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Authors: J. A. Jance

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BOOK: Taking the Fifth
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He paused and observed me steadily over the rim of his glass. “They’re all dead,” he added softly. “One hundred percent.”

Once more silence filled the room. The cat wandered in from the bedroom and jumped unbidden into Tom Riley’s lap. It circled a time or two before settling comfortably into a ball, purring so noisily I could hear it from where I sat.

Tom Riley glanced from the cat to me. “Any more questions?”

“None,” I said, getting up. “I can find my way out.”

I did too. I hurried out the door and back to my car.

As I barreled through the milling summertime traffic on Alki Avenue, I thought long and hard about Tom Riley.

From some corner of my random access memory came the words Miss Arnold had drilled into our heads during Senior English at Ballard High School, the words of Rudyard Kipling’s immortal poem. They seemed to apply to Tom Riley.

“You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”


THAT WAS THE SUMMER SOME OF OUR more bright-eyed city fathers decided to rebuild Seattle from the ground up. There was construction everywhere, from aboveground buildings all over the downtown area to the underground transit tunnel beneath Third Avenue.

The accompanying upheaval caused a couple of undesirable results. Number one: it drove a lot of potential shoppers from the downtown retail core and left a large population of panhandlers to feed on a far smaller number of potential soft touches. Number two: it vastly reduced downtown parking.

I had to stop by the department long enough to write my report, but the closest parking garage that wasn’t filled to overflowing was five blocks away, five blocks of scrounging, filthy, obnoxious bums. I am not a soft touch, and I didn’t knuckle under. One of them told me to have a nice day anyway.

It was good to see the day-shift guys again, the ones Peters and I had worked around for years. With Peters in the hospital, I had temporarily switched to night shift. As usual, Sergeant Watkins, Captain Powell, and a number of others asked about Peters’s progress. The patient had made it clear he didn’t want visitors, and our coworkers had pretty much complied with his wishes. As far as Peters’s condition was concerned, I was the department’s main source of information.

Closeting myself in my cubicle, I made short order of writing the mandatory report. Hunger was beginning to assert itself. So was a need for sleep. Given my current schedule, eleven-thirtyA.M . was long past my bedtime.

I stopped by the Doghouse on my way home. The Doghouse is a downtown twenty-four-hour restaurant. Timeworn and unpretentious, with duct-taped patches in the carpet, it’s one of my favorite haunts. Wanda, my usual waitress, saw me as soon as I came in. When I gave her a thumbs-up signal, she went straight to the kitchen to place my order for two eggs over easy. She came back to my booth carrying a cup of coffee.

“Why so late for breakfast?” she asked. “Working overtime?”

“A little,” I answered, although compared to Tom Riley’s, my overtime was hardly worth mentioning.

Wanda disappeared and returned with the crossword-puzzle section of the newspaper. I don’t buy newspapers. It’s a matter of honor with me, and since moving out of the Royal Crest, I no longer had a next-door neighbor to save the puzzles for me. Wanda had leaped into the breach. She usually had a couple of them put aside for me whenever I came in.

I worked the puzzle while I ate breakfast. I gave myself a pat on the back when I knew that the eight-letter word starting with anM that meant threatening was “minatory” not “menacing.” Real devotees of crossword puzzles are virtual fountains of useless information.

With the crossword puzzle completed, I sat drinking my last cup of coffee while I thought about Richard Dathan Morris. Riley’s comment about him wanting to be an undercover cop was totally out of character. And then there was that bit about the parties. Riley had said there had been drugs present, but he couldn’t remember Morris actually using any of them. Unable to make sense of the jumble of information, I gave up and headed home.

It had been only a month since I moved into my new place, and I still wasn’t entirely accustomed to living in Belltown Terrace. Intended to be a building of prestigious downtown condominiums, it had, in the course of near-bankruptcy proceedings, become a mostly luxury rental apartment complex instead. Only a careful reading of the documents would have shown my neighbors that J. P. Beaumont was one of their landlords. I kept a pretty low profile about my belonging to the real estate syndicate that owned the entire building. It was bad enough being the owner of the penthouse.

