“So what we’re left with,” Street concluded, “is that the person who was responsible for this knew Patrick Junior was alive, knew about all but one of Melvin’s tattoos, and would benefit from getting the Renards off the land. Now, Mr. Salazar, forgive me, but your hatred of the Renards is well known. They put the environmental protesters on to you. They may be legally in possession of land you’ve been litigating over with Pat White for years. You called them names in the street. You tried to buy them off the property. You’ve got no love for them.”
“That doesn’t mean I—” Salazar began.
“No, it doesn’t,” Reggie agreed. “But someone with a poorly disguised Texan accent called me from a blocked cell phone number to tell me where to find Packey’s torso. Detective Street found the rest of him in that little abattoir where you like to play butcher,” Reggie continued.
“That doesn’t—” Salazar spat, rising from his chair. “Patty, help a guy out here!”
“Then there’s the blood stain under this rug.” Detective Street kicked up the corner of the rug that rested under our feet to reveal the dark mark of murder upon the hard wood floor. “Samples have been sent to the lab. We’ll have results by morning.”
“Now you look here!” Salazar shouted. “My ranch hands and them other Mexicans have the run of this place—”
“That’s not how any of them see it, Mr. Salazar.” Reggie pointed out.
“I- I didn’t kill anyone! I don’t even- I don’t know anything about Melvin’s tattoos. And I couldn’t have known the other kid was still alive!”
“Oh shut up, Mike,” Patty said.
“Patty?” Mike Salazar turned to her, suddenly struck dumb.
For an instant, I saw Reggie’s eyes widen in surprise. Then he recovered, and a hungry grin spread across his face. He licked his lips.
“There’s only one person who fits, isn’t there?” Street said. “You’re the only person who knew about the tattoos, who had access to Pat’s gun, who knew about Packey, and who knew about your husband’s werewolf obsession.”
“I’m not going to say a thing,” Patty said, looking Street dead in the eye.
“You don’t have to,” Street said. “In fact, you have the right to remain silent.” Street read Patty the rest of her Miranda rights, then continued the conversation. “But I would like to let you know one thing before we take you in. None of this had to happen.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Patty laughed, shaking her long blonde hair back.
“What did Sheriff Angelini tell you about your first husband’s death?” Street asked.
“He said the evidence pointed to me,” Patty said. “That it looked like I’d killed JT, because we’d been arguing the day before. He said he’d make sure none of that ever came to light if I—” she closed her eyes, and swallowed.
“That’s what he told you at first,” Street said. “But he told you something else, later, didn’t he?”
“He,” a tear rolled down Patty’s red, strained face. “After Pat and I were married, John told me that JT’s death was Pat’s fault.”
“But,” I spoke up, “wasn’t JT Cardew’s death a suicide?”
“It was,” Street nodded. “He hung himself from the rafters when no one else was home.”
“Because of Pat White,” Patty said, setting her jaw.
“Sheriff Angelini told you JT owed Pat money,” Street said. “Isn’t that right?” She paused just long enough for Patty to nod her head, and continued. “Pat had ownership in one of the Casinos out near Albuquerque. He told JT he felt bad that he’d lost so much money there, so when Juegos was doing badly, Pat loaned him a hundred grand. And the Sheriff told you JT never paid Pat back.”
“That’s right,” Patty said.
“Did you know Sheriff Angelini owed Pat money, too?” Street asked.
“Yes,” Patty said.
“So,” Street cocked her head to one side, “that’s when the two of you agreed you would ruin Pat White, isn’t it?”
“I think I get it,” Reggie said. “First, she gets Packey thrown out of the home, and declared dead? She probably figures he’ll just disappear. Then she starts the affair with Salazar here, knowing how much that will hurt Pat when he finds out.”
“What?” Salazar blurted out. “You told me—”
“She lied, Mike,” Reggie said. “At some point she must have discovered Pat’s family journal, and the romance between Melvin and Sophia. Knowing how much that would bother Pat—”
“She lets it slip,” Street finished. “Then uses that, and the land dispute, to push Pat and Mike into the plot to kill Noah to drive them off the property.”
“But Pat refuses to pull the trigger,” Reggie said. “So she does it herself, using Pat’s silver bullets and rifle. She lets Pat think Mike did it, and lets Mike think Pat did it, so that neither one incriminates her.”
“Hey,” Mike said, “can I say somethin’ in my defense, here?”
“No,” Street, Reggie, and Patty said together.
“How does she move the body to the waste lagoons?” Reggie asked.
“That SUV of hers has a lot of space,” Street answered. “I’m sure she’s cleaned it out, but we’ll take a look at it. At this point, she had to bring Sheriff Angelini in again, and renew their agreement to ruin White’s life. Sealed with a kiss, or something, I believe.”
“Patty!” Salazar’s eyes grew to the size of duck eggs. “You said—”
“She lied,” Reggie repeated.
“You must be used to that by now,” Street said. “So Sheriff Angelini hampered the investigation Banks and I did. Kept putting us on other things, making sure our evidence got lost on the way to the lab.”
“In the meantime,” Reggie said, “she leaves the diary out where Melvin can find it, so he’ll find out about it. It’s close enough to a confession. She must have thought he’d take it right to the police, or to Sophia. Instead he tries to confront his father. But Patty intercepts him,” Reggie said. “And lures him out to the sink hole.”
