The Lady Doctor's Alibi (8 page)

BOOK: The Lady Doctor's Alibi
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“Lookin’ for me, sweetie?”
She had a lot of makeup on, including a drawn-on beauty mark above her upper lip. There might have been a pretty woman underneath, but he really couldn’t tell. Her dress was cut low enough to show her breasts, which didn’t have as much bounce to them as they probably once had.
“I wish I was, darling,” he said, “but I’ve got some business to attend to. Maybe later?”
“I’ll be around,” she said, “but what kind of business does a good-lookin’ man like you have in a sorry dump like this?”
“Not here, but I thought I just saw a friend of mine go in here,” he said. “Great big fella, lots of black hair—”
“You’re friends with Rufus?”
“Rufus . . . who?”
“Big ugly fella who just walked in here,” she said. “He has a room. Don’t know his last name.”
“One of your customers?”
She laughed. “He wishes. He don’t have enough money to afford me. He’s got him a woman.”
“Another, uh, lady of the evening like you?”
“Hell, no,” she said. “Hatchet-faced old biddy who probably likes it rough.”
“Rough?”
“I can hear her screamin’ through the walls when she’s with him,” she said. “I think them two probably deserve each other.”
“Doesn’t sound like the man I thought it was,” Clint said. “Thanks a lot.”
“Remember me, honey,” she said. “Name’s Wanda.”
“I won’t forget you, Wanda.”
She waggled the fingers of her right hand at him and flounced down the street, toward the docks.
Clint backed away from the hotel, walked across the street, and found a doorway. He needed some time to think.
He himself had thought of Lillian Graham as “hatchet-faced,” and that was exactly how Wanda had described Rufus’s woman. He supposed a woman married to a respectable doctor could have the urge for some rough sex with a man like Rufus.
He left his doorway and went back across the street to the hotel. This time he entered and approached the desk.
“Help ya?” a bored young clerk asked.
“I’m looking for a fella I met last night, played poker, and he owes me money. All I know is he lives in a hotel down here someplace.”
“I don’t know nothin’.”
Clint took a dollar from his pocket and laid it on the desk.
“All I know is his name’s Rufus,” Clint said. “I’m just looking for where he lives, and what his last name is.”
The man eyed Clint, then grabbed the dollar and closed his fist around it.
“We got a Rufus Holmes livin’ here.”
“Big fella?”
“Real big,” the kid said.
“How’s he make his living?” Clint asked.
Clint put four bits on the bar.
“That’s it,” he said to the kid, who snatched it up.
“He hurts people.”
“What?”
“He gets paid to hurt people,” the clerk said.
“I get it,” Clint said. “What do you know about a woman who comes here to see him?”
“What’s that got to do with him owin’ you money?” the kid asked. Clint just gave him a hard look. “Okay, okay, he’s got some highfalutin lady slummin’ down here with him. She goes to his room, does a lot of screamin’, then comes down and leaves.”
“Don’t know who she is?”
“No idea, but damn, she’s ugly. He’d do better with any of these whores.”
“But then he’d have to pay them.”
“Guess you’re right.” Then the kid’s eyes lit up. “Hey, you think she’s payin’
him
?”
“Could be.”
Suddenly, the kid looked like he had more respect for Rufus.
“Okay, thanks,” Clint said.
“Sure.”
Clint started to leave.
“Hey, mister?” the kid called.
“Yeah?” Clint turned.
“You mind if I tell him you was lookin’ for him?” the clerk asked.
Clint knew the kid thought he might be able to sell Rufus the information.
“Why not?” Clint said. “Go ahead and make yourself some extra money.”
“Hey, thanks, mister.”
Clint said, “Don’t mention it,” and left the hotel.
TWENTY-ONE
“Buy you a drink?”
Boone looked up from his boss’s desk. This time he was sitting behind it.
“Still lookin’ for the sheriff?”
“No, looking for you this time. I want to buy you a drink and pick your brain.”
“Okay,” Boone said. “I never turn down a free drink.” He stood up, grabbed his hat and gun. “But I pick the place.”
“Sure,” Clint said. “You know the town better than I do. In fact, that’s why I want to talk to you.”
“Okay,” Boone said. “Drink first, talk after.”
“Lead the way.”
 
Clint expected Deputy Boone to take him to some noisy, smoke-filled saloon with girls and gambling, but he was surprised when the man led him to a small place with a bar and a few tables.
“My favorite place to drink,” he said as they entered, “and think.”
“Quiet.”
“That’s the point.”
They walked to the bar and the bartender smiled.
“Hey, Jim.”
“Tom,” Boone said. “Meet my friend, Clint Adams.”
“Hello, Mr. Adams. What’ll it be?”
“I’ll have a beer,” Clint said.
“Jim?”
“Since my friend’s paying, I’ll have a whiskey and a beer.”
“Comin’ up, gents.”
Clint looked around. There were others there, but no one was talking to anyone.
“Everyone who comes here keeps his own counsel,” Boone said.
“Are they going to be mad if we have a conversation?” Clint asked.
“It’s up to each individual whether they talk or not,” Boone said.
“Here ya go, gents,” the bartender said.
“Thanks, Tom.”
Boone downed the whiskey in one shot, then sipped his beer.
“What’s on your mind?” Boone asked.
Clint swallowed some beer.
“Do you know a man named Rufus Holmes?”
“Oh, yeah, I know Rufus,” Boone said. “How did you meet him?”
“I haven’t met him,” Clint said, “but I’ve come across him.”
“How?”
“He’s Lillian Graham’s lover.”
Boone stared at him.
“No.”
“Yes.”
