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B Is for Burglar (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)by Sue Grafton
Id been in the office no more than twenty minutes that morning. Id opened the French doors out onto the second-floor balcony to let in some fresh air and Id put on the coffee pot. It was June in Santa Teresa, which means chill morning fog and hazy afternoons. It wasnt nine oclock yet. I was just sorting through the mail from the day before when I heard a tap at the door and a woman breezed in.
"Oh good. Youre here," she said. "You must be Kinsey Millhone. Im Beverly Danziger."
We shook hands and she promptly sat down and started rooting through her bag. She found a pack of filter-tipped cigarettes and shook one out.
"I hope you dont mind if I smoke," she said, lighting up without waiting for a response. She inhaled and then extinguished the match with a mouthful of smoke, idly searching about for an ashtray. I took one from the top of my file cabinet, dusted it off, and passed it over to her, offering her coffee at the same time.
"Oh sure, why not?" she said with a laugh, "Im al-ready hyper this morning so I might as well. I just drove up from Los Angeles, right through the rush-hour traffic. Gawd!"
I poured her a mug of coffee, doing a quick visual survey. She was in her late thirties by my guess; petite, energetic, well groomed. Her hair was a glossy black and quite straight. The cut was angular and perfectly layered so that it framed her small face like a bathing cap. She had bright blue eyes, black lashes, a clear complexion with just a hint of blusher high on each cheekbone. She wore a boat-necked sweater in a pale blue cotton knit, and a pale blue poplin skirt. The bag she carried was quality leather, soft and supple, with a number of zippered compartments containing God knows what. Her nails were long and tapered, painted a rosy pink and she wore a wedding ring studded with rubies. She projected self-confidence and a certain careless attention to style, conservatively packaged like the complimentary gift wrap in a classy department store.
She shook her head to the offer of cream and sugar so I added half-and-half to my own mug and got down to business.
"What can I help you with?"
"Im hoping you can locate my sister for me," she said.
She was searching through her handbag again. She took out her address book, a rosewood pen-and-pencil set, and a long white envelope, which she placed on the edge of my desk. Id never seen anyone so self-absorbed, but it wasnt unattractive stuff. She gave me a quick smile then, as though she knew that. She opened the address book and turned it so that it faced me, pointing to one of the entries with a rosy fingertip.
"Youll want to make a note of the address and telephone number," she said. "Her name is Elaine Boldt. She has a condo on Via Madrina and that second one is her address in Florida. She spends several months a year down in Boca."
I was feeling somewhat puzzled, but I noted the addresses while she took a legal-looking document out of the long white envelope. She studied it briefly, as though the contents might have changed since shed last seen it.
"How long has she been missing?" I asked.
Beverly Danziger gave me an uncomfortable look. "Well, I dont know if shes ‘missing exactly. I just dont know where she is and Ive got to get these papers signed. I know it sounds dumb. Shes only entitled to a ninth interest and it probably wont come to more than two or three thousand dollars, but the money cant be distributed until we have her notarized signature. Here, you can see for yourself."
I took the document and read through the contents. It had been drawn up by a firm of attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, and it was full of whereases, adjudgeds, ordereds, and whatnots, which added up to the fact that a man named Sidney Rowan had died and the various people listed were entitled to portions of his estate. Beverly Danziger was the third party listed, with a Los Angeles address, and Elaine Boldt was fourth, with an address here in Santa Teresa.
"Sidney Rowan was some kind of cousin," she went on garrulously. "I dont believe I ever met the man, but I got this notice and I assume Elaine got one too. I signed the form and got it notarized and sent off and then didnt think any more about it. You can see from the cover letter that this all took place six months ago. Then, lo and behold I got a call last week from the attorney . . . whats his name again?"
I glanced at the document. "Wender," I said.
"Oh, thats right. I dont know why I keep blocking that. Anyway, Mr. Wenders office called to say theyd never heard from Elaine. Naturally, I assumed shed gone off to Florida as usual and just hadnt bothered to have her mail sent, so I got in touch with the manager of her condominium here. She hasnt heard from Elaine in months. Well, she did at first, but not recently."
"Have you tried calling the Florida number?"
"From what I understand, the attorney tried several times. Apparently, she had a friend staying with her and Mr. Wender left his name and number, but Elaine never called back. Tillie had about the same luck."
"The woman who manages the building here where Elaine has her permanent residence. Tillies been forwarding the mail and she says Elaine usually drops her a little note every other week or so, but she hasnt heard anything since March. Frankly, its a nuisance more than anything else, but I dont have time to track her down myself." Beverly took a final drag of the cigarette and stubbed it out with a series of pecking motions.
I was still taking notes, but I suppose the skepticism was showing in my face.
"Whats the matter? Isnt this the sort of work you do?"
"Sure, but I charge thirty dollars an hour, plus expenses. If theres only two or three thousand dollars involved, I wonder if its going to be worth it to you."
"Oh, I fully intend to have the estate reimburse me out of Elaines share since she caused all this trouble to begin with. I mean, everythings come to a screeching halt until her signature can be obtained. I must say its typical of the way shes behaved all her life."
"Suppose I end up flying down to Florida to look for her? Even if I only charge you half my usual hourly rate for travel time, itll cost a fortune. Look, Mrs. Danziger"
"All right, Beverly. I dont want to discourage your business, but in all honesty it sounds like something you could handle yourself. Id even be happy to suggest some ways to go about it."
Beverly gave me a smile then, but it had a hard edge to it and I realized, at long last, that she was used to getting her way. Her eyes had widened to a china glaze, as blue and unyielding as glass. The black lashes blinked mechanically.
"Elaine and I are not on the best of terms," she said smoothly. "I feel Ive already devoted quite enough time to this, but I promised Mr. Wender Id find her so the estate can be settled. Hes under
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