He pressed the buzzer for apartment one seventy-five.
One seven five.
A coincidence. How could it not be? Miranda, who had been murdered or, what amounted to the same thing, driven to suicide, could not have known the apartment number of the woman who would find her dead body the next afternoon. A meaningless coincidence.
Unless it was not Miranda who had left these clues for him.
Impossible. No one could have arranged this!
No; no one, maybe.
Not one person. But a whole group of them?
If they'd been watching her every move for months or years, if they knew everything about her, they would know everything she would do, everywhere she would go. They would know before she knew it herself that she would try to contact him, her father the famous reporter. And if they were watching him now, like they had watched her ...? For if some them had orchestrated this and all the other coincidences, it was solely for his benefit. Why? To show him he was on the right track, or to frighten him? Why would they want him to know that he was being watched, manipulated, controlled? Unless they were helping him, and wanted to reassure him that he was not alone in this. But couldn't they have been more clear? More likely they were trying to intimidate him, to make him think that he was going crazy. He wouldn't be deterred.
Were they on his side, or against him?
Stupid question. They had been against Miranda.
But maybe there was another them. Maybe there were several.
Well, whether these signs were warnings from the enemy or guideposts from friends, he was on the right trail.
Unless they knew you would think that way, and are luring you to your doom.
Feeling watched, he buzzed the doorphone again.
"What the fuck," said a voice, not likely to be Rosario's.
"Is Rosario home?"
"What did you just say?"
"I said, is Rosario here?"
"Is Rosario what?"
Miranda said, Tell him who you are.
Who am I?
Drew Dunkel, reporter.
Drew told the angry incredulous man who he was. "I'm with the Post-Times. The newspaper."
There was a long pause. Then a woman's voice came on.
"You're with the news?"
At the same time, a rangy man in a T-shirt and underwear appeared scowling at the door.
"I'm with the Post-Times, the newspaper."
The man came towards him.
"No kidding," said the doorphone.
"I guess it's pretty late," Drew said quickly.
The man opened the door. "What the hell you waiting for?" he said.
"We were wondering when somebody would show up," said the woman on the doorphone.
"Come on. It's down the hall."
They proceeded down the hall. Overhead, the fluorescents flickered like television.
"We were wondering when you'd show up," the man said.
"I had a hard time tracking her down."
"I told her to call up the TV."
"We were wondering when you'd come around," the woman said.
The apartment was dark, warm, and moldy.
"I told you to call up the TV."
"I'm not with the TV," Drew said.
"It's all the same," the woman said. "Come in. Wait wait wait—don't look. I need to put on a housecoat. Don't look!"
Don't look, Miranda said.
"She found that body on Monday, man. What's today, fucking Thursday?"
"Friday now," the woman called from the other room.
"Even the police hardly even talked to her. Didn't ask her no questions at all. Didn't even take her down to the station!"
"Stop talking!" the woman cried. "It's my story!"
The man slumped down at the kitchen table and heaved a sigh. The table and several of the chairs were piled with cans of food. The fridge door was open; the only light in the apartment came from the bulb inside. The fridge, too, was crammed full of jars and cans.
"Man, don't you even watch the news?"
"Fuck out of it, Jules! It's my story!"
"I wasn't saying nothing about that so fuck out of it yourself sometime why don't you!"
"Look," said Drew, "I don't want to take up much of your time ..."
"Let me tell you something, man," said Jules in a low voice. "That shit was fucked through, man. Blood all over the walls ..."
Rosario came hustling out of the bedroom, draped in towels and housecoats, and gave a fistful of Jules's hair a punitive tug.
"Will I need to do my makeup?" she asked Drew. "Oh, you should have called. We have some pictures around somewhere from a couple years ago, we had them done at the mall, they got both of us in it but maybe you can cut him out?"
"I ain't getting cut outta fuck," said Jules.
"We might not need a photo," said Drew. "I just wanted to ask a few questions."
"Yet," said Drew. "Anyway, we have staff photographers for that, they'll send somebody by."
"I don't know when exactly, but we'll warn you in advance. Right now, I just want to confirm a few facts."
Rosario Pears wasn't listening. She looked disconsolate. Then she remembered something. "The pictures!" She hurried away again, dropping a couple of towels.
Jules said, "That was some of the gruesomest shit you've ever seen in your life, man."
"Shut up, Jules!" She came back into the room, holding something precious in both hands. "He wasn't even there, detective."
Let it pass, said Miranda.
"I saw the fucking photos, didn't I? Didn't I? Answer me that! See, she won't even answer me."
The thing she was holding was a PDR. She tilted it away from Jules.
"I took some photos," she whispered.
"And I told her to call up the TV with them."
"You took photos? Of the room?"
"At first I thought, you know, that it was a murder and I could maybe, you know ... get something for them."
"You thought it was a murder?"
"Man!" cried Jules. "You see all that blood? No way she did that to herself. That's some ax-murder shit."
"Don't listen to him," Rosario said, not ungently. "He doesn't know. He wasn't even there."
"I know what I know. I know what I know."
"We thought maybe somebody would come around, asking about it," Rosario said. "Somebody from the news."
"I told her to call up the TV. Ask me if she listened. Ask me. That's something I know."
"Why didn't you?" asked Drew.
"Here," she said, and thrust the PDR into Drew's hands. "You take them. I don't want them anymore."
"Wait a second," said Jules. "Stir-fried shitmeat. That's not how you do business."
"I don't want to do business." She looked glumly at Drew, and pulled her towels around her. "I don't want to do business, I realized. I feel bad."
Drew held the PDR out to her, but she shook her head and took a step back. He gave it to Jules.
"I'm sorry," Drew said. "I'm sorry I can't give you anything for them. I don't want to see them."
"I thought about putting them on the internet," Jules mused. His wife grabbed the PDR away from him. "Hey!"
"I just want to know one thing," Drew said.
Rosario Pears looked at him sadly. "What."
"There was some kind of message on the wall?"
She nodded. "Here. I'll show you."
Don't look, said Miranda.
"I don't want to see any blood ..."
"Man," Jules laughed, "it's wrote in blood."