“But she’s so . . . and he’s so . . .”
“Ugly?”
Boone scratched his head.
“I don’t know,” the deputy said. “I guess that could make sense. And Rufus could be after her for the money.”
“Which means he killed her husband for her?” Clint suggested.
“Or on his own,” Boone said. “Or not at all. Is he your main suspect now?”
“I saw him in front of Graham’s office and followed him. He led me to his hotel. I talked to a clerk, and a whore there, and they both described Lillian Graham as having visited him there. On more than one occasion.”
“I see.”
“If they’re . . . involved, it makes sense to me that they planned the doctor’s death, and Rufus is the one who did it. After all, he was beaten to death.”
“And that’s pretty much Rufus Holmes’s trademark,” Boone said. “I don’t even think he carries a weapon.”
“What do you think the sheriff will think?”
“He’s still kind of sold on the lady doctor, but he’ll listen. He’s a reasonable man.”
“Is he getting any pressure?”
“Pressure?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Political pressure?”
Clint nodded.
“Well, he has been talkin’ to the mayor,” Boone said. “The town council would like a quick ending to the matter.”
“That figures.”
“But he won’t arrest the lady doctor just to make them happy,” Boone said. “He won’t make an arrest without evidence.”
“Well then,” Clint said, “I guess I’ll just have to find him some.”
TWENTY-TWO
They had another beer each before leaving the saloon. Clint made note of the place’s location, and the name: Tom’s Tavern.
“Tavern,” Clint said as they left. “That’s a British term, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know,” Boone said. “Never been out of North America myself.”
When they reached the sheriff’s office, the man had still not returned.
“I reckon I’ll have to go and look for him,” Boone said. “Where will you be?”
“My hotel, I guess, or the doctor’s office.”
“Okay,” Boone said. “When I find him, we’ll come and see you.”
“All right.”
“You can make your case to Sheriff Brown and we’ll see what he says.”
Clint shook hands with the man and left the office.
He went back to the doctor’s office, found both Lissa Sugarman and Marietta hard at work.
“I thought you were going to take a rest,” Clint said to the doctor.
“I will,” she said. “I just need to give Marietta a few more instructions.”
“Where is she?”
“In with the patients. Do you want to come in?”
“Sure.”
“Come.”
Clint followed Lissa into the other room. It looked a lot like a bunkhouse, with beds fitted in at every angle.
“Was this supposed to be his hospital?” Clint asked.
“The beginning of one, I guess,” she said.
Marietta straightened up from the patient she had been tending to.
“Dr. Graham was a great man,” she said. “He was going to give Veracruz a real hospital.”
“Not if his wife could help it,” Clint said.
“You know?” Marietta asked, eyes wide.
“Know what?”
“That one,” she said, “the doctor’s wife. She is an evil woman.”
“Well,” Clint said, “I know she’s a hard woman.”
“What do you mean by
evil
, Marietta?” Dr. Sugarman asked.
“He hated her, and she hated him,” Marietta said, “but even though he was a great man, Dr. Graham was weak. And she was strong—very strong.”
“She dominated him.”
“Yes,” Marietta said. “She did not want him to help people. She was very . . . greedy.”
“How did she expect him to make money if he didn’t help people?” Lissa asked.
Marietta shrugged.
“I only know she did not want him to spend money building a hospital.”
“Well,” Clint said, “she has her way now.”
“What will happen to the hospital?” Marietta asked. “What will happen here?”
“I imagine after these patients are sent home, she’ll close this place down,” Clint said.
“B-But now we have another doctor,” Marietta said.
“I’ll have to go back to my own office, Marietta,” Lissa said.
The young Mexican girl looked at her.
“Will I be able to work for you?”
“I—I don’t know,” Lissa said. “I wouldn’t be able to pay you much.”
“That does not matter,” the girl said. “At least . . . I wouldn’t have to be . . . be home.”
“I’m sure your husband wants you home, Marietta,” Clint said.
“He is not my husband,” she said. “He was married to my mother.”
“I see,” Clint said.
“I do not want to go back there,” she said. “He is . . . cruel.”
“Cruel,” Clint said, looking at Lissa. “Seems to be a lot of that going around.”
Lissa went to Marietta and put her arms around the girl’s shoulders.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll need you here for a while. You can stay here.”
“But what will happen after she closes this place?” Marietta asked.
“I don’t know,” Lissa said. “Why don’t we just take care of things here and we’ll deal with it later.”
“Doctor?” Clint cut in. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Of course.” Lissa patted Marietta’s shoulder. “Take care of the patients. I’ll be right back.”
“Yes, Doctor.”
They went back into the office.
“Do you have a gun?” he asked.
“I—I don’t, but the doctor may have had one around here someplace.”
“Let’s take a look.”
It didn’t take long for them to determine that there was no gun on the premises—or so they thought.
“Señor Adams?”
They turned and saw Marietta standing in the doorway.
“Yes?” Clint said. “What is it, Marietta?”
“I have this,” she said, and brought a Navy Colt out from beneath her skirts.
“Jesus,” Clint said, “that might blow up in your hand.”
He went to her and took the gun.
“Where did you get this?”
“I took it from . . . from home.”
He checked it over, found that it was in good working order.
“Will it work?” Lissa asked.
“Oh yeah, it’ll work fine.” He turned to Lissa. “Can you shoot?”
“I—I never have,” she said.
Clint looked at Marietta.
“I can shoot, señor,” she said.
“Then I guess you better hold on to this.”
He handed her the gun back. She took it into the other room with her.
“Why do we need a gun?” Lissa asked Clint.
BOOK: The Lady Doctor's Alibi
6.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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