“Looks like a puppy with a muddy foot stepped on her,” Bowen said.
“Got an identity on her yet?” Coats asked.
“Then I can help you out. Her name is Megdaline Jackson, unless she got married, changed her last name. She’s somewhere around twenty-four.”
“You know her?”
“When she was a kid, kind of,” Coats said. “It was her older sister I knew. That birthmark, where I had seen it, came to me after I got home. Her sister had a much smaller one like it, higher up on the leg. It threw me because I knew she wasn’t the older sister, Ali. Too young. But then I remembered the kid, and that she’d be about twenty-four now. She was just a snot-nosed little brat then, but it makes sense she would have inherited that mark same as Ali.”
“Considering you seem to have done some leg work in the past, that saves some leg work of another kind.”
“That ice block,” Coats said. “Seen anything like it?”
“Nope. Closest thing to it was we had a couple of naked dead babes in alleys lately. But not in blocks of ice.”
“All right,” Coats said. “That’ll do.”
Bowen pulled the sheet back, said, “Okay I turn in who this is, now that you’ve identified her?”
Coats studied the girl’s pale, smooth face. “Sure. Any idea how she died?”
“No wounds on her that I can see, but we got to cut her up a bit to know more.”
“Let me know what you find?”
“Sure,” Bowen said. “But that five dollars I owe you for poker—”
“Forget about it.”
Coats drove to an all-night diner and had coffee and breakfast about the time the sun was crawling up. He bought a paper off the rack in the diner, sat in a booth, and read it and drank more coffee until it was firm daylight; by that time he had drank enough so he thought he could feel his hair crawling across his scalp. He drove over where Ali lived.
Last time he had seen Ali she had lived in a nice part of town on a quiet street in a tall house with a lot of fine trees out front. The house was still there and so were the trees, but the trees were tired this morning, crinkled, and darkened by the hot Santa Ana winds.
Coats parked at the curb and strolled up the long walk. The air was stiff, so much so you could have buttered it like toast. Coats looked at his pocket watch. It was still pretty early, but he leaned on the doorbell anyway. After a long time a big man in a too-tight jacket came and answered the door. He looked like he could tie a knot in a fire poker, eat it, and crap it out straight.
Coats reached in his pants pocket, pulled out his patrol badge, and showed it to him. The big man looked at it like he had just seen something foul, went away, and after what seemed like enough time for a crippled mouse to have built a nest the size of the Taj Mahal, he came back.
Coats made it about three feet inside the door with his hat in his hand before the big man said, “You got to wait right there.”
“All right,” Coats said.
“Right there and don’t go nowhere else.”
“Wouldn’t think of it.”
The big man nodded, walked off, and the wait was started all over again. The crippled mouse was probably halfway into a more ambitious project bythe time Ali showed up. She was wearing white silk pajamas and her blond hair looked like stirred honey. She had on white house slippers. She was so gorgeous for a moment Coats thought he might weep.
“I’ll be damned,” she said, and smiled. “You.”
“Yeah,” Coats said. “Me.”
She came over smiling and took his hand and led him along the corridor until they came to a room with a table and chairs. He put his hat on the table. They sat in chairs next to one another and she reached out and clung to his hand.
“That’s some butler you got,” Coats said.
“Warren. He’s butler, bodyguard, and makes a hell of a martini. He said it was the police.”