I got to my office and found Debbie pecking away at her keyboard. I took my coat off, hung it up, pushed my hat back and leaned over the desk. This was partly to look at her cleavage, but most because I was tired and needed propping up quite badly.
“You called Crammer?” I asked.
“From the Starbucks on the corner.” She nodded.
“Good girl.” I said taking my hat off. “We need to go one a shopping trip and then we’re going to close the office for a while.”
“Why?” She asked.
“I’m going with the professor to Peru, or wherever. He’ll send an e-mail with the details.” I opened the door to my office and looked back at her. “I think I need to get out of town for a while.”
“That check would have helped then.” She said.
“No.” I shook my head. “That check would have put us back in the middle of the shit.”
“Tiding up the trail?” She asked.
“Muddying the waters more like.” I said and went into my office.
I think I must have sat down on the couch to take a nap, but I don’t remember it. What I remember is Debbie shaking me awake and telling me there was a call on the phone for me. I stumbled to the phone and picked up the receiver, still groggy eyed.
“Hi babe, it’s me.” Amy Heart’s voice said. “I took care of everything for you.”
“Took care?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She said. “No one’s going to know you were ever near this, you’re completely out of it.”
“Oh.” I said. “Thanks?”
“Yeah.” She said. “No problem. Rabbit’s taking the blame, he’s going down.”
“Really?” I asked, knowing that ignorance was my only defense.
“Yeah.” She said. “Still, not our problem now right?”
“I guess not.” I said.
“Well, I’ve got to go, I just wanted to say hi and that you’re clear. I’ve got to leave town again for a while.”
“Okay.” I said. “I’m going away for a while too actually.
“Good.” She said. “A vacation will be nice for you. See you later.”
“Yeah.” I said, and ended like I’ve ended almost every phone conversation in my life. “Bye-bye.”
I hung the phone up and sat down at y desk. I turned on the monitor and decided to check out what was going on in the real world. Sadly, the first news site I opened up was a local paper, which means where was no escaping the front page story. Someone had walked into the Orchid Café about ten minutes after I walked out, put a gun to his left temple and fired a single shot through his brain.
I sat and looked at the screen, wondering why Alice had done that to me. Why betray me like that. I picked up my phone and called her. It rang and rang and rang some more. Finally an electric voice told me I was being forwarded to an automated voice mail system. No doubt she’d just dropped the phone now that she didn’t need this identity anymore. I couldn’t quite understand what the game was supposed to be, why bring me in like this if they were just going to shoot him?
“The feds just got Rabbit.” Debbie said coming into my office.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She said. “Top story on Channel 7, they dragged him out of his warehouse this afternoon with a couple of bodies and a head still in there.”
“Huh.” I said. “When?”
“About noon.” She said.
“So about half an hour after they shot him?” I asked.
“Peter got shot.” I said turning the monitor around. “Clearly Alice really was Mary Ann and she told them where to go to get him. Evidently they waited to see who paid for lunch and decided to shoot the scrounger.”
“How would they all be waiting if they were about to be busted?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” I said. “Probably Alice and Miss Heart were looking for us. Fucking bitch got him killed out of spite. If they’d put the bodies in there, the cops didn’t need Peter. Why?”
“Spite I guess.” She said.
“Fucking bitch.” I said getting up. “You want a drink? It must be closing time by now.”
“Yeah.” She said nodding, so we went out for a drink as a boss and a co-worker.
As a post-script I should add that I really need to learn not to insult people before I know everything about them. As I was getting ready for bed my cell phone rang, which is odd because Debbie would never call me like that. I got up and saw Alice’s number.
“Hello?” I asked, deciding to be civil if she was going to call.
“Hi.” She said, sounding sad and tired. “I’m sorry about Peter.”
“Are you now?” I asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Don’t know why? You’re the only person who knew where he was.”
“Can I?” She started and stopped.
“Can you what?”
“Can I explain?”
“You can try.” I said.
“Can I do it face to face with you?” She asked. “I think that’ll make it easier.”
“Okay.” I said. “Where would you like to meet?”
“I’m outside your place now.” She said, and it sounded like she was having trouble talking.
“Would you like to come in?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She said
“Come to my front door then.” I said and hung up.
It was raining and her coat was swept about her from the rain, which showed of her legs as she walked. She had a large red rain hat that she was holding to keep the wind from taking off with it. When she got to my door and took it off, I had a pretty fair idea of what had happened.
The left side of her face was pretty badly bruised, and her left eye was badly swollen. She’d been slapped around on her right two, but the person who was hitting here had been a righty with a thing for punches.
“How badly?” I asked.
“Just my face.” She said, and looked like it hurt to talk. “Nothing broken, my jaws not dislocated or anything. I’ll be fine in a week.”
“You want to sit down?” I asked, taking the hat and helping her with the coat.
