The Suspect - L R Wright (30 page)

BOOK: The Suspect - L R Wright
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Isn't that odd? Isn't that peculiar?

But I think that's what it was, all right.

I liked you, Mr. Alberg, despite it all. I know it
was a hard time for you. Mounties like to get their man, and all that
crap.

But just think how much harder it would have
been—M1GHT have been—if I'd planned the whole thing. I'm a pretty
good planner. You might never have figured it out at all. And
wouldn't that have been a whole lot worse for you?

George Wilcox
 

CHAPTER 33

Alberg folded the letter and put it back in the
envelope. It had been sent to him at home. He had read it sitting at
the dining table in his living room, on a day in mid-August. The old
man hadn't outlived Carlyle Burke by much, he thought. A little over
two months.

He got up, now, and went to the big window that
looked out onto the road and his hydrangea bushes, smothered in huge
blue blossoms. It was five o'clock on a hot, sunny afternoon.

He went to the telephone in his kitchen and put
through a call to his daughters in Calgary.

"Hi,” he said, when Janey answered.

"Daddy!" she said. He tried to listen
dispassionately, objectively, but he couldn't help it; he heard joy
in her voice whether it was there or not, and put his head in his
hand and let the tears come. '

"
Where are you?" she said excitedly.

"
Gibsons,” he said, and cleared his throat.

"
Oh. I thought you might here. In Calgary. "
Surely he couldn't have mistaken her tone; surely there was real
disappointment there.

"
No, I'm here. At home. I just wanted to hear
your voice.”

There was a short pause. "Daddy?" she said
"Are you all right?"

He started to say sure, fine, put on his hearty
reassuring-father act but it wouldn't come, it just wouldn't come.
 
"Not really, sweetie," he said.
"A friend of mine died. I'm a bit sad." He lifted his head
from his hand in amazement. A friend?

"Oh, Daddy," she said. "I'm so sorry."
Another pause. "I wish I were there. I'd give you a hug and try
to make you feel better. Like you used to do with us."

"Did I?" he said, astonished.

"
Of course you did." He waited, holding his
breath, but she didn't even add, in that dry, detached tone that
struck him to the bone, "Whenever you were available, that is.”

"I love you, Janey," he said.

"
And I love you, Daddy."

"
When are you coming out here?" He tried a
fatherly chuckle, meant to reassure her.

She put her hand over the receiver and mumbled
something to someone in the room with her. Oh, Christ, he thought,
she's got her boyfriend in for the night. He tried to blank it from
his mind.

"
Just a minute, Dad," she said, and then
Diana was on the phone.

"Labor Day weekend," said Diana.

"
Labor Day weekend what?"

"We're coming out there," she said.

"
Out here? We? You mean you and Janey?"

"Of course I mean me and Janey. Who else? You
want to see Mom, you've got to make your own arrangements. I take
that back," she said quickly. "Yeah, we'd like to come out
for the long weekend. Okay with you?"

"Okay with me," he said, smiling.

When he'd hung up the phone he leaned heavily against
the kitchen counter. What was he: father, friend, cop, what? He
slumped there for a long time, trying to figure it out.

Eventually he became aware of an unfamiliar sound. He
cocked his head, trying to identify it, then sprang away from the
counter and hurried through the door into the sun porch. He peered
through the screen, and there she was. Gently, slowly, he opened the
door, and the cat undulated through the opening. She stood looking up
at him, meowing.

"
It's over there," he said, pointing.

She followed his gaze and ambled over to the blue
bowl, and he watched her, and became horrified. He went to her and
crouched down, examining her without touching her. She was bloated
around the middle.

As she lapped contentedly from the blue bowl, lifting
her head every now and then to glance at him, unafraid, even
friendly, he looked her over more carefully.

When she finished eating she looked around, spotted
the cardboard box full of clean rags and stepped delicately inside,
turned around several times and arranged herself contentedly. He
thought he heard her purr.

It occurred to him that she was there for the
duration. He went into the kitchen and, without letting himself think
about it, called the library.

"Cassandra?"

"
Yes.”

"
It's Karl. Karl Alberg.”

"
You're the only Karl I know.”

He tried to think, looking into his porcelain sink,
rust-marked.

"I got a letter from George Wilcox," he
said. "He's dead.”

"
I know,” said Cassandra after a minute. "I
got one too. And a package?

"
A package? Not the bloody parrot.”

"
No. Some jewelry.”

He remembered a wide gold bracelet, and a large ring,
and thought of the crystal pitcher.

"My daughters are coming out here,” he said.
"For the Labor Day weekend?

"
That's nice," she said politely.

"
One more thing.”

"
What is it?"

"I've got a cat here. Did I ever tell you about
this cat?"

"
No, you didn't. We didn't know each other very
long," she said.

"
Yeah, well, it's a stray. It goes away for a
while, comes back for a while, goes away for a while."

"
Are you at work?”

"
Work? No. I'm on a day off."

"
Okay. Go on."

"
Well, it's come back. The cat."

"
It that bad or good?"

"It's good. I've been waiting for the damn cat
since April. Been leaving milk out every night and everything. Damn
cat never showed up."

"But it's back now."

"Yeah. I think it's pregnant.”

Silence.

"It's very big around the middle."

Silence.

"I don't think it's going to go away again.
Until after it's had its kittens."

Silence.

"Cassandra?"

"Yes?"

"I don't know what to do."

"Well what do you expect me to say, for God's
sake? Cats have kittens, that's part of being a cat."

"Yes, but it's my goddamn responsibility!"
he shouted. "And I don't know what to do!”

Silence.

"Karl?"

"Yeah."

"
There are lots of books in the library. I'm
sure there's one here that will tell you how to help a cat have
kittens.”

"That's a very good idea," said Alberg
thoughtfully. "I don't know why I didn't think of it myself."
He grinned. "I'll be right down.”
 
 

BOOK: The Suspect - L R Wright
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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