“And someone get on to the security provider. A house like this must be alarmed up the wazoo, but it looks like our killer just strolled on in here tonight.”
Officer Menendez said, “The maid mentioned that she heard a loud bang of some sort around eight P.M.”
“No. I asked her that, but she said it was more like a piece of furniture falling over. She was on her way upstairs to check it out, but Mrs. Jakes stopped her, said she’d go up herself.”
“Then nothing. The maid went upstairs at eight forty-five P.M. to bring the old man his cocoa as usual. That’s when she found them and called 911.”
His cocoa? Danny McGuire tried to visualize the Jakeses’ married life. He pictured a rich, lecherous old man easing his arthritic limbs into bed each night beside his lithe, sexy young bride—then waiting for his maid to bring him a nice cup of cocoa! How could Angela Jakes have borne being pawed by such a decrepit creature? Danny imagined the old man’s bony, liver-spotted fingers stroking Angela’s breasts, her thighs. It was irrational, but the thought made him angry.
Did it make somebody else angry too? Danny wondered. Angry enough to kill?
EARLY THE NEXT MORNING, DETECTIVE DANNY McGuire drove to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He felt excited. This was his first big murder case. The victim, Andrew Jakes, was a scion of Beverly Hills high society. A case like this could propel Danny’s career into the fast lane if he played his cards right. But it wasn’t just his career prospects that Danny was excited about. It was the prospect of seeing Angela Jakes again.
There was something uniquely compelling about the young Mrs. Jakes, something beyond her beauty and that violated, made-for-sex body that had haunted Danny’s dreams last night. All the circumstantial evidence suggested that the girl was a shameless gold digger. But Danny found himself hoping that she wasn’t. That there was some other explanation for her marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather. Danny McGuire loathed gold diggers. He did not want to have to loathe Angela Jakes.
“How’s the patient?”
The duty nurse outside Angela Jakes’s private room eyed Danny suspiciously. “Who’s asking?”
Danny flashed her his badge and most winning Irish smile
“Oh! Good morning, Detective.” The nurse returned his smile, surreptitiously checking his left hand for a wedding band. For a cop he was unusually attractive: strong jaw, lapis-blue eyes and a mop of thick black Celtic curls that her own boyfriend would have killed for. “The patient’s tired.”
“How tired? Can I question her?”
You can question me, thought the nurse, admiring Danny’s boxer’s physique beneath his plain white Brooks Brothers shirt. “You can see her as long as you take it easy. She’s had some morphine for the pain in her face. Her left cheekbone was fractured and one of her eyes is quite badly damaged. But she’s lucid.”
“Thank you,” said Danny. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”
For a hospital room, it was luxurious. Tasteful oil paintings hung on the walls. A Wesley-Barrell upholstered chair stood in the corner for visitors, and a delicate potted orchid quivered by the window. Angela Jakes was propped up against two down pillows. The bruises around her eyes had faded from last night’s uniform plum to a dark rainbow of colors. Fresh stitches across her forehead gave her the disconcerting look of a dressmaker’s dummy, but still she remained quite astonishingly beautiful, alluring in a way that Danny could not remember ever encountering before.
“Hello, Mrs. Jakes.” He held up his badge again. “Detective McGuire. I’m not sure if you remember. We met last night.”
Angela Jakes smiled weakly. “Of course I remember you, Detective. You gave me your coat. Lyle, this is the policeman I was telling you about.”
Danny spun around. Standing stock-still against the wall behind him was probably the most handsome man Danny had ever seen this side of a movie screen. Tall and olive-skinned, with the perfect, aquiline features of a hunter, jet-black hair and blue eyes, flat and almond-shaped like a Siamese cat’s, he scowled at Danny disapprovingly. He was wearing an expensively tailored suit, and when he moved it was like watching oil spread across a lake, smooth and fluid, almost viscous.
Danny placed him instantly. Lawyer. His upper lip curled. With a few honorable exceptions, Detective Danny McGuire was not a fan of lawyers.
