After she had gone, Loomis played with the little stack of money and, alternately, tried making notes and little diagrams. He was having trouble moving his concern for these people and their increasingly sordid affairs into a new phase. It was not a question of ethics, really -- he needed the money, the Cap'n was dead and Mrs. Fishbein was as entitled as anyone to help in making things come out the way she wanted. That's what people paid him for. He wouldn't manufacture evidence or, without a very good reason, hide it. Maybe that involved ethics, maybe just his fear of getting caught.
She had surprised him. She was cruder than he had imagined. There was an element almost of brutality to her. This forward moving certainty helped make him believe she at least believed herself to be telling the truth. Unless she was nuts, that is, and with what she had been through over the past week, she could be right, she could be crazy and she could be both, very easily. She had succeeded in putting enough air around the Keever-murdered-the-Cap'n theory so that something entirely different could fit in there, but so far there was nothing else to experiment with. He would have to check out the drugs, as far as possible. Maybe Keever was dealing. He would have to check out the story of Keever getting beaten up. It could connect with the drugs or it could be something entirely different. He had been beaten; Loomis knew that the first time he saw the guy. Somebody had a reason to do that, unless it was a bar fight.
She was preferable to the Cap'n as a client because she sat still, once the deal had been struck, until Loomis couldn't think of any more questions. Not that he was able to think of any particularly useful ones, but it was reassuring. She gave him the name of their lawyer who would know, supposedly, how far the Cap'n had gotten in his preparations for divorce. She said she hadn't gotten around to doing anything about the divorce except call this same Brian Mozarsky who said he shouldn't get involved. Conflict of interest. She had decided to call him back for a referral, but then, of course, all hell broke loose. The Cap'n had no living relatives. She had a retarded sister who lived with an aunt in Maryland and a few cousins she hadn't seen in many years. As far as she knew the boat was tied up at its moorings. Probably tomorrow she would call Mozarsky and see what the deal was on that. Until this was all straightened out, though, it would just sit there costing money. She had very little that was useful to add to the almost nothing Loomis knew about Keever. He was thirty-eight. He was from Illinois, she thought. He had lived on the Shore for five or six years. He had never spoken of relatives. He "knew some guys" in Seaside Heights. He had lived at the trailer as long as she had known him. She used to spend the night there once or twice a week, but since all this began Keever hadn't wanted her anywhere near it. She gave him a close-up snap of Keever. He asked for and received a key to the Carousel's office. The Cap'n had moved most of his papers out of the house the night before he was killed and she didn't know where they were. She would look for his address book, but failing that, would make a list of his friends, acquaintances and business associates. Loomis could pick it up the next day.
There were two parts to the job. Find Keever. Who really killed the Cap'n. One might or might not lead to the other, but the priority was finding Keever. Pertinent questions were: Who had a reason and the opportunity to set him up? Who knew about the gun? Who knew where he lived? Who could have known about Loomis' appointment with the Captain? Its possible that someone could be the answer to the first three questions and then followed the Cap'n to his appointment, but so far the only candidates were Arlene and his client. If everything went right he would get his car fixed and Aruba in February. The first string to pull on was Arlene. Since she didn't answer the phone he decided to make an appointment with the lawyer before he went out looking for her.
Mozarsky didn't sound like a lawyer, he sounded like the guy that reads your meter, if you happen to live in the Bronx. But he did sound like an okay guy and said Loomis was welcome to what little information he had.
"Yeah. She called me two, three days ago."
"But you had a conflict of interest?"
"Why didn't you recommend someone else?"
"Tell you the truth, Mr. Loomis, I wasn't going to recommend anyone unless she asked me for it. I known these people for a few years and I like them. I was hoping it would blow over."
"The conflict, I assume, is that the Cap'n hired you for the same purpose?"
Mozarsky hesitated just long enough to dash Loomis' dream of meeting a totally ingenuous lawyer.
"No. That wasn't it." He took a breath to go on, but changed his mind and used it on a soft cough.
"You weren't representing the Cap'n in the divorce?"
"No. You see, I been handling all sorts of legal matters for them over the past few years. They weren't incorporated, personally. The business was, of course, but they just paid themselves a salary and paid taxes jointly. Everything was in his name, but I did things for her as well. You see what I'm getting at, Loomis?"
