Mitch was not involved in the investigation. To be honest, he thought it was pointless for his petite, frail wife to even try to get to the bottom of a murder, especially in a third-world or second-world or whatever-Panama-was-considered country. So he never volunteered to stake out any locations or ask a few questions or even get on the computer to do some background checks. Even when he thought of it that way, it seemed absurd, silly even, as if Barb was playing the Angela Landsbury part in Murder, She Wrote. Of course, if that was what his wife wanted to do, he wasn’t going to stand in her way, though he worried that she could get herself in some sort of trouble, maybe even in danger, if she did by some stroke of luck or clever deduction solve the murder.
As usual, Mitch sat on a bench with Carmen on her leash out on the promenade and faced a spectacular view of the Panama City skyline. The Pacific Ocean was flat and gray. A few normal thunderheads draped the horizon. Why did Barb care? Poor departed Beth was an acquaintance not a dear old friend. It must be that his wife needed something to do. Ever since they retired, Barb was looking for a hobby or activity to become involved with and she even took some oil painting classes and Spanish language classes and Ti Chi classes but none inspired any more than a passing interest. Whenever, somebody suggested that Barb might want to teach, she always gave the same answer—“Now that wouldn’t be retirement, would it?” Mitch agreed. After all, his main activity was coaching some midget scrubs who appeared to have no chance to win a single game in a rinky-dink league—Now that’s not much of a retirement plan, is it? Plus the season was going to mercifully end soon, and then what? Maybe she could write a novel or a murder mystery or a children’s book or poetry. Barb was an intelligent, sensitive, resourceful, well-educated woman, with a master’s degree in Education and a sharp mind.
Carmen would occasionally pull the leash and stretch out to meet a passerby in hopes of receiving a pat on her clownish head. A woman in sneakers, tee shirt and jeans and a Panama hat leaned over and called Carmen a cute dog. Mitch nodded. Middle-aged women were the most likely to stop and speak baby talk to the dog. “Maybe I should try picking up one of these gals,” Mitch thought, and then “Yeh sure, and then what?” Mitch would give the ladies a smile and a nod and then they would be on their way. Some people both women and men and often Panamanian, but particularly children acted afraid and cringed at the sight of the small white dog with black accents. “What do they see?” Mitch wondered. How could they be frightened by a small 20-pound dog attached to a leash being held by a 230-pound hombre?
What was retirement supposed to be anyway? The rather vague notion was that a person was supposed to rest after a lifetime of work. Just hang out and smell the roses or play golf or travel. Maybe Mitch could get Barb to plan a trip to Columbia or Peru, since they were in the neighborhood; or Argentina; or a safari in Africa; or a tour of England and/or France. That’s what old people do. Of course for a while going to Panama was a rather adventurous trip; and getting settled in was a sometimes frustrating but time-consuming activity; but then they were established, their apartment was furnished; and they knew their way around the city. But, and it was a big but, what then? Boredom, not abject, tedious, hopeless boredom, like convicts in prison or monks in a monastery (Mitch could not picture meditating all day in silence), or collectors in a toll booth might feel, but a feeling of boredom did creep in on an almost daily basis. Part of the deal was that being on a pensioner’s visa in Panama meant that a job was prohibited. Mitch didn’t want to be a greeter at a Wal-Mart anyway. Even starting a business was complicated. The visa required that a foreign business operator had to employ at least three Panamanians and that wouldn’t be retirement, now would it. Retirement was supposed to be like a permanent vacation, and come to think of it, Mitch remembers often being bored at the beach, just sitting there watching the waves or reading a book.
Mitch supposed he could take up golf and play at one of the few courses in Panama, but he had never really been that interested and figured that starting at his age would be futile. On the other hand, little Barb was never into sports. She could almost hide behind a tennis racket and a bicycle seemed like a high seat from which to fall. Mitch remembers one time at a family softball game worrying that the force of a batted ball might knock her over. Involvement in even noncompetitive sports at their age didn’t seem like such good idea. They’d be smashed up against the rocks kayaking down some rapids; or drown scuba diving; or fall off a cliff mountain climbing with no previous experience. So how about hiking?—boring and hard on Mitch’s knees. That left them wondering what to do. Barb, apparently, decided to become a senior sleuth.
