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I found Sanchez and went with him, not checking in at my office so that they couldn't tell me to get myself in and get on with my real work.
By about four-thirty Sanchez and I had located Zack Stevenson. It wasn't hard to do; he wasn't a missing person, just a husband who'd walked out of a marriage neither he nor Jane particularly wanted anymore, who hadn't bothered with a divorce because neither he nor Jane was interested in anybody else. He was driving a truck for Charles's Chips. His office gave us his route, and we just followed it. The enameled light brown truck was easy enough to spot.
Sanchez cravenly left the job of breaking the news to me. When I told Stevenson Jane was dead, he said, "Well, damn," with no particular show of surprise. He wiped at one corner of his left eye with his right forefinger and said again, "Well, damn. I knowed that was coming. I tried to get her to let me move back in--wasn't no use her trying to look after that house alone, shape she was in--but she wouldn't think of it. Said what was over was over. I told her I'd sleep on the couch, I just wanted to help her, but she said she didn't need no--any--help from me. Said she was gonna get well and show everybody. I knowed that wasn't gonna happen and so did she."
"Bev thinks somebody might have killed her," I said.
He stared at me, rather blankly. "Why would anybody do that?"
I considered it a legitimate question. It was one I had considered asking Bev. Cui bono? Nobody, it seemed, would be likely to profit much from this woman's death. A little bit of life insurance through the city--probably not much more than enough to bury her, because nobody was likely to want toinsure anybody in her physical condition. She owned the house she was living in, Bev had said, but that might not be correct. Most likely Jane and her husband had bought it together.
"It's in hers and my name," Zack said, "but what difference does that make? Jane was thinking about moving out, getting an apartment downtown where she wouldn't have any yard work to pay for, 'cause she sure couldn't do it herself, but she hadn't decided for sure. I told her if she decided to, I'd move back in till we could get the place sold, and then we'd split the money down the middle. Why do you want to know? I mean, what difference does that make? It's just a house. We finished paying for it last year. It wouldn't be worth much, not in that neighborhood. Anyway, nobody would have killed her for the house. They couldn't have got it if they did. It's my house, now she's dead. But it's not worth much. And we never did have no kids. Not with her heart like it was. The doctor said she dassent."
"Was her heart always bad?" I asked, wondering whether he would confirm what Bev told me.
Zack nodded. "Yeah. Had about fourteen things wrong with it. She had rheumatic fever when she was a kid, and that's when they found out there was other stuff wrong too. She always had to be real careful. Never could do much--when she tried to walk she like to turned blue."
Sanchez asked about insurance. That pleased me. It meant I didn't have to be the one to ask.
"What there is of it, I guess it's made out to Bev," Zack said. "Jane told me the way she had it set up her bills and funeral would get paid and then Bev would get what was left. That was okay with me. Bev was her kid sister."
If Zack refused permission for the autopsy after I explained it, I would decide he was too good to be true. But he didn't. He just said, in a very worried tone, "Will her insurance cover it? 'Cause I can't afford--"
"It'll be taken care of," Sanchez told him, without going into detail.
"Then it don't make no difference to me," Zack said, "I just don't know what you 'spect to find. She's been dying all her life. Everybody knows her knows that."
He signed on all the dotted lines Sanchez told him to sign on, including one that turned responsibility for the funeral over to Beverly Hart. Sanchez and I went back in and handed the pieces of paper to Habib.
"I'll get at it first thing in the morning," Habib said in a rather resigned tone, with a complete absence of humming, which I suppose meant he was not at all interested in this case.
I went and told Beverly. She thanked me and began crying again.
I still didn't ask her why anybody would want to kill her sister. I figured that first thing in the morning Habib was going to find out that nobody killed her sister, that Jane Stevenson had died a perfectly natural death.
That was what I thought.
And now, at approximately eight-ten on Wednesday morning, Dr. Habib was screaming at me over the telephone. Screaming at me that that was no expletive deleted natural death, that woman died of an expletive deleted broken neck.
There's nothing like getting to a crime scene late, I thought crossly, and then I reminded myself it wasn't as bad as it could have been. This was by no means the first time in history a murder had gone down as natural death until somebody got to checking around.
There was Napoleon; from the moment he died, his death was rumored to be due to poison, but it wasn't until the last part of the twentieth century that anybody proved it, and even today who did it is up for grabs, although good cases have been made by various writers. Poison often works that way, though; it's so often undetected not because it is hard to prove, but because it is rarely suspected. A lot of murders-for-profit would never have been found out if murderers hadn't been so greedy they repeated the same method over and over again.
Then there was that woman in France, the baby-sitter they called the Death Angel. By the time somebody actually got suspicious enough to start to watch her, she'd strangled twenty-odd babies and small children, starting with her own. All six of them. Over a period of about fourteen years.
There weren't any crime scenes left when they finally caught on to her, except the newest one when they caught her in the act. Just a lot of tiny skeletons with crushed hyoids, which were hard to identify because in a young child the hyoid is cartilage, not bone as it is later.
Crushed hyoids just like the one Jane Stevenson had.
Why in the world would anybody want to murder a lot of babies? It wasn't for profit; even the Death Angel's own children had no insurance. And it wasn't to escape the drudgery of childcare; she would beg to be allowed to look after other people's babies. I couldn't imagine what her motive would be. But thank goodness, that wasn't my case.
Jane Stevenson was my case, and this looked about as motiveless as that.
Why in the world would anybody want to murder a dying woman? If--as seemed virtually certain--nobody was going to profit monetarily from her death? Assuming she wasn't a blackmailer, and water department clerks don't usually ferret out the kind of secret that could lead to blackmail.