For Want of a Memory
Chapters : 1-2 | 3-4 | 5-6 | 7-8 | 9-34 & Epilogue Available On
PLEASE NOTE: This is a preview of this novel. It is available for purchase in its entirety via
You need to know a couple of things about this story before you read
it. First, it is written primarily for my editor,
Peaches. The only coin of the realm in my kingdom is words,
and I owe her lots of them. So this story is based
on her fantasy.
I said it was written "primarily" for Peaches. Her fantasy is
about a specific man who she hopes to meet and be able to be
with. Just for the record, it's not me. By the same
token, she has been so kind as to allow ME to have my own fantasies,
many of which are about her. The story "Read Dirty To Me" was
one such fantasy, and she was very sweet about editing that.
I am on her "men I like" list, which is probably why.
So, when it came time to probe her mind for the details of her fantasy,
and I found out they'd pretty much fit in four pages of text, I asked
her if I could "add a little" here and there, just to make it a little
more interesting to the general reader ... like you.
And then there were all those people who kept writing and telling me I
should write something more mainstream ... something that might
actually make it past the censors.
So here it is. This is a mainstream story, about one woman's
fantasy. There's no sex for 200 pages, according to Peaches
(who was NOT happy about that, by the way) but, then, a decent plot
requires a lot of things to happen that don't involve sex.
What I'm saying is this is not a stroke story. It has a
stroke story buried in it, but there is much much more.
You'll meet some very interesting characters, and confront some very
There are world shaking events that could happen to you, in a split
second, with ramifications that could last a lifetime. This
is a story of how something relatively small, in the grand scheme of
things, rocked the worlds of a number of people, and let two of them to
fall in love.
This is a story about how entirely different kinds of people, from
completely disparate backgrounds, can be brought together in a dance of
sorts that will have profound effects on all of their lives.
Normally, when we think of "people," we tend to think of those we are
friends with or see at work. Maybe they're in an organization
we belong to or are part of our extended families. In any
case, we usually think of them as being mostly like us.
We HEAR about other kinds of people-rich people, very poor people,
victims of crime, lottery winners-the list goes on and on.
But we don't KNOW any of those people, by and large or, if we do, we
know lots of them. We tend to gather those around us who we
are most like, even if we think of them as being like us.
But sometimes, the paths of very different kinds of people
cross. Fate plays a role in that, perhaps. You
could call it luck-either good or bad, depending on the
circumstances. In any case, when that happens, things get
shaken up. Lives get shaken up.
And things change-sometimes drastically.
The first person you must meet is Kris. And it's important
that I tell you a lot about him, because you need to understand him, to
understand the choices he made, which form the core of this story.
When the average person looked at Kris Farmingham, he...or she, for
that matter...normally didn't look twice. Just like the
average person, Kris was...well...average.
At forty-seven years of age, he stood five-ten and weighed around
one-sixty. His light brown hair was thinning on top and,
rather than try to do the comb-over, he just kept it closely cropped
all over. It was easier, even if he didn't think it did much
for his looks. His facial features were mixed. A
smallish nose, with a straight bridge and rounded tip sat above full
lips, though the bottom one looked larger than the top. When
he smiled with those lips it was a tight smile, usually, as if he
didn't want people to see his teeth. That tight smile created
dimples in his cheeks which, along with his twinkling chocolate brown
eyes, sometimes gave him the appearance of being mischievous.
He could look like trouble, but generally didn't display
His tanned skin and, perhaps, the freckles on it (depending on what
dermatologist you talked to) were the result of spending time in the
Australian sun. That outdoorsy life was also responsible for
the washboard stomach that most people didn't know he had.
There wasn't an ounce of fat on him, with the possible exception of
enough skin to grip at the waist, though he currently had no
significant other in his life to grip it. He had a
girlfriend, named Lola, but didn't consider her a "significant other"
at this point. Living in Australia was also responsible for
his accent, even though he hadn't been born there.
His hands and feet were average sized and his voice, while pleasantly
deep, wasn't anything special either.
In short, he could blend into a crowd rather easily. This was
to become important, though he'd never have thought blending in might
be something to crave. As it turned out...it was, but we'll
get to that later.
While no one on the street would take a second look at him, people he
passed on that street might very well know who he was if they heard one
of the names he used. Kris was an author-a popular author at
Kris came to writing almost by accident. The son of a
preacher man, he already had fire in his soul when a chance trip to a
summer theater camp enabled him to express himself in ways he'd never
been able to before. Eventually, his college education was
put to use teaching music and theater. He traveled the world,
for a variety of reasons, and became something of a proverbial
We are, say the philosophers, the sum of our existence-which is to say
that what happens to us...what we experience in life...molds us into
the people we become. That sounds like a lot of double talk
to some, but the fact is that we don't necessarily turn out to be who
we WANT to be. In youth, we have dreams of what life will be
like later on. We often view the future as something we can
manipulate, if care is taken to cause things to happen. But
the fact is, largely, that our past has more effect on our future than
our mind does.
Kris' past had had a lot to do with him becoming an author.
His parents divorced, which caused his older sister to seek solace in
the arms of a brand of religion far more conservative than the one she
was raised in. Apparently that religion was a good hugger,
because she hugged it for all she was worth. Some people,
including Kris, sometimes, thought of her as a loony religious fanatic.
His mother had a tendency to lie about her age and there were
step-siblings, which can work for or against one. He grew up
in two families, in California, which was as forgiving of parents who
didn't know how to handle money, when they had some, as anyplace can
be. He didn't want for much, on a physical plane, even though
the family purse was usually empty. Emotionally, though, he
was hungry. As a result, football became his center of
emotional fulfillment. He memorized the stats of every player
that ever held a pigskin in his hands and played the game avidly until
an Achilles tendon injury sidelined him. That also killed his
dream of being a sports star, which gave way to different dreams that
were the result of his discovery of drugs. A good dose of
common sense saved him from that.
He suffered the same kinds of slings and arrows most people
suffer. His father died. His relatives were all
odd, in one way or another. He was plain enough, and shy
enough, that girls weren't all that interested in him. That
is to say that while there was nothing wrong with him, most girls
thought, perhaps unconsciously, that they could do better.
And so he dreamed. Dreams filled in the passion and
excitement that real life wouldn't supply, and those dreams were what
later became the muse that helped him create the books that people
would come to love and buy in large enough numbers to support him while
he wrote fulltime.
College, which he'd extended far beyond the average four years, taught
him many things that had nothing to do with formal education in pursuit
of a degree. He'd had to support himself and he'd knocked
about, working at one time or another in a steel mill, a
slaughterhouse, and as a hospital orderly. Every young boy's
dream to run off and join the circus was realized, and went well until
he was caught in bed with one of the female aerialists, which is an
offense on the level of a stable boy fucking a princess.
