Jezebel Died Dancing - Chapter Twenty-seven
I returned to a dark house and a clean, empty alley. Bentley was probably halfway to Paris. My gorilla, though, hung on his rack in my sewing room. I hugged him. Without the gypsy inside, he was floppy and slightly damp.
My answering machine was furiously blinking.
"David Bentley." I didn't recognize the tough, angry voice. "You are a low-down, despicable creep. I hope you're dead in an alley."
Why, it was Giselle. "My lawyer says I should send you all the bills. And I'm going to the pawn shop to hock your stupid ring."
I heard a rumbling beyond the back door.
It was Bentley, in the Caddy. He wore a rumpled white evening shirt and black tuxedo pants.
"Hey, Delilah." He sounded cheerful. "Hop in."
I tucked my purple skirts carefully around my ankles and climbed aboard. In the Caddy's back seat were a wadded long-tailed coat and bow tie. Beneath them was something I couldn't quite see.
Without giving me time to buckle, Bentley roared off.
"Well?" he said. "Did Nef confess?"
I flailed for a handhold. "You knew it was Nef?"
"I spent the whole night staring at eight coffee cups. She must have smuggled in an extra one the night she poisoned you at Pharoah's. By the way, you didn't have a shred of evidence." He smirked. "I took your costume to the lab after you stuffed it under the front seat of my car. It was clean, just as you said."
We were on a dark country road, the Caddy kicking up invisible clouds of dust.
"Unruh's getting credit for the collar," I said. "Aren't you angry? You did all the work. He'll get the promotion."
"And you don't even care that I was in danger."
I saw his face turn toward me, greenly, in the glow from the dash. "Were you hurt? Tell me about it."
"Bentley," I said, "you wouldn't believe it. We knew it was Nef, but she tried to run away. So the gorilla--"
"You mean Nevada?"
"No. A mystery gorilla fished cyanide from Nef's purse and held her down while Sher poured it down her throat. Only it wasn't really poison and--"
Bentley looked surprised. "That's illegal search and seizure. Intimidating a suspect. If a cop did that, she'd go free on a technicality."
"Well, you wouldn't believe this guy," I said. "He played passionate gypsy music on the violin. Then he used a pistol to shoot a teacup from my lips. I have to marry that gorilla."
"Delilah," he said, "forget the gorilla."
"I can't; he's my soul mate. He's my destiny, Bentley. Besides, you have Giselle." Then I remembered that phone call. "Don't you?"
He didn't answer.
"Bentley," I said. "Did you leave her at the altar?"
When he spoke, I heard surprise and a little pain. "You and Unruh were right. She wouldn't make a good cop's wife."
We sat in silence while the Caddy ate up the miles.
Finally he said, "I'm a homeless beat officer and I'm always in trouble. I'll probably be fired from my job. Do you want me or Nevada?"
I took Nevada's cheap ring and tossed it out into the night.
Bentley turned his head to watch it go. He whistled. "Never in my life, Delilah, have I met a woman who preferred me to my brother. Even Giselle liked him best."
"What brother?" I said. "Your crazy brother?"
He nodded. "Women always loved him for his money. Reggie had most of it; he was the eldest. I wasn't poor by any means, until tonight. Tonight, my parents disowned me."
"Reginald Bentley?" I shrieked. "Nevada is Reginald Bentley?" I looked back into the night for that priceless ruby ring.
I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed to my feet. If I jumped now, and stood on the road until dawn.... But the wind whipped those chiffon skirts around my knees. It was far too dangerous. "Stop the car, Bentley," I shouted. "Stop the car!"
I heard Bentley laugh. I felt an icy ring of metal encircle my wrist.
I turned and grabbed the seat. The other wrist felt cold, too.
He had put me in cuffs.
He was stopping the car on that lonely black road. In the starlight, I saw him reach into the back seat.
I sat very still, the Caddy's velour-soft cushions pressed against the small of my back. "Bentley," I said, trembling, "what are you going to do to me?"
His free hand traced the curves of my costume bra, my cheek. I saw his teeth gleam in the dark. "I'm not always an animal, Delilah. I want to show you -- first -- a little thing they taught me at Juilliard."
With that, he pulled a violin from the back seat. Gently, he drew the bow across the strings. I heard the familiar strains of Prokofiev as he began to play.
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