"I really couldn't have done it for him, either. I wouldn't have wanted to. I'm qualified, you understand, I do handle divorces, it's just . . ."
"Right. Conflict of interest."
"Potential conflict of interest."
"I see. Did you recommend someone for the Cap'n?"
"Mr. Mozarsky, do you know who was representing him in the divorce?"
He coughed, he sighed, he clucked a couple times into the phone.
"Here's the thing, Loomis. I would have given him the name of a good man, if he had asked me, but he didn't ask me. He got this guy and the first I heard of any divorce is when this guy calls me up and wants all my records on the Fishbeins."
"Can you believe it? Originals he wants, and all copies. I mean, what for? It's unnecessary, you know? Besides, it's just not done. He says he's their lawyer now. He's going to write the new will, he's going to handle the real estate, he's going to do this, he's going to do that. The guy sounds like a nut case. Fishbein's got a right to choose his own lawyer, but no one's got a right to my files. I'm thinking 'what kind of a lawyer thinks he can get away with this?'"
"What's this guy's name, Mr. Mozarsky?"
"Ahhhhh," he said, as if that settled the matter. Maybe they got a rule against ratting on each other, like doctors, thought Loomis. He tried a different angle.
"When did you get this call?"
"A week ago. Little more. Week ago Monday, I think. I told him that he should know only the client can authorize the release of information and that I would be talking to Cap'n Fishbein and if this was legit he would have whatever help I could give him. Tell you the truth, I thought it was some kind of con. Guy didn't sound like a lawyer to me. Nut case."
"Why are you reluctant to give me his name, Mr. Mozarsky?"
"Reluctant? What are you talking about? I just can't remember the fucker's name. Bilbo, or something. I tried all week to get ahold of the Cap'n. Finally got him Friday afternoon. Yeah, he says, he's my lawyer. Whatever he says goes. I tried to talk to him, but he's talking crazy too. Zelbo, that was his name. Leonard Zelbo. Zelbo, Zelbo, Zelbo. Up in Asbury."
"Thank you, Mr. Mozarsky. One other thing. Were you involved in Mrs. Fishbein's interrogation yesterday?"
"Did she call you?"
"No. Well, yes, but not until she got home, the stupe. They didn't charge her with anything, but I sure wish I had been there."
"So you are going to be defending her if they decide to bring charges?"
"I assume so. Unless she fires me too."
Loomis hung up and found L. Zelbo, Esq. in the Monmouth Yellow Pages. An answering machine picked up and a well modulated voice gave a short pitch. If it was Zelbo he sounded more like a lawyer to Loomis than any Brian Mozarsky. Loomis explained that he was working on behalf of Mrs. Fishbein and could he arrange an appointment the next morning? He left the office number.
He hadn't eaten lunch because he was nervous about Mrs. Fishbein's appointment, but now he was employed and ravenous. He got two meatball heros and two cans of cream soda from Mike's. He sat in the Chevy in his parking space and ate one and a half sandwiches and drank one of the sodas, rewrapped the sandwich and drove over to Arlene Babayev's house, depositing $900 in his bank on the way.
There were four apartments in the building, two up, two down. Arlene lived in 2W. She didn't answer the outside buzzer. The door was unlocked so, thinking the intercom might not be working, he went upstairs. There was a doorbell which definitely did not work, but she didn't answer a number of smart raps on the door. He tried the door and it opened. He closed it. He tried to talk himself out of going in. The one useful thing he might find is proof of a relationship between Keever and Arlene. If he could make Mrs. Fishbein believe in that she might find the facts known to her lined up a little differently, which is as good as new facts. They might point to the right tree.
He hated illegal entries. He had not committed that particular crime more than half a dozen times in his career and he had never been caught but it was only a matter of time. It wasn't the legal consequences he feared most, but the persistent image of himself yammering limply and getting the fish eye from a twenty-year old cop. Aruba, he told himself.
He knocked on the door opposite Arlene's. No one home. He slipped into Arlene's apartment and locked the door behind him.
