Even though she was pretty shook up and her tight black velvet dress was a mess of wrinkles, she was still too beautiful to be real. A few strands of long, shining, dark brown hair were out of place, but other than that and her smeared lipstick, it was hard to tell anything had happened. If I hadn't been standing face to face with her, I wouldn't have believed what I was seeing. She was like ... well, like those pictures of models in glossy magazines, you know, where every little line and blemish is erased by an airbrush, and computer programs make legs longer, waists slimmer, and cleavages deeper.
I'd gotten assigned the 911 call fifteen minutes earlier, and pulled up just as the EMT's were packing up. Their gurney was empty, so I figured they'd either found nothing much wrong or they'd left a body for the coroner. I knew them from a couple of other cases and walked over to see what they'd done.
"Jimmy, what'm I gonna find up there?"
"One dead old guy and a hooker you ain't gonna believe. Looks to us like the guy just keeled over from a heart attack, but the coroner'll have to tell you for sure. I'd have damned sure been havin' one with her in the room with me."
Julie, his partner, jabbed him in the ribs.
"You idiot, that old guy is Walter Hobson. Didn't you recognize him from his pictures in the paper? And she's not a hooker. She was doin' CPR on 'im when we got there, remember? Any hooker would have just grabbed 'is money and ran off."
Jimmy grinned as he rubbed his ribs.
"Well, that may be, but the only way a guy that old could get a honey like her is to pay for it."
The caller had said Suite 206, and there were two uniforms standing guard at a door halfway down the hall. A couple of CI techs with big aluminum cases were just going through the door.
She was sitting on the couch when I walked in the room. The CI techs were headed back to what I figured was the bedroom and I went with them.
Walter Hobson was probably the biggest real estate developer in Nashville, and right now he was sprawled out on his back on the bed, his shirt open and his slacks pulled down to his knees. His color jived with what Jimmy had said, and I figured this was going to be another report I had to write without having the satisfaction of cuffing anybody. I left the CI techs to their job and went to interview the girl.
She was trying hard to hold both her lighter and cigarette in the same place long enough to get it lit. I took the lighter and held it for her. She inhaled deeply, then let the smoke trickle out through her perfect lips.
"You're welcome, Miss ... uh..."
She took another long drag on the cigarette.
I held out my hand.
"Hi Vicky. You have a last name too?"
"Danforth, Vicky Danforth. I take it you're the detective assigned to this mess?"
I pulled my badge from my jacket.
"I'm Detective Jack Taylor, and yes, I am. You wanna tell me what happened here tonight?"
"Walt and I had dinner at Valentino's and then came back here to watch some television and have a couple of drinks. I went to use the bathroom, and when I came out, Walt was lying on the bed and holding his chest. He didn't look at all good, so I called 911. I'd just given them the address when Walt stopped breathing, so I started doing CPR on him. When the EMT's got here, they tried that shocking machine on him, but he was already gone I guess."
"I see. That's about what I figured out myself, but there's one thing that puzzles me. How come Walt's pants were down around his knees? I don't remember that being part of CPR, at least not in any class I ever took."
Vicky's eyes turned cold.
"This is starting to sound as if you think I had something to do with it and you're going to arrest me."
"I don't have any reason to arrest you, but if you're lying to me, I might find one. I just need to know what really happened tonight. Now, about Walt's pants..."
'OK, but I'll deny telling you this if you arrest me."
Vicky took a deep drag on her cigarette. The smoke came out in puffs as she spoke.
"Walt is ... was seventy-six, but he still liked having a pretty girl on his arm when he went out to eat and he seemed to like me. We went out a couple of nights a month. He always took me to the best places in town and afterwards, we'd come back here. Walt liked me to..."
"He said his doctor told him he couldn't have sex anymore. He never told me why, but after this, I guess it was his heart. Anyway, he liked me to undress and then..."
Vicky looked up at me.
"Do I have to go into details? I wouldn't want this to get to the papers. Walt was a really nice old man. I don't want him to be remembered for something like this."