“Who are you and what are you doing here? Mrs. Jakes is not supposed to have any visitors.”
“Lyle Renalto.” The man’s voice was practically a purr. Walking over to Angela Jakes’s bedside, he placed a proprietary hand over hers. “I’m a family friend.”
Danny looked at the two preposterously attractive young people holding hands and drew the inevitable conclusion. Yeah, right. And I’m the Queen of Sheba. Family friend, my ass.
“Lyle was Andrew’s attorney,” said Angela. Her voice was low and husky, nothing like the frightened whisper of last night. “Conchita called him last night to let him know what happened and he came straight here.” She squeezed Lyle Renalto’s hand gratefully, her eyes welling with tears. “He’s been amazing.”
I’ll bet he has. “If you’re up to it, Mrs. Jakes, I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
Lyle Renalto said curtly, “Not now. Mrs. Jakes is too tired. If you submit your questions to me, I’ll see that she answers them once she’s rested.”
Danny instantly bridled. “I don’t believe I was talking to you, Mr. Renalto.”
“Be that as it may, Mrs. Jakes has just been through an indescribably harrowing ordeal.”
“I know. I’m trying to catch the guy who did it.”
“Quite apart from witnessing her husband’s murder, she was violently raped.”
Danny was losing patience. “I’m aware of what happened, Mr. Renalto. I was there.”
“I didn’t witness Andrew’s murder.”
Both men turned to look at Angela, but her attention was focused wholly on Danny. Feeling a ridiculous sense of triumph, he moved toward her bedside, edging Renalto aside.
“Would you like to tell me what you did witness?”
“Angel, you don’t have to say anything,” the attorney butted in.
Danny raised an eyebrow at the endearment.
“Angel was my husband’s pet name for me,” Mrs. Jakes explained. “All his friends used to call me that. Not that I am an angel, by any means.” She smiled weakly. “I’m sure I could be quite a trial to poor Andrew at times.”
“I highly doubt that,” said Danny. “You were telling me about last night. About what happened.”
“Yes. Andrew was upstairs in bed. I was downstairs reading.”
“What time was this?”
She considered. “About eight, I suppose. I heard a noise from upstairs.”
“What sort of noise?”
“A bump. I thought Andrew might have fallen out of bed. He’d been having these spells recently. Anyway, Conchita came running in, she’d heard the noise too, but I said I’d go up. Andrew was a proud man, Detective. If he were…” She searched around for the appropriate word. “If he were incapacitated in any way, he wouldn’t have wanted Conchita to find him. He’d have wanted me.”
“So you went up alone?”
She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, bracing against the memory.
Lyle Renalto stepped forward. “Angel, please. There’s no need to upset yourself.”
“It’s all right, Lyle, really. The detective needs to know.” She turned back to Danny. “I went up alone. As I was walking into the bedroom someone hit me from behind. That’s the last thing I remember, the pain in my head. When I woke up, he was…he was raping me.”
“Can you describe the man?” asked Danny. He knew from experience that the best way to calm emotional witnesses was to stick to the hard facts. Once you started with all the “I know this must be distressing for you” bullshit, the floodgates opened and you’d lost them.
Angela Jakes shook her head. “I wish I could. But he wore a mask, a balaclava.”
“What about his build?”
“Most of the time he was behind me. I don’t know. Stocky, I guess. Not tall, but he was certainly strong. I fought, and he hit me. He said if I didn’t let him keep doing it, he would hurt Andrew. So I stopped fighting.” Tears streamed down her swollen cheeks.
“Where was your husband at this time? Did he try to help you? To raise the alarm?”
“He…” A look of confusion came over her face. She glanced at Lyle Renalto, but he looked away. “I don’t know where Andrew was. I didn’t see him. On the bed, maybe? I don’t know.”
“It’s all right,” said Danny, sensing her anxiety levels rising. “Go on. You stopped fighting.”
“Yes. He asked me for the combination of our safe and I gave it to him. Then he raped me again. When he’d finished, he knocked me out a second time. When I came to…the first thing I remember is you, Detective.”