Either Arlene was one of the biggest pigs he'd ever seen or someone had beaten him to the place. Possibly both. It was a long, airy space broken in two by a thin partition. The larger room had a kitchen along the outside wall and a bathroom built out into the room along the hallway side. The smaller room had a bed and a dresser and a nice view upriver of the Manasquan. There were some posters on the walls, but the main decorative elements were stupid looking lamps. She appeared to collect them. Carmen Mirandas with a lightbulb among the bananas, waterfall lamps, Hello From Syracuse lamps, Deputy Dawg lamps. There were clothes strewn everywhere -- over chairs, across the bed and in little clumps along the walls. Most surfaces had either food or makeup clutter. Most drawers were half open. Nothing was completely clean, but nothing was completely ruined. If someone had carelessly searched the place even she probably wouldn't know it.
After half an hour all he had turned up were some snap-shots. They seemed to be mostly taken on the boat, inexpertly. There was one that caught his eye of a young man who seemed familiar. He was a dark, delicate looking kid in his late teens and he was grinning bravely at the camera through a case of sea-sickness. He was pretty sure he had seen this kid recently, perhaps at the Tomahawk. Most of the shots were of either Arlene or the Cap'n. She was wearing the same outfit as in the ones Mrs. Fishbein had shown her earlier, but the light was different. They might be the same day, but Loomis didn't think so. He found the negatives in an envelope advertising a pharmacy in Point. There was a time-stamp indicating that the pictures had been picked up on the previous Thursday at 2:43 p.m. No hot shots, but he took one of the snaps of Arlene and the envelope anyway. He found an address book under the table where the phone was. Keever's name, address and phone number were there, but without little love doodles or any other indication that they were anything but co-workers. The rest of the names were just names. He copied several numbers for people named Babayev. There were letters, all from sisters in Arkansas. That was it. No evidence of anything outside of serious personal hygiene problems. He unlocked the door, gave a quick look up and down the hall and scooted back down to his car.
He finished his lunch while wondering what to do next. As far as he knew, no one but himself had made any connection between Arlene and Keever and he was beginning to doubt it himself. On the other hand, if there was a connection it might make his job easier. If she was with him now that meant two trails led to him and one of them was strewn with empty Dorito bags. If she wasn't, he would be led far astray. Better to concentrate on Keever. He would have to go by the trailer and hope that the cops weren't staking it out. First, though, he'd have a look at the office. He found a dumpster behind the apartment building for his trash and cut up River Road through Brielle into Point.
The sky was clouding over and the temperature was dropping towards 40E. By the time he got to Channel Way there was a considerable bob to even the larger boats. It was too late in the year for hurricanes and it wasn't even apparent that a storm was falling. As the year gets older the weather gets quirkier on the shore and a bad-tempered sky might well blow over or just as easily drop all hell on the beach. Whatever was coming, Loomis was not dressed for it. It was after 4:00 p.m. when he pulled up to the Carousel's mooring. The sun was very low in the sky and the clouds were piling up in the east so that it was almost dark. He found an old sweater on the floor in back to put under his jacket, but when he stepped out of the car he was still cold.
As he was about to put the key in the office door he noticed lights on in the cabin area of the Carousel. Obviously, he would have to investigate, but he hoped Mrs. Fishbein had changed her mind and come down to secure the boat. Loomis' gun was locked up back at the office. He didn't want it, he almost certainly didn't need it, but he always thought about it at moments like this.
He stepped onto the gang-plank and called out.
"Hello. Anybody on board?"
There was, but they weren't talking. Someone had started at his voice and bumped into a table, rattling some glassware. There was a quick scurry and then silence.
'Oh, shit', thought Loomis. 'Noises in the dark.'
He stepped up to the top of the gang-plank and braced himself with both hand-rails.
"Hello? This is private property. Whoever you are you have to come out. You have to get off the boat. Hello?"
Silence. Probably kids, Loomis told himself. Then he told himself not to go on the boat.
"All right. I'm going to call the police, now. You probably have about ten minutes to disappear."
His plan was to drive up half a block, hole up and see who came off. If no one came off in ten minutes we would call the cops. His plan got as far as his turning and taking a step down the gang-plank when he heard a click behind him. It was one of those sounds that's unmistakable.
Loomis froze and then lifted his arms slowly away from his sides.
"Take it easy. I'm unarmed."
It was a woman. She was silhouetted in the open doorway to the main cabin.
"Arlene? Is that you?"
