Reggie walked out of the courthouse into the sunlight. He blinked. He wore a new suit, a replacement for the ones that had been destroyed when his apartment was trashed two weeks ago. This one was the color of milk chocolate, and had a vest. His French cuff shirt was sky blue, and he wore a burgundy ascot. His hair, as ever, refused to choose a direction.
“Well?” I asked as he approached.
“Case dismissed. The prosecutor seemed unsure whether he could prove I was unlawfully on the property.”
“You see, since mom’s estate was never probated—”
“Wait,” I said. “You’d been charged with trespassing on your own mother’s land?”
“There were some irregularities about how Summers and Harris came to be at the scene, too.”
“I’m sure the fact that you’re a star witness for the prosecution in two murders cases didn’t hurt.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Reggie grinned. “That prosecutor, Mr. Tallman? He seems like the Samson Brown type. I don’t think he’d bend the rules.”
I laughed. “Here come your friends,” I said.
Lt. Summers and Det. Harris of the SFPD marched in lock step from the doors of the courthouse to their unmarked car, which they had parked at an expired meter. Harris tore a yellow ticket from beneath the windshield wiper and tossed it over his shoulder, into the street. Summers stood by the car, glaring at us over the rims of his glasses.
“Shhhh!” Reggie said in a faux whisper. “This is the part where they tell us ‘You two haven’t seen the last of us!’” Summers pushed the bridge of his glasses up his nose, and reluctantly got into the car. Harris drove away, as Reggie waved.
We walked back to where we’d parked. The Jaguar, of course, was in the body shop. The faces on the mechanics had been filled with a peculiar combination of doubt and greed as I’d driven up. The car’s exterior was dented, scratched, scrapped, broken, bashed in, and generally abused during the scuffle between Reggie and Melvin. Since it still drove like new, I decided it was worth it to make the repairs. I was happy Reggie hadn’t managed to get inside, and happier still that he was alive.
Yes, his “death scene” (as he referred to it) had been a trick. The injury, however, was real. Blood loss, it seems, is blood loss, regardless of species. He was laid up at the Renards’ for a week. The story Street had put in her report was that a rabid fox had attacked him. This, of course, lead to complications with Animal Control, who put up rabies posters all over the area, forcing Scooter, Steve, Shawn, Jesse, et al to break camp.
We reached the Porsche I’d rented to find Street and Banks leaning up against it. “Anne wanted to give you the news in person,” Banks said.
“Yeah, the State PI Advisory Board approved your permanent license,” Street said. “Congratulations, Detective.” She handed him an envelope.
“You two reading my mail?” Reggie asked.
“It’s sealed,” Street pointed out.
Reggie tore it open and showed it to me. It was what Street said it was. A Private Investigator’s License, issued by the State of New Mexico.
“How’d this end up in your hands?” Reggie asked.
“After they interviewed us for your background check,” Street said, “my friend on the Board asked if I’d like to deliver the news personally.” Reggie smiled. “Also,” she continued, “I did a little digging on the people you say trashed your place. Your pals Summers and Harris didn’t file any report. No one matching that description ever popped up in the jail’s database. There’s definitely something fishy there, but you’d have a hell of a time proving it.”
“Thanks,” Reggie nodded. “I kinda figured that.”
“Can you believe the stories in that journal?” Banks asked. She’d been accosting Reggie on the matter of werewolves ever since he’d been out of the Renards’ care. He continued to insist they did not exist. As she assaulted him with a new theory about government experiments with eugenics dating back to the Civil War era, I pulled Street aside.
“I saw the report you wrote,” I said. “That must have hurt your ego a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean lying, and saying that you missed the ‘rabid fox’ five times. You’re a hell of a shot.”
“I think you’ll find it only says that five shots were fired, but none succeeded in bringing the fox down.” Street smiled. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
“Good job!” I said. I felt stupid, saying it that way. A breeze blew a strand of blonde hair into her face, and instinctively I brushed it away. “Sorry,” I said. She ignored it.
“Anyway, DPS isn’t looking too closely at my report. They’re too busy investigating Angelini’s involvement.”
“Think that will derail the trial?”
“I doubt even the security footage of you two flipping through my files could do that,” she said. I suddenly felt like I’d swallowed a hummingbird, but she winked at me.
“The evidence is that good?” I said, trying not to sound concerned about the security tapes.
“The exterior of the rifle had been wiped clean of prints,” she said. “The magazine and the remaining bullets had Pat White’s fingerprints on them.”
“That doesn’t do much good,” I said.
“But there are long platinum hairs stuck in the trigger, and wrapped all over the piece. And we found traces of gunpowder and silver residue on some of her clothes. Her trunk was scrubbed clean, but there was some blood under the mats. Packey’s and Noah’s.”
“That’s better,” I said. Reggie extracted himself from conversing with Banks, and we drove away.
Reggie and I drove for a while in silence. It was a stiff silence, the sort where you can feel the tension in the other person’s posture, even without looking at them. Eventually I tried breaking it.
“What’s wrong, son?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. He turned his head and stared out the window.
“Seems like you’re having a good day.”
“Yep. Great.” I let him stew quietly, but it didn’t last long. He let out a stream of ‘fucks’ that lasted for a full minute. I guess being a compulsive atheist narrows your choice of swear words a bit.
“What was that business with Bonami about?” he finally blurted out. “Her cell-phone’s dead, she never went back to her apartment. Now I hear there was never a report. She’s just gone, like she never existed. And shit, I still don’t know where Jack Renard really was during the first few days after his release. Everyone’s congratulating me on this fucking case, and I didn’t do shit.”
“You’re being too hard on yourself there. You’re good at your job. You notice things about folks. Tell me the truth, do you really like Booker T and the MGs?”
“Of course I—”
“Name a hit of theirs that isn’t ‘Green Onions.’”
“Okay, fine. I don’t know Booker T and the MGs.”
“No, you figured out I would, though, and you pretended you did.”
“You had a box of records sitting half open in the cab of that truck, Sam.”
“Which you noticed. And used to your advantage.”
“What have I done right when it counted, though?” he said. “On this case? Name anything!”
“You brought Melvin’s tattoos to Detective Street’s attention,” I said.
“She’d have eventually figured it—”
“Shut it and listen,” I said. “You were the only one who noticed the disappearance of a street beggar that coincided with the appearance of a dismembered torso.”
“That was luck!”
“No such thing, boy,” I grinned, and continued. “You had particular knowledge that let you look at the case from a different angle than anyone else, providing the Sheriff’s Detectives with evidence they wouldn’t have otherwise had. Including the first corpse, Mr. Sorrypants. You were the one Melvin trusted enough to open up to. You saved my life and Detective Street’s life, too.”
“I’ll concede Noah’s body, and Street’s life,” Reggie said, “but I’m the one who put your life in danger, Sam.”
“It takes no talent whatsoever to get your friends in trouble, Reggie,” I said. “It takes a heap of skill and determination to get them back out again. Now are you through throwing your little pity party? Because this Bonami business, I think, is sort of a big deal. You sure the notebook they’re after’s somewhere safe? And not in my home?”
“Sam, there is no notebook. I committed it to memory and burned everything. There’s nothing to find.”
“So what they’re really after is you?”
“Yep, except they haven’t figured it out yet.” He stared out the window for a while.
“I hope it stays that way,” I said.