One of the things he learned was that most people were normal, unlike
his family members. Moving to Australia after college got him
about as far away from his crazy family as it was possible to get.
There is nothing in the world like being in a strange, faraway place to
make one want to tell one's story. And, it's fairly normal
for one to write down the story, to arrange it in one's mind.
Some discover that they're not all that good at that. Others,
like Kris, find release in writing that is second only to sexual
And so, once in Australia, Kris became a writer. Others
recognized his talent for writing and, quite suddenly, he was a
But New York City still reigns supreme in terms of the publishing world
and when his first book took off like a rocket, he decided to move back
to the States, where there was the kind of stimulation that might fuel
more best sellers.
He hoped there might also be a woman in New York who might bring out
the "father in hiding" he thought himself to be.
There was a woman, as it turned out, but she was much more avid about
forming a long term relationship than he was. She had already
asked for a key to his apartment and offered him one to hers.
The problem was that Kris had only zeroed in on her because of one of
his personal kinks. Kris was an ass man. He didn't
know why he was an ass man, but he was. And Lola had a
luscious bubble butt that had made Kris' mouth water the first time he
saw it-encased in a pair of skin tight toreador pants, with no panty
But, as it turned out, Lola's ass was about all there was about her
that made his mouth water. She was OK as a female.
She was neither smart nor stupid. She worked at an ad agency,
but had no drive to rise higher than her current position.
She had no hobbies and no work experience other than her current
job. That she was twenty years younger than him didn't really
bother him. She looked older than her twenty-five years and
he looked younger than his forty-seven.
But there was just something about Lola that made her seem vapid, once
he'd spent a few months with her. When he thought of her in
the role of a mother, he thought his children would be bored senseless
during their formative years.
The real problem with Lola, however, was that the one dream she DID
have was to be rich and famous. She made that quite clear
when, after she asked "what he did" for the third of fourth time, he
casually mentioned that he had written a few things that had been
published. He'd made reference to obscure technical
journals. She'd immediately waxed poetic about how someday
he'd be a rich and famous, well-read author and that they'd live the
high life then. When he wrote the books that she had in mind,
and people found out how talented an author he was, she said, they'd be
invited to all the best parties and treated as VIPs. At one
moment, as she'd planned their fantasy popularity, she'd even sketched
out a plan for personal security...for both of them.
He knew that if she became aware that he had published three best
sellers, it would only be natural for her to want to brag that she was
sleeping with the author of those best sellers.
And the problem with THAT was that Kris had come to treasure the
anonymity that writing books under a pseudonym gave him.
It may seem odd to you, the reader, that an author who, after all, puts
his work out in the public eye for all to see, might not want the
public to see HIM. But there are good reasons for an author
to want to stay invisible on a personal level.
One of them is that readers, particularly readers of fiction, have a
natural tendency toward amateur psychoanalysis. And they
always have questions. Why did you write that book?
What does it all mean-between the lines? Where did the
inspiration for that character come from? Is this book
autobiographical? What was your childhood like? Do
you REALLY have a sister who is a wacko religious nut? What
denomination is she? Readers' appetites for personal details
are voracious and unending.
And then there are those readers who have their own story they'd like
to tell, but can't, because they can't write. They just
naturally dream of seeing THEIR story in print...written by the author
whose books they love to read. And how could that author
object? It's a GREAT story!
Of course, another pitfall is that there are those who want to be
around the great man. They perceive themselves as destined to
be part of his entourage-perhaps even to become the inspiration for a
new character, based on their own intriguing and interesting lives and
characteristics. Lola was one of those. She was
forever suggesting that his "first big book" should contain HER as the
And the fact was that Kris just wanted to write. One cannot
write when surrounded by people asking questions and making suggestions
and wanting to know when their fascinating life will be represented in
He was caught in a situation he didn't want to confront. If
Lola had free access to his apartment, it would be difficult to write
and she would likely discover that he wrote much more than articles for
obscure technical journals. She would find out, eventually,
who he really was and he would have to insist that his identity not be
revealed to others. Which would cause her untold misery,
because her natural urge would be to brag-though she certainly wouldn't
have characterized it as bragging-about how she was intimate with the
man who had created "Living With an Aardvark" and "The Cereal Killer"
and "Diagnosis - Steatopygia!". That would lead to people
wanting to meet him...and ask all those questions.
He took his privacy so seriously, in fact, that even his publisher did
not know his real name. He received checks under his
pseudonym, which was connected to his bank account. The bank
didn't care a bit that he did business under one name, while the
account was technically under another. People did that all
His publisher, whose voracious appetite was for profits rather than
personal information, was pushing him for another book. He'd
been given a hefty advance and six months to produce that
book. With the advance also came the requirement to provide
progress reports once a month.
The outline was done. The characters had been roughed
out. The plot was generally identified. About a
third of the book was already written in what he called 'preliminary
paragraphs'. He knew he was ready to write it. The
story bulged inside him, demanding to be let loose. His muse
was impatient. But the distraction of Lola was preventing him
from letting his muse take over.
The answer was to find someplace to go where there would be no
Lola...no publisher...no distractions.
Surfing the net, he found a vacation house on a lake shore in
Connecticut. It was winter, the off season, and the rates
were good. He made all the arrangements, using the new
pseudonym of Larry Phillips. It was likely that during the
six months he would be staying in Pembroke, people would find out what
he was doing there. He didn't want anyone in that town to
connect Kristoff Farmingham with the book that would be written
there. He sent a money order and received a contract in the
mail, with a key and directions on how to find the place.
He packed three bags. His landlord had almost had a stroke
when he'd paid his rent ahead for the five months he'd be
gone. The advance was severely depleted, but that was all
right. He'd get the rest when he turned in the
manuscript. Then he'd probably start the whole process all
The car was packed. The manuscript, printed off in case
something happened to his laptop, was in his briefcase. He
agonized over whether to take his cell phone or not, then decided it
could be turned off and would be handy for those monthly progress
He started the car.
And THIS is where the story really begins.
Three men sat around a card table, finalizing plans to commit a heinous
crime. They were vicious men, though seeing them on the
street, patronizing a hotdog vendor perhaps, one wouldn't recognize
that viciousness. They, too, had the capability to blend in
with the crowds in New York City.
The crime they had planned was bold. It might turn out very
badly for the victims. They didn't really care about
that. All they cared about were the rewards that they
imagined the crime would provide.
These men that fate would bring together with Kris and others in the
unfolding series of events were as different from the others
as it was possible to be. Their story had an inauspicious
Many years earlier, Wanda Higginbotham had found herself
pregnant. It had been unplanned, and unwanted, but not
unexpected. Wanda was a hooker.