There was another key reason why Mitch was not involved in the investigation. Barb never asked him to become involved. Maybe Barb assumed that he would say no, which is probably what he would have said. In fact, he would have tried to talk her out of it. However, she did not ask. Making assumptions after 40 years of marriage is not unheard of, but it did bother Mitch that he wasn’t invited or consulted. Barb simply assumed he would decline and instead announced her intention to look into the matter. What bothered him even more was that she then recruited an associate, a widower approximately their same age and off she went. Was he jealous? Of course he was. Time spent with that Jack fella was time not spent with her own husband. While they were married, his coaching duties and administrator duties often meant that he stayed late after school or attended and chaperoned evening activities, leaving Barb to fend for herself many week nights, which she did—book clubs, charity work, friends, TV and knitting. Not much call for knitting sweaters and scarves in the tropics. However, when he retired, one of the desirable parts of the plan was that he would spend more time with the love of his life. In fact, they were together most of each day, every day since they had only one car and did the grocery shopping, banking, dry cleaners, hardware store and even doctor’s visits together. Mitch appreciated an opportunity to get out of the apartment. He always had plenty of time on his hands and didn’t mind pushing the grocery cart as Barb led the way.
Mitch figured that there would be a renewal of their sex lives, which didn’t in fact turn out. Mitch thought that if they had the time there would be much more sex. He didn’t kid himself and think he suddenly turned into a 6’4” bulky Sean Connery, though Barb was still trim. Maybe he didn’t turn her on anymore. He did think that now both of them had more opportunity that they would take advantage. They had always been careful and that was how they avoided having kids. Mitch would always pull out. He hated condoms. Then when Barb went through menopause, he didn’t have to any more. Frankly, Mitch missed the cum shots, as he liked to call them, while gradually the number of times they had sex tampered off to once or twice a month—more often on weekend trips but those times were rare. Vacations were a time when they always had sex, but now they were on permanent vacation. Even simple affection was harder to come by. There were fewer welcome home kisses because there were no late nights at school; or long basketball practices. They were always together and Mitch had to admit that he had never been much of a hugger and kisser for no reason. They would cuddle up at night in bed but soon either one or the other or both would be snoring away. Often when walking Carmen at night, Mitch envied the young couples seated on the benches or with their legs dangling from the wall that bordered the old town. The young smirky boys in black tee shirts and the girls in their tank tops, their bare arms wrapped around the guys’ necks seemed to be in a different world. It would be foolish for Barb and Mitch to make out on a park bench, when they could snuggle all they wanted on their couch in the privacy of their apartment. Instead they watched DVDs or old movies on Sky TV.
It was hard to imagine, but Mitch hated the idea of his sweet, innocent wife having an affair. Maybe she secretly resented their sex life dropping off a cliff. They never discussed it. It just happened. He had assumed that menopause was part of the cause. Of course the spark had faded if not disappeared completely, but Barb had a cute little figure in a girlish, not too wrinkled way. Plus, he loved her. She was the cutest, nicest, sweetest, most interesting woman he had ever known personally and he was lucky—she was his wife. Now the first thing you don’t go doing is accuse your wife of an affair, without a courthouse full of evidence. Mitch had his doubts that that was what was happening or that it could happen. Then again, Jack was sort of a cool customer, a writer and a restaurant critic and not a bad looking guy for his age and available. The so-called investigation could be nothing more than excuse for those two to see each other. Or not. That was the problem, even if there was no geriatric romance blooming anew; even if Jack never had “any ideas;” or Barb wasn’t even tempted to have one last fling; the question remained—Why Jack? Why did Jack agree to play Watson to Barb’s Sherlock? What was in it for him? Maybe, probably, certainly Mitch could trust his wife of 40 years; but could he trust Jack? Was Jack a break from the routine of decades of marriage? Was he more interesting or more fun; or at least interesting or fun in a different way—a little variety to spice an old girl’s life? Obviously, Mitch had too much time on his hands and was letting his imagination run a bit, but all things considered, Mitch was determined to keep an eye on that Jack guy.
