"You'll find one in the clippings."
"Did he go to NYU, too?" I already knew the answer.
"Yes. And he's still there. They were juniors when it happened. Didn't you read the papers, Miss Quick? Weren't you interested, considering?"
"Yeah, sure. But I didn't keep a file."
The expression on Porter West's pale pinched face looked as though he didn't approve. I ignored it.
"Being a suspect didn't change his life; it made him a kind of hero."
I also knew this, but I wanted to get the straight skinny from the father.
Anger flashed in West's eyes, a small sign of life. "Some of the students got behind him, saying he was being picked on because he was poor."
"That he was a wonderful, kind boy," she said.
"The boy is a C student."
In my book this didn't make him a murderer.
"I guess he had a lot of friends," I said.
"But he didn't. Not until this happened. There are always those people looking for a martyr. Finding injustice wherever they can," West said.
"And there were no other suspects?"
"None that we knew about."
That didn't mean there weren't any. I'd have to have a meet with a dick named Marty Mitchum. He'd been Woody's connection, and he'd passed Mitchum on to me. Or maybe it was me to him.
"So, you suspect Cotten because he said mean things to your daughter and Claudette dumped him?"
West looked at me as though I was his enemy.
"I'm not crossin you, Mr. West. I'm just tryin to get things in place."
"Yes. Those actions and the fact that he was after her money. When she broke it off with him, he knew that the pot of gold was out of reach, and it made him furious."
This last was speculation, but I'd keep it in mind when I met with Cotten.
"Is there anything else I should know?" I lit another cig.
They looked at each other. Almost invisibly West shook his head at Myrna like a warning.
"No," he said.
"Okay. That's all for now. I'll need your phone number."
I took the number down, and West handed me a check.
"You'll call us every day?"
"That's not how I usually operate," I said.
"That's how I expect you to operate."
"What I normally do is call the client if I have somethin to tell."
"I don't care what you normally do. I want you to call us daily."
This was getting my goat, but I held back. "How about once a week unless I have somethin to tell you?"
I didn't like this arrangement, but I wanted this case. "Okay."
"We'll hear from you tonight," he said.
"Mr. West, I have to go through this material. I'll have nothin to say by tonight."
He weighed this information. "Tomorrow night then."
West put a hand on his wife and guided her toward the door. They went out and didn't look back.
Charming people, I thought. Then I brought to mind what they'd been through, who they'd lost, and I gave them some slack.
Excerpted from This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Scoppettone. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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