Waiting, that's all.
But now, she arrived at the house, deep in the hilly countryside, rolling lawn and a three-story brick colonial with four white pillars across the front. Elaine had always thought the pillars a bit pretentious, but Jack had loved them, probably more than he'd ever loved Elaine, from the first time he'd gazed on them, bringing her home after their first date.
Elaine thumbed the garage opener on the visor, drove in, walked on into the house with one sack of groceries, and was barely in the kitchen when the front doorbell rang. She wasn't expecting anybody, so let Rosita get it; opening doors to salesmen was a job for the maid, not the mistress of the house.
"Man here. Says you know him from the highway."
"From the highway?" They weren't going to tear up the road again, were they? Let them not start until I'm safely in France, she thought, but said to Rosita, "I'll take care of it," and walked to the front door to see one of the bank robbers standing there. In her good cop, bad cop image of them, this was the bad cop, the one who never joked.
But good G.o.d, people like that weren't supposed to come here. here. Looking past him at the dark blue Lexus parked on the wide part of the drive, she said, "What are you Looking past him at the dark blue Lexus parked on the wide part of the drive, she said, "What are you doing doing? We're not supposed to know each other."
"I'm here for the gun," he said.
At first she really didn't understand him. "What gun?"
"The one you shot Beckham with," he said. "You want to talk about it out here, or in the house?"
"Fine, I can talk out here."
"No, no, come in. It's all right, Rosita!" she called, and led him down the hall, past the front parlor, to the smaller rear parlor, where they sometimes watched television. "Sit down," she said, "and tell me what wild idea you seem to have."
Since the chairs all faced the television set, he half-turned one toward her before sitting down. Then he said, "A pro would throw the gun away right after, but you're not a pro, and you are greedy, so you held on to it."
"If you're saying I shot Jake-"
"We're past that," he said. "You did it, and sooner or later a cop is gonna show up here, and you've got a license for that gun. They'll want to see it. If you say you lost it, they'll get a warrant and search the house and find it and match it to the bullet they're gonna take out of Beckham."
Being called greedy had overshadowed everything else he'd said. She said icily, "I really don't see-"
"What happens to you, I don't care," he said. "But if they nail you as the shooter, the whole bank job comes undone. I don't want it undone."
"Why on Earth Earth would I try to kill Jake Beckham!" would I try to kill Jake Beckham!"
"You didn't," he said. "You tried to put him in the hospital. When I told you, at that highway place, that he planned to miss a meeting with his parole officer, so he'd be safely in the can when the job went down, you said there was no need for that, n.o.body's gonna suspect Beckham anyway. But then, when he didn't didn't miss the meeting, you realized, if he does draw attention to himself, he's also gonna draw attention to you. If he goes down, you go down. So you shot him, to put him on ice for a while, but you weren't smart enough to get rid of the gun, so-" miss the meeting, you realized, if he does draw attention to himself, he's also gonna draw attention to you. If he goes down, you go down. So you shot him, to put him on ice for a while, but you weren't smart enough to get rid of the gun, so-"
The doorbell sounded again, at the other end of the house. Irritated, she said, "Now what?" what?"
"Probably a cop." He stood. "Where's the gun?"
"I don't see-"
Rosita was in the doorway: "Missus, a lady policeman here."
Her heart leaped into her throat, and she stared at the robber, who didn't even seem to have heard what Rosita said. As quietly as before, he said, "Where's the gun?"
"Kitchen," she said, suddenly breathy. "Top drawer, farthest right, near the door to the garage."
He nodded, then said, "The car out front belongs to a guy gonna do some landscaping. He's here to take measurements outside and then he's going, he's not coming into the house." And he turned and left the room.
Elaine blinked at Rosita, then regained some control of herself. "That man was not here."
"I'll see the policeman in the front parlor."
By the time she got to the front parlor, she was no longer visibly shaking, but she didn't look forward to being questioned by a policeman, not even a lady policeman. If that man had so immediately understood that she was the one who had shot Jake, and why, who else might see it? And he'd even known she'd keep the gun; he'd just a.s.sumed it, that she would be so careless.
She had to be careful. Starting now, she had to be very careful.
