There was a white patrol car parked at the curb outside the house. Its dome lights and headlights were out. The street at one AM was silent, the neighbors asleep. I pulled in behind the car, cut the engine, and started walking to where Miles stood in the moonlight, talking to a uniformed policeman.
The jacaranda tree behind him was leafless, blossomless. Out on the bayou behind the house, I could hear the chugging of the fishing boat I’d seen while crossing the bridge from University Circle. There were only saltwater mullet in the shallow waters on this side of the bridge, and they would not strike a hook; the commercial fishermen were spreading their nets, circling, circling.
Miles looked drawn and pale. He was forty-six years old—ten years older than I—but in the pale moonlight he seemed much
younger, or perhaps only more vulnerable. He was wearing a faded blue T-shirt, white trousers, and blue sneakers.
The patrolman was visibly perspiring. Sweat stained the armholes of his blue shirt and stood out in beads on his forehead. I did not know whether he had yet been inside the house. He watched me as I approached. “I’m James Gordon,” I said. “Dr. Livingston’s attorney.” I don’t know why I immediately addressed myself to the patrolman, rather than to Miles. I guess I was trying to protect Miles from the very beginning, letting it be known to the law that I myself was a lawyer who expected no hanky-panky with a client’s rights.
“He call you then?” the patrolman asked.
“Yes, he did.”
“When was that, sir?”
“At about a quarter to one. Ten minutes ago.”
“I didn’t get the radio dispatch till five minutes ago,” the patrolman said. He made it sound like an accusation.
“That’s right,” I replied, “he called me first. I advised him to notify the police.”
“Would it be all right if I went inside the house now?” the patrolman asked.
“Yes,” Miles said dully.
“You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to.”
“I would…rather not,” Miles answered.
“That’s all right, sir,” the patrolman said, and touched Miles’ shoulder briefly and surprisingly. He flashed his torch over the lawn then, and walked swiftly to the front door, weaving his way through the sprinkler heads like a broken-field runner. The circle of light illuminated the brass doorknob. He twisted it tentatively, as if expecting the door to be locked, and then he opened it and went inside.
Alone with Miles, I said, “I’m going to ask you again what I asked you on the phone…”
“I didn’t do it,” he replied at once.
“Tell me the truth, Miles.”
“That’s the truth.”
“Because if you did, I want to know right this minute.”
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