“It is the police,” Coats said. He took out his badge and showed it to her.
“So you did become a cop,” she said. “Always said you wanted to.”
She reached up and touched his face. “I should have stuck with you. Look at you, you look great.”
“So do you,” he said.
She touched her hair. “I’m a mess.”
“I’ve seen you messy before.”
“So you have, and fresh out of bed, too.”
“I saw you while you were in bed,” he said.
She didn’t look directly at him when she said, “You know my husband, Harris, died, don’t you?”
“Old as he was when you married him,” Coats said, “I didn’t expect him to outlive you. Of course, he had a lot of young friends and they liked you, too.”
“Don’t talk that way, baby,” she said.
As he thought back on it all, bitterness churned inside Coats for a moment, then settled. They had had something together, but there had been one major holdup. His bank account was lower than a snake’s belly, and the best he wanted out of life was to be a cop. The old man she married was well-heeled and well connected to some rich people and a lot of bad people; he knew a lot of young men with money, too, and Ali, she saw it as an all-around win, no matter how those people made their money.
In the end, looks like they both got what they wanted.
“This isn’t a personal call, Ali,” Coats said. “It’s about Meg.”
And then he told her.
When he finished telling her, Ali looked stunned for a long moment, got up, walked around the table as if she were searching for something, then sat back down. She crossed her legs. A slipper fell off. She got up again, but Coats reached up and took her hand and gently pulled her back to the chair.
“I’m sorry,” Coats said.
“You’re sure?” she asked.
“The dog paw, like you have.”
“Oh,” she said. “Oh.”
They sat for a long time, Coats holding her hand, telling her about the block of ice, the boy finding it.
“Any idea who might have wanted her dead?” Coats asked.
“She had slipped a little,” Ali said. “That’s all I know.”
“Guess it was my fault. I tried to help her, but I didn’t know how. I married Harris and I had money, and I gave her a lot of it, but it didn’t help. It wasn’t money she needed, but what she needed I didn’t know how to give. The only thing I ever taught her was how to make the best of an opportunity.”
Coats looked around the room and had to agree about Ali knowing about opportunity. The joint wasn’t quite as fancy as the queen of England’s place, but it would damn sure do.
“I couldn’t replace Mother and Father,” she said. “Them dying while she was so young. I didn’t know what to do.”
“You can’t blame yourself,” Coats said. “You weren’t much more than a kid.”
“I think I can blame myself,” she said. “And I will.”
Coats patted her hand. “Anyone have something against her?”
“She had gotten into dope, and she had gotten into the life,” Ali said. “I tried to pull her out, but she wasn’t coming. I might as well have been tugging on an elephant’s trunk, trying to drag the beast uphill. She just wouldn’t come out.”