Clint was working at his computer, editing a few photos to remove defects when the impulse occurred to him. It was fairly mindless work that he’d done a thousand times before so his mind easily wandered. On a whim he pulled up his web browser and hunted up the trailer for Nikki’s film. Most of it was clips of her singing. He watched it a second time.
“I’m being pathetic,” he muttered.
His phone started to ring and he gratefully answered the opportunity for distraction.
“Is this Clint Morgan?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
“I don’t know if you remember be. This is Linda Atwood.”
Clint sat up straighter, surprised. “Of course I remember you. I was so sorry about Lionel.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it. It’s been a hard time. I’m sorry to call you like this but I know the two of you were friends.”
Clint opened his mouth to respond but hesitated. It was probably unnecessary to disillusion her and it certainly wouldn’t be kind. Besides, Linda was still talking.
“I need a favor.”
“What can I do to help?”
“I was wondering if you would be able to go by his apartment and mail me some things. Lionel never changed his will after the divorce and I’m still executer. There are some papers I need and I won’t be able to come up to LA until the new year. Would you mind?”
“Not at all. Just tell me what you need.”
“There’ll be in his safe. There are financial papers and a safe deposit box key. I’ve already called up the landlord to let you into the apartment and the safe code is 54559.”
“Alright. Ah, could you…remind me the address? I’m afraid Lionel and I didn’t spend much time at his place.”
“Of course.” Linda gave it, thanked him again and hung up.
Clint pocketed the paper he’d written the address on and grabbed his car keys. He felt a little guilty. As a general rule he preferred the truth, but curiosity had gotten the better of him. Holly’s and Peter’s visit from the week before hadn’t convinced him but it was hard to refuse this opportunity when it had been handed to him. Besides, Linda would probably have wanted the help anyways, whether he and Lionel were friends or not.
As he drove to Lionel’s house, he was uncomfortably reminded of seeing Lionel that last time and the man’s prediction, ‘in ten years, you’re me’. What did that entail exactly? An ex-wife, two kids he rarely saw, a man who could barely stand him, driving to his apartment to help wrap up his affair and what else? Probably the body was sitting on ice somewhere and would be for a while if Linda couldn’t come till the new year. It all didn’t amount to very much did it. And Clint himself didn’t even have the ex-wife.
He pulled up outside the apartment building and parked before hunting up the landlord. The man was named George and seemed to welcome the distraction in what had been a fairly dull day. He led Clint up to the third floor and to Lionel’s apartment.
“Didn’t know him very well,” said George. “He always paid on time so I didn’t have much to do with him. But he seemed alright.”
Clint realized suddenly something that did not quite add up. “He hadn’t been staying here the past few weeks though had he?”
“No,” agreed George. “I don’t think he did. His mail was piling up and I hadn’t seen his car in the garage.”
“But he died just blocks from here,” said Clint, more to himself than to the George. “If he were still staying at the motel what was he doing coming back here?”
“Oh he’d already been here earlier that night.”
“Sure,” said George. “I told the police this but since it’d been a mugging they didn’t care much. This isn’t the best neighborhood you know so we have a night watchman. He knows who the people are that live here and he saw Atwood come in. According to him Lionel was only here a few minutes and then left again.”
“When was this?” asked Clint, “in relation to when he died?”
“About an hour or two before.”
“So Lionel came back here after staying away for several weeks, left again right away and then was heading back here when he was mugged? That seems…odd, for lack of a better word.”
“That’s what I thought,” said George. “But I’m not the professionals, so what do I know. Here you are.” He unlocked Lionel’s door and held it open for him. “Stay as long as you like. Mrs. Atwood had his lawyer call me and it’s all good.”
“Thank you.” Clint entered and closed the door behind him. He thought back to Lionel’s motel room. It had been messy, with clothes and magazines strewn about. This apartment wasn’t what he’d expected. It was neat and tidy. Things were in drawers and on shelves. Everything also looked cleaned, which didn’t seem to match with Lionel. He wasn’t the kind of man to spend money on paying someone to clean and he certainly wasn’t the kind of man to clean himself. It felt off.
Clint shook his head. Holly’s conspiracy theories were just making him paranoid. Peter was only following her because he was in love with her. If all things were equal, he’d never be backing up her ideas.
He found the safe in the bedroom and punched in the code Linda had given him. He pulled it open and was confronted with stacks of papers. He pulled them out and began organizing them. It wasn’t until he’d cleared out the entire safe and shut it again that he realized one thing. The safe deposit key was gone.