I tried to wrap my head around what Tim was saying, but the fatigue was too much.
“What do you mean, they’ve been watching her? What do they think? She’s some sort of terrorist?”
When Tim didn’t answer, I continued.
“That’s ludicrous. She was a student, studying accounting, and she wants to be a tattoo artist. She’s good. She’s really good. She’s not a terrorist.”
Tim waited until I paused. “They believe she and Wesley Lambert were partners.”
“Partners in what?”
He shrugged. The light turned green, and we shot forward.
“Do they think she was part of the ricin making?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. I just overheard DeBurra saying that it was convenient she called you to come to Lambert’s condo and he was dead.”
“Do they think she had something to do with his death?”
We stopped again, and the red light cast a glow on the windshield.
Tim nodded. “Yeah, they do.”
I mulled that for a few seconds. “Wonder what Trevor’s role was.” And then I knew. The money. The money must have had something to do with this. I kept flashing back on that image of Charlotte with the backpack.
We were on 215 now, heading toward Henderson and my bed. I leaned back on the headrest and closed my eyes, drifting off.
But a thought made me jolt up.
The laptop. Trevor’s laptop. It was in Jeff Coleman’s car. I wondered if there was anything on it that could give me a clue as to what Trevor had been up to, and, by extension, Charlotte as well.
I glanced at Tim, who was concentrating on the road. Should I mention the laptop?
Two Sister Mary Eucharistas were sitting on my shoulders. One wore little devil horns and urged me to keep my mouth shut. The one with angel’s wings said I should own up.
Exhaustion won out. I justified not saying anything by telling myself I’d let him know about the laptop in the morning. After I got some sleep. I didn’t have the energy to answer more questions.
I leaned back again and dozed.
I barely remembered getting into the house and going to bed. But when I woke up, the sun streaming through the miniblinds, I was curled up under my comforter, wearing my cotton pajama bottoms and oversized T-shirt. I had a vague memory of pulling it over my head.
The clock told me it was ten already. I usually got to the shop around eleven. I wondered whether I could call Bitsy and explain that I needed a couple more hours of sleep.
But I’d been gone all day yesterday, she’d saved my butt, and I needed to give her a break.
I dragged myself out of bed, looked in the mirror, and almost screamed.
My hair, which I’d slicked back so nicely at the police station, was standing on end, like Alfalfa’s from The Little Rascals. I swiped a hand over it, and it just bounced right back up again.
A shower. I really needed a shower.
I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it and let it soak me. I tipped my head back, and the water pounded into my skull. In a good way. I don’t know how long I was in there, but when I got out, I was all nice and prune-y, my skin was red from the heat, and I felt almost human again.
A cup of coffee would complete me.
Tim was already gone. He’d left the coffeepot on, and I poured a cup as I read the brief note he’d left me on the counter:
Had to go in early. Will call later. Your stuff is on the chair.
Stuff? What stuff?
There, hanging on the back of one of the kitchen chairs, was a supermarket plastic bag that sagged with something heavy inside. I picked it up and dumped it on the table.
I grinned. My keys, my wallet, my sunglasses, my cell phone, even the couple of pens and small pad I kept for notes.
My messenger bag was nowhere to be seen. Since it was made of some sort of fabric, the cops probably figured it could be contaminated, like my clothes, and sent it to the Big Hazard Waste Pile. No biggie. That just meant I could buy a new one.
I toasted a bagel and slathered some cream cheese on it, then took my plate and coffee into the living room and sank down on the leather sofa. I grabbed the remote and turned the TV on.
SpongeBob and Patrick were tormenting Squidward again.
The phone rang. I nearly spit out my coffee.
The phone wasn’t in its little cradle, but I found it on top of the refrigerator just as the machine kicked in. I punched it on.
No one else but Jeff Coleman called me by my last name.
“Did I wake you?”
I refreshed my cup of coffee. “No. What’s up?”
“How was it last night? You were there late.”
“How do you know that?”
“I talked to your brother about an hour ago. I called to see how you were.”
I didn’t like it that my brother and Jeff Coleman were getting tight. The jury was still out on whether Jeff and I were veering into friends territory or if we were going to just stay acquaintances and colleagues. Again I thought about how his body had felt on top of me yesterday. While he was protecting me, keeping me out of harm’s way, putting himself in danger.
I told myself it was just reflex for him. He was a Marine, for Pete’s sake. His job was to protect.
“I’m okay,” I said.
“I got my car back this morning and I found the laptop-”
“Great,” I said, interrupting him. “Can I come by and get it?” Just as I asked, my memory flashed on my car, still at the condo parking garage, if the cops hadn’t towed it by now.
How was I going to get to Jeff’s, much less to work?
He was one step ahead of me.
“Tim said you were going to need a ride to your car. I can come get you and bring you over there.”
This might be going a little too far, but I did need to see Jeff anyway to get the laptop, and I did need to get to my car.
“It’s a little out of your way,” I said.
“I have to go pick my mother up at the pool anyway,” he said. “So it’s no big deal.”
Pool? Did I miss something?
“Where is your mother?”
“She swims with the seniors at one of the pools in Henderson every other day. She usually gets a ride with Bernie, but he just had hip replacement so I’m her new chauffeur until she can get some other sucker to drive her.”
“Why does she come all the way out here?” I asked. “There are pools closer to her.” Sylvia lived in Bonanza Village, a trailer park-excuse me, a mobile home community-out near the Desert Pines Golf Course. “What about Garside or Doolittle or even the municipal pool?”
Jeff chuckled. “Because Bernie swims in Henderson.”
I hadn’t heard about Bernie before. This was interesting. A little late-in-life romance. I was happy for Sylvia.
“I swim at the competition pool,” I offered before I could stop myself. I might as well keep going. “Is that where Sylvia goes?” There were only two places that were open year-round: the Multigenerational Center pools, where I swam, or Whitney Ranch.
Jeff hesitated, then, “Yeah, that’s where she goes.”
“I’ve never seen her there. But then, I go pretty early.” I didn’t tell him I hadn’t gone there in more than a month. When the temperatures start to cool off, that’s when I head to Red Rock for my exercise.
“Kavanaugh, you’re a woman of many surprises.”
“So when will you be here?” I asked, not wanting to get into “surprise” territory with Jeff Coleman.
“I’ll swing by after I pick up Sylvia.”
“Hey, why doesn’t she drive herself? She’s got a car.”
Jeff chuckled. “That car’s a hazard. We only use it in emergencies.”
He hung up without saying good-bye. That was the Jeff Coleman I knew and was comfortable with.
Almost immediately the phone rang again.
I picked it up.
“What did you forget?” I asked.
“Forget? What? Brett, it’s Charlotte.”