For a while, a long while, Carmen slept under Mitch’s legs, but then stood facing her master, well not exactly, but the guy holding the leash, and looked at him expectantly. “Okay, okay,” Mitch said “it’s time to move. Let’s go back to the apartment and see what Mom’s doing.” Much of the sky was pink as a half dozen pelicans swooped low, just inches above the surface of the sea. As Mitch stood up, the leash went taunt and Carmen gave it a steady pull all the way back, with only a few sniff stops at car tires and door steps. When Mitch unlocked the door, he bent over and slipped the chocker chain off Carmen’s neck, and the dog scooted in and jumped up on Barb, who was standing in the middle of their small living room. An open book was placed face down on the wicker easy chair, and Mitch noticed Barb had on a white tee shirt, red Capri pants and a stern look on her face.
“Where in the world have you been?” Barb asked with her palms raised toward the ceiling fan.
“I took Carmen for a walk, like I always do.” Mitch thought it was obvious.
Barb’s expression changed from peeved to concerned. “You’ve been gone for nearly two hours. That was a mighty long walk there mister. For the last hour, hour and a half, I’ve been worried.”
“I’m sorry,” Mitch said, “but I didn’t realize it had been that long. Are you sure?” To Mitch it seemed unlikely he could have been out for more than a half hour, 45 minutes at the most.
“I’m sure, honey,” Barb said and walked over, stood on her tiptoes and gave her big husband a kiss on the cheek.
The gesture made Mitch feel foolish and instead of apologizing any more he said, “First of all, I don’t believe for minute I was gone any two hours, and so what if I was. Should I punch in and out with a time card, for Christ’s sake?”
It made Mitch even more angry when he heard his wife switch on her teacher voice and inquire, “So do you remember what time you left with Carmen?”
“Oh, I don’t know…” By this time Mitch was snarling. “I suppose it was around 4:00, maybe 4:30.”
“It was a little before 4:00,” Barb said rather too patiently for Mitch’s taste. “And what time is it now? It’s getting dark out.” There were long shadows outside the window.
At that point Mitch didn’t really want to take a look at his wrist watch, but did. “It says 6:15.” The watch hung on his wrist like a handcuff, both proof of his wife’s accusation and evidence of his negligence. Why hadn’t he checked his watch before? Where had the time gone? But also, why was his wife so upset? He wasn’t running around looking for clues. He was just out for a stroll with the dog they had adopted. What was the big deal?
Barb patted him on his bicep and said “Don’t worry honey. Everything is okay. I just got worried is all.”
“Well then, don’t you worry either,” Mitch said, “I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself, and don’t you forget it.” His statement was intended to sound light-hearted, but it sounded silly to Mitch himself and he wondered what his wife was thinking even though she said, “Of course, honey, no problem.”
Well that’s the problem right there. Mitch knew he was being handled—handled with care; with kid gloves; as if he were a problem. The fact of the matter was that Mitch was not so far gone that he didn’t know that to a certain degree he was losing it. The main thing was that he couldn’t remember stuff—what time it was; or day; or month; and plenty of “senior moments”—forgetting why he had gone upstairs; or where he left his glasses; or names of his young hapless players. He even called Carmen “Pesky” more than once which was the name of his dog when he was a boy. At first, Mitch hung on to the senior-moment concept; that it happened to everybody his age, but lately he found the situation more unsettling. He worried that he needed to get a hold of himself. No wonder, he admitted, that Barb didn’t want him involved in anything that needed mental acuity. No wonder Barb was interested in another slightly younger, more with-it guy. It was bad. Mitch knew as much and it bothered him because he didn’t know what to do.
