فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Problems

Martinez arrived within fifteen minutes. Latto showed him the bottle of juice on the table.

‘Watch this!’ he said.

He reached down and slowly pressed the sides of the bottle. A few drops of juice came out of the small hole in the top.

‘I was just about to open this bottle,’ he explained.

Martinez didn’t immediately understand.

‘So you didn’t make that hole?’ he asked.

Latto shook his head.

‘And it wasn’t there when you bought the juice?’ asked Martinez.

‘I certainly didn’t see it then,’ Latto replied.

‘So you’re saying someone made this hole by putting something into the bottle of juice?’ said Martinez.

‘Yes,’ said Latto. ‘That’s what I think.’

Martinez understood clearly now. ‘I’ll take the juice and get the scientists to check it.’ He looked round the room. ‘Perhaps the person who stole your computer last night did it.’

‘Maybe,’ said Latto. ‘Or perhaps it was done this morning, while I was out. I went to Molinaro’s office and -‘

Just then Martinez’ phone rang. Latto heard his side of the conversation: ‘Yes… speaking… Yes, sir… but… Yes, that’s true, sir… Yes, sir, I understand… Yes, I’ll do that.’ And then he finished the call. Throughout the call Martinez’ face had grown dark, almost angry. He turned to Latto. ‘Stay here. I’ll be back in a minute.’

Martinez went down to the motel office; Latto waited outside his room. Martinez returned soon after, still not looking happy. They went into Latto’s room and shut the door.

‘Nobody saw anything this morning,’ said Martinez. ‘But the cleaners leave the doors open while they’re cleaning the rooms. And sometimes they leave the rooms open while they go off to get fresh soap or shampoo or something. It’s never for very long, but… How long did this person need?’

‘Yes, not long,’ agreed Latto.

Martinez sat down in a chair. Latto sat on the bed.

‘OK, doc,’ Martinez said. ‘So now, to add to your problems, you think there’s someone out there putting something in your orange juice. Trying to drug you, or even kill you. However, I’ve got a problem too now.’

Latto looked questioningly at Martinez.

‘That was my boss on the phone earlier - Lieutenant Becker. He’s taken me off the case.’

‘What?’ Latto couldn’t believe it.

‘The scientists say Ms Spencer wasn’t murdered. I’m a homicide detective - in British English you’d say a murder detective - I’m not a robbery detective. Becker’s given me the afternoon off and then I’m starting again tomorrow in Homicide. And someone else is going to look into the computer robberies - yours and Ms Spencer’s.’

‘But that’s mad,’ said Latto. ‘The scientists could be wrong, and if someone is trying to kill me, that person could also be Deborah’s murderer. Can’t you say something to your boss? Can’t you do something?’

There was a smile on Martinez’ face, but not in his voice.

‘Becker and I don’t like each other much,’ said Martinez, shaking his head. ‘But even so, this is a bit of a surprise.’

Latto started to speak, but Martinez held up a hand.

‘Just listen,’ he said. ‘You might be right that this is a murder case. However, I have to be very careful around Becker. There’s nothing he’d like better than to make trouble for me.’

Martinez looked out of the window for a moment and then back at Latto.

‘The good news is: I’ve got a free afternoon and evening so we’ve still got some time to look into your problem. The bad news is: I can’t get help from the police department because I’m not on the case any more.’

‘Well, thanks for staying with it, anyway,’ said Latto.

Neither of them said anything for a moment. Then Martinez said, ‘So why were you at Molinaro’s office earlier?’

‘I was doing some police work of my own,’ Latto replied.

‘Oh yes?’ said Martinez.

‘I think Molinaro wanted my computer,’ Latto said and went on to explain everything.

‘I think he saw that Deborah had sent me an email. And he thought the attachment to her email could be a copy of her book,’ said Latto.

Martinez said nothing, but let Latto continue.

Latto described what he had seen outside Molinaro’s office. He got out his camera and showed him the photos of Molinaro and the man with the ear-ring. ‘I’m sure that’s the man who hit me in Deborah’s house,’ Latto said. He went on to tell Martinez about his trip to Salinas and how Molinaro had taken his computer to Keiffenheim Laboratories. When he’d finished, he took the picture card out of his camera and gave it to Martinez.

‘That’s good work,’ said Martinez, when Latto finished. ‘You’d make a good detective.’

Latto smiled. ‘It’s not unlike being a doctor,’ he said. ‘A doctor looks at what’s happening to a patient’s body and works out what the illness is. A detective just looks at what’s happening and works out who the criminal is.’

Martinez laughed. ‘An interesting way of putting it,’ he said. He pushed his fingers through his hair and looked at Latto as if deciding how much to tell him.

‘I’ve been doing a bit of work myself,’ said Martinez, ‘finding out about those two who were working with Ms Spencer. There’s nothing on Ms Koning yet. She’s been here in Santa Cruz for eight years and she’s not even got a parking ticket.’ He looked Latto straight in the eye. ‘But I have to say I’m never quite sure about people who are completely clean.’

‘OK,’ said Latto, hoping Martinez was wrong. ‘And what about Molinaro?’

Martinez held up a finger. ‘Ah,’ he said. ‘A different story.’

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