“Where she shot at him from a distance, knocking him into the pit, and leaving him for dead,” Street said.
Patty blinked. Street smiled.
“But he survives,” Reggie said, smiling along with Street. “And crawls out.”
“Patty went back to Angelini,” Street said. “She spent an hour and a half in his office. When she came in, she was wearing panty hose. When she left, she wasn’t.”
“Shit, Patty!” Mike said, shaking his head.
“Now that’s taking it too far!” Patty insisted.
“He directed us to arrest Jack Renard, who we had no evidence against. Then,” Street cleared her throat, “Mr. LaKino entered the picture. Suddenly, there was someone who wasn’t tied up by the Sheriff.”
“So she gets, what, desperate?” Reggie asked.
“Right,” Street said. “And killed Packey. Everyone thought he was dead anyway. By the way, did you persuade Dr. Burns to fake the death certificate the same way you persuaded Sheriff Angelini to clog up my investigation?”
“Even if I had,” Patty said, “and even if I did know Packey was alive, why would I kill the little ret— the boy?”
“Why not?” Street asked. “You’d killed Noah already, and you thought you’d killed Melvin.”
“Oh,” Reggie added “and she may have helped convince Pat to knock off his father.”
“So by that point,” Street nodded, “her inhibitions were lower. She was being hounded by multiple detectives, and losing control of the situation. She was being stalked by a stranger who looks just like one of the boys she thought she’d killed. So she killed Packey as a decoy, and got Mr. Salazar here to make a call to you to frame the Renards. She filed divorce papers and finally succeeded in driving Pat White to suicide. What she never realized was that JT Cardew had paid Pat White everything he owed him.”
“What?” Patty asked.
“He killed himself because he found out he had malignant brain cancer, Patty.” Street said. “He wanted to save you the suffering, and the medical bills. It had nothing to do with Pat White.” Street laid her hand on Patty’s shoulder.
“That’s not true! That can’t be true!” Patty screamed. She wrenched herself away from Det. Street.
“You ruined Pat’s life for no reason. Or, well, you did it because Sheriff Angelini lied to you.”
“It was his fault, damn it,” Patty said. “It was all his fault. It was John’s idea.”
“You don’t have to say any more,” Street smiled. “But I would like to see the contents of your purse. Patricia White, you’re under arrest for the murder of Patrick White, Junior, the murder of Noah Renard, and the attempted murder of Melvin White.” Street began to move forward, pulling cuffs from her coat pocket.
“You’re not gonna lay a hand on her—” Salazar began. Street unbuttoned her holster. Salazar shut up.
There was an audible click as the cuffs went on. Det. Street began searching Patty White’s purse, Patty turned and began shouting.
“You leave that alone! You put that down!”
Street pulled a small, shiny revolver with a red rubber grip out of the purse.
“If the ballistics on this match the slugs we pulled out of the wall and Packey’s head, you’re going down for all three crimes, Mrs. White.”
“You dumb bitch!” She spat. “You cu—”
She lunged at the detective, swearing, but a noise from outside cut her off, and stopped her cold. There was a howl, much like the one Reggie and I had heard earlier, quickly cut short by the sound of approaching police sirens. Backup had arrived. Patty White fell suddenly mute.
“You heard it, didn’t you? The howl?” Reggie said, almost at a whisper. “Part of you believes the legend. Part of you thinks that Melvin might be one of them now?” Reggie smiled. He licked his lips,and leaned in close to her ear, and howled softly.
Patty spat in Reggie’s face.
The expectorant dripped down his nose.
He wiped it away, still grinning.
“Stop messing with the prisoner, LaKino,” Street laughed. “Glad the cavalry have finally arrived. Everyone come on outside.”
“Wait,” Reggie said. “Was it really Mrs. White, in the library, with the revolver?”
“Good work,” Street smiled. “You put that together yourself?”
There was only one Deputy worth of “cavalry.” Patty White sneered at all of us, her blue eyes shining in the cloudy night like ice. Her bleached white teeth created their own radiance as she hurled obscenities at us. Mike Salazar was displeased to discover that he, too, was being arrested, as a coconspirator. Street only had the one pair of cuffs, but Deputy Reese was obliging enough to loan her another pair.
“Wait,” I said. “Before you take him away, I have to know. Mr. Salazar. What’s behind the land dispute? What’s so valuable about that strip of land?”
“It’s mine, Brown,” he said.
“That’s worth all the lawsuits, and the killing?”
“It is to me.”
The wind was whipping up sand from the playa around us, and the storm clouds were close to the ground in the cold spring air. Fog mixed with the haze of fine sand, reducing visibility to a few feet. The occasional drops I had felt earlier had become a fine, icy rain. I hunched my shoulders up to protect my neck. I wished I’d brought a coat.
As the two conspirators were being pushed into the squad car, a howl rose up above the landscape for a third time. Now, however, it was much closer at hand. From a wall of sandy mist a dark bolt dashed out, knocking Deputy Reese into the mud. It made straight for the throat of Patty White. Street pulled her pistol and fired. It was a clean shot, right through the neck. The creature, like a fox but several times the size, fell from the air and collapsed. It lay still only a moment before it began to rise again.