“Oh, Honey,” he said, “I’m so sorry. I’ll watch the time better, I really will. I don’t want you to worry.” Mitch was surprised to find himself near tears. To counteract, he pounded his right fist into his left palm and said a bit too empathically, “I’ll just check my watch more often, that’s all.”
Barb’s small hand fluttered to his shoulder and her bright green eyes met his. “That’s okay Honey; I was just a little worried that’s all.”
At that, Mitch pulled back abruptly and sneered, “You think I’m losing it. Don’t you? You think I’m god damn losing it. Don’t you? Don’t you?”
Once again Barb reached out her small hand and this time gripped her husband’s wide wrist right behind his large, clenched fist. Mitch slumped but did not pull his hand away, as his wife gently kissed his knuckles and said, “Maybe, Honey, sometimes, I don’t know, but sometimes, I’m afraid so.”
* * *
Joe Berger sat at a small corner table under a fake palm tree. The Tropical Island Club, on 37th Street just off Calle Cincuenta, was decorated with artificial palm trees and plastic foliage with what looked like stuffed parrots scattered around in white painted cages hanging from wires attached to the ceiling. Tacky. This was the gentlemen’s club where Bebe worked. It had occurred to Joe that many if not most of the so-called gentlemen’s clubs in Panama City had English language names like The Crazy Horse, where Bebe worked before it closed. There was also Elite II, the Crystal Moon, the Cotton Club, Golden Times, and place names like Miami and Las Vegas and one with a bit of a French flair called Le Palace. It was pretty obvious why, since even the little Tropical Island had a mostly gringo clientele. Some of these guys were businessmen at loose ends but some were in Panama because prostitution was legal. Basically they were sex tourists; or pervs as Joe liked to call them.
Even though it was against the law for Panamanian women to be prostitutes, girls from other countries were actually licensed and were given visas for that expressed purpose. Many of the girls, like Bebe, were from Columbia. Joe did not include himself in the pervert category because he had not come to Panama in order to have legal access to hookers. I’ve never paid for sex and I hope I never will. He told himself he was just keepin’ an eye on my girlfriend. Whatever that meant? He certainly didn’t interfere with her job, which was mainly doing lap dances or table dances as they’re called. Bebe was dressed for the part with big hooped earrings; a thin gold chain with a cross dangling from it; several gold and silver bracelets on her left wrist; five-inch, open toed heels and nothing else. While two naked young ladies danced on small platforms with a pole sticking out to the ceiling, about a half dozen women, a couple of them in g-strings, one in nothing but what must be called a platform bra and the rest like Bebe in high heels and a garter belt for the money she danced for.
Joe liked to watch Bebe do her stuff. Just then Bebe was leaning over a table where two middle-aged guys both in gray suits were seated. Both had removed their ties and were fondling her breasts and butt well past the tan line. She is one sexy piece of ass. Actually, she seldom came over to Joe’s table, because it was understood that he wasn’t a real customer. Once or twice, a new girl tried to entice Joe, but soon learned that he was only paying for rather expensive seven-dollar beers. Bebe and some of the other girls seemed to get a laugh out of watching a newbie do a little dance with no payoff. The performances were pretty much no-holds-barred affairs, since the guys were allowed to touch the dancers, who were humping their legs. What the girls were actually trying to do was provoke enough interest in their marks, so that the guys would soon follow them into a back room, where they would have sex for the house price of $85. The management would take $50 leaving the girl with $35; so the babes tried to go into the back as often as possible. Joe had never actually been in the back. Most of the ladies would also try to make dates for later, so that they could keep more of the money.
It was important that Joe keep Bebe thinking that he was well off financially because she was losing money by dating him. Soon enough, Joe knew his fling with Bebe would come to an end when he refused to marry her. She had already complained about how plain his apartment was, so he printed some photos off the internet of a house he claimed he owned in Boca Raton. The money for the house and the black Mercedes sedan, which he also bragged about, apparently came from the proceeds of his lucrative sports agent operation, a concept that Bebe never seemed to fully comprehend. Yes, he was scamming her, but Joe justified his behavior because he knew that Bebe was scamming him, every time she said “Oh, Joe Baby, I love you mucho.”
