”

“Not well. You do know Murray is missing, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I heard about it at roll call Saturday night. Tahoe P.D. asked us to keep an eye out, even though they couldn’t do anything officially. We didn’t figure it was any big deal because Lehrer said he knew where Murray was.”

“He did?”

“Well, something like he knew where to find Murray.”

“That’s really strange. Has Lehrer found him?”

“Beats me. Sunday and Monday, I’m off.”

“It must really stink working nights when your wife’s on days. What hours do you work?”

“Eleven to eight. I usually sleep when Terri’s at work and get up when she gets home. Days off are a little rough. I have to stay on my work schedule cause it’s just too hard to adjust for two days. I’m getting a lot of reading done. If I decide to go to law school, I’ll be ready for the LCAT.”

“You’re going to law school?”

“If and when I get the money.”

“Oh, I hope you do soon.”

Jimmy looked me over. “Weren’t you supposed to go to graduate school? I thought your mom said something about that a couple years ago.”

I shook my head. “I got my masters three years ago. I overloaded on credits and did my B.A. in three years and got the master’s in one.”

“How long have you been working for your boss?”

“Only a year. I was teaching before that. How long have you been with the Sheriff’s Department?”

“Since I got out of college. My uncle got me on.”

“Yeah, I saw him again yesterday.” I blushed. “Turning in evidence.”

Jimmy grimaced. “That was pretty weird. Uncle Larry called me right before you did. He was thinking maybe Lehrer planted the stuff until he got the report on the gun. It was the one that killed Riordan.”

“Are you serious?” I swallowed. “What is he thinking about it?”

“He’s thinking it’s too darned bad Lehrer didn’t plant it. He’s been wanting to bust Lehrer for years.” Jimmy noticed me biting my lip and laughed. “He also figures whoever killed Riordan planted it on you. He knows you didn’t do it and your boss isn’t tall enough to be the guy the waiter saw.”

“But the platform shoes.”

“They were ladies size six, and who could run in those suckers anyway?”

“Not I.” I shook my head. “That’s just too weird.”

I spent another half hour pumping Jimmy about Della and not answering questions about myself. Jimmy didn’t seem to know anything else. Terri looked like she wanted to go to bed, so I left.

I got home around eleven. The door was locked and I heard piano music coming from the living room. I slid in silently. Sure enough, Sid was at the keys playing one of Chopin’s twenty-four preludes, a sure sign that he was bugged.

I sat down on the couch and waited until he had worked his way through the last prelude. He looked over at me.

“I’m taking requests,” he said, gazing back at the keys. “However, since your folks are in bed, I’d recommend something soft.”

“What’s that Beethoven sonata you like? Pata…”

“Pathetique?” He started the first, sonorous chords.

“No, the middle part, the melody.” I sang it.

“Ah, the adagio.” He played the second movement.

A soft smile crept onto his lips as he concentrated. Whatever was bothering him before, he found some resolution in the dignified, rolling melody.

“Something got your goat tonight,” I said softly about halfway through.

He stopped playing. “Tom Collins said the bug wasn’t his, but that it’s definitely Company equipment.”

“In other words, it’s the stolen equipment.”

“It looks that way. Collins said he’s being transferred to a new division. In the meantime, he’ll stay on as bartender. Did you find anything out from your friend?”

I nodded and told him what Jimmy had said. He sighed.

“It just doesn’t add up,” he said.

“We don’t have that much information,” I pointed out. “We’ve probably got a few pieces missing yet.”

“To be sure.”

“When did you get here?”

“A little while ago.”

I looked him over. “Did you skip… I mean, I would have thought you’d take advantage of being out.”

“I did.” His fingers absently went up and down a scale a couple times.

“Did you have a run-in with Daddy?”

“No. We said a few polite words and basically ignored each other. I played a couple numbers for your mother and they went to bed. I kept playing and you came home.” He got up. “We’ll go running at the usual time tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait.”

He paused for a moment, then went on to his bedroom. I went to mine, wondering what the heck he was so bugged about. [It wasn’t the case. It was the woman, and I use the term loosely, that I took advantage of being out with. I believe you knew her in high school as Charlene Dempsey, the cheerleader with the hatchet face, and still as loose as she was then. Probably just as threatened as she was, too. Anyway, when she finally figured out I was the one who knew you, which took a while, she turned pretty bitchy. She made like she thought it was funny, but it really teed me off, enough that when we were cleaning up, I told her so and what I thought of her attitude, which ultimately unnerved me a great deal. I was not just standing up for a friend, but somebody I cared about far more than I wanted to admit at that time – SEH]

 

Anne Louise Bannon

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