The elevator ride from the fourth level of the underground parking garage to the twenty-fourth floor of the residential tower is a long one. During the ride I still found myself wondering if I really belonged there. And I never put the key in the lock without a twinge of regret that Anne Corley would never be there to share the apartment with me. After all, she was the one who had paid for it.

The place was still brand-new. It still smelled of new paint, new carpet, and new furniture. I had stowed Mrs. Edwards and the girls in a vacant two-bedroom apartment several stories below. When they were home, the two girls delighted in running up and down the intervening stairwells to visit me. When they were around, they always left behind a comfortable clutter of kid stuff that made me feel more at home and less like I was living in a picture fromHouse and Garden .

With the girls gone, the place was too clean, too neat, too empty for me to feel at home. Fighting the refugee blues, I headed straight for my old recliner, which Michael Browder had grudgingly reupholstered in a handsome, pliable leather. It sat off by itself in a small den that had quickly become my favorite part of the huge apartment.

I sat down and took a deep breath. Sitting there I’m always tempted to wave at the people on the Space Needle observation deck who, no doubt, peer at me through the pay-to-peek telescopes and the huge panes of floor-to-ceiling glass that form the northern wall of my apartment.

Settling gratefully into the old chair’s comfortable contours, I let my eyes go shut. I must have fallen asleep. The next thing I knew, the phone at my elbow was jangling me awake. When I reached to pick it up, I noticed that the answering machine underneath it was blinking vigorously, telling me I had messages.

“Hello,” I mumbled.

“Hello,” a woman answered. “Detective Beaumont?”


“This is Amy again. Amy Fitzgerald. Did you get my message?”

I glanced guiltily at the blinking light. I hadn’t liked the machine at the time my attorney, Ralph Ames, gave it to me. Months later, I still wasn’t very good about checking it as soon as I came in.

“No,” I mumbled. “I just got home. I haven’t taken the messages off the machine.” The blinking light told me there were three of them. Not only had I not gotten Amy Fitzgerald’s message, I didn’t have the vaguest idea who she could be. It was a name I recognized but couldn’t place.

“It’s about Ron Peters,” she added.

That joggled my memory. Amy Fitzgerald was someone from the hospital, someone I had met. “What about him? There’s nothing wrong, is there?” I demanded.

“No, but he wants to see you. Right away.”

“Do you know what about?”

“Something about Jasmine. He wouldn’t tell me any more than that.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “He wants to talk to me about a flower?”

“I don’t know, Detective Beaumont. He didn’t say, but he begged me to call you. If you could just come over…”

“Sure,” I told her. “I have to shower first, but I can be there in half an hour.”

“Thanks so much, Detective Beaumont. I’ll tell him you’re on your way.”

I hung up the phone and pushed the play-back button on my answering machine. One message was from Peters’s head nurse, one was from a hospital volunteer, and the third was from Amy Fitzgerald, all of them calling with increasingly urgent messages that Peters wanted to see me right away.

Punching the reset button on the machine, I hauled my aching bones out of the chair. I needed sleep. I was dying to sleep. It was easy for Peters to order me over there on the double. He could sleep any goddamned time he wanted to.

No sooner had the thought washed through my head than I was beating myself up for it. He could sleep, all right, but he couldn’t do anything else. He couldn’t move his arms enough to hold a telephone or feed himself. He was totally powerless, totally dependent on other people for his every need. The least I could do was go to the hospital when he called.

And I’d better not complain about it either.

So I showered and dressed and dragged my weary butt back into the elevator. When I got out my car keys, I realized I had neglected to replace Peters’s postcards from Heather and Tracie in my pocket. I didn’t go upstairs to get them.

It was two o’clock straight up and down when I pulled into the parking lot down the street from Harborview Hospital. And it was five minutes after that when I walked into Peters’s room on the fourth floor.

“What the hell took you so long?” he grumbled when he saw me.

The physical therapist was standing beside his bed, leaning against the wall with one hand casually in the pocket of her long, white jacket and her medium-length light brown hair swinging freely around a slender face. Amy Fitzgerald. That’s who she was.

