you got. That may have made me forget to add your name to a list of menaces to the public welfare. But life isn’t the same now.”

“You’re the same, I’m the same. What’s different?”

“I’m retired from the district attorney’s office. I’m out. I can’t affect the outcome of some investigation. Whatever it is that you want, I’m not in the position to give it to you.”

“You’re a private detective now. You’re getting famous.”

“Everybody’s got to do something. But I don’t do anything for money that can send me to jail.”

“I assumed that. You wouldn’t last long enough to get to the front of the chow line. If it were anything illegal, I wouldn’t waste your time with it,” said Hugo Poole.

“So what do you want?”

“Yesterday my cousin Dennis got shot to death in Portland.”

“What for? Was he working for you?”

“No. He’s never worked for me. I haven’t even seen him in about four or five years.”

“So what was he into?”

Hugo Poole frowned. “Nothing. Dennis wasn’t into anything. He was a computer salesman.”

Pitt’s face was expressionless.

“Dennis was a straight businessman. He had a store up in Portland and a warehouse, and he sold computer stuff wholesale and over the Internet. He was good at it. He made money. I want to know what gets a guy like that killed.”

“That’s what you want? You want me to find out what happened?”

Hugo Poole held up his hands. “I can’t just leave this to a bunch of shitkicker cops in Oregon. I need somebody on this who knows what’s what.”

“Portland isn’t a small town, Hugo. They have homicide detectives who can handle an investigation,” said Pitt. “And I don’t think an outsider has much chance of finding anything they won’t. It’s their city.”

“It’s not just their city I’m worried about. I need someone who will be able to make the connections between what went on there and what goes on here.”

Pitt’s eyes settled on Hugo’s face. “You think your cousin’s killing had something to do with you?”

“Dennis may have had some enemies of his own. He may even have been into something that I don’t know about. But until somebody proves that, the only reason anybody had to shoot Dennis was that he was related to me.”

“What do you think I can do for you?”

“Fly up there. Cops all over the country know who you are, and the cases you solved when you were the D.A.’s investigator. They’ll hear your name and think you can help them find out who killed Dennis. So I want you to do it. I’ll pay you a lot of money.”

Pitt stared at him, unblinking. “Then what if it is about you? I’m not interested in being paid to go up there and steer a police investigation away from you.”

“You wouldn’t. I can keep myself out of trouble without any help from you. If the investigation starts pointing back in the direction of L.A., you’ll be able to tell them where to look. Even if it’s toward me.”

Pitt said, “Then you’ll need time to clean up your act, won’t you? Or have you already started phasing down your operations?”

“Tonight I’m clearing up loose ends so you can go after this guy without tripping over my feet. I’m pulling my feet out of the way.”

“If I get into this, I’m not going to point the finger at some guy so you can kill him.”

“I want you to help the cops find the killer—the real one, not some poor bastard they decide to pin it on. If you do that much for me, then you did your job.”

“How much are you offering?”

“A hundred thousand plus expenses if you agree to make a serious effort. Another hundred when they get the guy.”

“You must really feel guilty.”

“If you won’t take the job because it’s my money, then say it.”

“No, I’m like a doctor,” said Joe Pitt. “If you’ve got a heartbeat, I’ll work on you until it stops or your bank account runs dry.”


Joe Pitt followed Sergeant Catherine Hobbes up the driveway of what had been Dennis Poole’s house. He couldn’t help letting his eyes spend more time looking at her than was practical. He estimated that she was about thirty, but it was hard to be sure. She had a rounded athletic little body, but she had tried to blur the contours with a masculine gray pantsuit, and she had tried to harden her pretty face by pulling her strawberry-blond hair into a bun and wearing little makeup. Joe Pitt watched her step over the POLICE LINE—DO NOT CROSS tape, climb the steps to the door, where she ignored the big sticker that said CRIME SCENE—DO NOT ENTER, and unlock the door.

“Nice place,” he said.

“I hate this kind of house. It’s pretentious—way too big for the lot it’s on, and everything inside it was made to be looked at, not used.”

He said, “I wasn’t asking you to move in with me. I just meant it looks expensive.”

“It’s that, all right.” She stared past him as she swung the door open, and stepped inside to hold it so he had to go in ahead of her.

Catherine Hobbes had been surprised to see how fine Pitt’s features were, and how alert and intelligent his eyes looked. But for her there wasn’t anything endearing about his attractiveness. He talked with the kind of easy familiarity that meant he was aware that he had an advantage with women.

She was irritated at Joe Pitt already, but she was determined to be polite to him. She had orders, and she was not about to get in trouble just because he was arrogant. If she could tolerate him long enough, she could learn something. He was a well-known investigator who had, in his prime, solved a number of murders. If she had to endure his banter to learn what he knew, then she would do it. “There isn’t any sign of forced entry here. The other doors are bolted from the inside.”

Pitt looked around. As a concession to the rainy Portland climate there was a small foyer with a black-and- white marble floor and a long wooden seat for changing boots, a coat rack above it, and an umbrella stand. Beyond that the thick carpet began, and everything in sight was beige or white.

“Where did he get shot?”

“Upstairs in the master suite. I’ll show you.” She went to the long straight staircase, and they climbed to the landing.

Pitt walked into Dennis Poole’s bedroom, which was big enough for four bedrooms. He surveyed the furnishings. On the wall there was a plasma television about six feet wide, and below it on a cabinet a set of videocassette recorders and DVD players. There was a big desk with more computer equipment on it than anybody needed. There were shelves with so many books and magazines on them that they reminded Pitt that he hadn’t seen any evidence of a book downstairs. The bed looked like the oversized king in a good hotel suite. “Was he in debt to pay for all of this?”

“We haven’t found any debt yet. Considering his income, the house isn’t at all extravagant,” she said. “He bought it about a year after his divorce, when he was twenty-eight. That was fourteen years ago. He lived alone, and he cleared three to four hundred thousand a year. There’s no sign of expensive hobbies or collections, no trace of drugs in his blood or the house, no history of gambling.”

“Anything missing?”

“He lived alone, so we haven’t got anybody who really knows. There are no dust spots where things have been removed, or marks on the walls from missing paintings or anything. We took a couple of people from his office through the house, and neither of them could remember seeing anything here that’s gone.” She held him in the corner of her eye. “Maybe you can tell me.” Instantly she wished she had not said it.

He looked around him as though he had not heard. “Where was the body?”

“In the bathtub.” She led him into the bathroom. It was big too, with an enormous black tub and a room-

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