She pulled from her cigarette, blew a stream of white smoke over my head, and asked: “Really John, what are you implying?”
“I’m not implying anything,” I said. “I’m telling you flat-out that you killed your husband.”
She blinked. There was a slight clenching of the jaw. Otherwise, her face remained careless and slack. She laughed. “You’ve seen too many movies!”
She sighed and regarded me with disappointed eyes. “Well, come in then,” she said, stepping aside. “There’s no point in giving the neighborhood a show.”
I brushed past.
The house was big and lushly decorated, the floors a rich hardwood, the draperies heavy and expensive. We sat on a sofa by the fire.
“Can I offer you a drink?” she asked.
“There’s no time for that.”
“I see,” she said. “Well, in that case I guess you’d better get to it.”
“Your alibi sold you out.”
Fear flashed in her eyes. She looked to the fireplace and when she turned back, the fear was gone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s Ralph,” I said. “He’s your Achilles. The cops brought a little pressure down on him and he fell apart like a jigsaw puzzle. They know you left his place the night your husband was murdered.”
She inhaled sharply and stood up, her eyes big and afraid. “That’s – that’s ridiculous!” she said. “Of course I was at Ralph’s! His – his neighbors saw me there.”
I stood and took hold of her hands. “They saw you walk into his house that night, sure. They even saw you leave the next morning. But they didn’t stay up all night to see if you left. They didn’t keep tabs on the back door.”
She shook her head. “But – but I – ”
“Drop the act, sister!” I barked. “You’re cooked and running out of time. O’Malley will be here as soon as he has the warrant.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “What should I do?” she asked.
“You have the money?”
“And you’re packed and ready to go?”
She nodded again.
“Change of plans,” I said releasing her hands. “You’re leaving with me and I want Ralph’s half, understand?”
She stared blankly. Her mouth tried to make words.
I took her hands again and shook them. “Ralph sold you out. If you don’t want the chair, you and I need to go. Now.”
That broke the trance. She flew up the stairs and returned within seconds with a suitcase and a purse.
“Great,” I said. “Where’s the cash?”
“Here,” she said, tapping her purse.
“All of it?”
She nodded. “Eighty-thousand.”
“All right,” I said, taking the suitcase from her. “We’ll take my car to the airport. The cops won’t be watching for it.”
She nodded and started for the front door. Quietly, I set her suitcase down, caught up to her at the door, and sapped her with a blackjack.
She lay sprawled on the floor, her purse beside her. I opened it, took the cash, and slipped out of the house, closing the door behind me. Sirens wailed in the distance as I drove off into the sunshine.