Cliff Diver (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 1) (6 page)

CeCe took a step
away from the wall but said nothing, her head down as if trying to hide her
scarring.

“Well,” said Rico.

Emilia took a deep
breath and smiled at the maid. “Could you please show us where Lt. Inocente
kept his keys?”

“Yes,” CeCe
murmured. “This way please.

Emilia and Rico
followed CeCe into the kitchen. It was as modern and stark and spotless as the
rooms they’d already seen, with stainless steel cabinets, appliances, and
countertop. There was a metal pegboard above a long work counter, with keys
hanging from rows of hooks. Each hook was neatly labeled.

“Which were Lt.
Inocente’s car keys?” Rico asked.

“These are el
señor’s car keys.” CeCe pointed to a set dangling from their hook. “He drove
the big SUV.”

Emilia nudged
Rico.
El teniente’s
house keys were also hanging on a labeled hook.”

“CeCe,” Emilia
asked. “What time did Lt. Inocente come home last night?”

CeCe twisted her
hands together nervously. “I don’t know. Maybe 9:00 pm.”

Emilia jotted that
down in her timeline in the notebook. “Did anyone come with him?”

“No.”

“Did someone come
to see him later?”

The maid shook her
head.

“Did you see him
go out?” Emilia pressed. It was clear the maid was not going to volunteer
anything.

“No.”

“Do you know if he
came back?”

“He didn’t come
back.”

“You were here the
whole night?” Emilia asked. “Are you a
planta
?” A
muchacha planta
was a live-in housemaid.

“Yes.”

“Were the children
here?” Rico asked.

“Yes, señor,” she
said softly. It was clear that the woman’s open sores were painful by the way
she tried to move her mouth as little as possible.

“So you were here
and the children were here and Lt. Inocente was here,” Rico said impatiently.
“And then he went out?”

“Yes.”

“Why did he go
out?”

“I think he got a
telephone call around ten and then he left.” The maid touched her face,
fingertips finding the open sores in an effort to conceal them. It was an unconscious
movement.

“Ten?” Emilia held
her pen over the notebook. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, it was just
after Juliana went to bed.”

“He left with the
boat keys but no house keys?”

The maid shrugged.
“I don’t know.”

“Did he usually go
out without keys?” Emilia pressed. “If he thought you would be there to open
the door for him?”

The maid
hesitated. “Maybe.”

Emilia walked
toward the doorway leading back to the dining room. “CeCe, could you show us
the rest of the apartment?”

The maid led them
out of the room and down a hall and into a bedroom with a king-sized bed
covered by a white matelassé spread. The wood of the headboard and dresser was
a rich mahogany, making for more warmth than in the rest of the house combined.
CeCe pointed at a tall dresser. “El señor’s clothes are in there and in the
closets.”

There was a large
wooden case, like an oversized jewel box, on top of the dresser. Emilia
gingerly lifted the top to reveal at least a dozen expensive watches and a
Virgin of Guadalupe medal with the gold chain coiled on top of it.

“I’ve seen him
wear that in the gym,” Rico said, indicating the medal. Emilia closed the box.
Rico pulled open the top dresser drawer to reveal a tidy row of men’s briefs
and a box of condoms.

“I can’t do this.”
Emilia turned away. Looking at the condoms, all she could think about was Lt.
Inocente standing in front of the urinal.

“I’ll check in
here,” Rico said. “Go see if he had a computer or files or anything like that.”

CeCe led Emilia
out of the room. The next two doors were children’s bedrooms. Across the hall
Maria Teresa’s voice filtered through a half-opened door. She was talking about
the Midsummer Ball.

“La señora’s
sitting room,” CeCe said. She led Emilia through the main part of the house
again and to a pocket door off the front foyer. A short hallway led to yet
another door, revealing a small breezeway lined with potted geraniums, sunshine
visible through skylights. The breezeway ended in a large rooftop patio dotted
with chaise lounges and tables topped with colorful umbrellas. The maid pointed
to a door cut into the far wall. “The pool is on the other side.”

“This is
beautiful,” Emilia marveled. The apartment was huge, there was a pool next to a
private rooftop space, and the views were breathtaking. She turned to CeCe. “Do
you like living here, CeCe?”