The lady policeman didn't look like a policeman at all, but was a very attractive blonde in her twenties, long-necked and slim-hipped, stylishly dressed in boots and slacks and a tan high-necked blouse. She was what Harvey would have called a thoroughbred. Why would such a person choose to be a policeman?
"I'm Mrs. Langen. May I help you?"
"Detective Second Grade Gwen Reversa," the woman said, and showed a gold badge in a dark leather case. "I'm the investigating officer in the Jake Beckham shooting."
"Oh, poor Jake," Elaine said, praying she sounded innocent and shocked. "You don't know yet who did it?"
"Not yet," the detective said, and smiled. "But there's always hope."
"Yes, of course. Oh, I'm sorry, do sit down. That's the most comfortable chair."
They sat, Elaine on the sofa, the detective on the comfortable chair, and the detective first put her shoulder bag on her lap, then took a notebook and pen from it, saying, "You've known Jake Beckham for some years, I believe."
Elaine was astonished to feel a blush rising into her cheeks, but then was pleased by it, too; that would be a proof of innocence, wouldn't it, a blush? Cheeks hot, she said, "Oh, Jake and I were a scandal, years ago. The one time I strayed from my marriage. I'm not proud of it, I can tell you that."
"But you and Mr. Beckham remained friends."
"He's had so much trouble, poor man, and I suppose it's partly my fault. I take it you know about his imprisonment."
"He stole from your husband's bank."
"My father's bank. Well, it was then, but it's true, Jack, my husband, he was the one who insisted on pressing charges. Now I realize that meant he knew all about us."
"You mean, if you hadn't been having an affair with Jake Beckham, he might not have gone to prison."
"He definitely wouldn't have gone to prison. My father liked Jake, he would have been perfectly happy to give him another chance. But my husband was determined."
The detective nodded, looking around the room, seeming to weigh it on some sort of scale. Then she said, "Are there any guns in this house?"
"Yes, one," Elaine said, and she couldn't believe what a close call that had been. "I have a pistol," she said. "I even have a license for it."
"But your husband has none?"
"No, Jack doesn't like guns. He says, 'I can argue, or I can run, but I don't know how to shoot.'"
"But you know how to shoot."
"Oh, yes. I took cla.s.ses, I even used to go to the range and practice every once in a while. Haven't done that for years." Smiling, trying for a lightness of tone, she said, "I hope you don't think I I could shoot anybody. Especially Jake." could shoot anybody. Especially Jake."
"Well, he's a friend," Elaine said, then leaned forward to emphasize the point. "Nothing more than that, not since our sordid sordid story all came out. But we've stayed friends. I had a drink with him, oh, two or three weeks ago. When I'm glum, you know, he cheers me up." story all came out. But we've stayed friends. I had a drink with him, oh, two or three weeks ago. When I'm glum, you know, he cheers me up."
"Yes, I can see where he would," the detective said, and smiled again.
"Oh, you've talked to him, of course you have. How is he? I didn't think I should visit him in the hospital, I wouldn't want tongues wagging again."
"He's in good spirits," the detective said. "Could I see this gun of yours?"
"Oh, I have no idea where it is," Elaine said. Her heart was pounding, and for the first time she was uncertain she could carry this off.
The detective frowned. "You don't know where it is? A gun is a serious thing, Mrs. Langen."
"Oh, I know, it's just- Years ago, I was taking women's defense cla.s.ses and things, and the gun was just a part of all that, that empowerment everybody went through. After a while, I just lost interest."
"Still, to not know where you keep a gun-"
"Well, I used to keep it in a kitchen drawer, near the door to the garage, so it would be handy if I were going to the range or whatever, but then Jack said, what if somebody breaks in, if they come in through the garage that drawer's the first thing they'll open."
And it was true, Jack had said just that, several times, and she'd ignored him every time. She was used to ignoring things she didn't agree with.
"So then you moved it," the detective said.
"I think think I did. It could still be there, but I don't think so." I did. It could still be there, but I don't think so."
"Could we take a look?"
"Miss-Ms-what do I call you?"
"Detective is fine."
"All right. Detective, do you really think there's the slightest possibility I I shot Jake? For what earthly reason?" shot Jake? For what earthly reason?"
