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Dream Man(10)
Author: Linda Howard

They had no semen, though the medical examiner said that vaginal bruising indicated Mrs. Vinick had been violently penetrated. They had no fibers alien to the house, except for what the Orlando Police Department had brought in themselves. They had no hair samples, pubic or otherwise. They had no fingerprints. And they hadn’t found Nadine Vinick’s fingers.

“We don’t have shit,” he muttered, tossing the photographs onto his desk.

Trammell grunted in agreement. They were both tired; they had scarcely stopped in the forty-eight hours since they had first entered the Vinick home. And with every passing hour, the chances of finding Mrs. Vinick’s murderer diminished. Crimes were either solved fast, or they tended not to be solved at all. “Look at the rundown of their garbage.”

He handed the itemized list over to Dane, who glanced down it. Typical garbage: food waste, empty milk cartons and cereal boxes, an assortment of uninteresting junk mail, plastic shopping bags from a couple of stores, used coffee filters, a pizza box with two remaining slices of pizza, soiled paper towels, an old shopping list, last week’s TV Guide, a couple of scribbled phone numbers, a voided check made out to the telephone company, various empty spray cans, about a week’s worth of newspapers—evidently the Vinicks hadn’t been into recycling. Nothing that was out of place or unusual.

“What about the phone numbers?” he asked. “I just called both of them.” Trammell leaned back in his chair and propped his Italian-leather-clad feet on the desk. “One is the pizza delivery joint, the other is their cable company.”

Dane grunted. He leaned back in his chair and propped his own feet on the desk. Dan Post instead of Gucci, and scuffed at that. What the hell. He and Trammell eyed each other across their four feet and two desks. Sometimes they did their best brainwork in this position.

“Pizza delivery would involve a stranger coming to the house, and there’s a fifty-fifty chance the cable company would send out a repairman.”

Trammell’s lean, dark face was thoughtful. “Even if a repairman had gone out to the house, it wouldn’t have been at night.”

“And it would probably be too much to hope that Mrs. Vinick ordered a pizza that late at night, to pig out all by herself. The analysis of her stomach contents …” Dane stretched out his right arm and sifted through the scattered papers on his desk, finally plucking the one he wanted out of the mess. “Here it is. Doc says that she hadn’t eaten anything for at least four or five hours. No pizza. So the pizza in the trash was from earlier, at least lunch. Maybe a day or two.” For all the tantalizing possibilities, in his experience it never had been a pizza deliverer.

“We can find out from Mr. Vinick exactly when they ordered the pizza.”

“And the cable company can tell us if they had to send a repairman out to the Vinick’s house.”

“So we have definitely one, and possibly two, strangers who have been to the house. A pizza delivery boy would have been kept outside, but he could still have seen her. A repairman might actually have been in the house.”

“Women chat to repairmen,” Dane said, eyes narrowed as he followed the line of reasoning. “Maybe she asked him to please be quiet, since her husband worked third shift and was asleep in the bedroom. The guy says, yeah, he used to work third, too, and it was rough. Where does her husband work? And she tells him, even throws in what time hubby leaves, when he gets home. Why should she worry? After all, would the cable company have hired him if he hadn’t been an upstanding citizen? Women don’t think anything about letting a repairman in and spilling their guts to him while he’s working.”

“Okay.” Trammell got a pad and propped it on his legs. “One: We check with Mr. Vinick on when the pizza was actually delivered, and maybe a description of the delivery boy.”

“Delivery person. It could’ve been a girl. So could a cable repairman.”

“Repairperson,” Trammell corrected. “Possible. If not, then we get a name from the pizza place and go from there. Two: Do the same with the cable company.”

Dane felt better. At least they were working, had come up with a direction in which to start looking.

His phone rang. It was the intercom line. He punched the button and lifted the receiver. “Hollister.”

“Dane,” Lieutenant Bonness said. “You and Trammell come to my office.”

“On our way.” He hung up the phone. “LT wants to see us.”

Trammell swung his feet down and stood. “What have you done now?” he complained.

Dane shrugged. “Nothing that I know of.” He certainly wasn’t the movie image of a rogue cop, but he did have a certain knack of stepping on toes and pissing off people. It happened. He just didn’t have much patience with bullshitters.

The lieutenant’s office had two big interior windows; they saw the woman with the lieutenant, sitting with her back to the door. “Who is she?” Dane murmured, and Trammell shook his head. Dane rapped once on the glass, and Lieutenant Bonness gestured them inside. “Come on in, and close the door,” he said.

As soon as they were inside he said, “Marlie Keen, this is Detective Hollister and Detective Trammell. They’re in charge of the Vinick case. Miss Keen has some interesting information.”

Trammell took a seat on the other side of the lieutenant’s desk, away from Miss Keen. Dane leaned against the wall on her other side, out of her direct line of vision but where he could still see her face. She had barely glanced at either him or Trammell; nor was she looking at the lieutenant. Instead she seemed to be concentrating on the blinds that shaded the outside windows.

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