She found that some men would pay more for her services if they didn't
have to engage in safe sex and, after all, money was what it was all
about. She took her pills religiously, but pills don't always
Completely by accident, therefore, she learned that there is a
different class of customers who are very interested in...and willing
to pay more for...sex with a pregnant woman. Such men would
take her from behind, with their hands on her pregnant belly, and
fantasize that the child within was theirs. They got all the
thrill of believing, if just for a few moments, that their seed had
taken root, but could then abandon the product of that seed, and avoid
the complications of actually getting a woman with child.
It was by chance that she was watching reruns of The Three Stooges
while she was in labor. She named her little boy Moe, both
because she didn't have much of an imagination and because Moe was the
smartest Stooge, in her opinion.
Because the pregnancy thing had been more lucrative than anything else
she'd done, she promptly got pregnant again. And then
again. Larry and Curly were the results.
Having three boys to take care of was a pain in the ass, and she'd
found out that eager but infertile parents would pay a lot of money to
get a newborn. She was already stuck with "the three
stooges," but sold the next four babies. It was the best of
all possible worlds, as far as Wanda was concerned.
Until she found out how ravaged a body could become as a result of
having unprotected sex with strangers and what amounted to a litter of
She died when the boys were in their middle teens. They stuck
together, living hand to mouth. They dropped out of school
and lived by their wits. Which meant that they were lean and
homeless, most of the time, because their wits had been inherited from
their mother and, in a twist of humorous irony, resembled those of the
men they were named after.
But, there was no humor in how they chose to survive.
Eventually, Larry got his hands on a gun, bought cheap, and which he
thought was probably stolen. He didn't care,
though. Petty theft, muggings, and the infrequent armed
robbery had kept them alive from that point on. But they were
looking for the score that would put them on easy street.
Their first attempt at kidnapping had gone very badly. They'd
stolen a car, and snatched a little girl from in front of a private
school. Instead of being cowed and subservient, though, the
girl had fought bitterly and cried incessantly. They'd gagged
her-too well, as it turned out, because she'd died when her allergies
flared up and she'd become unable to breathe through her
nose. They had already made the ransom call, though, so
they'd simply waited. When Moe called to give the parents
directions to the drop off point, he was told they hadn't been able to
raise the money and would need more time. He'd been sure he'd
heard clicks on the line. He had also been sure that meant
the police were tapping the line, so he'd hung up. They'd
dumped the body in a dumpster. The media, always eager to
report a tragedy, had said that the girl was most likely killed because
no ransom had been paid.
Their second attempt hadn't gone any better. A boy had been
chosen as their second victim. When they'd called the boy's
parents, they'd made two demands. One was money and the other
was that the cops not be involved in any way.
"Remember that girl they found in the dumpster?" Moe had asked, trying
to make his voice sound sinister. "That was us, and we mean
The parents had agreed. But when Moe had called back to
arrange the trade, he'd been sure that he was talking to a different
man and, again, sure that the police were involved.
This time, they killed the victim intentionally and left a note with
the body that said next time, people had better follow instructions.
The media loved it, as they always love heinous acts of the worst
sort. Moe, Larry and Curly loved it too, because now they had
They were sure the next caper would make them all rich.
And it was the next attempt that they were planning as they sat around
the card table. The victim would be one who could not be
ignored-could not be allowed to die-whose husband had tons of
money. Jean Chantal Custer would provide the millions that
would put them on a Caribbean island somewhere, where they would have
anything they wanted.
The proposed victim of the crime was well known; the talk of New York,
both the city and the state. She was married to Randall
Custer, who was currently in his third year as the governor of the
great state of New York. His messy divorce, barely six months
into his governorship, had caused a scandal. Taking up with a
supermodel half his age, then marrying her, had cemented his
fame. He was a lackluster governor, but the tabloids loved
him and a preponderance of the unwashed, which represented a
preponderance of the population, in his opinion, loved him
too. He had it all. He had money from his parents
and he had Jean Chantal. He was an important man, who people
wanted to please. What more could any man want?
Jean, who used her middle name professionally, had made her mark as a
swimsuit model. That had led to runway work in which her body
had most likely been more important than what she was actually
wearing. Few people could afford the clothes she
modeled. But everyone could enjoy looking at her and
did. She had even made a lot of panties damp.
Along the way, she'd gone from being a shy, tall, well built girl from
New Orleans, who'd graduated high school squarely in the lower third of
her class to a woman who could get anything she asked for, simply by
asking for it. Men had always pursued her, but the
intelligence she DID have had led her to believe that the one real gift
she had to give a man needed to be parlayed to the RIGHT man.
She'd decided that Randall Custer was that man.
They'd met at a party. He had been almost embarrassingly
taken with her. When, the third time he took her to dinner,
she confessed, through lowered eyelashes, that she was still a virgin,
he took the bait hook, line and sinker. If he'd been
embarrassing before, he was pathetic now. He promised her the
world and she thought he might just be able to deliver it.
The fact that she was obviously telling the truth about her virginity
was borne out on their wedding night, on a yacht, on the way to
Bermuda, where her screams of pain were heard by the captain and
crew. It was a rocky start, but at forty-eight, he didn't
regenerate all that quickly, so she'd had time to heal up a bit before
the next session. And things since then had been
fine. Too much booze and poorly controlled blood pressure had
hardened blood vessels that needed to be flexible for things to work
well in the erection department, but Viagra got him laid and he was
ever so cute when he was horny. A year into the marriage she
actually liked her husband; now that another year had passed she was
quite sure that real love was in the offing.
And he doted on her. She went shopping at the drop of a
hat. After all, one could no longer wear a hat once it had
been dropped...now could one?
There were only two burrs under her saddle, as her husband would have
put it. He styled himself a Western man, hinting that General
George Custer was in his bloodline, though never actually claiming
it. Flirting with a relation to the famous man was one
thing. Actually admitting to have inherited genes from a
complete idiot was another.
The first burr under her saddle was her inability to do anything
privately anymore. Her husband took great glee in telling the
world where she was going and what she'd be doing. That was
because he wanted the world to know that his young and beautiful wife
was more than just a young and beautiful woman. In her role
as the governor's wife, she went here and there, doing this and
that. Shopping was always included, but only after she took
care of business. He also took great pride in the fact that
she drove herself everywhere. No wasting of taxpayer dollars
could be alluded to, because she always took her own sports
car. The paparazzi, always knowing where she'd be, were a
constant pain in the butt. And, wherever there was a bevy of
cameras, there were curious onlookers too-and they sometimes wanted
some time with her as well.
The second was that Randall was pathetically eager for his wife to do
something else she'd never done with any other man-have
babies. She shuddered at the mere thought of having to live
with a distended, disfiguring, ugly belly. It would ruin her
On this particular day, Chantal was going to visit a daycare center on
Long Island, where other women's babies could be cuddled and
kissed. She liked to stress childcare in the state.
Everybody needed it. It was good press. And then,
of course, shopping on 5th Avenue.
It had, as usual, been announced in the papers.
