“That’s easy,” Lyle replied, “I live here. Didn’t Angel tell you?”
Danny turned to Angela. “He’s the friend you’re staying with? You never mentioned it.”
She shrugged. “You never asked. Lyle was kind enough to offer me a place to stay while I recuperate. As I told you, he’s been a tremendous support through all of this.”
Lyle Renalto said curtly, “If you’re done harassing Mrs. Jakes, Detective, I’ll be happy to show you out.”
“Detective McGuire is not harassing me,” said Angela. “He’s been perfectly polite.”
“Hmm.” Renalto sounded unconvinced.
Ignoring him, Danny said, “I have one more question for you, Mrs. Jakes, if you don’t mind. You mentioned that you first met Mr. Jakes at an art class.”
“May I ask what your name was at that time?”
Angela glanced nervously toward Lyle Renalto. “My name? I don’t understand.”
“Your maiden name,” Danny explained. “Before you and Mr. Jakes were married.”
“Oh!” She looked palpably relieved. “I wondered what on earth you meant for a moment.” She fixed Danny with the chocolate eyes for a third and final time. “Ryman. My maiden name was Ryman.”
THE ROOM WAS SMALL AND DRAB and claustrophobic, and the smell of day-old Chinese takeout was overpowering. Detective Henning thought: Stolen art isn’t the booming business the media makes it out to be.
Roeg Lindemeyer, an art fence turned occasional police informer, lived in a dilapidated single-story house in one of the more run-down Venice walk-streets, narrow, pedestrian-only alleyways that ran between Ocean Avenue and the beach. A few blocks farther north, 1920s “cottages” like Roeg’s had been renovated by hip, young West L.A. types and were changing hands for seven hundred grand or more. But not here. This was Venice Beach as it used to be: dirt-poor. Roeg Lindemeyer’s “showroom” was as seedy and impoverished as any junkie’s squat.
“So? Have you seen any of them?”
Henning watched impatiently as Lindemeyer leafed through the insurance photographs of the Jakes miniatures. The fence was a wizened hobbit of a man in his midfifties, his fingers black with tobacco stains. He left thumbprints on each of the images.
“What’s it worth to ya?”
With distaste, the young detective pulled two twenty-dollar bills out of his wallet.
Lindemeyer grunted. “Hundred.”
“Sixty, and I won’t report you for extortion.”
Greedily, the older man stuffed the cash into his pocket and handed back the now smeared photographs.
“So?” Detective Henning repeated. “Have you seen those miniatures on the black market or haven’t you?”
“That’s it? ‘Nope’? That’s all you got for me?”
Lindemeyer shrugged. “You asked me a question. I answered it.”
Henning made a lunge for his money. Lindemeyer cringed.
“Okay, okay. Look, Detective, if they was for sale, I woulda seen ’em. I’m the only guy on the West Coast who can move that niche, Victorian shit. You know it and so does everybody else. So either your boy’s skipped town or he ain’t selling. That’s real information, man. Maybe he wanted ’em for personal use.”
A psychopathic, homicidal rapist with a love for obscure nineteenth-century portraiture? Detective Henning didn’t think so. “Maybe he had a buyer lined up already,” he mused aloud. “Then he wouldn’t have needed your services.”
“Do you know of any prominent collectors who might commission a job like this?”
“I might.” Lindemeyer eyed the sergeant’s wallet.
It was going to be a long and expensive afternoon.
“COULD YOU DO ME A FAVOR and check again?”
Detective Danny McGuire flashed the receptionist the same winning smile he’d used on the nurse at Cedars, but this time to no avail.
“I don’ need to check agin. I checked awready.”
Today’s gatekeeper at the government records office on Veteran was black, weighed around two hundred pounds, and was plainly in no mood to take shit from some dumb-ass Irish cop who figured he was God’s gift to women.
“We got no records for no Angela Ryman. Not Ryman RY, not Reiman REI, not any Angela Ryman. No births, no marriages, no deaths, no Social, no taxes. Not in California.”
Danny’s mind was flooded with doubts. One by one, he tried to rationalize them away.
Maybe she was born out of state.