"Or your husband," the detective said blandly. "Or anyone else with access to that firearm. May we take a look, see if it's there?"
"Well, I suppose so," Elaine said, and they both stood. As they walked together through the house, toward the kitchen, the detective said, "Is that your Lexus parked out front?"
"No, that's a landscape man, he's here to do some measurements outside." Again with a stab at girlish lightness, she said, "He wouldn't have access to the firearm, he's just measuring things outdoors." wouldn't have access to the firearm, he's just measuring things outdoors."
In the kitchen, she led the way to the right drawer and opened it, and there lay a small hammer, two screwdrivers, a small pair of pliers, three pencil stubs, and a box of cartridges for the gun, but no gun.
"You still have the ammunition, I see."
"Yes." Her hand shook slightly as she picked up the surprisingly heavy box. "I don't know how how old these are by now." Opening the box, she said, "About half left. It's really been a long time." old these are by now." Opening the box, she said, "About half left. It's really been a long time."
Looking around, the detective said, "Would you have moved it somewhere else in this room?"
"Or up to my bedroom, the closet there, I truly don't know. I'm really very sorry, but I'd stopped thinking about that gun ages ago."
"It would be better if we could find it," the detective said. "I mean, just informally, without going through the process of getting a search warrant from a judge or anything like that."
Feeling increasingly put-upon, Elaine said, "Do we really have to make such a big deal over it?"
"If you'd like," the detective said, "I could phone for a few officers to just come out and look for it while we chat. They wouldn't disturb anything, I promise. Of course, if you'd rather check with your attorney . . ."
"No." Elaine sighed, and that was as honest as the blush had been. "Go ahead," she said. "Make your call."
When Jack Langen saw the dark blue police van parked at his front door, next to a nondescript tan Plymouth Fury, his immediate thought was, What's she done now now? He just took it for granted, if the police were here, it would be because of something Elaine had done. She was a p.r.i.c.kly, difficult woman, and a part of the problem of her existence was the way she would suddenly spurt into action somewhere without the slightest thought for the consequences. So if the police were here, what had Elaine done now?
Thumbing the garage opener on the visor, putting his black Lincoln Navigator into the garage next to Elaine's white Infiniti, Jack told himself he shouldn't be hasty in his a.s.sumptions. Hasty, half-baked a.s.sumptions were Elaine's specialty, after all, not his. So if the police were here, and say for argument's sake it was not not because Elaine had been stupid or careless, what reason might it be? because Elaine had been stupid or careless, what reason might it be?
The bank move. The date for that had just been settled this afternoon. Elaine didn't even know it yet, unless the police had just told her. The four armored cars from Boston would arrive here the night of October 4, just one week from today. Rooms for the four drivers and the eight accompanying guards had been taken at the Green Man Motel. The packing of over seventy-five years of correspondence and records and files and all the many kinds of necessary government forms had just begun. The cash reserves in the vault in the bas.e.m.e.nt of the Deer Hill building would undergo a final audit in the two days before the move, being brought up to the bank itself starting after closing time on the fourth.
This was going to be the largest single act of Jack Langen's life. The company they'd hired to oversee the operation, Secure Removals, the American subsidiary of a British private security corporation, had already been on-site, and Bart Hosfeld, the manager in charge, had told him this afternoon that the closest thing in life to a move of this sort was an invasion in a war. "Well, except," Jack had said, "there's no enemy shooting at you."
"With this much money in cash floating around the midnight roads?" Bart had answered. "Don't be that sure."
A happy thought.
But that was why they were keeping the whole move as secret as possible, and why, he told himself as he got out of the Navigator and walked around the Infiniti and on into the house, it might very well be that the reason for the police presence at his house at this moment had something to do with the move.
But not. When he walked into the kitchen, a woman in police uniform was in there, wearing white rubber gloves and searching the kitchen drawers. She looked around when he entered, nodded and said, "Good afternoon, sir."
Nothing to do with the bank. Everything to do with Elaine. But why are they searching the kitchen? Jack said, "Is my wife here?" half-expecting she was in a jail cell somewhere.
But the woman cop said, "Oh, yes, sir, she's in the front room with Detective Reversa."
"Yes, sir. Excuse me, I'm almost done here."