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continued to cut
his meat, staring down at his plate. "I guess that's about six miles going out
and coming back."
"Six miles!" Sam forced a heartiness into his voice that sounded patronizing,
even to him, but Joanne didn't seem to pick up on it. "Honey, you're going to
have calves like Babe Zaharias!"
"Who?" She looked mischievous. "Is that one of the waitresses at the hotel?
The one who's so crazy about you?"
Danny choked on a laugh and turned away from the table, coughing into his
"No. That's not a waitress at the hotel. It'soh, forget it. I keep forgetting
that we're from different generations."
"You've got it wrong," Danny cut in. "The waitress at the Chief has little
skinny legs, and it's Sam who's crazy about her, but she won't give him the
time of day. She likes younger men."
Sam had to work to keep the conversation light, aware that it veered
dangerously close to sensitive areas, and he felt his gut begin to tighten
again. Joanne was talking to him, and Danny was talking to him, but neither of
them was speaking to the other. As long as he kept them all together with
inane humor, they might just make it through the meal without a slipping back
into words that could not be easily forgiven.
He took a deep breath. "So you ran your little fanny off and then what?"
"Then what? Not much, Sammie. There's not much for me to do around here. I
washed dishes and a load of laundry. Then I folded the laundry, and then I
read another book, and then I babysat for Sonia while she took the older kids
in to get vaccinated, and then I came home and cooked supper."
"Sounds like a full day to me," Sam said weakly, willing Danny to open his
stubborn mouth and join the party. "I meanall Danny and I did was sleep all
Joanne stood up, and began scraping her plate. Her movements were brisk, tight
little sweeps of her knife across the flowered crockery.
God. How many women had he seen angry like this?
He gave it up, and joined Danny. The two of them ate silently, working through
the pile of food on their plates, and he tried to pretend he didn't notice
that Joanne was pissed with both of them. Danny looked at his watch and pushed
his chair back. The meal was over, thank God, and Sam yearned for the freedom
that beckoned beyond the screen door. The shrilling cadence of the phone broke
whatever awkwardness remained. Danny picked it up on the third ring, and
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bellowed, "Halloowe're on our way in, Fletch. Get off our backs, would you"
He held the phone away from his ear, shook it, said "Hello" again, and then
hung it back on the hook.
"Who was that?" Joanne asked.
"Nobody. Wrong number probably. Or our lousy phone system."
Danny hugged Joanne, kissed her averted cheek, and they were out of it, into
the darkened yard with its lone circle of yellow light from the porch bulb.
Sam backed his truck out without speaking, hoping that Danny wouldn't speak
either. He fumbled in his shirtpocket for a cigarette, remembered that he had
none, and reached for the sun-baked pack on the dash. There was one bent white
cylinder left, and he lit it without much hope; it tasted worse than he'd
expected. He concentrated on the road, and Danny stared ahead too without
Fletcher was pointing at the clock and grinning when they walked in.
"Fifteen minutes late, kids."
"Don't nag, Fletchie," Sam laughed.
"Wanda Moses is being a real bad girl, Sam. She threw her supper back at
Nadine, and she's screaming for ciggies."
Sam bent over the cigarette machine and fed quarters into it. He pulled the
knob below the Marlboro slot and waited.
"Damn it, Fletch. Is this thing fucked up again?"
"Romance it a little."
Sam whacked the machine with the flat of his hand and three packs of Marlboros
let go. He slid one into his
shirtpocket, one into his back pantspocket and handed the third to Fletch.
"Here, take this back to Wanda, and mind your face. She scratches. Mind your
cojones tooshe kicks."
"She ain't gonna be that grateful."
Sam swung the little deputy by the armpits and put him on the counter and
chucked him under the chin. He was the only guy in the department who could do
that and leave Fletch laughing.
"You better quit giving Wanda presents," Danny warned. "I think she's single."
"Ain't they all, pard? Ain't they all?"
Duane let the receiver slip softly back into its cradle, neither frustrated
nor particularly annoyed that his call had failed, again, to connect. The few
failures in his life were failures of patience, and he had learned from them. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]