Maybe she and Jakes got married in the Caribbean, or in Paris. Folks with that kind of money don’t just run down to city hall like the rest of us. The marriage certificate could be anywhere.
It doesn’t mean anything.
Even so, walking into the administration offices of Beverly Hills High School half an hour later, the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach remained.
“I need the records of a former student.” He tried to force some optimism into his voice. “She would have graduated eight or nine years ago.”
The male clerk smiled helpfully. “Certainly, Detective. What was the young lady’s name?”
The smile faded. “Well, I’ve been here ten years and that name doesn’t ring a bell with me.” He opened up a tall metal filing cabinet and pulled out a drawer marked Ru–Si. “I don’t suppose you have a picture?”
Danny reached into his briefcase. He handed the man a shot of Angela that his officers had taken from the house. She was wearing her wedding dress and looked even more radiant than usual, her perfect features aglow with love and joy, her dark hair swept back from her milk-white face, her chocolate-brown eyes dancing.
The clerk said, “Oh my. Now, that’s a face I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. No, I’m sorry. That girl was never here.”
“YOU’RE HURTING ME!”
Lyle Renalto was gripping Angela Jakes by the shoulders so tightly that his fingernails bit into the flesh.
“I’m sorry, Angel.” He released his grip. “But you have to get out of here. Now, today, before he comes back.”
Angela started to cry. “But I…I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Of course you haven’t,” said Lyle more gently. “I know that. You know that. But McGuire won’t understand.”
Angela hesitated. “Are you sure he won’t? He seems like such a nice guy.”
“I’m sure,” said Lyle firmly. Pulling an overnight bag out of the closet, he handed it to her. “Get some clothes. We may not have much time.”
DETECTIVE DANNY MCGUIRE WOKE AT FIVE in the morning. He’d gone to bed at two and barely slept. His mind was racing.
Angela Jakes had lied to him. About her name and about her education. What else had she lied to him about?
Why would she fake a name and a past to the man who was trying to catch her rapist and her husband’s killer? A man who was trying to help her? There could only be one reason. Angela Jakes must have something in her past that she was ashamed of. Deeply ashamed of. The obvious thought popped into Danny’s mind:
Had she been a hooker back in the day? Was that the “unhappy life” Andrew Jakes had rescued her from?
It was a familiar enough story in L.A.: young, beautiful, small-town girl comes to Hollywood with dreams of making it as an actress. Falls on hard times. Hooks up with the wrong crowd…
Yet whenever Danny pictured that angelic face, those eyes so full of trust and goodness, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that Andrew Jakes had picked up his bride on Hollywood Boulevard. He hadn’t believed Angela Jakes was a gold digger either, even when all the evidence pointed to it. I was right about that. I gotta trust my instincts more.
But what were his instincts telling him now?
That was the problem. He had no idea.
After leaving the high school yesterday, he’d driven around for an hour, trying to figure out his next move. The obvious way to go would have been to drive back to Lyle Renalto’s place and confront Angela on the spot. With any other witness, Danny wouldn’t have thought twice. But he couldn’t bring himself to grill the lovely Mrs. Jakes in front of her odious attorney, who would doubtless insist on remaining glued to her side. If she did have guilty secrets, and who of us didn’t, she deserved a chance to confess them in private. Danny would understand. After everything she’d just been through, he owed her that much sensitivity at least.
So instead Danny had driven back to the station house to brainstorm with the rest of the team. Only it was actually more of a shit storm. Every lead his men had been chasing seemed to have turned into a dead end. Henning’s Venice art expert had come up with a big fat doughnut on the miniatures. The insurance scam angle looked less and less promising, as the only people who could possibly benefit from a staged robbery would be the Jakeses themselves, one of whom was dead, while the other had given away all her money. Two of Danny’s officers had been checking out the lucky charities on the receiving end of Angela Jakes’s generosity. Both seemed totally kosher, with sparklingly transparent accounts. A sophisticated computer program had gone through every violent rape in the L.A. area in the past five years, looking for any connection with art or jewelry thefts, or any connection at all that might link one of those suspects to the Jakes crime scene. Nothing. It was the same story with forensics. Prints: nothing. Semen analysis: nothing.