“How do you know elephants are afraid of commitment?”
Rebecca just stared at me. I don’t think she was in the mood for a joke.
Fortunately the chief saved the moment. “Because,” he jumped in, “wherever they go, they take their trunk with them.”
She looked from me to the chief and back again. “Was that supposed to be clever?”
“I’m not sure clever is the right word,” I shrugged. After all, maybe I was afraid of commitment. Some joke. “We asked you here,” I said, attempting to move on, “to figure out what happened the night that Sam got shot.”
“I really don’t know what you are talking about. Of course I am saddened that your friend was killed, but I cannot see how that has anything to do with me.”
I had to hand it to her, either she was innocent or she was a very good liar. “I asked you the other night if you recognized the sequence of numbers 4514295. Got anything to say about that?”
“I told you Mr. Smellephant, it’s just a meaningless string of digits.”
“I figured you might say that. I asked the ferret here to get a certain book. You might recognize it. After all, it’s got your name on it. Also the last message of a shooting victim.”
The ferret was only too eager to hand her the book. The publisher was Victor Gollancz of London, the author Daphne du Maurier, the title “Rebecca”. It was a first edition too, 1938, original dust jacket. I’d had the ferret bring it here from the city archives. Maybe that was my real idea of a joke. She turned it over in her hand, like she was afraid to open it.
“Go ahead,” I said, “read the first line.”
“Last night,” she said slowly, reading the words aloud, “I went to Manderlay again.” When she looked up there were tears in her eyes.
“Sam didn’t have the use of his right arm,” I said, more to the chief than to Rebecca. “All he could do was type a sequence of numbers on the adding machine. But maybe that was good enough to finger a perp.”
The chief looked at her. “4514295, perfect match for the letter count of the words in the opening sentence. Not much chance it’s a coincidence. Rebecca, you got anything to say for yourself?”