She dropped the barrel of the gun a few inches and leaned forward to see better. Loomis remembered that they had never met.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" Her voice was wavery.
"Listen, Arlene, why don't you put the gun away and I'll tell you. Okay?"
He began to drop his hands slowly. The muzzle of her gun snapped up.
"No. Not okay. Get the hands up and come on board. Slowly."
He stepped onto the deck and she stepped backward out of the doorway, motioning with the gun for Loomis to go inside.
"Step over in front of that table to your left. That's close enough. Now take off your jacket, slowly. Throw it towards me. Easy. Lift your sweater. Higher. Now turn around. All the way. Okay, sit. Now talk."
Nothing immediately came to mind. It was Arlene, all right. She was older than Loomis had thought, closer to Mrs. Fishbein than Keever. She had a small, reedy voice that was very distinctive, but made her sound like a simpleton. Maybe it was nerves. She was dressed in her customary skin-tight pants and a cotton turtleneck. She wore a thick down vest so it was not the cold that was making her shake. She kept shifting her weight from one foot to the other and flexing her arms and shoulders, but she shook from top to bottom. It meant she was more nervous than Loomis and it would have given him more confidence if it weren't for the Colt Python shaking in her right hand. He had always considered it one of the nastiest looking pistols going, even in a steady hand. Even when it wasn't pointed at his head.
"Arlene . . ."
"Who are you and what the hell do you want?"
"My name is Loomis. I'm a private investigator. Mrs. Fishbein hired me to find Elroy. Please don't point that thing at me."
That was a lot of information for Arlene and some of it she wasn't sure if she liked. She worked her way through it, though, and the gun steadied perceptibly. Loomis' most fervent prayer at the moment was that she wouldn't decide to search him. The picture he took from her apartment was in his shirt pocket.
"You have any identification?"
He nodded and asked permission with his eyes to get it out. She nodded, but gripped the gun tighter. He set his license open on the table and stepped away. She came over and glanced at it. He noticed that there was a mark on the right side of her face. Somebody had smacked her pretty good. She relaxed, but didn't drop the gun.
"That's right. She doesn't think Elroy killed her husband. She wants to find him before the cops do."
"She doesn't want him getting killed before she can prove he's innocent. And before she can prove she's innocent."
The gun dipped and rose once again. She had a burned expression, as if someone had explained a joke to her and she still didn't think it was funny.
"What are you doing here? What'd you say your name was?"
"Loomis. I just started on this case this afternoon. Sandra gave me a key to search the office. I'm not looking for anything in particular. I'm just looking for a place to start. I noticed the lights on the boat and thought I ought to check it out. That's all, honest. I don't have to tell her you were here."
She laughed and lowered the gun.
"All right. I'm not going to shoot you unless you do something real stupid, you know? You stay over there. Don't think about taking my gun."
"It never crossed my mind."
"Sure. So where is he, Mr. Detective? Where's Elroy?"
"I can assume he's not here."
"Oh, boy. I can see she's getting her money's worth. Hey, how did you know my name, anyway? Do I know you?"
"No. I know you, though. I'm also the guy the Cap'n hired to take pictures of Keever and the Mrs."
"Weird. Too weird. So, what, you were following me, too?"
"No. I just saw you coming off the boat. You mind I ask you a few questions?"
"How do I know you're working for Sandra?"
"Who else would I be working for?" She didn't respond to that at all. Loomis shrugged. "Call her."
"No. Probably not such a good idea. Go ahead and ask. I don't mind."
"You know if Keever did drugs?"
"He did some grass. Who doesn't?"
"Nothing else?" She shook her head. "You know who he bought it from?"
"Some guy . . . some guy in Keyport, I think."
She was lying and it was helpful to note how badly she lied.
"Did he ever deal?"
"You're sure? He had no ambitions that way?"
"If he did he never told me. And he knew I was usually in the market." She wasn't obviously lying, but she didn't like these questions.
"Okay. I heard he got beat up a couple weeks ago. You know anything about that?"
Her hand was on its way to the side of her face before she checked it. She used it to smooth her hair instead.
"Look, Loomis, I like the guy. I hope nothing bad happened to him. But he's just a friend from work."
"Didn't you notice the bruises on his face?"