The Higginbotham boys knew where Chantal would be, because they'd read
the paper, which they stole every day from a number of hotel
lobbies. Curly had established a route for this purpose, so
that he didn't become too well known in any one hotel. They
knew what time she would be at the childcare center and, roughly, where
she'd go shopping later.
They'd decided to take her as she left the childcare center, since
there would likely be fewer cops around then. There would be
photographers, but they were pansies, so who cared. Besides,
they planned to keep their heads down and the cameras from getting the
kind of pictures that would be a problem.
The crowd of photographers actually helped their plan, since it gave
Curly a reason to be close to where she'd walk. Those
photographers were currently lounging around, hoping that something
would happen. What did happen not only exceeded their
expectations...it exceeded their wildest dreams.
Moe was driving the van. It had been stolen only hours
before-chosen because it was plain white. It belonged to a
company that was not open on Saturdays and wouldn't miss it until
Monday. Twelve cans of Krylon paint, purchased with money
taken under the pretense of acquiring it for a teenage tagger-whom
Larry had then told he was an undercover cop and pretended to chase for
half a block-had made the upper half blue, just in case-including parts
of the windshield where Larry hadn't applied the taped on newspapers
quite correctly. Magnetic signs had been applied to the sides
and back, indicating that it belonged to a fictitious delivery company
and giving them an excuse for double parking on the street.
Curly had a camera draped around his neck, but had no idea how to use
it. It had been taken from a tourist, who they'd lured into
an alley to buy a Rolex watch for fifty dollars. The camera
allowed him to loiter near the entrance to the center, blending in with
the other photographers.
Larry was standing by a lamp post, reading a paper-apparently engrossed
in the sports pages-looking simply like he was waiting to see what all
the fuss was about.
The plan was simple, since Moe was a firm believer in the KISS system
of planning. Not only was it easier to keep things simple,
but he was convinced that his brothers were stupid and incapable of
following a complicated plan.
Curly was to give Moe, who was currently double parked a hundred feet
down the street, the high sign when he saw the woman coming
out. When Curly signaled him, he'd drive forward, get out of
the van and open the double side doors, position himself within the
open side of the van, and begin shooting repeatedly at nothing in
particular. All the paparazzi would hit the dirt, while Curly
and Larry manhandled the governor's wife to the street and into the
van. Larry had an ether-soaked rag in a plastic bag, to knock
her out with, and Curly would grab her legs. Moe would keep
shooting, occasionally, to keep heads down and the path to the van
The getaway route had been carefully planned. It didn't
matter if the van was involved in a few bumps, since it would be
abandoned within five minutes. Getting the unconscious woman
to their hideout was the crowning part of the plan. They'd
rented a hearse, complete with a coffin, telling the owner it was for a
practical joke. You could rent anything in New York
City. It was parked in the garage of another business that
wasn't open on Saturdays, which they'd broken into that
morning. They could make the transfer of the woman to the
coffin in the garage where no one would see them. The hearse
would get them off the island and they could then work their way out of
town, where an abandoned warehouse would become their hideout and
Chantal's temporary prison. When the money was electronically
deposited into an anonymous off shore account, her husband would be
told where he could find her. He'd find her naked and well
fucked, of course, but then who wouldn't expect that?
Kris was already thinking about the book as he negotiated the Saturday
morning traffic. He'd dropped off a copy of the half
completed manuscript at his publisher's office, but hadn't told them he
was leaving town to finish it. He'd locked up his apartment
in Brookdale and was working his way toward I-95.
His plan was to go north, taking I-287 to I-684. Continuing
north from there would get him to Interstate 84, which would take him
east into Connecticut. Highway 37 would take him north to
Pembroke, on the shores of Lake Nassequa, where the vacation house was
located. He'd never been out of the city in this direction,
but he had the route written down and wasn't worried about
it. The rental agreement was in the inside pocket of his
sports coat and the key to the house was in his right pants
pocket. His mail would be forwarded, so he wouldn't miss any
Moe saw Curly give the sign and threw the van into gear. He
lurched forward and then came to a stop. He threw open the
driver's door and put his left leg out, pulling the gun out from under
his right thigh.
Chantal put on her most sincere smile and pulled her fur coat tightly
around her. It was cold. She had on sunglasses, to
moderate the flashes from the cameras, and the six inch stiletto heels
she favored because of the way they forced her to walk, in case there
was any video being shot. She stepped confidently from the
childcare center, being escorted out by the beaming owner, to face the
Lola's phone had been busy since he'd gotten on the road, and Kris was
trying to call her for the third time, to let her know he was leaving
town. His eyes were on the buttons of the phone when the door
of the van he was about to pass was thrown open and half a body
appeared. He didn't even know he'd hit the man until he heard
the grinding tear of metal on metal and looked up, astonished, to see
the door being pushed forward by the right front fender of his
car. He heard a scream and saw, just for a split second, the
agonized face of a man between his car and the van. He was
completely past the van before he reacted and his foot went to the
Moe knew instantly he was fucked. He felt his left leg break
as it was crushed between the front of the car and the van
door. He watched the door slam forward and felt his leg being
pulled in the same direction. His body spun, being rolled by
the side of the car and, for a split second, he stared into the eyes of
the driver. He knew instinctively that his leg was crushed,
but still tried to stand on it as the car swept past him. He
fell to the ground, knowing that the plan was fucked too. The
pistol was still gripped in his hand. In a rage, he pointed
the gun at the car that had ruined everything, and started
Larry and Curly were on either side of Chantal, in the act of actually
reaching toward her, when there was the grinding tear of metal and the
squealing sound that is instantly recognizable as an automobile
accident. Their quarry, who had noticed Larry pulling a rag
from a plastic bag, looked toward the van, just like everyone else
did. The car that had obviously hit the van lurched to a
stop, three or four car lengths past it.
Shots rang out. Larry and Curly were galvanized into
action. The side doors of the van weren't open, but they knew
what to do while Moe was shooting. Larry's hand reached
toward the broad's face.
Chantal knew instantly that something was wrong and that she was part
of it. She saw a man's hand coming toward her face and
whirled to pull her knee up, connecting solidly with Larry's
balls. He gave a strangled "OOF" and wilted like a cheap
suit. Feeling other hands on her right arm, she whirled
again, planting her foot in preparation for driving her knee up again.
Curly had seen what she did to Larry, though, and turned his hips
sideways to block her knee. That put his left foot out, flat
on the ground, and Chantal, seeing that her primary target wasn't
available, elected to go to target number two. Her knee rose
past where it might have and, with a gasping shout, she drove her heel
Her aim was true and the tip of a six inch stiletto heel contacted the
top of the cheap deck shoe Curly was wearing. He felt the tip
hit the top of his foot and heard the tip hit the pavement...under his
He looked down in horror as the woman lurched away, leaving her shoe
imbedded in his foot.
"SON OF A BITCH!" he squealed.
