Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon

“Good,” said Danny. “Anyone else?”

The rest of the team reported their “progress,” such as it was. The climbing ropes used to bind the couple were a generic brand that could have been purchased at any camping or sporting-goods store. The knot the killer used to bind the couple together was complicated—a double half hitch—another sign, if they needed it, that they were looking for a professional criminal. But other than that there was precious little physical evidence of any worth. The blood and semen tests didn’t match any in the nationwide database.

“What about Jakes’s background? Anything circumstantial that might help us?”

The short answer to that was no. Andrew Jakes’s business dealings had been clean as a whistle. He was a prominent philanthropist, not to mention a significant donor to the LAPD’s Policemen’s Benevolent Association.

Danny thought, I knew I’d heard the name somewhere. Strange a charitable guy like that left nothing to good causes in his will.

The old man had no known enemies, and no family, close or otherwise, other than an ex-wife he’d divorced more than twenty-five years earlier who was now happily remarried and living in Fresno.

The door opened suddenly. Officer John Bolt, a shy redhead and one of the most junior members of Danny’s team, burst into the room clutching a piece of paper. Everybody looked up.

“Mrs. Jakes’s lawyer just released a statement.”

The mention of Lyle Renalto made Danny’s shoulders tense. Detective Henning’s background search on Renalto had come up with nothing out of the ordinary, but Danny’s suspicions lingered.

“Don’t keep us in suspense, Bolt. What does she say?”

“She’s giving away all the money she inherits from her husband’s estate to children’s charities.”

Danny said, “Not all of it, surely?”

Bolt handed Danny the paper. “Every penny, sir. Over four hundred million dollars.”

Reading the statement, Danny felt a strange sense of elation.

I knew she wasn’t a gold digger. I just sensed it. I gotta learn to trust my instincts more.

AN HOUR LATER, DANNY PULLED UP outside the gates of a large, neo-Tudor mansion in Beverly Hills. Twenty-twenty Canon Drive was the address Angela Jakes gave when she was released from the hospital. It belonged to a friend.

“I can’t go back to Loma Vista, Detective,” she’d explained to Danny. “It’s too painful. I’ll stay with a friend until the estate is sold.”

A uniformed maid showed Danny through to a warm, sunny sitting room filled with overstuffed couches and big vases of heavily scented freesias and lilies. It was a feminine room, and Angela Jakes looked quite at home in it, walking over to greet Danny in bare feet and jeans. It was now two weeks since the attack and the bruises to her face had mellowed to a soft apricot yellow. For the first time Danny could see the color of her eyes: a rich, liquid brown, like melted chocolate. No woman had a right to be that beautiful.

“Detective.” She shook his hand, smiling. Danny felt his mouth go dry. “Is there any news? Have you found him yet?”

“Not yet.”

A flicker of disappointment crossed her face and Danny felt disproportionately upset. Angela Jakes was the last woman on earth he wanted to disappoint.

“We’re still in the early stages of our investigation, Mrs. Jakes,” he assured her. “We’ll find him.”

Angela sat down on one of the couches and gestured for Danny to do the same. “Please, call me Angela. Can I get you anything? Some tea perhaps.”

“I’m fine, thank you.” Danny loosened his tie. Is it me, or is it hot in here? “I wanted to ask you a couple more questions if I may. About your marriage.”

Angela looked perplexed. “My marriage?”

“The better the picture we can build up of your life together, the easier it’ll be for us to figure out who might have done this. And why.”

She considered this, nodding thoughtfully. “All right. Well, what would you like to know?”

“Let’s begin at the beginning. How did the two of you meet?”

“At an art class at UCLA.”

Her eyes lit up at the memory and Danny thought, My God, she really did love him.

“It wasn’t a regular degree course or anything. Just a night class I was taking. I used to enjoy art when I was in high school. Not that I was ever very good at it.” It astonished Danny how such a gorgeous woman could have so little self-confidence, but Angela Jakes always seemed to be putting herself down.

“Where did you go to high school?” he asked idly.

“Beverly Hills High. Why?”

“No reason. Just curious. It’s a bad habit we detectives have.”

“Of course.” She smiled again. Danny’s stomach flipped like a pancake. “Anyway, Andrew came to UCLA to give a talk about the art business. How to get a gallery to look at your work, that sort of thing. What attracts collectors. He was so smart and funny. We just clicked right away.”

Danny tried to picture Old Man Jakes and an even younger version of Angela “just clicking.” It wasn’t easy.

“Did your husband have any enemies that you were aware of?”

“None.” Her tone was firm, almost defiant.

“You’re sure?”

“Quite sure. Andrew was a sweetheart. Everybody loved him.”

Not everybody. Danny tried another tack. “On the night of the murder, I don’t know if you remember this, but you kept saying something.”

“Did I?”

“Yes. You repeated the same words over and over.”

She looked at him blankly.

“‘I have no life.’ That was the phrase you used. Can you think why you might have said that?”

She hesitated. “Not really. Only that when I met Andrew, he gave me a life. He rescued me. So perhaps I said ‘I have no life’ because I knew it was the end.”

“The end?”

“The end of the peace and happiness I had known with Andrew. But I don’t remember saying those words, Detective. I don’t remember anything except Andrew and the blood. And you.”

“You say your husband rescued you? From what?” asked Danny.

Angela stared awkwardly into her lap. “An unhappy situation.”

Danny knew he ought to press her, but he couldn’t bear to upset her again. Clearly she didn’t want to talk about it. She’ll tell me when she’s ready.

“I see. And what about you, Mrs. Jakes?”


“Was there anyone who might conceivably have held a grudge against you, personally?”

Angela Jakes thought about this for a moment. “You know, I never thought so. Although, as you can imagine, Detective, with an age difference like the one between me and Andrew—over fifty years—people are quick to judge. I know there were many in Andrew’s social circle who distrusted me. They assumed I was after his money. I imagine you thought the same thing.”

“Of course not,” lied Danny, avoiding her eyes.

“I tried to persuade Andrew to leave me out of his will, to prove to people our marriage was never about money. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He said the naysayers were bullies and one should never give in to bullies.”

“Is that why you gave all his money to charity? To prove people wrong?”

She shrugged. “Maybe that was part of it, subconsciously.”

“Did your husband know that you were planning to give everything away when he died?”

“No.” She shook her head. “It might have hurt his feelings. Andrew wanted me to have the money, and I wanted him to be happy. But the truth is, I have no use for that sort of wealth.”

Without meaning to, Danny raised an eyebrow.

Angela Jakes laughed, a warm, mellifluous laugh, like honey oozing off a spoon. “You look dubious, Detective. But really, what on earth would I do with four hundred million dollars? I like to paint, I like walking in the canyons. Those things don’t cost millions. Far better for it to go to people who need it, who can really make use of it. In some small way, it makes me feel as if what happened wasn’t entirely in vain.”

She looked down at her hands again and Danny could see she was fighting back tears. Instinctively, he reached out and put a hand over hers. He was embarrassed to admit it, but the intimacy felt wonderful. Electric.

“What the hell’s going on?”

Danny jumped. Lyle Renalto’s voice had shattered the mood like a stone crashing through a windshield.

“What are you doing here?” the lawyer demanded.

As he stood in the doorway, Renalto’s handsome features were twisted into an angry mask and his shoulders thrust aggressively forward. He was wearing an identical suit to the one he’d worn at the hospital, with a pale blue silk tie that matched his eyes. Danny didn’t think he’d ever been less pleased to see a person in his entire life.

“A police interview is going on,” he replied coldly. “And as usual, Mr. Renalto, you’re interrupting. May I ask what you’re doing here?”

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