"Celeste," he said, "I just wanted to ask you a quick question."
He nodded as he reached the car and leaned into it, put his hands on the roof. "What time did Dave come home on Saturday night?"
He repeated the question, holding her with his eyes.
"Why would you be interested in Dave's Saturday night?" she said.
"It's a little thing, Celeste. We asked Dave some questions today because he was in McGills the same time Katie was. Some of Dave's answers didn't add up and it's bothering my partner. Me, I just figure Dave had had a few that night and can't remember exact details, but my partner, he's a pain in the ass. So, I just need to know what time he came back, exactly, so I can get my partner off my back and we can concentrate on finding Katie's killer."
"You think Dave did it?"
Sean leaned back from the car, cocked his head at her. "I didn't say anything like that, Celeste. Hell, why would I even think that?"
"Well, I don't know."
"But you said it."
Celeste said, "What? What are we talking about? I'm confused."
Sean smiled as comfortingly as he could. "The sooner I know what time Dave came home, the sooner I can get my partner to move on to other things besides holes in your husband's story."
For a moment, she looked like she might hurl herself backward into traffic. She looked that abandoned, that confused, and Sean felt the same raw pity for her that he often felt for her husband.
"Celeste," he said, knowing Whitey would give him an F on his probationary report if he heard what he was about to say, "I don't think Dave did anything. I swear to God. But my partner does, and he's the ranking officer. He decides which avenues the investigation explores. You tell me what time Dave got home, we'll be done here. And Dave will never have to worry about us again."
Celeste said, "But you saw this car."
"I heard you talking earlier. Someone saw this car parked outside the Last Drop the night Katie was killed. Your partner thinks Dave killed Katie."
Shit. Sean couldn't fucking believe this.
"My partner wants to take a closer look at Dave. It's not the same thing. We don't have a suspect, Celeste. Okay? We don't. What we have are holes in Dave's story. We close those holes, it's over and done. No worries."
He was mugged, Celeste wanted to say. He came home with blood all over him but only because someone tried to mug him. He didn't do it. Even if I think he might have, another part of me knows that Dave is not that kind of guy. I make love to him. I married him. And I wouldn't marry a killer, you fucking cop.
She tried to remember the way in which she'd planned to be calm when the police arrived asking questions. That night, as she'd washed his clothes of blood, she was sure that she'd had a plan for how to deal with this. But she hadn't known Katie was dead at that point and that the cops would be questioning her about Dave's involvement in her death. How could she have predicted that? And this cop, he was so smooth and cocky and charming. He wasn't the potbellied, hungover, grizzled type she'd expected. He was an old friend of Dave's. Dave had told her that this man, Sean Devine, had been on the street with him and Jimmy Marcus when Dave had been abducted. And he'd grown up into this tall, smart, handsome guy with a voice you could listen to all night and eyes that seemed to peel you away in layers.
Jesus Christ. How was she supposed to deal with this? She needed time. She needed time to think and be by herself and look at the situation rationally. She didn't need a dead girl's dress staring back up at her from the backseat and a cop on the other side of the car staring at her with venomous, bedroom eyes.
She said, "I was asleep."
"I was asleep," she said. "Saturday night, when Dave got home. I was already in bed."
The cop nodded. He leaned into the car again, patted his hands on the roof. He seemed satisfied. He seemed as if all his questions had been answered. She remembered that his hair had been very thick and had almost toffee-colored streaks up by the crown amid the light brown. She remembered thinking he'd never have to worry about going bald.
"Celeste," he said in that smoky, amber voice of his, "I think you're scared."
Celeste felt like her heart was clenched in a dirty hand.
"I think you're scared and I think you know something. I want you to understand that I'm on your side. I'm on Dave's side, too. But I'm on your side more because, like I said, you're scared."
"I'm not scared," she managed, and opened the driver's door.
"Yes, you are," Sean said, and stepped back from the car as she got in it and drove off down the avenue.
WHO THEY'D PLANNED TO BE
WHEN SEAN got back up to the apartment, he found Jimmy in the hallway, talking on a cordless phone.
Jimmy said, "Yeah, I'll remember the photographs. Thank you," and hung up. He looked at Sean. "Reed's Funeral Home," he said. "They picked up her body from the medical examiner's office, said I can come down with her effects." He shrugged. "You know, finalize the service details, that sort of thing."
"You get your report pad?"
Sean patted his pocket. "Right here."
Jimmy tapped the cordless against his thigh several times. "So, I guess I better get down to Reed's."
"You look like you could use some sleep, man."
"No, I'm all right."
As Sean went to pass him, Jimmy said, "I was wondering if I could ask you a favor."
Sean stopped. "Sure."
"Dave'll probably be leaving soon to take Michael home. I don't know what your schedule's like, but I was kind of hoping maybe you'd keep Annabeth company for a bit. Just so she's not alone, you know? Celeste will probably be back, so it won't be long. I mean, Val and his brothers took the girls out to a movie, so there's no one in the house, and I know Annabeth doesn't want to come down to the funeral home yet, so I just, I dunno, I figured?"
Sean said, "I don't think it'll be a problem. I gotta check with my sarge, but our official shift was over a couple hours ago. Let me talk to him. Okay?"
"I appreciate it."
"Sure." Sean started walking back toward the kitchen and then he stopped, looked back at Jimmy. "Actually, Jim, I need to ask you something."
"Go ahead," Jimmy said, getting that wary con's look of his.
Sean came back down the hallway. "We got a couple of reports that you had a problem with that kid you mentioned this morning, that Brendan Harris."