The moment I saw Felix Romanoff’s body come up from the water, where it had been riding against the dock with each wave of the rising tide, I knew whoever killed him had been trained, had made it quick, and didn’t spare the pain. Boning knife to the kidney, done right, the poor bastard bled out before he could work up to a scream.
Mrs. Romanoff poured coffee for Bill and I even as we declined her hospitality, she was a suspect, after all, despite her full set of knives all accounted for, her neat kitchen all unpacked within a week of moving from New Mexico to LA. Bill’s the one who called the Feds in. I think she knew he would, even before he did.
Maybe she confided in me because I’m a sucker, because I drank her coffee in her kitchen and recognized the yellow of old bruises under the pressed powder. Maybe she saw that recognition, and that’s why she looked me up, wanting someone to know her for who she really was, once, before the end.
She didn’t expect to get out of it alive, you see. I was an insurance policy, payable upon her demise.
She was waiting in my sitting room, could have gutted me like a fish before I cut the light on, and maybe she did that night after all, with those steady eyes and trembling hands. The negatives, the encryption pads, the radio transmitter, the tiny canister that weighed more than the 45 caliber in her purse, she gave them all to me, whispered nightmares in my ear as she clung and kissed and was so desperately tender I felt like a last meal.
She didn’t think I would come after her.