"What's his name?"
"Tibble. Dennis Tibble."
Deputy Blake made a note. "How long had he lived here?"
"Almost three years."
"What can you tell me about him?"
"Not too much, sir. Tibble kept pretty much to himself, always paid his rent on time. Once in a while he'd have a woman in here. I think they were mostly pros."
"Do you know where he worked?"
"Oh, yes. Global Computer Graphics Corporation. He was one of them computer nerds."
Deputy Blake made another note. "Who found the body?"
"One of the maids. Maria. Yesterday was a holiday, so she didn't come in until this morning - "
"I want to talk to her."
"Yes, sir. I'll get her."
Maria was a dark-looking Brazilian woman in her forties, nervous and frightened.
"You discovered the body, Maria?"
"I didn't do it. I swear to you." She was on the verge of hysteria. "Do I need a lawyer?"
"No. You don't need a lawyer. Just tell me what happened."
"Nothing happened. I mean - I walked in here this morning to clean, the way I always do. I - I thought he was gone. He's always out of here by seven in the morning. I tidied up the living room and - "
Damn! "Maria, do you remember what the room looked like before you tidied up?"
"What do you mean?"
"Did you move anything? Take anything out of here?"
"Well, yes. There was a broken wine bottle on the floor. It was all sticky. I - "
"What did you do with it?" he asked excitedly.
"I put it in the garbage compactor and ground it up."
"What else did you do?"
"Well, I cleaned out the ashtray and - "
"Were there any cigarette butts in it?"
She stopped to remember. "One. I put it in the trash basket in the kitchen."
"Let's take a look at it." He followed her to the kitchen, and she pointed to a wastebasket. Inside was a cigarette butt with lipstick on it. Carefully, deputy Blake scooped it up in a coin envelope.
He led her back to the living room. "Maria, do you know if anything is missing from the apartment? Does it look as if any valuables are gone?"
She looked around. "I don't think so. Mr. Tibble, he liked to collect those little statues. He spent a lot of money on them. It looks like they're all here."
So the motive was not robbery. Drugs? Revenge? A love affair gone wrong?
"What did you do after you tidied up here, Maria?"
"I vacuumed in here, the way I always do. And then - " Her voice faltered. "I walked into the bedroom and... I saw him." She looked at deputy Blake. "I swear I didn't do it."
The coroner and his assistants arrived in a coroner's wagon, with a body bag.
Three hours later, deputy Sam Blake was back in the sheriff's office.
"What have you got, Sam?"
"Not much." Deputy Blake sat down across from Sheriff Dowling. "Dennis Tibble worked over at Global. He was apparently some kind of genius."
"But not genius enough to keep himself from getting killed."
"He wasn't just killed, Matt. He was slaughtered. You should have seen what someone did to his body. It has to be some kind of maniac."
"Nothing to go on?"
"We aren't sure what the murder weapon is, we're waiting for results from the lab, but it may be a broken wine bottle. The maid threw it in the compactor. It looks like there's a fingerprint on one of the pieces of glass in his back. I talked to the neighbors. No help there. No one saw anyone coming in or out of his apartment. No unusual noises. Apparently, Tibble stuck pretty much to himself. He wasn't the neighborly type. One thing. Tibble had sex before he died. We have vaginal traces, pubic hairs, other trace evidence and a cigarette stub with lipstick. We'll test for DNA."
"The newspapers are going to have a good time with this one, Sam. I can see the headlines now - MANIAC STRIKES SILICON VALLEY." Sheriff Dowling sighed. "Let's knock this off as fast as we can."
"I'm on my way over to Global Computer Graphics now."
It had taken Ashley an hour to decide whether she should go into the office. She was torn. One look at me, and everyone will know that something is wrong. But if I don't show up, they'll want to know why. The police will probably be there asking questions. If they question me, I'll have to tell them the truth. They won't believe me. They'll blame me for killing Dennis Tibble. And if they do believe me, and if I tell them my father knew what he did to me, they'll blame him.
She thought of Jim Cleary's murder. She could hear Florence's voice: "Jim's parents came back and found his body. He had been stabbed to death and castrated."
Ashley squeezed her eyes shut tightly. My God, what's happening? What's happening?
Deputy Sam Blake walked onto the work floor where groups of somber employees stood around, talking quietly. Blake could imagine what the subject of conversation was. Ashley watched him apprehensively as he headed toward Shane Miller's office.
Shane rose to greet him. "Deputy Blake?"
"Yes." The two men shook hands.
"Sit down. Deputy."
Sam Blake took a seat. "I understand Dennis Tibble was an employee here?"
"That's right. One of the best. It's a terrible tragedy."
"He worked here about three years?"
"Yes. He was our genius. There wasn't anything he couldn't do with a computer."
"What can you tell me about his social life?"
Shane Miller shook his head. "Not much. I'm afraid. Tibble was kind of a loner."