Chapter 29 Sleuthing Wins

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Victoria drove her Hudson Hornet to Bell town and parked half a block short of Bernard's apartment. The drizzle had stopped but she put up her umbrella anyway. As she approached the building she saw a policeman at the front door and two more standing beside a police car. A few people were gathering on the sidewalk, but it wasn't much of mob. No reporters. Not yet anyway. She closed her umbrella and came near enough to the first policeman so that they wouldn't be over heard.

"Hello, Wiberg."

He looked at her in surprise. "You? That didn't take long."

Victoria looked behind her to see a reporter and a photographer jumping out of taxi and rushing toward the building. "Well, I suppose they'll want a statement," Wiberg said. "I'd better stop Chester before he puts his foot in it."

"Any chance I can slip inside unnoticed?"

Wiberg grinned. "Don't you enjoy being Sarge's pretty sidekick?"

"Would you?"

"I see your point," Wiberg agreed. He opened the door of a black police car beside him. "But you don't have to go in. Riggs has Miss Lake waiting here. Get in. I gotta' go help Chester."

Victoria ducked into the car and locked the door behind her. Hattie was sitting on the other side looking out the window. Her eyes were dry but she looked shaken. She stared blankly for a moment and finally said, "Oh Victoria, I suppose you know; about Bernard?"

"You found him." Victoria said. "It must have been terrible for you."

"I can't understand it. I knocked, the door wasn't locked so I went in and then I was looking at Bernard and he was dead. I saw it but I still can't believe it. I just want someone to tell me that it was just a mix-up; it wasn't really blood and Bernard is going to be all right after all." She paused and took a deep breath. "Does that sound crazy?"

"No. Hattie, I wanted to ask you something about last Friday."

Hattie took a deep breath and nodded.

"Do you remember what kind of earrings Loretta was wearing that night?"

Hattie shook her head. "I didn't really see— "she paused a minute and tried to remember. "No, I'm sorry, I didn't even notice if she was wearing earrings."

Victoria considered taking out the sketches but she decided not to. The crowd on the sidewalk was getting larger and she could overhear a couple arguing over whether or not the incident in question was a fire or a robbery. A man noticed the two women sitting there, and Victoria looked down so he couldn't see her face.

"Last night, I dreamt that someone was following me," Hattie whispered. "I woke up covered in sweat and feeling like I couldn't breathe. I told myself that it was just nerves. When I came back from this morning's tour Loretta's lawyer telephoned me. Did you know that her divorce was finalized before she died? The lawyer said that as her next of kin, most of Loretta's money will go to me. I was shocked. Then I hung up the telephone and I started wondering about Clyde. He must be expecting that money."

"Hattie, what else do you know about Clyde?"

"Not much. I think he's from Yakama. His father worked for the trains and his mother taught piano, or something like that. He studied literature before the war. And Loretta said he had a brother, a twin brother, but he was in a special combat unit and he died in the war. Loretta said Clyde never really gotten over his brother's death."

"Were Clyde and his brother identical twins?"

"I don't think—oh, well, they may have been. Loretta showed me a photograph of Clyde and his brother back when they were in school. They were both on the high school football team, so they were wearing their uniforms, but they were very similar."

"Hattie, why did you come to Bernard's apartment?"

"He telephoned me this morning. Now it feels like that ways days ago, like it's part of a very strange dream. Bernard said he knew who had killed Loretta, and he warned me to be careful. At first I thought he might have been drinking. Then I thought he was just being melodramatic."

"Did he tell you who he suspected?"

Hattie shook her head. "I didn't even ask. I didn't want to think about it. I told him to telephone the police." After I got back from my tour, Loretta's lawyer telephoned me. He told me about money and all I could think about was Bernard telephoning me and telling me to be careful."

"Did anyone else know you were coming here?"

"No, I hardly knew myself. I just did it."

Victoria considered this. "So no one except Bernard knew what he told you?"

"Jerry knew. I told him what Bernard had said and Jerry agreed to meet me after work. I know I should have waited for him, but I was so anxious after I found out about the money, I just wasn't thinking straight."

A policeman approached the car. Victoria rolled down the window and the officer leaned over and said, "Just a few more minutes, Miss. They're still trying to find the gun."

Hattie nodded and Victoria rolled the window back up. "When you found Bernard," Victoria asked, "did you see the gun?"

Hattie shook her head and wiped her eyes. "No, I noticed Bernard's keys because that's when I realized he must be at home. He hadn't answered the door, you see. I just let myself in. I smelled his cologne and coffee and I noticed an apple. Then I just looked down and saw Bernard lying there."

Hattie put her face in her hands and began to cry.

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