Color Me Dead
Penny Turner, Part 2
We reached the end of the sidewalk and stood in the short driveway.
“What do you want?” she repeated.
“My name is Samantha Kern. I’m investigating Irene Simon’s death.”
Penny paled. She took a step back, then seemed to recover.
“What makes you think I know any…”
“You had the Prius on the 11th?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she said.
I sized her up. She was a tough broad, for one so young. I guessed her to be around 20.
“Did you drive it on the 11th?” I persisted.
“Maybe,” she said again.
We looked at each other, and I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her.
“Do you realize that car is stolen?”
“No it’s not,” she said immediately. “Misty told me…”
She stopped, biting her lip. “Gerard takes the car sometimes. He’s got a key,” she added defensively.
“Which he gives to Misty?”
“And she gives it to you. That’s a pretty convoluted setup you’ve got,” I said. “Does Gerard know you’re driving his aunt’s car?”
She shrugged. “He doesn’t care,” she said. Then she added, “I just use it sometimes to get to work.”
“Beats the bus,” I said sympathetically.
The glimmer of a smile showed for a moment on her face, then it was gone.
“You’re a pretty busy girl,” I went on, sounding impressed. “You work, go to school…”
Immediately her expression became guarded. “Who told you that?” she demanded.
Penny sniffed, and her face grew hard. “I want to get ahead,” she said harshly. “I don’t want to be stuck in this crapper of a house in this lousy neighborhood for the rest of my life.”
“What do you want to do?”
She lowered her gaze. “Business,” she said shortly. “If there’s nothing else…”
“Did you give the key to the car to anyone else this past week?”
She shifted her weight. “None of your business.”
I shrugged. “Okay,” I said. “You don’t have to talk to me. You will, however, have to speak to the police.”
The effect on her was immediate. “Why?” she demanded, her voice strident.
“Because that car was last seen in a motel parking lot where Phillip Simon also parked. By the way, you haven’t seen Phillip recently, have you?”
Her face flushed. “No. I don’t know Phillip.”
“You know Irene?” I pressed.
“No. I don’t know anybody named Simon.”
She was lying. The long red hair she had looked like it was real. But she was around the same height and weight as the woman I saw getting out of the Prius and going into Phillip’s motel room. I leaned forward, getting slightly into her space.
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“The police will care, once they find out you were seen coming out of the Prius and going into…”
“Nobody saw me,” she said, then realized her mistake.
“I did,” I said evenly.
“No. I never – I mean I…” She stopped and chewed on her lip some more.
“You were in that motel room with Phillip Simon for almost two hours,” I said. “I took pictures of you. The police have them. They’re sure to recognize you once they come here.”
“Can you – stop them?”
“No,” I said. “I can’t.”
There was a long pause.
“I didn’t kill anybody,” she said in a low voice.
“I never said you did,” I replied.
In the silence that followed, I could hear the birds singing in the trees overhead.
“She was a bitch, I’ll give you that,” Penny said, keeping her voice down. “Trying to hang on to him…he wasn’t in love with her. He told me. He said…” she stopped, then glared at me.
“What did you do in that motel room? Aside from the obvious,” I said hastily.
She stared at me stonily. “It doesn’t concern you,” she said. “None of this does. You’re sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. You know what happens to people who do that? They wind up being sorry, that’s what. Now get out of here.”
She turned on her heel and strode rapidly up the sidewalk and into the house.