"I noticed. He didn't tell me so I didn't ask him."
"You're not involved with Elroy?"
She stood and stopped shaking.
"Involved? What do you mean?"
"I mean involved. Having an affair. Whatever you want to call it."
She edged closer to Loomis.
"Where did you get that idea?"
"I don't know. Just watching you together."
For a moment it seemed to Loomis that she had made a decision to blow his head off. Her eyes burned with what looked like hatred and she breathed shallowly through her teeth.
"Take it easy, Arlene. I was just doing my job. C'mon."
Just as quickly, she giggled, turned and sat in the captains chair across the cabin. She shook her head, sighed and smiled.
"What's your first name, honey?"
"My friends call me Loomis."
"Loomis, Loomis, Loomis. You're really a private detective? What a weird thing to do. You like it?"
"Most of the time."
"Listen, honey. Don't be going around saying things like that."
"About you and Keever."
"Don't. It's not true. It could get people hurt."
"Who? Just about everybody, that's who. We were just friends."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. You see I was following him last week and you showed up at his trailer. It looked to me . . ."
"Oh, that." She laughed. "No. He had some dope so I just stopped in to buy some. No, no, before you go weird on me, he wasn't dealing. We both like to smoke and if he had some he'd sell me a lid and I'd do the same. That's all. He was crazy about Sandra and I was with . . . I was with the Cap'n."
Her lower lip stuck out and her chin lowered and started to quiver. It looked like an act, but it didn't feel like one. Loomis was sure she was really choking up. He just wasn't sure why.
"Do you think Keever killed the Cap'n, Arlene?"
She mopped her face and shrugged. The question didn't appear to interest her much.
"I suppose so."
"Aren't you mad at him? Didn't you love the Cap'n?"
"Sure I loved the Cap'n. Sure I did. We were going to get married."
"Is that right?"
"Sure. It's hard to explain. The last couple of weeks have been a little stressful. Everybody changed, everybody got crazy. It's not like Elroy to kill someone, he's not like that. But everyone was acting out, you know? Everything was juiced. It was like going into the fun house except it wasn't fun and you couldn't get out. Everything was different. I wouldn'a been surprised if I'd killed someone."
"You almost did."
She looked at the Python in her lap.
"This? This doesn't work. It's a dummy. The Cap'n kept it on board to calm down the assholes, but he shot a hole in the hull one day so he fixed it."
"Who hit you, Arlene?"
"Somebody hit you within the last few hours. Was it the same person that hit Elroy? Who was it?"
"What are you doing, trying to find Elroy? Why don't you go find Elroy, then? All the other stuff is just going to get people in trouble. Do me a big, big favor, Mr. Loomis. Just find Elroy; leave the other stuff alone. Okay?"
"I can't find him if everyone just tells me little pieces of it. I don't want to get anyone in trouble. C'mon, Arlene, who hit you."
He just barely ducked in time as the Python sailed straight at his face and banged off the wall behind him. She was standing in front of him with her fists balled, her back arched and her face contorted with rage. She was not out of the funhouse, not by a long ways.
"Get out. Get the fuck out, Mr. Detective. Just leave me alone. I had nothing to do with it. That's all you have to know. That's all I'm going to tell you. Now get the fuck off this boat."
Loomis let her demand hang in the air for a moment until she had to either pick it up again and throw it at him or let it sag. It sagged.
"Arlene, I don't want you to get hurt. That's what I'm trying to do, you see. Keep people from getting hurt. But the fact is, I'm an agent of Mrs. Fishbein's. She's not going to like you being here, I'm pretty sure about that. You're the one that has to go. If you leave now I won't tell her you were here. Is that fair?"
She stared at him for a moment and then laughed the kind of laugh that skips along the top and sometimes keeps going. She gasped and sputtered, but she came back down.
"Poor Sandra. Talk about your bad weeks. Well, the good thing is I don't have to be the one to tell her. The bad thing is you do."
"Tell her what?"
"This here is my boat, Mr. Loomis. The Cap'n gave it to me and I have the papers to prove it. Legal as all hell. You're the one that's trespassing, Mr. Loomis. I'm getting that gun fixed tomorrow and the next trespasser is going to get a hole in them. You, Sandra or anybody else, you understand me?"