Howtown

Howtown by Michael Nava Read Free Book Online

Book: Howtown by Michael Nava Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Nava
law?” I asked.
    “Bob hired me out of the DA’s office,” he replied. Our coffees arrived via a Chicano boy who grinned at me, one vato loco to another. I grinned back.
    “Really,” I said to Stein. “Finding it hard to make the transition from criminal to civil?”
    “Bob’s been a real help there. He had a two-bit practice before he lucked into the Windsors.” He smiled, his head bobbing like a manic balloon.
    I felt sorry for him. He seemed to be one of those fat people who’d been tagged jolly at an impressionable age. “Is there someplace quiet I can go over this?” I plucked at the edge of the folder.
    “At the end of the hall there’s an empty office,” he replied. “My predecessor. Couldn’t cut it,” he confided, and I detected a tremor of anxiety in his tone. Maybe the transition wasn’t going so smoothly after all.
    “Thank you, Peter,” I said, rising. “Will you let Mr. Clayton know that I’m here?”
    “Sure thing.”
    Stein’s unfortunate predecessor had left only a dying rubber plant to mark his tenancy in the otherwise stark office. I dropped the folder onto the desk and looked out the window. The tinted glass cut the glare, but from the lack of movement on the street below I could tell that the heat had set in. It was not unusual for the temperature to rise to three digits by noon and stay there until evening when it dropped to the tolerable eighties. While it lasted, the heat produced a glacial calm, white and still, during which even breathing was exhausting. As a boy I had taken shelter from the heat at one of two places—the river and the library. The river was not much of an escape, as it was impossible to remain underwater all day and, at any rate, the water itself was bathtub tepid and sludgy. The library, on the other hand, was air-conditioned and offered the added diversion of books from which I first became aware of a world beyond the valley.
    I spotted the roof of the central library not far away. I sometimes had trouble remembering what my mother looked like, but I could picture, to the last wattle beneath her chin, the woman at the check out desk. Mrs…. Mrs…. Stop this, I told myself, and went back to the desk and WINDSOR , PAUL , STATE OF CALIFORNIA V .
    I disliked Robert Clayton on sight and the feeling appeared to be mutual. He was as slim and fashionable as his peers on Montgomery Street or Wilshire Boulevard, a briskly tailored seersucker suit his sole concession to the weather. It wasn’t his tailoring I minded as much as his air of self-containment. He was a locked box and proud of it. I immediately set out to pick a fight.
    We were in his tasteful office. He was saying, “Yes, I looked at the search warrant.” He shrugged. “I specialize in real estate transactions, so I’m a little out of my element in crime.”
    “Mmm,” I replied. “Not to insult you, Bob, but even a first-year law student would’ve recognized the absence of probable cause in the affidavit.” I withdrew the bulky document from the file. “Half of it is a paean to the superior investigative skills of the affiant, a detective named Morrow. Then there’s a lengthy reference to Paul’s prior arrest for child molestation, and an equally lengthy account of the kiddie porn recovered at the motel room where they found McKay.” Ignoring Clayton’s frown I continued. “He then gets to the heart of it—Paul’s fingerprints were found in the room. Ergo, he concludes, Paul was in the room. Well, that doesn’t take a genius. From there he jumps to the spectacular conclusion that probable cause exists to connect Paul to the murder, justifying a search of his house and car for, inter alia , the murder weapon.” I looked up at him. “This might pass muster in, say, Chile—”
    “I’m not a jury, Henry. What’s your point?”
    “I don’t see a motion in here to quash the warrant.”
    “Well, that’s your job, isn’t it? There hasn’t even been a prelim yet. You have all the

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