Kris had just twisted around in his seat, to look through his back
window, when the window exploded. Glass chips flew everywhere
and he felt like somebody had hit him in the head with a baseball
bat. The force of the blow turned him back around and he
flopped forward, bouncing his forehead off the steering
wheel. His brain told him he'd just heard a gunshot and he
opened his eyes to see blood spattered all over the dashboard.
Instinct made his foot change from the brake to the accelerator and his
tires squealed as the car shot forward. His vision was
blurry. He lifted a hand to his head. It came away
wet with shiny crimson staining it.
"I've been shot!" he gasped. He heard more shots and peered
forward, suddenly aware that the windshield had a hole in it, with a
web of tiny cracks spreading away from it.
He drove instinctively...away from danger...and his eyes picked out a
sign that his brain said meant he should turn. He didn't
think-he just took the onramp. He was on I-95 before his mind
began to clear.
He'd hit someone. He knew he'd hit someone. He'd
heard the scream and seen the twisting body as his car crashed by
it. Someone had shot at him-shot him! He'd already
left the scene of the crime. He thought about turning around
and going back, but he was on the interstate. Even if he DID
turn around, he wasn't sure now where it had all happened.
He didn't know what to do. He felt as though someone was
pressing a red hot poker to his temple. He was
bleeding. He put his hand up to staunch the flow of blood and
Detective Jim Harper surveyed the scene. The governor's wife
was no longer there, of course. She'd gotten in her car and
left the uproar behind. There were plenty of witnesses,
though. In fact, the place was crawling with them.
He had talked to ten of them already and his partner had probably
talked to at least that many more. Paramedics were standing
by and another ambulance had been called for. After impaling
Curly Higginbotham's left foot with her right shoe, Mrs. Custer had
taken off her left one and methodically beaten Larry bloody with
it. She had the help of several photographers, while the rest
of them either took pictures of the melee or joined in "detaining"
Curly, who was also the worse for the wear from being enthusiastically
"detained." Moe wasn't going anywhere. He might
actually die if Jim didn't let the ambulance take him away
soon. The compound fracture of his left leg had left a pool
of blood on the pavement that was about three feet in
diameter. His excuse for not releasing Moe was that he didn't
have a free escort to send along to guard him.
He looked around and sighed. This was going to take hours to
straighten out, and they were hours that had to be spent, since Mrs.
Custer was involved. It was plain, based on the ether-soaked
rag, and the statements of a dozen witnesses, that the three had been
trying to abduct Mrs. Custer. Then there was the
accident. Dozens of witnesses also confirmed that a passing
car had disrupted the kidnapping attempt. The problem was
that nobody had gotten a license plate, and their descriptions of the
car would have filled a small sized used car lot.
There would be plenty of paint transfer to ID the suspect vehicle, when
it was found, but he couldn't send out an APB based on what they had so
far. At least he knew the car was silver, since it had left
silver paint all over the door of the van.
Moe had been found unconscious by first responders, still lying in the
street beside the van, a cheap .45 caliber pistol in his
hand. It had been fired a number of times, but they wouldn't
know how many bullets they had to search for until the crime scene
techs got there and processed the weapon. That model held
eight rounds and almost everybody said they'd heard at least five
shots, though nobody could say who he'd been shooting at.
Harper had four patrolmen guarding the scene, which covered an area
from the middle of the street to the entire front yard of the childcare
He sighed. At least they had the perps, but it was going to
be a long day.
Kris peered through the windshield. He had the wipers on now,
because it was snowing hard. They made a funny sound as they
went past the bullet hole in the windshield. The heater was
going full blast, but not making much of a dent in the cold rushing
through the missing back window. He'd realized a while back
that the radio had stopped working for some reason, but he had much
bigger problems than that.
He had made it through Mill Valley, and it wasn't far now to
Pembroke. His head wound had finally stopped bleeding, but
the whole left side of his jacket and shirt had soaked up an alarming
amount of blood. His vision still came and went, which was
why it had taken him hours to get as far as he had. Three
times he'd had to pull over and sit, until he could see to go on. He'd put his cell phone back in his briefcase because the urge to use it to call for help was almost overpowering. He knew he couldn't do that, though. He had to get to his rental first, where he could get cleaned up and rest. Then maybe he could figure out what to do after that.
He was so tired. Another twenty miles and he could get into
the house, clean up, and then decide what to do. The road
turned suddenly and he felt the front wheels break loose for a second
or two on the slippery surface. He had to pay better
attention. Only one headlight was working and it reflected
mostly blowing snow.
He knew he was in trouble. There couldn't be any way out of
that. But at least he could rest a while, before making a
call and turning himself in. He'd have time to call his
publisher and get a recommendation for an attorney too.
Other than pulling over because his vision was blurred, he hadn't
stopped. He'd watched the gas gauge constantly for the first
half hour, worrying that a bullet had hit the tank, but there had been
no unreasonable drop by the needle.
The wipers were caking up with frozen slush. He thought about
stopping and knocking the stuff off, so they'd clear the windshield
better. He was afraid that if he got out and moved around,
though, that he'd find something else wrong with him. He'd
been hunched over the wheel, his hands frozen to it for so long, that
he wasn't sure if the pains he was feeling were associated with
that...or with other bullet wounds.
Five more miles, now. Then he could rest and get warm.
Lou Anne Rowan hustled from the babysitter's front door to her car,
which was still running. It was a miserable night, but she
knew her boss would bitch and moan if she didn't show up for
work. It was unlikely there would be much work to do, but he
wouldn't care about that.
She felt lucky that she'd met Roslynn. She had to drive four
miles out into the country to get Ambrose there, but Roslynn was
willing to watch him from eleven-thirty at night until two the next
afternoon, while Lou Anne worked the graveyard shift at "The Early Girl
Eatery," a 24 hour diner on highway six, and then got some
sleep. Working nights let Lou Anne spend her afternoons and
evenings with her four year old, who was the light of her life and made
all the horse shit worth putting up with. Besides, when he
was at Roslynn's, he had kids his own age to play with during the
While others met in this story thus far were all unremarkable in
appearance, Lou Anne broke the mold. In fact, she'd broken it
when she was thirteen and had been ever-so-noticeable ever
since. The truth was that she would stand out in any crowd
the average man…or woman…might wish to assemble.
Standing five feet nine inches in her bare feet, she had the body of a
well developed fifteen year old. Pale skin, with a rosy hue,
made her look like she'd just stepped in from the cold. A
broken nose from her youth had healed slightly crooked, but no one
really noticed that because her lips, while small, were lush in a way
that drew attention to them. Her voice might have had
something to do with that, because her voice sounded like she might be
Lou Anne was no child, however. At twenty-four she had been a
lover half a dozen times, a mother once, and a thoroughly remarkable
looking woman the entire time.
