Home > Tres Navarre #2 - The Widower's Two-Step(2)

Tres Navarre #2 - The Widower's Two-Step(2)
Author: Rick Riordan


Lindsey got to his feet slowly. He had grass in his hair. His underwear was showing.

Standing doubled over he was just about eye level with me.

"God damn it," he said.

Lindsey's face turned the colour of a pomegranate. His fists balled up and they kept bobbing up and down, like he was trying to decide whether or not to hit me.

"I think this is where you say, 'You have dishonoured our school,' " I suggested. "Then we all bring out the nunchakus."

Jem must've liked that idea. He slowed down his swing just enough to jump off, then ran over and hung on my left arm with his whole weight. He smiled up at me, ready for the fight.

Lindsey's students looked uncomfortable, like maybe they'd forgotten the nunchaku routine.

Whatever Lindsey was going to say, it was interrupted by two sharp cracks from somewhere behind me, like dry boards breaking. The sound echoed thinly off the walls of the SAC buildings.

Everybody looked around, squinting into the sun.

When I finally focused on the '68 blue Cougar I was supposed to be watching, I could see a thin curl of smoke trailing up from the driver's side window.

Nobody was around the Cougar. The lady in the driver's seat still hadn't moved, her head reclined against the backrest like she was taking a nap. I had a feeling she wasn't going to start moving anytime soon. I had a feeling my client wasn't going to pay me good money.

"Jesus," said Lindsey Buckingham.

None of his students seemed to get what had happened. The potbellied guys looked confused. The ovoid lady in the pink sweats came up to me, a little fearful, and asked me if I taught tai chi.

Jem was still hanging on my arm, smiling obliviously. He looked down at his Crayoladesigned Swatch and did some time calculations faster than most adults could.

"Ten hours, Tres," he told me, happy. "Ten hours ten hours ten hours."

Jem kept count of that for me—how many hours I had left as an apprentice for his mother, before I could qualify for my own P.I. license. I had told him we'd have a party when it got to zero.

I looked back at the blue Cougar with the little trail of smoke curling up out of the window from Miss Kearnes' head.

"Better make it thirteen, Bubba. I don't think this morning's going to count."

Jem laughed like it was all the same to him.

2

"What is it with you?" Detective Schaeffer asked me. Then he asked Julie Kearnes,

"What is it with this guy?"

Julie Kearnes had no comment. She was reclining in the driver's seat of the Cougar, her right hand on a battered brown fiddle case in the passenger's seat, her left hand clenching the recently fired pearlhandled .22 Lady smith in her lap.

From this angle Julie looked good. Her greying amber hair was pulled back in a butterfly clasp. Her lacy white sundress showed off the silver earrings, the tan freckled skin that was going only slightly flabby under her chin, around her upper arms. For a woman on the wrong side of fifty she looked great. The entrance wound was nothing—a black dime stuck to her temple.

Her face was turned away from me but it looked like she had the same politely distressed expression she'd given me yesterday morning when we'd first met—a little smile, friendly but hesitant, some tightness in the wrinkles around her eyes.

"I'm sorry," she'd told me, "I'm afraid—surely there's been some mistake."

Ray Lozano, the medical examiner, looked in the shotgun window for a few seconds, then started talking to the evidence tech in Spanish. Ray told him to get all the pictures he wanted before they moved the body because the backrest was the only thing holding that side of her face together.

"You want to use English here?" Schaeffer said, cranky.

Ray Lozano and the tech ignored him.

Nobody bothered turning off the country and western music that was playing on Julie Kearnes' cassette deck. Fiddle, standup bass, tight harmonies. Peppy music for a murder.

It was only eightthirty but we were already getting a pretty good crowd around the parking lot. A KENSTV mobile unit had set up at the end of the block. A few dozen SAC students in flipflops and shorts and Tshirts were hanging out on the grass outside the yellow tape. They didn't look too interested in getting to their morning classes. The 7Eleven across San Pedro was doing a brisk business in Big Gulps to the cops and press and spectators.

"Tailing a goddamn musician." Schaeffer poured himself some Red Zinger from his thermos. Ninety degrees and he was drinking hot tea. "Why is it you can't even do that without somebody getting dead, Navarre?"

I put my palms up.

Schaeffer looked at Julie Kearnes. "You can't hang around this guy, honey. You see what it gets you?"

Schaeffer does that. He says it's either talk to the corpses or take up hard liquor. He says he's already got the lecture picked out he's going to give my corpse when he comes across it. He's fatherly that way.

I looked across the parking lot to check on Jem. He was sitting in my orange VW

convertible showing one of the SAPD guys his magic trick, the one with the three metal hoops. The officer looked confused.

"Who's the kid?" Schaeffer asked.

"Jem Manos."

"As in the Erainya Manos Agency?"

" 'Your fullservice Greek detective.' "

Schaeffer's face went sour. He nodded like Erainya's name in this case explained everything.

"The Dragon Lady ever hear of day care?"

"Doesn't believe in it," I said. "Kid could catch germs."

Schaeffer shook his head. "So let me get this straight. Your client is a country singer.

She prepares a demo tape for a record label, the tape turns up missing, the agent suspects a disgruntled band member who would've been cut out of the record deal, the agent's lawyer gets the brilliant idea of hiring you to track down the tape. Is that about it?"

"The singer is Miranda Daniels," I said. "She's been in Texas Monthly. I can get you an autograph if you want."

Schaeffer managed to contain his excitement. "Just explain to me how we got a fiddle player dead in the SAC parking lot seventhirty Monday morning."

"Daniels' agent figured Kearnes was the most likely suspect to steal the tape. She had access to the studio. She'd had some pretty serious disagreements with Daniels over career plans. The agency thought Kearnes might've stolen the tape at someone else's prompting, somebody who stood to gain from Miranda Daniels remaining a local act.

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