Raymond Jaye Series
Following an injury that forced him to leave his job as a police detective in Detroit, Raymond Jaye went freelance. As a newly licensed private investigator in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ray assumed he’d be tracking down frauds and con artists, not murderers. He was wrong.
Barbara Manetti admitted to her husband that she’d been having an affair, and named Ray as her lover. Three hours later, she’s found sprawled on her kitchen floor in a pool of blood from a knife wound on her neck. Murder is a job for the police, but tracking down her real lover is something a PI could do without stepping on any official toes. That is, until the investigation ties her to Ray’s life back in Detroit.
Ray begins to see her plan, and it raises two questions. Why would a woman he’d never known want to see him dead? And who knows Ray well enough to kill for him?
In this, the second of the Raymond Jaye stories, Ray finds himself up to his collar in suspects, while the only person that really knew what was supposed to happen lies on a cold, steel slab.
4 stars: A nice tight mystery with an amiable hero and a lot of believable characters and twists packed into a well organised and sparely written story.
I put the morning’s excitement behind me as best I could and went home. The only reason I went there was to clear my name in the affair. I was finally open for business, not that business cared. The last thing I needed, other than a jealous husband with lousy impulse control, was my name tied to a marital scandal in Salt Lake. Downtown, they probably still had a public square with stocks for that sort of thing.
The murder made any involvement I might have had a footnote, so with the affair no longer a pressing matter. I queued up a few episodes of Jack Mason, nursed my swollen cheek, and forgot about the whole thing.
A little after nine on Monday morning, the phone rang.
“You’re still working for me, right?” said Ernie.
“Well, things have changed since then. What did you want me to do?”
“I still want you to find the guy she was having the affair with. He’s the one who killed her. He’s got to be.”
I thought about this for all of about seven seconds. Technically, her murder and the affair were different matters. The affair was only criminal because no lawmaker in Utah wanted to be the one to end his career by proposing to repeal adultery as a crime. Then again, any candidate for her lover would be a suspect in her murder, so the reality would be a clash with Ortega over petty semantics. It was as good an excuse as any.
I said, “Okay. I’ll keep on it. I’ll need to know more about her. What she did for work, how she spent her free time, that sort of thing.”
“Yeah, I can tell you all that stuff. I’ll meet you someplace. You know a place?”
I knew a place. Technically, it was a biker bar, but it catered more to doctors and lawyers going through their mid-life crisis biker phase than it did anyone likely to have outstanding warrants, giant knives, or zip-guns. They also had a great steak-and-egg breakfast.
I arrived first and got one of the few booths. Ernie showed up ten minutes later, beating my food by less than a minute.
“Sorry,” I said. “I had to order to get a booth. How are you holding up?”
“Fine, I guess. I don’t know if it just hasn’t sunk in yet, or if I’m still mad her for the affair, but I don’t really feel anything.”
Odd as that might seem to some people, I knew exactly what he meant. For some, death isn’t real until they have time to notice the absence…coming home to a quiet house, or slipping into an empty bed. Hell, it could even something as silly as the toilet paper lasting twice as long. Everybody feels it differently. The last thing he felt about her was rage. When the reality sunk in, he’d crash. He’d crash hard. Unless he killed her.
“What did you need to know?” The question pulled me away from the memory.
I washed down a bite with a little coffee and said, “For starters, I’d like to know a little about you. You said you got home that morning. You work graves?”
“Yeah. I’m the overnight supervisor in a warehouse in West Valley. ”
“How did the two of you meet?”
He pulled a napkin from the holder and started toying with it on the table.
“I’d just gotten the job, not a supervisor or anything, just a grunt. I got off work one morning and stopped for something to eat, and there she was. She was still in law school then, and on her way to class, but I had to talk to her.”
He spun the napkin around the table as he talked, using just his fingertips to guide it in little circles.
“I made sure to run into her a lot after that. Then, one day I asked her out, and she said yes. We’ve been together ever since.”
“You said she was in law school. How long ago was this?”
“About eight years ago. She called it her second chance.”
“So, she was a lawyer. Was she a successful one?” I had an idea, having seen the house and Ernie looking far too blue around the collar to afford anything like it.
“Oh yeah. We struggled for a while, then about a year ago she landed some big clients. She was made partner in the firm and did some huge deal that set us up for life.”
He paused. His chin quivered for an instant as his mouth tightened. Then he took a deep breath and moved on.
“That was about a year ago. We bought that house and things were good.”
“What kind of law did she practice?”
“Corporate stuff, I guess. Like contracts and stuff. I never really knew too much about it. She never talked to me about work.”
“Do you know the other people in the firm?”
“Yeah. Oh yeah. I’ve met some them. The ones on her team. Mark Jensen is a partner because his dad owns the firm. She had some problems with Paul Martinez when she landed that big deal, but she handled it okay. I’ve met both of them.”
I wrote down the names and made a note beside each. “Could either of them have been the one?”
“I doubt it. Jensen is too churchy. He wouldn’t risk the rumors or upsetting his dad. She hated Martinez. They even got into a fight once. She said something to him, he slapped her across the face, and she knocked out one of his teeth.”
“Did you tell the police?” I was thinking about the wrong case already.