With the onset of puberty, Lou Anne had decided she wanted to look
different from the other girls. She'd accomplished that by
the simple expedient of shaving the sides of her head, leaving a wide
mohawk, of sorts, except that the hair that was left wasn't stiffened
or cut short. Pick a color of the rainbow and she had dyed
what was left of her hair that color. She had also made it
some colors that are not in the rainbow, like electric pink.
Occasionally, she even left it the almost black that she'd been born
with. That hair was left to flop down over one side of her
face. It was long enough that it went to her jaw, sometimes,
but was usually cut short enough to leave both ears clear.
Startlingly intense eyes peered through that hair, when it fell across
Doc Martin's, leather vests, and a certified, genuine Harley Davidson
motorcycle jacket made her look like a rebellious and dangerous
girl. In reality, though, she was a sweet young
woman. She didn't go in for the dark makeup that would have
suggested she had goth tendencies. She just liked looking
like she'd just as soon kill you as argue. It made getting
through high school much less tense. Of course, most high
school bullies tend to shy away from what they believe to be
Satan-worshiping lesbians, for fear of having a hex put on
them. Tattoos had been added, as sort of a garnish, when she
was fifteen. She'd actually had her parents' consent for
that, which gives you some idea of the freedom she'd enjoyed as she
grew up. She disdained piercings, except in the ears and her
Lou Anne had also disdained college, and had taken a job as a waitress
in a small town she found herself in one day. That didn't
mean she was uneducated. Far from it. She'd always
been curious about things, and loved learning just for the sake of
learning. She was, in fact, probably better educated than the
average college sophomore, though not in any specific educational
track. She didn't think college was a bad idea...she just
hadn't gone to one.
Some of that was because, out of the abandonment of joyfully exploring
sex, came an unplanned little bundle of trouble, that had turned into a
bundle of joy. With a little boy to support, she didn't feel
like she'd gotten a raw deal. She'd just needed a job and
taken the one that was offered, though her future boss did look askance
at her, initially.
She was popular at The Early Girl for a lot of reasons. She
was a good waitress, for one thing. Her memory for details
was astonishing. She knew her regular customers and what they
liked, or might like. Those customers liked her for that, but
one of the main reasons they returned again and again, was that the
diner, situated on a well traveled highway, also got a lot of one-time
customers. It was watching Lou Anne deal with those customers
that was sometimes entertaining.
Lou Anne didn't take shit from anybody, but she wasn't obvious about
it. If a trucker pinched her butt, she just smiled in that
flirty way she had, and then accidentally spilled hot coffee in his
lap. Whole plates of food had ended up on shirt fronts too,
or in laps, if the offending customer didn't drink coffee.
Regulars liked to make bets on who she would flirt with, and who she
wouldn't...what she would take, and what she wouldn't...who she would
smile at, and who would receive her wrath. To Hank, the
owner, she was a pain in the butt, but the regulars made sure he knew
that wherever she went, they'd go too, so he had to put up with
her. Besides, sometimes she even flirted with him...just a
little...if he was being nice to her.
The first second Kris knew something was wrong was when the world
lurched and he was thrown to one side. He had nodded off, and
there was no shoulder or ditch to drive on. There was only a
drop off, beyond which were thirty feet of precipitous downhill
terrain, at the bottom of which was a river.
The car rolled five times, traversing those thirty feet. Not
being strapped in, Kris flopped around in the interior, amidst every
loose item in the car, which filled the air with projectiles.
The driver's side window exploded in a hail of glass chips, which were
added to the storm of things hitting his body. Rolling one
last time, the car came to rest on the frozen surface of the river,
Barely conscious, Kris tried to gather his wits. His head
wound had reopened, and he could feel blood running into his eyes and
down his face. A horrible knocking noise came from the
engine, which suddenly died. He smelled gasoline, and terror
produced a surge of adrenaline. He wiggled through the broken
window in a silence that was almost shocking after the noise of the car
rolling down the hill. He became aware of creaks and cracking
noises as his hands scrabbled on the ice.
His legs had just cleared the window when a crack like a rifle shot
filled the silence. The car lurched and Kris scrambled away
from it as it began sinking through the ice. Water rushed up
onto the ice he was scrambling across and soaked his pants and
side. He reached for a branch and pulled himself onto the
The only light was from the headlight, which suddenly went out, leaving
him in darkness. He knew he had rolled down. It was
freezing. He was tempted to just sit down and let it all be
over, but something drove him to start climbing. The
adrenaline helped, for the first twenty feet, and then he had to stop
and rest, gasping.
Even though it was too dark to see, he wiped the blood from his left
eye. He knew that if he didn't get to level ground soon, he'd
He started dragging his body upward again.
Lou Anne drove carefully. There were four or five inches of
snow on the highway-nobody had come out to clear it yet-and it was
still snowing hard enough be called a blizzard. She knew the
winding road well, but the blowing snow made it hard to get her
bearings as to where, exactly, she was. She slowed some more,
but tried to keep the car above thirty, just to keep her forward
momentum going. There was a rise up ahead somewhere, and she
would need that momentum to get up it.
There it was.
She gunned the engine carefully. Thank goodness she had
studded tires on the car. She was only going twenty when she
hit the top of the slope, but she relaxed then, because she knew the
worst was over. She prepared to negotiate the next curve,
which she knew was there, even though her headlights made it appear
that the road just stopped.
Halfway into that curve, she blinked. There was something in
the road. Her foot flashed toward the brake pedal, and she
slid fifteen feet. She was right on top of whatever it
was. Her brain told her it was a body, but that was
impossible. There was no car, and nobody in his right mind
would be out walking on a night like this.
She didn't know whether to get out of the car or not. What if
it was a setup, to jack her car? The part of Connecticut she
lived in was safe. That was part of why she'd moved
there. But car jackings were on the news every day!
She fumbled under the seat, feeling for the thing Jessica had given
her-a telescoping rod, with a knob on the end. Lou Anne had
laughed when Jessica, her best friend, had patiently shown her how to
use it as a whipping tool of defense. But Jessica had
insisted she keep it in the car.
"Someday one of those truckers is going to try to get revenge for
getting a lapful of Hank's cooking!" Jessica had said. "Just
you watch. And while you probably deserve it, I don't want
you getting beaten up by one of them. You KEEP that in your
car, do you understand me?"
Now Lou Anne backed up, until her headlights shone on the lump in the
road. It was definitely a body. She clutched the
rod and got out, carefully. Her feet slipped on the
snow and she had to hold onto the door to stabilize herself.
"Are you OK?" she yelled.
The lump didn't move.
She noticed that snow was beginning to cover the man. He'd
been lying there for at least a few minutes.
"I'VE GOT A GUN!" she shouted into the darkness. "I KNOW HOW
TO USE IT!"
The lump didn't move.
She edged forward. She snapped the rod downward and heard the
swishing thunk as it extended.
