"The killer?" I said. "That fits with the clean cut and the planning."
"Possibly, but like I said, Dada lived neat. His rent was seven hundred, he took home twice that a month from both jobs, sent most of his money back home to a savings account." His big shoulders dropped. "Maybe he just ran into the wrong psychopath."
"The FBI says eye mutilation implies more than a casual relationship."
"Sent the FBI the crime-scene data questionnaire, got back
double-talk and a recommendation to look for known associates. Problem is, I can't locate any friends Dada had. He'd only been out in California for nine months. Maybe working two jobs prevented a social life."
"Or he had a life he hid."
"What, he was gay? I think I would've unearthed that, Alex."
"Not necessarily gay," I said. "Any kind of secret life."
"What makes you say that?"
"Model tenants just don't walk out on the street and get sawed in half."
He growled. We drank. The waitresses were all gorgeous blondes wearing white peasant blouses and long skirts. Ours had an accent. Czechoslovakia, she'd told Milo when he asked; then she'd offered to clip his cigar, but he'd already bitten off the tip. It was the middle of the summer, but a gas fire was raging under a limestone mantel. Air-conditioning kept the room icy. A couple of other beauties at the bar had to be hookers. The men with them looked edgy.
"Toluca Lake is a drive from Hollywood," I said. "It's also near the Burbank studios. So maybe Dada was trying to make acting connections."
"That's what I figured. But if he got a job it wasn't at a studio. I found a want ad from the Weekly in the pocket of one of his jackets. Tiny print thing, open casting call for some flick called Blood Walk. The date was one month before he was killed. I tried to trace the company that placed the ad. The number was disconnected, but it had belonged at that time to some outfit called Thin Line Productions. That traced to a listing with an answering service, which no longer serviced Thin Line. The address they had was a POB in Venice, long gone, no forwarding. No one in Hollywood's heard of Thin Line, the script's never been registered with any of the guilds, no evidence a movie ever got made. I talked to Petra Connor over in Hollywood. She says par for the course, the industry's full of fly-by-nights, most casting calls go nowhere."
"Blood Walk," I said.
"Yeah, I know. But it was a full month before, and I can't take it any further."
"What about Richard's other job? Where's the kiddie gym?"
"Pico and Doheny."
"What'd he do there?"
"Played games with toddlers. Irregular work, mostly birthday parties. The gym owner said he was great--patient, clean-cut, polite." He shot back whiskey. "Goddamn Boy Scout and he gets bisected. There has to be more."
"Some homicidal toddler who resented waiting in line for the Moon Bounce."
He laughed, studied the bottom of his glass.
"You said he sent money home," I said. "Where's that?"
"Denver. Dad's a carpenter, Mom teaches school. They came out for a few days after he was killed. Salt of the earth, hurting bad, but no help. Richard played sports, got B's and C's, acted in all the school plays. Did two years in junior college, hated it, went to work for his father."
"So he's got carpentry skills--maybe he met the killer at some woodworking class."
"He never went to classes of any type that I can find."
"A carpenter's kid and he gets band-sawed," I said.
Excerpted from Monster by Jonathan Kellerman. Copyright© 1999 by Jonathan Kellerman. Excerpted by permission of Random House, 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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