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|Hanging Out at the Buena Vista||p. 18|
|Chickasaw Charlie Hoke||p. 23|
|When the Women Come Out to Dance||p. 40|
|Fire in the Hole||p. 57|
|Karen Makes Out||p. 113|
|Hurrah for Capt. Early||p. 135|
|The Tonto Woman||p. 152|
|Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.|
They sat close to each other on the sofa, Canavan aware of Mrs. Harris' scent and her dark hair, parted to one side, she would hold away from her face to look at the map spread open on the coffee table.
Canavan was showing her the areas destroyed by fire, explaining how the hot Santa Ana wind swept the flames through these canyons and on down toward the Pacific Coast Highway. Close to four thousand acres destroyed but only nine homes this time, including Mrs. Harris' Mediterranean villa, here, at the top of Arroyo Verde. Nothing like five years ago when over two hundred homes were lost. He showed her photographs, too, fires raging against the night sky.
Robin Harris said, "Yeah ... ?" looking at the photos but not showing any real interest.
Canavan kept glancing at her, Robin a slim turn-on in a trendy kind of way: pale skin and heavy eyeliner, silver rings, designer-ripped jeans, barefoot, a black sleeveless top that showed the chain, tattooed blue steel, around her upper left arm, the one close to Canavan.
The profile he had in his case file described her as the former Robin Marino: sang with a rock band that played L.A. clubs, produced one album, gave it up five years ago to marry Sid Harris: the legendary Sid Harris, lawyer to platinum-selling recording artists. Now a widow at thirty-seven, Robin was estimated to be worth around ten million. She had lost Sid to a coronary thrombosis, at home, only three months ago, Sid sixty-three when he died. And had lost the house in the Malibu hills three weeks ago, close to a million dollars' worth of furniture and contents destroyed. But she had bought the Wilshire apartment, where she was living now, right after Sid's death. Why? It was on Canavan's checklist, one of the things he'd ask her about.
She said, "What's the point?" Meaning the map and the pictures. "I saw the fire, Joe. I was there."
Arriving, he had introduced himself and handed Robin his business card that said Joseph Canavan Associates, Insurance Investigations. She had looked at it and said, "Are you a Joe or a Joseph?" He told her either, but usually Joe. She said, "Well, come in and sit down, Joe, anywhere you like," picking up on his name in a way that sounded natural and gave him a glimpse of her personality. She looked at his business card again and said, "You're not with the insurance company, like the ones before." He told her they called him in when they red-flagged a claim, had questions about it. All it meant, certain conditions existed the company felt should be investigated. Canavan said they wanted to know in their hearts the fire was either accidental or providential before paying the claim. Robin said, "Well, I can tell you the same thing I told the fire department, sheriff's deputies, the state fire marshal's office, the California Forestry Department and a guy from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The fire marshal's guy brought a dog that sniffed around. He said when the dog was working it ate seventy Kibbles a day. What would you like to know?"
This was when Canavan first arrived.
Now he turned from the map to look at Robin sitting back in the sofa. She resembled a girl in the movies he liked a lot, Linda ... very sexy, had an Italian name. He said, "I wanted to show you the path of the main fire, where it came down west of your place, on the other side of the ridge."
"So how did my house catch fire," Robin said. "Is that the question? How about sparks, Joe? The wind blows sparks over the ridge from the brush fires in Boca Chica and they land by my house. You buy that? Or a rabbit or a coyote caught fire and ran like hell right through my yard. They said on the news, look out for animals that catch fire and spread it around. Otherwise, I have no idea. Joe, I watched my house go up in flames. I might've stayed till it burned down, I don't know, maybe not. A deputy came up the road and made me leave."
That was who Robin looked like, in that movie -- he couldn't remember the name of it -- where she goes in a bar called Ray's, remembering that because of the sign, the Y in ray's shaped like a martini glass. Linda goes in and asks for a Manhattan. The bartender ignores her and she asks him who you have to blow to get a drink around here. Those weren't the exact words, but that was the idea. Robin had that same effortless way about her, confident, with the New York sound like Linda's, a cool chick, tough. Watch your step with her.
"So you weren't living in the house at the time."
"I was here. I happen to see it on TV -- fire trucks, people loading their cars, coming out of the house with their insurance policies, running around looking for pets. One guy had all their good china in a basket and was lowering it into the swimming pool. I thought, I better get up there, quick."
"Load your car," Canavan said, "with anything of value, uh? But I understand the house was already on fire. I think that's in the statement you made."
"By the time I got there, yeah." Linda waved her hand in the air. "The back of the house, by a brush thicket. Sid was supposed to have it cut back, but never got around to it. The sky by that time was thick with smoke."
"See, what the company wonders about, why your house was the only one on Arroyo that caught fire."
"I guess 'cause there aren't any close by. I'm at the very top of the road. Have you been up there?"When the Women Come Out to Dance
Excerpted from When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard
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