The plan that Joe suspected (expected really) was simple. The minute the nuptials were officially sanctioned, Bebe would request, demand more like it, that the happy newlyweds take in her mother and/or sister and/or cousin or her two previously unmentioned kids with Grandma for help. Then just a few days after the family members were moved in, Bebe would charge Joe with physical and psychological abuse backed up by witnesses. This would lead to a divorce and settlement (or criminal proceedings) that seldom benefited the husband. There was even a web site www.gringolovelost.com dedicated to all the forlorn, lovelorn gringo victims. Many anonymous men, who used their dicks to sign away their nest eggs, shared their stories, which were all remarkably alike. It was surprising, almost shocking how prevalent this bait-and-switch scam was—almost as if young women were being trained somewhere; part of their heritage, passed on from generation to generation—how to fleece aging horny gringo men, lonely guys mostly. Joe could identify with that. Loneliness can give a person some weird ideas. Lucky for Joe his ego was low instead of in high gear when he arrived. He was many things and lost way more than he won at life, love and sports, but he wasn’t an idiot. After all, he wasn’t being very honest about his own background either, and so far lied to every woman he met about his resume. However some of these jerk-offs actually believed that the sweet young Columbian thing sucking his Viagra induced hard-on actually cared for him—that she found the little hairs growing out of his nose and ears attractive; and loved Frank Sinatra almost as much as he did. Smucks. Almost nightly, Joe would watch a parade of aging would-be romeos seem to fall for one of the many hookers with hearts of gold. Sure plenty of party boys came through, with no intention of spending more than the going rate in the back room. Then too, there were probably more than a few frauds, like Joe, who never let on that there really wasn’t any gold to dig. Using a user who is using you isn’t using at all. That was why Joe didn’t mind seeing his so-called girlfriend hustling off to the back room with yet another potential husband/payday—it all was a sham, a game and he got to play, at least for a while, before she wised up and moved on to greener pastures.
When Bebe wiggled her way to the back for the third time—this time with a Spanish looking guy in a black tee shirt and jeans, who left a table where three of his friends cheered him on—and it was only 10 p.m., Joe decided it was time to stop nursing his beer and call it a night. Sometimes Bebe came up to his apartment later and sometimes she didn’t. He’d have to wait and see.
When Joe got out of the taxi in front of Columbus House, he spotted Jack Smith sitting on his usual park bench in the square. A light, cool breeze rustled the leaves in the sculpted Fica trees that shaded the sidewalk, casting deep shadows between the streetlights. Berger gave his neighbor a perfunctory wave but was surprised to see Jack motioning toward him as if he wanted Joe to join him. What the fuck could this be about? Slowly, warily Joe sauntered over, hoping to look casual as he did so.
“Good evening,” Jack said, but he didn’t stand up.
“So, what’s happin',” Berger said.
“Have a seat.” Jack patted a space on the other end of the bench.
Oh, oh. Joe remained standing.
“As you probably know, some of us are very concerned about Beth’s murder. We’re also convinced that the suspect in custody is not the one responsible. So I was wondering if you had any theories as to who it might be.”
“Well it wasn’t me,” Joe said with a shrug as he sat down on the edge of the bench, “and even it was, I’m probably not going to confess out here on the square.” He looked up at the imposing statue of Simon Bolivar with what looked like a vulture on his shoulder with his back to the two gringo bachelors shooting the breeze below.
“We’re not accusing anybody,” Jack said, “but we are concerned that the police aren’t doing much to find out who really did it.”
“First of all, they’re not doing diddlysquat,” Joe said, but then more defensively, “and just who is this we you keep referring to?”
“Let’s say it’s a small group of concerned expats,” Smith said. At that Berger stood up again. “Okay, I’m the we, and I didn’t do it either, but somebody did. All right?”