The maid looked
startled to be asked such a question. It was a moment before she answered.
“Yes.”

“Does anyone else
work for the Inocentes?”

CeCe shook her
head. “Just the gardening service on Mondays.”

“Who takes care of
the pool?”

When the maid
flushed, the scars stood out like bits of white glass. “There’s a man who comes
for the pool on Tuesdays and Fridays.”

“What time?”

“For the pool?”
When Emilia nodded the maid furrowed her brow. “Maybe 9:00 in the morning.”

Emilia jotted that
in her timeline but doubted it mattered. Too early. “How long have you worked
for Lt. Inocente and la señora?” she asked.

CeCe produced a
key from her pocket and unlocked a door set into the wall of the breezeway.
“Eight years,” she said. “I came to work here when Juliana was just a baby.”

“And the other
child?”

“Juan Diego is
16,” CeCe said proudly. “He plays baseball. He was on a champion Little League
team that went to Taiwan.”

“Really?” It was the
most the maid had volunteered and it made Emilia realize how little she’d known
about Lt. Inocente, aside from the fact that he did a lot of paperwork, handled
counterfeit money, and had a penchant for watching women in the bathroom.

CeCe pushed open the
unlocked door and Emilia followed her into a large room set up as an office. It
had no windows, but a large skylight with adjustable louvers kept the sun from
heating the room. Unlike the other rooms in the house this one had a strong
masculine flavor. There was a large mahogany desk, a thickly padded leather
swivel chair, and an expensive oversized laptop computer next to a cordless
telephone. A decorative clock, made to look like an antique watch face, hung
over the desk. A floor-to-ceiling mahogany cabinet dominated the other side of
the room. A flat screen TV was mounted on the wall above a wrought iron bar
cart with a sofa and matching chairs angled toward it. An abstract painting
hung above a cigar humidor the size of a washing machine. A silver tray of rare
tequilas topped a small table by the sofa.

“El señor’s
office,” CeCe said.

“Did he bring
friends in here?” Emilia counted half a dozen glasses on the bar cart and three
crystal ashtrays; one on the desk, one on the bar cart, and another on the small
coffee table.

“Sometimes. To
watch
fútbol
. To talk and smoke cigars out on the patio.”

“Do you know his
friends’ names?”

CeCe looked
uncomfortable. “Only his brother. Señor Bruno.”

“Did anyone come
last night?”

“No.”

Emilia circled the
room. It was as spotless as if it had just been cleaned top to bottom. The
entire house was sparkling; CeCe obviously kept it that way.

The office was the
one place in the house that didn’t seem cold and harsh but it still seemed at
variance with the Fausto Inocente she’d worked for. The man who’d lived in this
house had money, a boat, children, and an expensive wife. Went to lavish
parties and entertained his friends in his private men’s lounge near the pool.

The maid watched
silently as Emilia opened the desk drawers and collected a few things of
possible value: some CDs, a folder of papers. There was a small pile of
business cards in a pewter bowl. The one on top was a business card from Bruno
Inocente with a cell phone number scribbled on the back.

“Did Lt. Inocente
get along with his brother?” Emilia asked as she tucked the card into the back
of her notebook alongside the fund raiser ticket.

CeCe looked at her
shoes. They were black and rubbery looking with a strap across the instep. “I
don’t know.”

Emilia unplugged
the connections to the laptop and was just about to turn her attention to the
tall mahogany cabinet when her cell phone rang. It was Rico.

“Where the fuck
are you?”


El teniente’s
office,” Emilia said. “It’s like a separate part of the apartment. I’ve got his
computer.”

“Silvio just
called me,” Rico said. “Said to get to the station. We can come back here to
look through his stuff later.”

“You think he sent
word up that the body was
el teniente
and the shit hit the fan?”

“You got it.”

“Meet you by the
front door.” Emilia hit the red button on her phone and grabbed up her bag and
notebook as well as the computer and other items. CeCe led the way back to the
main part of the apartment. Maria Teresa met them in the living room. The woman
had looked as if she’d finally cried hard; her eyes were red-rimmed and she had
on considerably less makeup than when they’d arrived. When CeCe saw her
employer, she discreetly withdrew.

