The circular glow of orange street light. Rain. Night. The perfect setting.
Hanover pulled up and got out, his steel-tipped boots rapping on the cement floor, echoing all around him as he strode across the carpark towards David Leppie.
Leppie stood next to his car, his hands in his pockets jiggling nervously. Jesus, the guy was always so bloody nervous. His child-like face – it was that of a kid, really – was filled with deep lines, and the purple bruise on his right cheek was turning into a bitter yellow. Years of worry and drinking at the Barn Yard had aged him, but it was his mouth that had gotten him the bruise. And all because of this. This case. The death of his supposedly beloved Allison.
‘Leppie,’ he said, approaching fast. He flapped his coat and put his hands on his hips. ‘How are you?’
‘Look,’ Leppie said, hands still fluttering, ‘I’m not here for small talk. Alright? Just tell me what you want so I can get the hell outa here.’
‘You know what I want, Leppie. I want to talk about that sexy dish you called Allison.’
Leppie’s face seemed to sink in on itself even more, if that was possible. ‘What about her?’ he said. ‘I told you, I don’t know anything.’
It was a fruitless lie, Leppie knew, one filled with the scent of a man who knows everything but refuses to admit it. He hated these conversations with Hanover. He did all he could to keep out of sight, out of mind, he even stopped going to the Barn Yard as often. But everywhere he went, there he was, this goddamn detective. Like a dog with a bone that he knows will turn out to be a winner.
‘I’ll ask you again. And again and again, for as long as it takes, Leppie. When was the last time you were with her? And don’t tell me it was at the Blue Light Bar because I know you were at Max Price’s party and so was she.’
Leppie shot him a confused, flustered look. ‘If you know, why the hell are you asking?’
Hanover said nothing. He sat himself down on the hood of Leppie’s car, lit a smoke and waited.
Leppie watched as the curls of smoke drifted away into the night. Finally, he said, ‘Alright, I was there, okay? I showed up around eight. She came about nine.’
‘She have a date or did she slink in with some hangers-on?’
‘Came with that prick she calls a husband.’
‘And?’ Hanover said. So far, so good, he thought. So far, Leppie was telling him the whole truth and nothing but. He wondered how long that would last.
Leppie shrugged. ‘I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t have a bar of it. She said, not now. Not in front of him. And she didn’t know why I wanted to talk to her anyway, because…’
‘Because she’d already broken up with you.’
‘Yeah,’ Leppie said, eyes down. ‘So, I went out back to talk to some others. To drink and forget about her. Then I left about an hour later.’
‘And then what?’
Leppie looked up at him, ready to blow, and Hanover almost smiled. He was getting to him, which was the way he wanted it. ‘And then what? And then I get a bloody knock on my door at six a.m., two days later, with your pretty face asking me what I’ve been doing and when and where and telling me that she’s friggin’ dead. That’s what.’
Now, Hanover did smile. Just a little. He took a drag on his cigarette and said, ‘And you have no idea who did it?’
‘No,’ Leppie said. ‘The husband, probably? He knew she was getting around on him and I don’t think he liked it.’
‘Well, you and her were pretty cosy, weren’t ya? He ever say anything to you about it?’
‘No,’ Leppie said and Hanover could tell from the scared shine in his eyes that this was another lie.
‘What about Max Price? Was he getting it on with her?’
‘Geez, man, I don’t know!’
‘What about David Lulee? Peter Ford? Jimmy Rollers? Any of those guys getting it on with her?’
Leppie was raging now. ‘No! None of them! Christ, you make it out like she was some sort of paid whore! She wasn’t like that, okay? She was just … easy going. Unsure of herself, who she wanted to be with. But other than that she was real sweet.’
Yeah, sweet as a candy bar dipped in poison, Hanover thought. He wondered how so many men could become besotted with such a danger of a woman. Looks, he knew. It was all about looks. ‘So, who was she afraid of then, Leppie? Other than her husband? Must’ve been someone.’
‘I don’t know,’ Leppie said. He looked away and then back at the detective. ‘Wait. Maybe there’s someone. The guy before me.’
‘Yeah? Who was that?’
‘Some banker. He worked with her husband. She called it off on him, she said. He was getting too rough, she said. And he wasn’t happy about it. When she and I first met, he was having her followed. That’s what she said.’
‘Someone was following her?’
‘Yeah. I asked who, she said probably one of those beefs who worked for her last beau.’
‘But she didn’t know? For sure, I mean.’
Leppie shrugged. ‘A woman like her, she was beautiful, you know? Men probably tail her around all the time, just to look at her. But … no, she didn’t know. She assumed it was one of the banker’s men. But I think, now that I look back on it, that you’re right. Damn right. It coulda been anyone.’
* * *