“Thanks.” She said and walked to my living room couch.
“Would you like something to drink?” I asked. “I think I have some whisky.”
“We could go out for a drink.” She said, turning to keep the left side of her face out of view.
“I want to hear what you have to say first.” I said poking through the cupboards and not finding anything. I went to the fridge and grabbed a couple cans of pop, opened them and put the liquid into glasses.
“Thanks.” she said taking hers as I handed it over. She took a sip and then looked at it. “You make them kind of weak huh?”
“I’m all out of booze.” I said sitting down on the couch across from her..
“As you can see, they caught me. Flopsy was listening in on the line when you called. Cat and Heart decided to finish it. Actually, now I think about it, it was Heart who announced he was more trouble than he was worth when they left.” She said pushing her hair into her face to cover the bruises. “Could you take me out if I had my hair down? No one would think you beat me up then.”
“Can I test something?” I asked setting my glass down.
“What?” She asked.
“It’s just…” I leaned over and put my hand on her knee. “It’s just I was promised a dance when you took Rabbit in.”
“I don’t think I could quite manage.” She said shifting closer to me. “I could manage when I’m feeling a little better.”
“Yeah?” I said shifting closer and placing my arm around her and pressing my hand into her side.
The yelp of pain was involuntary, as far as I could judge. She reached down and grabbed my hand, which had let go by then and she tried to smile at me again. She must have seen something in my eyes, because she stood up and started to unbutton her shirt.
“I don’t resent it,” She said, “But we’ll have it out now.”
She pulled the shirt off and showed me the near black and purple bruises that had huddled around her shoulders, the one on her neck that I should have seen, and the bunch at both her kidneys. The face she might have been able to do on her own, the others would have required help. She let me look and then slipped her shirt back on, which was an injustice and a relief all at once.
“I didn’t mean.” I started.
“You knew right where the most tender spot was.” She said smiling at me. “But I understand.”
“What happened to get you free?”
“I suspect it was you.” She said sitting back down, as near as she’d been a moment before. “Cramer and his boys showed up while they were still at it. He said there was a tip that there was a dead body and a head there.”
“Did they still have the head?” I asked.
“Yeah, they hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet.” She nodded. “Body was behind the warehouse in a couple of garbage bags.”
“And has Rabbit offered any kind of deal?” I asked.
“He’s singing like… what sings a lot?
“Birds?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She nodded. “That’ll do.”
“So you brought the case to a successful conclusion?” I asked.
“More or less.” She picked up her drink again and took a sip. “If you count seven dead people a success.”
“Yeah, well, we’re alive aren’t we?”
“I guess.” She said.
“So no dance huh?”
“Not with this pain.” She said. “Unless you got me drunk, and then I’d try to take advantage of you.”
“Oh well, let me get my coat then.” I said standing.
I did get to see the dance, but I didn’t get anything else. While my unviolateable rule about psychos can get bent on occasion, the absolute law about drunk chicks never has. We went back to my place, and I spent the night making sure she didn’t drive or take my chastity. It’s sad really, because by the time she was tipsy enough to do the dance for me, she would have been putty in my hands. I’d like to think she’d have been putty anyway, but I couldn’t test while she had been drinking.
In the morning, she gave me a real and genuine kiss for not taking advantage of her. She gave me another for making breakfast for her, and by the time she had decided it was time for her to go, she’d managed quite a lot of kissing but was too sore for anything else.
“I do have to go.” She said kissing me as she put on her suit jacket and grabbed her coat. “I’ll see you?”
“I’m going to Peru on Friday.” I said.
“Call me when you get back then, but then I’ll have my strength back.”
“So should I.” I said grinning my most delicious grin.
“I hope so.” She said and opened the door.
A bright stream of white light bathed her as she walked out of the door, becoming a washed out image of a beautiful woman. She looked like an old photograph, where you can only make out the slight shapes but none of the details. She pulled the door closed behind her, and the light faded, leaving only the memory of her image on my retina. Her face had been photographed forever in my mind though, even if it was a washed out photo taken the morning after the worst day in her life, it was still beautiful.
She had walked out though, and even with a week had said we’d speak after I returned. I hadn’t told her that the trip was going to be nearly four months, but I didn’t think it would really matter. She wasn’t expecting me to call anyway.
I picked up my cell phone and called the office, letting Debbie know I was going to be a few minutes late into the office. She said she had expected that and would be there when I got in, she also said that she’d booked a ticket and if I wanted we could go get some of the supplies that the professor had put on the list. I told her that would be fine and then sat down at my table and finished my orange juice. I tried not to think of poor Peter, sitting at the café while Amy walked in and put that silenced Ruger against the side of his head. He’d probably not even connected her with a threat, she would have come that smoothly and quickly. He probably thought he was going to live out to a ripe old age.
Still, it was a filthy job and it was done now. I finished my orange juice and went to work.