“Someone will be
back to look through the rest of your husband’s office,” Emilia said. “And we
may have a few follow-up questions.”

Maria Teresa
nodded, a swift jerk of her chin. “CeCe makes my appointments.”

“Señora, I must
ask.” Emilia knew this was out of line and Rico was glaring impatiently but she
couldn’t help asking. “You maid seems very efficient. Your house is spotless.
And she’s obviously devoted to your children. But she has a condition?”

Maria Teresa’s
mouth pursed in distaste. “Every few months it flares up again. I can hardly
have her serve at parties anymore. Now I think she’s given it to my daughter.
Juliana woke up this morning with the same sores on her mouth.”

 


 

Emilia sat slumped
in the passenger seat as Rico drove up the cliffside in low gear.

“I’d kill myself
not to be married to her,” he said.

Emilia couldn’t help
but laugh, although Maria Teresa’s reaction to her husband’s demise had been
the most self-absorbed that Emilia had ever seen in a profession that dealt
with death on a regular basis. “You suck at being married,” she said.

“I love women.”
Rico grinned. “I’m just a bad husband.” He punched the accelerator and the car
lurched onto level ground in front of the
privada
gate. The Army vehicle
was there. He flashed the soldiers his badge. The gate swung open and he drove
through and turned the car onto the Carretera Escénica heading toward Acapulco
proper. “Okay,” he said. “What have we got so far?”

Emilia consulted
her notebook timeline. “Maid says he came home at 9:00 pm. We can check how
long he stayed at work. Wife was gone before he came home. He got a call at
10:00 pm. Left the house with boat keys but not house keys. Never came back.
Wife got home at 3:00 am, didn’t seem to notice her husband wasn’t home.”

“Where was he
between the time he left the station and getting home?” Rico asked.

“Good question,”
said Emilia and scribbled it down. “Here’s another. Why did he leave his stuff
when he left the apartment at 10:00 pm.” She made a list of items. “Medal,
keys, wallet. Police credential.”

“He left his gun,
too,” Rico said. “Bedside table drawer.”

“So wherever he
went he didn’t think he’d need it,” Emilia said. “Or anything else. Maybe he
didn’t plan on going far.”

“Or he felt safe
around whoever he was going to be with.”

“His partners call
at 10:00 pm.” Emilia took up the thread. “He figures just a chat.”

Rico finished the
thought. “But something went wrong.”

“But what about
the wife?” Emilia asked. “I never pictured
el teniente
married. And
certainly not to someone like her. You think she killed him and got the maid to
lie for her?”

“Nah. She’s not
the type,” Rico snorted. He rode the brake as they wound down the mountain, the
vehicle shrilling a metal-on-metal protest. “Can you picture that woman hitting
him with her teensy bag hard enough to bust up his head? Besides, he had to
weigh 40 kilos more than her.”

“We need to check
her alibi just the same.” Emilia knew they’d cover all the possibilities no
matter how improbable.

“Probably a
hundred people saw her at that charity event.”

“She could have
hired somebody.”

“She seemed pretty
genuine about needing
el teniente
to go to that ball,” Rico pointed out.

Emilia sighed. “I
think we’re back to the Ruiz case, the kidnapping and the fake money.”

“Maybe they went
after him the way they went after Rucker,” Rico said.

“They thought Kurt
had the ransom money,” Emilia reminded her partner. “You think
El teniente
had something somebody wanted?”

“Maybe he wasn’t
supposed to ever get any of the counterfeit.” Rico slowed as they came up on an
overloaded truck. “Or maybe he had another scam going.”

They were silent
as wisps of straw blew off the lumbering truck and peppered the car. Two men
sitting on the bales of straw in the open truck bed stared impassively at the
bay far below.

“But he had
money,” Emilia burst out. Dirty cops were usually the ones who didn’t get paid
enough to take the risks they did. Cops like her and Rico. There was just such
a disconnect between the man who’d lived in that sterile white high rise and
the man who watched her in the detectives’ bathroom. “So why was he dealing in
kidnappings and fake money on the side?”

Rico shrugged as
the truck made a right turn off the highway and he brought the car up to speed
again. “Some people can never have enough. And Maria Teresa seems like the kind
of woman you need a lot of money to keep.”

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