Joe laughed. “Yeh, I know what you mean. So why don’t you start off by telling me who’s on your list of suspects.”
“To be perfectly honest, it’s virtually everybody with whom Beth had some sort of relationship.”
“Exactly, so the list includes you and me there bud.”
“At least theoretically,” Jack said. “Though for obvious reasons, I’ve managed to scratch my name off my personal list.”
“Well, you’re still on mine,” Joe said pointing a finger at the small man in a tidy flower-print shirt, pleated shorts and flip flops sitting across from him. “Okay, I’ll admit that right after Beth broke off what I had hoped would be some sort of, you know, relationship, I was pretty upset…”
“After all, you did kick that little dog,” Jack said, but then seemed to immediately regret making the point.
“Exactly! First of all, I never kicked that fuckin’ dog; but more to the point is how the hell do you even know about it? I’ll tell you how. Beth, your old pal, buddy, friend, lover told you herself. You want to know how I know? After she threw that hissy-fit over that stupid mutt, I decided to wait outside her house in hopes of getting a chance to talk to her. No, I wasn’t stalking her, I didn’t do it all the time, but I would hang out every once in a while, and lo and behold, who do I see coming out the back door and out the back gate, after a kiss on the cheek and hug? Why none other than the restaurant critic for some silly-ass local newspaper, that nobody reads. That’s right, pal, you’re still on my list, for obvious reasons.”
“No need to be aggressive,” Jack said. While Berger was raving on, he did appear to be a bit surprised but not very worried. “After all, if I wasn’t a friend of hers, I wouldn’t be interested in finding her killer, would I?”
“Maybe, as a concerned citizen…Anyway, if you want to continue this conversation, you can drop your righteous attitude. My name’s not on my list either, but I’m not so pompous to expect that somebody else might not wonder if I had something to do with it. So did you kill her?”
“Don’t be silly, of course not.”
“Silly, silly? Then why so secret? The front door didn’t work or something? You’re sneaking out the back door…”
“I wasn’t sneaking anywhere…”
“…but I’m a suspect because I kicked her dog? That doesn’t make much sense.”
“No, but you resented being dismissed as a hateful dog kicker,” Jack said as he attempted to regain the upper hand. “Then you lurk around in the shadows watching the comings and goings even at the back door. That’s pretty suspicious behavior, if you ask me.”
“No, no, you asked me…” By this time Berger was pacing back and forth in front of the bench. “And I only hung around a couple of nights, before I gave up, but just long enough to catch you sneaking out.”
“I wasn’t sneaking, I told you. We were in the kitchen. It was the closest door. She had the front door bolted, against you if you must know.”
“So I am a suspect,” Berger said. And my point is?
“Of course you are,” Smith said it with a slump of his shoulders as if he were exasperated. “You had a grudge against her. And now that I’ve spoken with you, you obviously feel that she rejected you unfairly, whether or not you kicked the dog.”
“I never, ever kicked …, oh what the hell.” Then with a sigh, “Okay, I see your point. I know I didn’t do it, but I don’t know who did. So, like I said, it could very well be you and you’re going around covering your ass or whatever.”
Jack even surprised himself by remaining relatively calm. This Berger fellow was a prime suspect as far as he was concerned and it didn’t seem that the interrogation had gone that well. If Berger was the one, he was certainly on alert from now on; but what if he didn’t do it? He had Beth’s house under surveillance for goodness sake. “Okay, just for argument sake, let’s operate under the assumption that neither one of us did it, because if we did, then this is a pretty foolish conversation we’re having…”
“I didn’t do it, but okay…”
“So, who do you think did?”
“Back to square one, aye? Well, for one thing, I’m not as sure as you seem to be that it wasn’t that bum, Ham or whatever his name is. He hung around her place a lot, and even did odd jobs. Maybe he needed some money. The problem is that if you start thinking about it, the list can get pretty darn long.”
Jack nodded and said “go ahead.”
