B is for Burglar Page 2

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 she'd last seen it.

"How long has she been missing?" I asked.

Beverly Danziger gave me an uncomfortable look. "Well, I don't know if she's 'missing' exactly. I just don't know where she is and I've got to get these papers signed. I know it sounds dumb. She's only entitled to a ninth interest and it probably won't come to more than two or three thousand dollars, but the money can't 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 don't 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 didn't 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… what's his name again?" I glanced at the document. "Wender," I said. "Oh, that's right. I don't know why I keep blocking that. Anyway, Mr. Wender's office called to say they'd never heard from Elaine. Naturally, I assumed she'd gone off to Florida as usual and just hadn't bothered to have her mail sent, so I got in touch with the manager of her condominium here. She hasn't 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." "Tillie?"

"The woman who manages the building here where Elaine has her permanent residence. Tillie's been forwarding the mail and she says Elaine usually drops her a little note every other week or so, but she hasn't heard anything since March. Frankly, it's a nuisance more than anything else, but I don't 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.

"What's the matter? Isn't this the sort of work you do?"

"Sure, but I charge thirty dollars an hour, plus expenses. If there's only two or three thousand dollars involved, I wonder if it's going to be worth it to you."

"Oh, I fully intend to have the estate reimburse me out of Elaine's share since she caused all this trouble to begin with. I mean, everything's come to a screeching halt until her signature can be obtained. I must say it's typical of the way she's 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, it'll cost a fortune. Look, Mrs. Danziger-" "Beverly, please."

"All right, Beverly. I don't want to discourage your business, but in all honesty it sounds like something you could handle yourself. I'd 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 I've already devoted quite enough time to this, but I promised Mr. Wender I'd find her so the estate can be settled. He's under pressure from the other heirs and he's putting pressure on me. I can give you an advance if you like."

She was back in her bag again, coming up with a checkbook this time. She uncapped the rosewood pen and stared at me.

"Will seven hundred and fifty dollars suffice?"

I reached into my bottom drawer. "I'll draw up a contract."

I walked the check over to the bank and then I retrieved my car from the lot behind the office and drove over to Elaine Boldt's address on Via Madrina. It wasn't far from the downtown area.

Prev page Next page