"Depends on what the details are. I'm in the business of solving crimes, not embarrassing people."
"He liked me to undress and lay down beside him. He'd touch me until he got it up, and then I'd use my hands to get him off. That's all that ever happened, except this time, he stopped breathing before I got my dress off. I did do CPR until the EMT's got here. That's the God's truth of what happened tonight."
"Did Walt pay you to go out with him?"
Vicky's face was smiling but her eyes were still icy.
"I'm not a prostitute. Clients pay me to go out with them because I'm pretty and I make them feel good. They do have to pay for my company. If a client asks and I agree, I might be more, and yes, the client pays for that privilege too. Walt paid very well."
I finished making my notes, and then smiled at Vicky.
"Doesn't sound to me like anything happened here except Walt had a heart attack while entertaining a very pretty woman."
"So, I'm not under arrest?"
I knew the CI techs would tell me if anything different had happened, so I wasn't going to arrest her that night. I also knew Walter Hobson had lots of friends downtown who wouldn't like it if the real story got out, so my notes were in my own little code.
"Nope, and I don't think there's any reason for anyone to know more than what I just said. You uh ... you do know those extra services are illegal, don't you? It's also likely you'll run into somebody not quite as nice as Walt someday. I'm not judging you, Vicky, just trying to give you some advice. I'd hate like hell to get to a crime scene and find you laying on a bed like Walt in there."
This time Vicky's smile seemed genuine.
"I don't think you're going to get any thing about me to investigate. My clients are, as you can imagine, very discrete, and besides, they're always very satisfied. I'm just as picky about my clients as they are about their escorts, so I'm not too worried."
I handed Vicky my card.
"The top number is my office phone, the bottom is my cell number, just in case you think of anything else, something about his condition Walt might have said or anything like that ... so I can add it to my report."
That night, I wrote my report just as I'd told Vicky I would. As I put it in the folder for the Chief to sign, I smiled and hoped when I was seventy-six, I was still alive enough to want a hand job from a girl like Vicky.
I was forty-three then, and my sex life had pretty much dried up. The women I met were either on the wrong side of the cell bars or couldn't take the thought of being with a man who might not come home some night. Yeah, there'd been one or two when I was fresh out of the academy. They liked the uniform and the thrill of dating a police officer. Once they got a little older, they started thinking about a home in the suburbs and kids and all the other things women think about. I didn't fit in those thoughts very well so they sort of drifted away.
The next few days were pretty bland as my days usually go. Nobody killed anybody else unless you count the bush the eighty-two year old woman shot in her front yard. The white-haired grandmother claimed she thought the bush was a man trying to sneak up on her front door. I confiscated the weapon, an ancient shotgun that was probably older than the woman, and turned the case over to civil services.
By Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to a weekend off, though I didn't have anything to do except sit in my apartment and watch TV. At about eleven that night, my cell phone chimed. I flipped it open and said "Detective Taylor". The woman was sobbing.
"Detective Jack Taylor?"
"Yes, that's me."
"This is Vicky ... from Tuesday..."
"Yes, I remember you. You sound like you're crying. What's wrong?"
"I need some help and I didn't know who else to call."
"What's the problem?"
"A man hit me."
Fifteen minutes later I pulled up at the entrance to the marina at Edwin Warner Park. Vicky said she'd be waiting there, and when I got out to look for her she slipped out of the shadow of some big pine trees. Her heels were in one hand, and Vicky walked gingerly over the blacktop up to my car. She gave me the address of her apartment and asked me to hurry.
I hadn't been able to see her very well in the single light at the marina entrance, and she'd looked out the side window all the way to her apartment. Once she was in good light, I saw she'd been hit more than once. Her lip was cut and bleeding, there was a little blood on her nose and the skin around both eyes was starting to turn an ugly brownish-purple. She'd evidently put up a fight, though, because her dress was torn at the shoulder and ripped up the side almost to her waist.
"Vicky, what the hell happened?"
.... There is more of this story ...