“So, who saw her last? That prick Allen, right? As far as I’m concerned he’s the leading suspect, except there is no apparent motive. But my gut feeling is that for some sick reason it’s him.”
“I see you’ve done some thinking on the subject,” Jack said, with the same pompous tone that pissed Berger off in the first place.
“Yeh, just like you. When it dawns on you that you’re probably a suspect, and you know that you didn’t do it, you start wondering who did. You’re the one who said he wants to catch the real killer and not just the bum on the corner. So, your turn. Who do you think did it; that is unless you’re ready to confess?”
“I think you would have to consider Jerry Cole,” Jack offered.
“Do you rank him ahead of or behind me and Allen or the street guy?” Joe wanted to know.
“This is quite a conversation…” Jack said with a smile.
“You started it.”
“…but to honest, I haven’t come up with a ranking system, but like you, Jerry Cole is a top suspect. Allen and Jamon, not so much. And since I know I didn’t…”
“Okay, okay! So, what about her fuckin’ lawyer, Billy somebody?”
“No I hadn’t thought of him.” After all, Billy Boar was his lawyer as well. “Why on earth would he be on a list of suspects?”
“I’m not sure, but on the night before the dog incident, Beth was yelling on the phone with some guy named Billy for about half an hour. When she left the room, she said ‘it’s my lawyer, I have to take the call,’ and while I couldn’t hear what she was saying, I could hear that she wasn’t happy. Maybe there were problems. Maybe Beth was a slut. Who knows?”
“Listen, pal,” Jack stood and looked up at Berger, who was much taller with his hands in a defiant pose at his hips. Joe was dressed almost identically to Jack, though his shirt was printed with much fainter flowers, his khaki shorts more rumbled and his flip flops more worn. “We’re not here to besmirch Beth’s reputation.”
“She doesn’t mind. She’s dead,” Berger said, backhanding the air dismissively. “Heck, she slept with me on our first date; and only date. Then moments later she’s in Asshole Allen’s arms; while you’re slipping out the backdoor. Who knows how many others? I believe that the deceased has been around the block more than once. Is all I’m saying.”
“I was not having an affair with Beth and I would appreciate it if you would stop implying that I did. However, I agree that jealousy is a strong motive and keeps you at the top of any list.”
“Okay, I’ll admit that I wasn’t that thrilled seeing Beth and Allen the ass-wipe sashaying around Casco Viejo, but I’ll tell you who really hates our dearly departed…”
“Bebe, that’s who. Listen I’m not kidding myself; but at least half the reason our favorite Columbian cutie is dating me is to piss off Allen, who dumped her the minute he got a foot in the door, so to speak, with Beth. Bebe refers to her simply as ‘that bitch.’ Yup, if I was making a list, I would have to include sweet little bouncy Bebe as someone who wished Beth dead.”
“Do you really think she could have done it? I mean she’s not very big.” Smith was stunned by Joe’s candor; and found himself liking his prime suspect even less than he did before. There had always been something shady, underhanded, creepy even about this Berger fellow, ever since he appeared on the scene. His willingness to implicate his paramour did nothing to improve Berger’s image in Jack’s mind.
“Sure, she’s a tough little cookie. If she gets a hold of you, she’ll turn you every way but loose.” At that, Joe winked. “So you see your little list is getting longer all the time. It might not be me after all.” Another wink.
Just then, a yellow taxi pulled up in front of Columbus House and Bebe emerged. Her black curly hair was down over her shoulders. A white tee shirt with the words Tropical Island Club written across her snug breasts in hot pink was tucked into a very tight pair of jean short shorts. She wobbled toward the two gray-haired men, who stood facing each other, in a pair of red very high heels. “Good evening gentlemen,” she said with a smile that looked genuine to Jack Smith.
“Where?” Joe pretended to look around in search of any gentlemen. Bebe slapped Joe’s arm playfully. “Well, I’ll be seeing you old buddy,” Joe said as he took Bebe by the elbow and steered her toward the door. “Happy huntin’.”