"Hey!" she said, standing three feet from the man on the ground.
For the first time she saw the red-stained snowflakes around the man's
head. Her eyes took in the wet look of his sports coat, which
was torn in several places. He wasn't even wearing a parka.
"Hey mister," she tried again.
She edged closer and poked him with the end of the rod.
She looked around. Where had he come from? Had
someone thrown him out of a car as it drove along? She
couldn't tell if the tracks in the snow around her were fresh or not.
"Shit!" she barked. "You better not be dead!"
She went closer. She'd never seen a dead body and didn't want
to now. This was already giving her the willies.
She tried to remember what fist aid she knew and reached out to touch
the man's cheek.
It was cold, but not the cold of death. There was a hint of
warmth in the skin.
The lump groaned, and she fell on her butt trying to skid backwards.
"SHIT!" she yelled.
The lump rolled and landed on its back. The hands didn't come
up to brush the snow away, and Lou Anne suddenly knew this man was in
It galvanized her and she scrambled up, going to the man and getting to
her knees to lean over him.
"Hey," she said, her voice softer. "It's OK. I'll
help you, OK?"
The man gurgled, and one hand came feebly up to his face.
"Ow," he croaked.
She almost laughed. This guy was in terrible shape.
She could see him bleeding all over his face, now that it was in the
lights. He looked like he'd been beaten half to
death. And all he had to say was, "Ow."
"You have to get up," she said. "I can't lift you, and you'll
freeze to death if you stay on the ground. I have a
car. I'll take you to the hospital. You have to get
up. Do you hear me?"
She tugged at his sleeve.
Afterwards, when she was asked about it-and she was asked about it a
lot over the years-she would not be able to explain how she'd gotten
the man into the passenger seat of her car. Even as she put
the car in gear, she couldn't believe she had pulled it off.
The rest was crystal clear in her mind, though. His head
flopped back on the headrest. He groaned a few times as she
got the car moving. She'd left her door open, when she'd
gotten out to investigate, and it was cold inside. The heater
had already been on full blast, though, and the car began to warm
That was when he slumped over, his head hitting her right arm.
"Sit up!" she yelped, but he was beyond hearing her now.
"You'd better not die in my car, you son of a bitch!" she growled.
It was the longest four miles she'd ever driven, and she'd never been
happier in her life to see the lights of the Emergency Room...not even
when she'd been in labor with Ambrose.
She ran into the ER yelling her head off, and people went to remove him
from her car. Then came the questions. Who was
he? Who had done this to him? Where did she find
him? What was his name? What was HER name?
"I have to go to work!" she shouted, finally. "I don't KNOW
who he is. I found him in the middle of the road and I
brought him here. That's all I know!"
They tried to get her to stay, warning her that they were going to call
"Fine! Call them! I work at The Early
Girl. That's where I'll be!"
Then she'd run to her car. She'd left her door open again,
and they had left the other one open too, after they got him
out. It was freezing inside again. As she got in,
she saw the stains that, in the daylight, she knew would be
red. The crapping guy had bled all over her car.
The only reason she didn't hit twenty cars on her way to work was
because no one else was on the roads in town at this time of night.
Mitch Connel put his uniform cap on the visitor's chair and looked down
at the man in the bed. His face was bandaged in more places
than it was not. It was impossible to tell whether that face
matched the one on the driver's license that had come out of the wallet
in the pants the guy had been wearing. That driver's license
said the man was one Kristoff S. Farmingham, who lived in New York
City. The problem was that a rental agreement-wet and bloody,
but still legible-along with the key in his pocket, said his name was
Larry Phillips, and that he was renting one of Rudy Chastain's vacation
cottages. Mitch knew Rudy, of course. He knew
everybody in town. There were only five men on the force in
Pembroke, which served a population of some twenty-five
hundred. Rudy worked as a fishing guide during the summer,
and had seven or eight vacation cottages scattered around that he
Doctor Massouf fussed with tubes that were attached to the man.
"And you say Lulu brought him in?" Mitch asked. He hated
talking to people who couldn't speak English. Dr. Massouf was
Pakistani, and he was a good physician, but he couldn't speak English
worth a damn.
"Eet vas hur, yes I am telling you. Se said se fund heem on
zom hifay. You must be talking to hur I tink."
"When are you going to learn English, Doc?" groaned Mitch.
"Zer is nothing being wrong wit my spich, offitzer," said the
doctor. "You haff itten ferry much too many donuts, and zay
haff plooged oop your ears, I am tinking."
"So will he live?"
"Yes, I am tinking so," said the doctor. "He vas loosing much
blud ven he came here. He vas shooted, I am tinking."
"Shooted?" Mitch frowned.
"You know," said the doctor, making a gun with his thumb and finger.
"Bang bang." The doctor then pointed to a thick bandage on
the left side of the man's head. "Zee boolet just touch heem
little beet here."
"What makes you think he was shot?" asked Mitch.
The doctor just stared at him. "I am being from
Pah-kees-tahn. I am, when I was there, seeing many, many
"Just there?" asked Mitch, pointing at the head.
"Only there, yes," said Massouf. "And many glass cuttings
too, I am sure." He reached into a pocket of his lab coat and
pulled something out. He offered it to the
policeman. "I take thees froom hees skin." Again,
he pointed at the left side of the man's face. He waved his
hand over the rest of the body. "Many contusions and
lacerations and so on, but no more shootings."
Mitch picked up one of the unconscious man's hands, and looked at
it. There was mud under the fingernails, which was odd,
because the hands were soft. There was the suggestion they
had been callused in the past, but the thick skin was being replaced
with new skin that did no manual labor.
"How long will he be out?" asked the policeman.
"I am not being in a position dat I can tell you deese answer," said
the doctor, shaking his head. "He is being healing while
slipping until his eyes are ready to be opening, yes?"
A nurse stuck her head in the door.
"You got a phone call, Mitch," she said.
"Thanks, Jessica," said Mitch. "Hey, were you here when this
guy came in?"
"Yeah, but I wasn't in on the team that cleaned him up."
"Was it really Lulu who brought him in?"
Dr. Massouf snorted.
"That's what they said," said Jessica. "Can't mistake her for
"It just seems odd," said Mitch.
"Why?" asked Jessica. "She's about the oddest person I know."
"She's your best friend!" laughed Mitch.
"I know that," said the nurse. "That's why I know how
completely believable it could be that she'd happen upon some
almost-dead guy and haul him in here. Why don't you just go
ask her about it?"
"I will," said Mitch, a little defensively. "I just have lots
to do, that's all." He moved toward the door. "Doc
says he was shot. Is that right?"
"You're asking me?" Jessica's face was impassive.
"He's the doctor. If he says the guy was shot, then he was
shot. Why are you harassing me? I just came to tell
you to come to the phone!"
