They worked it out so Hood would drive her in the STS to the Marina del Rey safe house. The safe house was Hood’s idea-a courtesy to Suzanne, who would be recognized by Sheriff’s deputies and reporters if they talked at headquarters. This was not an arrest. It was not an interview, not an interrogation.
Susan stared straight ahead and said nothing.
“They want to ask you about Allison,” said Hood.
She continued staring through the windshield.
Hood followed Marlon’s plainwrap for the freeway. The Sheriff’s cruiser had fallen in behind him.
“I know you’re her,” he said. “I know you’ll hate me for what I’ve done, but I didn’t betray you to gain something for myself. I did it because Allison is going to get you killed. I love you and I’m sorry.”
“You love me? What does that matter? You just accused me of murder and armed robbery. I want my lawyer.”
“You’re not under arrest.”
She was on her phone before Hood made the freeway. She turned to the window and spoke quietly, hung up, then resumed her wordless surveillance through the windshield. Five minutes later Hood heard a ringtone-the whinny of a horse-and Suzanne again turned away from him.
Hood caught a few phrases:
“L.A. Sheriff ’s…”
“… asinine thing I’ve ever…”
“Allison Murrieta, the…”
“… hilarious someday…”
“… right now, a safe house in Marina del Rey, on Bora Bora…”
She punched off with a flourish and flung the phone back into her bag.
“I’m starved. Hit the Jack on Lincoln, will ya? I’ll spring for all you miserable cops, don’t worry.”
Hood saw through this as a stall for Suzanne’s lawyer, but he did it anyway.
The late-night line for the drive-through window was long, but Suzanne didn’t say a word. She leaned over and glared at him and ordered four kid’s meals and one adult combo. Then she sat back, dug into her bag and tossed a twenty onto Hood’s lap.
“Fuck off, Charlie.”
As soon as they walked into the safe house, Suzanne brushed past Marlon and the two deputies and locked herself in the bathroom. Hood remembered that the window in it was high and small.
He set the food on the dinette table. He heard the bathroom fan go on.
Marlon and the deputies sat at the table. Hood stood beside it, utterly at a loss.
Suzanne came out looking at her watch. “Eat up, children.”
She didn’t look at Hood as she took the adult bag to the couch, dropped it on the coffee table before her and sat.
“You can ask your questions while I eat.”
“I take it Charlie has filled you in,” said Marlon. He gave Hood a sharp look.
“Get to the point if you have one,” said Suzanne.
“I just have a couple of simple questions. One is, have you ever met this Allison Murrieta?”
“Seen her on TV?”
Suzanne shook her head and bit a French fry in half and leveled her gaze on Hood. He was surprised at the voltage of her anger.
Marlon waited with a hopeful look on his face. “You might not know this, but to some people, Allison Murrieta looks like you. You with a wig. Maybe it’s ridiculous to think that you’re her. But when a really unusual idea like that gets under my skin, it’s like a splinter I can’t get out. It bothers me.”
Suzanne took a bite of a sandwich, looked at Marlon. “I’m so glad you’re bothered.”
“Ms. Jones, what do you make of that resemblance?”
“Not one thing.”
“But you do see it?”
“Don’t try to lead me. You can’t.”
“If you can tell me where you were last night, we’re pretty much done here.”
“It’s none of your business. Where were you?”
Marlon opened his kid’s-meal bag and looked in. “Home. The truth is usually simple.”
Hood heard something outside and the doorbell rang. He opened the door and a small, stout woman held his look as she walked past him into the room. She wore yellow sweats and a yellow ball cap. He recognized her. Behind her came a large young man in a sharp black suit.
The men stood. She looked at them, and at Suzanne, then once more at Hood. The young man closed the door softly, then stood with his back to it and his hands folded like a deacon waiting for the plate.
The small woman stepped forward and handed a card to Marlon.
“My name is Ruth Mayer. I am an attorney representing Suzanne Jones. Is she under arrest?”
“No, ma’am, she isn’t,” said Marlon. “We just had some simple questions for her and we were trying to get some simple answers. As a courtesy, we didn’t want to bring her downtown.”
“Suzanne will not speak to you now. I can be reached twenty-four hours a day at the number on that card and I will answer any and all questions on her behalf. If you choose to arrest her, we would appreciate a call twelve hours in advance. Suzanne promises not to leave the state of California for the next thirty days, except in the case of a family emergency. My client is an award-winning primary school teacher, and school starts next week-correct, Suzanne?”
“You should know that my client is an excellent teacher. My niece had her for eighth-grade history.”
The young man held open the door.
“Good night, gentlemen,” said Mayer. “Suzie, come with me. Jason, the door.”
But Marlon stepped ahead of them and asked Jason to move his hands away from the door. When he let go, Marlon kicked it shut with a slam and turned back to the room.
“Okay, we’ll do it your way. Ms. Jones is under arrest for grand theft auto unless she can explain that STS downstairs. The valet at the Ivy surrendered the keys to it at gunpoint this afternoon. To Allison Murrieta.”
“Don’t say anything, Suzie,” snapped the lawyer. “Not one word.”
Marlon Mirandized her, and one of the uniforms cuffed her wrists behind her back.
Suzanne looked through Hood.
The lawyer told her she’d be free by late Monday morning.