Undercurrent (The Nameless Detective)

Undercurrent (The Nameless Detective) by Bill Pronzini Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Undercurrent (The Nameless Detective) by Bill Pronzini Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill Pronzini
morgue she went to pieces, and it was a hell of a thing to see. One of the nurses took her over to the inn—she refused to stay at the hospital—and put her to bed with a sedative."
    "I suppose this Kanin questioned her about her whereabouts at the time of Paige's death."
    "Of course."
    "And she checked out clear?"
    "Clear enough for me," Quartermain said. "She was baby-sitting three neighbor kids in her apartment; mother and father went to some lodge affair. The kids were old enough to verify her presence in the apartment at the time of the killing."
    "There was never any doubt," I said, "as far as I was concerned. She couldn't kill anyone." I paused. "Have you got a line on the bald man yet—the one I saw with Paige?"
    "Not yet. Mrs. Paige says she doesn't know anyone who looks as you described him."
    "Yeah, she told me the same thing."
    "I'd like you to have a look through our mug files, if you don't mind. I don't suppose there's much chance we'll have a card on the guy, but then again you never know."
    "Be glad to," I said, and he led me out and to their Records Room. I spent the next twenty minutes flipping through a not surprisingly small rogues' gallery of men arrested at one time or another in the Cypress Bay area. The bald man was not among them.
    Quartermain said, "Well, if we start running into dead ends, I may want you to work with a police artist on a drawing. So far, he's the only definite local link we've got with Paige, and I'd like to know who he is and why the two of them met in the park."
    "Fine. Just say the word."
    "We'll see how the investigation develops."
    We returned to his office and sat down again, and I asked, "Was Paige carrying anything to give you a lead?"
    "Nothing. His effects yielded zero."
    "Did you find any fingerprints aside from Paige's?"
    "Nothing identifiable. There were traces of blood in the bathroom lavatory, which probably means the killer was splashed during the stabbing and took the time to wash some of it off before leaving."
    "None of the other motel guests saw anything?"
    "If they did, they're not admitting it."
    "What about the murder weapon?"
    "No sign of it."
    "What was it, could they tell?"
    "Something long and sharp and fairly thin. Stiletto maybe, or a letter opener of some kind. Along those lines."
    "Doesn't sound like you've got much to go on," I said carefully.
    "We've got a couple of things." He put his elbows on the desk glass and folded his left fist into his right palm. "I don't suppose I ought to tell you about them, but I gave your Lieutenant Eberhardt a call last night; he was working the four-to-midnight, so I caught him at the Hall of Justice. He has kind words for you, all right."
    "Yeah, well, we've been friends for a long time."
    "He says you'll cooperate one hundred percent, and you've done that so far. We've got two things to work with on Paige's killing—neither of which have to mean anything, strictly speaking—and maybe you can give me a fresh slant"
    "If I can. I appreciate the confidence."
    "First of all, we ran Paige's name through R I in Sacramento as a matter of routine, and came up with a positive. He spent four years in San Quentin out of a seven-year sentence, the usual time off for a clean prison record. He was released about five months ago."
    I felt my mouth pull tight. "What was the charge?"
    "Burglary. He was convicted in Santa Barbara."
    "Does Mrs. Paige know about this?"
    "No. At least, I don't think so."
    "You're not releasing it to the papers?"
    "Hell no," Quartermain said. "But there's always the chance they'll pick it up anyway."
    I moved uncomfortably in the chair. "Was Paige lone-wolf on this burglary, or did he have accomplices?"
    "Lone-wolf. He tried to pop one of those old-fashioned box safes you still find in some of the older companies—a marine equipment outfit, in this case—and a private security patrol picked him up coming out of the building."
    "First offense?"
    "Two drunk-driving priors, one in San Francisco and

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