She was alone in the elevator when the door opened.
In the corridor, Fletch was pulling on his jacket. For a moment, he thought his eyes were playing a joke on him: the girl with the honey-colored hair and the brown eyes.
“Freddie!” he exclaimed. “As I live and breathe! The one and only Freddie Arbuthnot.”
“Fletch,” she said. “It is true.”
“Going my way?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “I’m on my way up.”
He scooted through the closing doors. In the elevator, the button had been pushed for the eighth floor.
“I’m glad to see you,” he said.
“You never have been before.”
“Listen, Freddie, about that time in Virginia. What can I say? I was wrong. That journalism convention—you know, where we met?—was full of spooks, and I had every reason to think you were one of them.”
“I’m an honest journalist, Mr. Fletcher.” Freddie tightened her nostrils. “Unlike some people I don’t care to know.”
“Honest,” he agreed. “As honest as fried chicken.”
“Famous!” he said. “Everybody knows the superb work Fredericka Arbuthnot turns in.”
“Then, why didn’t you know who I was in Virginia?”
“Everybody knew except me. I was just stupid. I had been out of the country.”
“You don’t read Newsworld?”
“My dentist doesn’t subscribe.”
“You don’t read the Newsworld Syndicate?”
“Not on crime. Gross stuff, crime. Reports on what the coroner found in the victim’s lower intestine. I don’t even want to know what’s in my own lower intestine.”
“I make my living writing crime for Newsworld.”
“You’re the best. Everyone says so. The scourge of defense attorneys everywhere.”
“Is it true Governor Wheeler is making you his press representative?”
“Haven’t met the old wheez yet.”
The elevator door opened.
“One look at you,” she said, “and he’ll send you back to playschool.”
He followed her off the elevator onto the eighth floor. “What are you doing in whatever town we’re in, Freddie? Interesting trial going on?”
Walking down the corridor, she said, “I’ve joined the campaign.”
“Oh? Given up journalism? Become a volunteer?”
“Not likely,” she said. “I’m still a member of the honest, working press.”
“I don’t quite get that, Freddie,” Fletch said a little louder than he meant to. “You’re a crime reporter. This is a political campaign.”
She took her room key from the pocket of her skirt. “Isn’t a political campaign somewhat like a trial by jury?”
“Only somewhat. When you lose a political campaign in this country, you don’t usually go to the slammer.”
She turned the key in the lock. “Do I make you nervous, Fletcher?”
“You always have.”
“You’re going to tell me you don’t know anything about the girl who was murdered in this motel tonight.”
“You don’t know anything about it?”
“She was naked and beaten. Brutally beaten. Don’t need a coroner to tell me that. I saw that much with my own eyes. I would guess also raped. And further, I would guess she was either thrown off a balcony of this motel, or, virtually the same, driven to jump.”
Fletch’s eyes were round. “That only happened a half hour ago, Freddie. You couldn’t have gotten here that fast from New York or Los Angeles or—or from wherever you hang your suspicions.”
“Oh, you do know something about it.”
“I know a girl fell to her death from the roof of this motel about a half hour ago.”
“Dear Fletch. Always the last with the story.”
“Not always. Just when there’s Freddie Arbuthnot around.”
“I’d invite you into my room,” Freddie said, “but times I’ve tried that in the past I’ve been wickedly rebuffed.”
“What else do you know about this girl?”
“Not as much as I will know.”
“Good night, Fletcher darling.”
Fletch stood foursquare to the door which was about to close in his face.
“Freddie! What is a crime reporter doing covering a presidential primary campaign?”
Door in hand, she stood on one tiptoed foot and kissed him on the nose.
“What’s a newspaper delivery boy doing passing himself off as a presidential candidate’s press secretary?”