“Come on, Ron. I told you he said he hadn’t showered. It took him less time to get here than he said it would.”

She came over and took my hand, shaking it in greeting as she smiled up at me. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s a bit cantankerous at the moment. We’re all used to it around here.”

Glancing back in Peters’s direction, she gave him a small wave. “I’ll be back later,” she said and walked out of the room.

I turned to Peters. He looked pained. “I guess I’m pretty much of an asshole,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. “Everybody is on occasion. What do you want?”

“They’re only here for two nights. I thought you’d want to follow up on it right away.”

“Who’s here? Follow up on what?” I asked. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“On Jasmine,” he replied.

“What’s that?”

“You mean you’ve never heard of her?”

I shook my head. “Never.”

Peters sighed. “You’re hopeless, Beau. Jasmine Day, the singer.”

“What about her?” I still didn’t know who she was, but I didn’t tell Peters that.

“She’s playing the Fifth Avenue. Tonight and tomorrow night. That’s the show your victim must have been working on when he was killed, the one he was doing the setup for. Get the paper, would you? It’s there on the tray table.”

I picked up a newspaper that had been folded open to the entertainment section. The first thing that caught my eye was a quarter-page ad that said, “Jasmine Day is taking the Fifth Avenue by storm.” The ad copy went on to say that tickets were still available for her two Seattle “comeback concerts.” Pictured was a woman with a face framed by cascades of long, blonde hair. It was almost a Dolly Parton look, except in certain areas where Jasmine Day was somewhat less endowed than Dolly is.

“Who is she?” I asked.

“A pop singer. Had a great rock career going until she got busted for drugs. She’s been a patient in Betty Ford’s rehab place down in Rancho Mirage.”

“That’s why they’re calling it a comeback concert?”

“That’s right. But maybe Betty Ford’s cure didn’t take. If memory serves, Jasmine Day was into coke in a big way.”

Suddenly it began to make sense to me. So that was the connection—that was why Peters had been so frantic to get hold of me.

“And they’re only in town tonight and tomorrow night?”

“That’s right. I figured somebody should get cracking on it.”

“You called that shot. I’m on my way.”

I was impatiently punching the elevator button when Amy Fitzgerald caught up to me in the hallway.

“You’re not angry with him, are you?” she asked.

“Of course I’m not.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I was afraid you would be. It’s hard for others to be understanding sometimes when people in Ron Peters’s condition are so…so imperious,” she added finally.

“No. Don’t worry about it. It was important.”

She smiled then, a warm, engaging smile, just as the elevator stopped and the doors opened. “I was happy about it, really,” she said. “It’s the first time he’s shown any interest in anybody but himself.”

The door closed before I could tell her that I wholeheartedly agreed.


THEFIFTHAVENUETHEATER SITS ON THE street for which it was named, just across from the slender, curved base of the Rainier Bank Tower. The box office was open and doing a brisk business when I got there a few minutes after two.

While I waited in line, I studied the life-size posters of Jasmine Day that were displayed around the ticket booth. Huge black-and-white stills showed a lithesome lady of indeterminate age, wearing a skin-tight dress and singing into a handheld microphone. The way her sultry lips grazed the mike was nothing short of provocative.

“May I help you, sir?” The impatience in the ticket seller’s voice jarred me out of my reverie and told me it wasn’t the first time she had asked.

“Yes. I’m here to see someone with the show.”

“We still have tickets for this evening’s performance.”

“No; I want to see someone with the show, someone who’s in charge.”

“You’ll have to go to the administrative office, if you want someone important,” she said icily. “Next.”

The woman standing behind me shouldered her way to the window.

“But where do I go?” I asked.

I watched the ticket seller consider whether or not to tell me where I should go and what I should do when I got there. She finally decided against it and simply answered my question. “Down the street to the building entrance. It’ll say Skinner Building. Up on the second floor.”

Leaving her to sell tickets in peace, I made my way to the front office, which wasn’t nearly as plush as the theater itself. It was old-fashioned, functional, and filled with people who didn’t seem particularly interested in helping me. If I wasn’t there to buy a ticket, I didn’t exist.

BOOK: Taking the Fifth
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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