"I'm not harassing you," said Mitch. "I'm doing an
investigation and questioning witnesses."
"Well I didn't see nuthin' and I don't know nuthin', so you can just go
interview somebody else. And quit looking at my boobs, too!"
Doctor Massouf snorted again.
"I'm not looking at your boobs," said Mitch, sounding injured.
"You ALWAYS look at my boobs, Mitch. One of these days I'm
gonna tell Carla about it, too!" she said, referring to Mitch's
"OK, OK," said Mitch, holding his hands up. "You don't have
to get all upset. I'm just a trained observer, that's
all. I can't help it if I observe. It's instinct."
"I know what your instincts are, you heartbreaker," said the young
woman. "Are you going to answer the phone, or should I just
tell them you're too busy investigating my boobs?"
While Officer Connel was being notified about the almost-dead man who
had been in some kind of trouble, and had responded to the little
ninety bed hospital that served Pembroke, Lou Anne-known to most of the
town as Lulu, a name she wasn't enthralled with, but was stuck with
anyway-raised another uproar when she got to work.
"What in the nine hells happened to you?" asked Hank, when she stomped
in the front door of the diner.
"I almost ran over somebody," she moaned. "He was lying in
the road, half dead. I just dropped him off at the hospital."
"It looks like you just gutted a deer," said Hank.
Lou Anne looked down at her coat, which was smeared red with
blood. There were twigs, and mud and water mixed in with
it. It looked like she'd been rolling around on the ground.
"You can't come to work looking like that," objected Hank.
There were three customers in The Early Girl and all of them were
looking at Lou Anne with interest.
"Are you telling me you want me to take the night off?" asked Lou Anne,
a dangerous tone in her voice. "I couldn't just leave him
there to die."
She took her coat off. Her uniform, under the coat was
fine. Her knees were white from the cold, and wet from the
snow, but a towel would fix that.
"See? I'm OK. It's just the coat that got dirty."
She looked dismally at the coat, holding it up to examine it.
She was pretty sure it was ruined. It was a good one too,
with down filling.
"Damn!" she moaned.
"Look on the bright side," said Hank, grinning. "At least you finally
found yourself a man."
About an hour later, Mitch walked into the diner. He stopped
to brush off the snow that had almost covered him on the way from the
car to the building.
"Coming down hard," he said.
"I didn't do anything wrong," said Lou Anne, automatically.
"I never said you did," said Mitch. "You got any coffee
that's hot and won't spill?"
"Ha…ha," said Lou Anne. "I just found him lying in
the middle of the road, over on Hopkins Lane. That's all I
"Who said I was here to talk about him?" asked Mitch. "Maybe
I'm just hungry."
"You want something to eat?" yelled Hank.
"No, I've got too much to do. Lou Anne has managed to find
herself a real puzzle."
"He's not mine!" said Lou Anne. "What was I supposed to do,
just leave him there?"
"No, of course not," said Mitch. "You did the right
thing. You probably saved his life. I just need to
ask you some questions, that's all."
"She's on the clock," grumped Hank.
Mitch looked around. There was one customer, a trucker, and
he was dozing in a booth. Mitch didn't blame him.
It wasn't a fit night out for man nor dog.
"Official business," he said, trying to make it sound ominous.
"At least order something," complained Hank.
"OK, French fries with creamed gravy," said Mitch. "You want
something, too, Lulu?"
"I don't eat lunch until four," said Lou Anne.
"Your call," said Mitch. "This won't take long."
He knew she wouldn't have much information, but he needed to try to
nail down exactly where she had found the man. The glass
indicated there had been a car crash of some kind. The
alleged bullet wound complicated things, but if he could find the car,
he could probably find more evidence, and it might tell him enough to
know what he was dealing with. Things like this just didn't
happen in Pembroke. It was a nice, quiet little town, and he
liked it that way.
She wasn't a lot of help. She knew she'd gone up the hill,
and she knew it was just past a bend in the road. The problem
was that there were a dozen bends in that road, where it paralleled the
river. He asked her about tracks, even though, at the rate
the snow had been falling, they wouldn't be there anymore. He
was quite sure he wouldn't be able to find the car by tracks.
The best she could do was to say she was pretty sure that it had been
at the first curve after topping the hill.
It was two in the morning, and there was a blizzard out
there. There wasn't much he could do anyway, so he sat and
chatted when he ran out of questions. Hank brought the French
fries, and sat down with them.
"I saw your dark-skinned friend," said Mitch, around a mouthful of
fries. "She's on the warpath again."
"What about this time?" asked Lou Anne.
"She says I keep looking at her chest," said Mitch.
"Well, you do," said Lou Anne. "You look at mine all the
Mitch's eyes went straight to her breasts. It was the first
time he'd looked at them since he got there.
"See!" said Lou Anne.
"You just called my attention to them," said Mitch. "I'm a
man, after all." He grinned. "And both of you have
a nice set."
"You're a pig," snorted Lou Anne. "I'm going to tell Carla."
"That's what Jess said too," said Mitch, unconcerned. He'd
been in an on again/off again romance with Carla for five
years. She wanted to get married and have a family, but Mitch
didn't think he could support a family on his salary, and it was his
firm belief that his wife, if he ever had one, would not work.
"We should," groused Lou Anne. "You flirt with us all the
"You flirt back," pointed out the policeman.
"Only sometimes," said Lou Anne, as if that settled things.
"When ARE you going to make some man happy?" asked Mitch.
"When I find a man who deserves to be happy," she snapped. "I
have to find somebody for Jess first."
"Good luck," said Mitch. "She's the only black woman in fifty
miles, more than likely."
"She's a sweet, sensitive woman!" insisted Lou Anne. "She
can't help it if she's black. It shouldn't matter anyway!"
"Just like your haircut shouldn't matter," said Mitch, looking at the
bare side of her scalp that was exposed.
"Don't go there," said Hank. "You'll get her all riled up."
"Are we done here?" asked Lou Anne, her voice tight. "I have
salt shakers to fill."
"Don't go away mad," said Mitch, grinning. "I like your hair
The change that came over Lou Anne was startling. She smiled,
a lazy, friendly kind of smile-the kind of smile that made a man's
groin tighten up. This would have been the point in time that
small wagers would have been made, had there been any regulars there.
"Aren't you just the sweetest man," she cooed. "I'll be sure
to tell Carla you like my hair." She got up. "You
want some coffee with that?"
"NO MA'AM!" said Mitch. "I need to get going. That
fella was in a car before you found him, and I need to find
it." He turned to Hank. "Thanks for the
fries. Put them on my tab?"
"Two-forty-seven," said Hank dryly. "Tax included."
Mitch got out his wallet and fished out three ones.
"Keep the change," he said. "As a tip for Lulu."
"I'll be sure to tell Carla what a big tipper you are, too," said Lou
Anne sweetly. "Y'all come back soon, now, you hear?"
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