The Picture Ranch 28
Fulbright brushed the dust off his over-medalled uniform.
‘Just what - ' He started coughing at the moment his hand touched the damp knee of his uniform-pants.
Then he seemed to notice the dangling body and he staggered, holding his chest. I figured he was faking it as his face didn’t change colour.
‘Come off it, Fulbright.’
He straightened up.
‘I didn’t… Why?’
I pointed at the literature open on the desk.
‘That’s supposed to be the reason.’
Fulbright took a look and recoiled. I had figured him for an even more likely connoisseur of such things.
‘I think we should hide that before the police arrive,’ he said.
‘I agree,’ said Miss Gräfenberg, before rolling up the magazine and putting in her bag.
‘You know somebody gave him the kiss off, right?’ I looked at Fulbright, searching for some reaction.
His mouth opened and closed. He looked like a landed fish, ‘W-w-what makes you say that?’
Before I could answer, Miss G pointed at the two chairs intended for students or parents on the side of the desk nearest the door.
‘I believe the technique is to stand on the chair, to fasten the noose, and then kick said chair away. Even the Police Department will wonder why both chairs are still upright.’
Then she pointed at O’Herlihy’s shoes. There was mud on the soles.
‘You never know, they might even wonder why there are no footprints on the chair.’
I let out a low whistle.
‘Come on, let’s go, Nancy Drew.’
Fulbright’s dying carp impression continued as we headed out the door and turned left heading for the very end of the corridor.
A glazed double door did duty as access to the school’s playing fields and, I supposed, some lip-service to the city fire regulations. Out on the football field, we waited for the siren to die off and watched the flatfeet run in the gate past the same boy-sentinel we had passed earlier. Then we walked out the main gate.
I gave the boy a salute. “Marine Corps, Sonny. You’ll do OK.”
We were taking a risk. I knew that. Most likely Fulbright would just say exactly what he saw, apart from the existence of the skin-mag. Which would put Miss G and me right in the frame for the murder, if the cops were better than your average flatfoot. Maybe the “Admiral” would steal Miss Gräfenberg’s observations for his own and the uniforms would be impressed enough to call in the Detective Squad. But I didn’t want to get involved in another police investigation in another Police Department where I had no favours owed. So we had left. I was driving, though I was still sore.
‘You’re probably wondering why I picked up the magazine.’
She had it open on her lap. I glanced at her face,
‘Different strokes,’ I said.
‘You know better than that.’ I did, but I wondered how she knew I knew.
She tapped her finger on one of the pictures.
‘This chaise longue. I’ve seen it before. I know you have too. I’ve been on that green velvet.’
Which proved she had, since the photograph showed only shades of grey.
And then the penny dropped.
‘That snapper told me he’d stopped the short-eyes stuff.’
‘Maybe he thought you meant girls.’
There was no traffic; we were only half-way back to Encino, so I pulled the car over.
Miss G’s finger was still on the same photo.
‘That’s William, Fisher.’
I took hold of the magazine. He was a handsome boy. So was his friend, and it was the boy Schultz.