Coats drove along Sunset, and for a moment he thought he was being followed, but the car, a big blue sedan, turned right, and he decided against it.
Downtown he stopped at the morgue to see Bowen.
“What we got is her belly was full of water, and so were her lungs,” Bowen said.
“So she drowned?” Coats asked.
“Yeah, but the way her throat looks, I think someone ran a hose into her mouth, pumped her up. Figure they squirted it in her nose, too. Unpleasant business.”
“When did she die?” Coats asked.
“The ice throws that off. It’s hard to know body temperature to figure how long she was laying there, messes up rigor—” He stopped in midsentence.
Coats was nodding all the time Bowen was talking.
“Oh, I get it,” Bowen said. “That was the point. Harder to know when she died, harder to break an alibi someone might use. They could kill her and walk away, and the ice melts, body’s found, it doesn’t show signs of being dead as long. They could kill her, one, two, three days before and keep her frozen, drop her off when they wanted.”
“If the boy hadn’t gone through the alley, she’d just be a dead prostitute,” Coats said.
“It kind of figures now,” Bowen said. “We found, let me see, three other girls in the past week in alleys. All of them stripped and lying on the bricks. One of them, she was in a pool of water. It wasn’t urine. We couldn’t figure it. Now it makes sense. She melted out of her block.”
“I think they may have killed them all at the same time,” Coats said. “Kept them frozen, put them out when they wanted to, made it look like a string of nut murders. But this time the ice didn’t melt soon enough before she was found.”
“And all this means…what?”
“I’ll get back to you on it,” Coats said.
At the Hall of Records a snooty woman with her hair in knot so tight it pulled her cheeks up under her ears showed Coats where he could look up what he wanted. What he wanted was to know who owned the Polar Bear Ice Company. When he saw who it was, his stomach ached.
He went home and called in sick for his shift, took off all his clothes, sprinkled the bed with water, and lay there with the window open listening to traffic. The sunlight went deep pink and hit the buildings across the way, made them look as if they were being set on fire by celestial arsonists. He thought about what he had found out at the Hall of Records and decided it didn’t necessarily mean anything, but he could never quite come to the conclusion that it meant nothing. He was thinking about what he should do, how he should go about it all. He eventually decided whatever it was, tomorrow was soon enough, after he got some rest.
In the middle of the night he came awake to a click like someone snapping a knife blade open. He slogged out of his dreams and got up and picked his gun off the nightstand. Naked as a jaybird, he walked into the kitchen and looked at the front door, which is where the snicking sound was coming from. Someone was working the lock.
The door slipped open a crack and when it did, Coats lifted his pistol. Then the door went wider. Framed by the outside streetlights was a woman.
“Come on in,” Coats said.
“It’s me, Ali,” the woman said.
“All right,” he said.
She came in and closed the door and they stood in the dark. Coats said, “You always work men’s locks at night?”