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Dream Man(14)
Author: Linda Howard

Dane scowled at her. “This should have been your case. We had the weekend off, damn it.”

“Sorry,” she said blithely, giving Trammell a smile of greeting when he looked up from the telephone that had been welded to his ear for most of the morning.

“How’s the tooth?” Dane asked.

“Better. I’m up to my eyeteeth in antibiotics and painkillers, no pun intended. It was an abscess, so now I’m having a root canal.”

“Tough.” The sympathy was sincere.

“I’ll live, but Worley’s doing all the driving while I have to take this stuff.” Worley was her partner. “Anything we can do to help, any leads we can run down? We have our own cases, but from what I’ve heard, the scene Saturday morning was straight out of a horror movie.”

“It wasn’t pretty.” An understatement if he’d ever made one. Freddie patted him again, this time on the shoulder, and went about her business. Dane turned back to his.

Detective work was mostly boring; it involved a lot of talking on the telephone, going through papers, or going out to talk to people race-to-face. Dane had spent the last few hours involved in the first two activities. Usually Trammell handled this part of the job better than he did, being more patient, but this time he had set himself to it with grim determination. What had happened to Nadine Vinick should never happen to anyone, but it really pissed him off that Marlie Keen had all but rubbed his nose in her knowledge of it.

“Got anything yet?” Trammell asked, frustration plain in his voice as he hung up the telephone. “I came up empty on both the pizza delivery and the cable company. The entire street had trouble with the cable, and it was repaired on the line, over a block away. It wasn’t necessary to enter any residence. And the pizza was delivered by a sixteen-year-old girl. Mr. Vinick is the one who paid her, anyway. Dead end.”

“Nothing here, either,” Dane muttered. “Yet.” Marlie Keen had never been arrested, had never even had a parking ticket, as far as he could find. He didn’t let that discourage him. Maybe “Marlie Keen” was an alias. If so, he’d eventually turn up that information. People could be tracked through Social Security numbers, tax returns, any number of means. He knew where she worked and what kind of car she drove. He’d already sent out various requests, such as for a record of calls she’d made and received; by the time he was finished, he’d even know her bra size.

He bet he could make a damn good guess at that right now: 34C. At first he would have guessed no more than a B cup, but that nunnish white blouse had been deceiving. He had noticed a tantalizing roundness—

Damn it! He had to stop thinking about sex, at least in connection with her. Every time he remembered that eerie, macabre tale she’d spun, he almost choked with rage. Nadine Vinick had endured unutterable hell before she’d died, and Marlie Keen, if that was her real name, was trying to turn it into a sideshow. He wouldn’t be surprised to get a call from the local media, asking if there was any truth to the rumor that the OPD was working with a psychic to find the murderer. If Marlie Keen wanted publicity, for whatever sick reason, her next move would be to notify the media herself.

Her gall still astounded him. He totally discounted that psychic shit; the only way she could have known the things she’d known was to have been there. He didn’t know if the murder had been played out exactly as she’d said, but the pertinent details of it had been dead on the money. The only way she would have had the nerve to bring herself to their attention was if she knew there was no evidence to link her to the crime. The murderer had been excruciatingly careful; forensics hadn’t turned up even the tiniest shred of alien material. Therefore, she had done it for the thrill of thumbing her nose at the police department, flaunting the details before them and knowing they couldn’t pin anything on her.

She hadn’t handled the knife herself; he was fairly certain of that. So the actual murderer was someone she knew, someone she was close to. A brother, maybe, or a boyfriend. Someone close enough to share torture and murder. He thought of her in bed with the bastard who had carved up Mrs. Vinick, and his stomach twisted.

She had made a mistake, taunting him with her knowledge. She was the thread that would lead him to the murderer, and he wouldn’t let go until he reached the end.

He stood up and reached for his jacket. “Let’s go,” he said to Trammell.

“Any place in particular?”

“To talk to Ms. Keen’s neighbors. Find out if she has a boyfriend.”

She didn’t. The neighbors on the left, retirees from Ohio, were certain of that. Bill and Lou, as they introduced themselves, described Marlie as quiet, friendly, and always accommodating about collecting their newspaper and mail whenever they visited their daughter back in Massillon, and feeding their cat. Not many neighbors were so friendly.

“Have you noticed anyone coming or going from the house? Does she have many visitors?”

“Not that I’ve seen, though of course, we don’t just sit and watch Marlie’s house,” Lou said with all the indignant righteousness of someone who did just that. “No, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any visitors over there. Have you, Bill?”

Bill scratched his jaw. “Don’t think so. She’s just about the perfect neighbor, you know. Always speaks when we see her, don’t have her nose in the air like some. Keeps her yard neat, too.”

Dane frowned as he scribbled in the small notebook that every policeman carried. “Not any visitors?” he stressed. “Ever?”

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