O is for Outlaw Page 14


"Nor in mine, now you mention it."

The two of us were silent for a block, and then Henry spoke up. "Suppose he's in trouble?"

"Serves him right if he is."

"You wouldn't help?"

:'What for?"

'Well, it wouldn't hurt to check."

"I'm not going to do that."

"Why not? All it'd take is a couple of calls. What's it going to cost?"

"How do you know what it'd cost? You don't even know the man."

"I'm just saying, you're not busy, at least, as far as I've heard. ."

"Did I ask for advice?"


"I thought you did," he said. "I'm nearly certain you were fishing for encouragement."

"I was not."

I see."

"Well, I wasn't. I have absolutely no interest in the man."

"Sorry. My mistake."

"You're the only person in my life who gets away with this shit."

When I got back to my desk, the first thing my eye fell on was my address book lying open to the M's. I flipped the book shut and shoved it in a drawer, which I closed with a bang.

FOUR.

I sat down in my swivel chair and gave the carton a shove with my foot. I was tempted to chuck the damn thing, salvage the personal papers and dump the rest in the trash. However, having paid the twenty bucks, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It wasn't so much that I was cheap, though that was certainly a factor. The truth is, I was curious. I reasoned that just because I looked through the box didn't make me responsible for anything else. It certainly wouldn't obligate me to try to locate my ex. Sorting through the items would in no way compel me to take action on his behalf. If Mickey'd fallen on hard times, if he was in a jam of some kind, then so be it. C'est la vie and so what? It had nothing to do with me.

I pulled the wastebasket closer to the box, pushed the flaps back, and peered in. In the time I'd been gone, the elves and fairies still hadn't managed to tidy up the mess. I started tossing out loose toiletries: a flattened tube of toothpaste and a shampoo bottle with a thin layer of sludge pooled along its length. Something had leaked out and oozed down through the box, welding articles together like an insidious glue. I threw out a hodgepodge of over-the-counter medications, an ancient diaphragm, a safety razor, and a toothbrush with bristles splayed out in all directions. It looked like I'd used it to clean the bathroom grout.

From under the toiletries, I excavated a bundle of junk mail. When I picked up the stack, the rubber band disintegrated, and I plunked the bulk of it in the wastebasket. A few stray envelopes surfaced, and I pulled those from among the discarded magazines and dog-eared catalogs, bullshit from the look of them: a bank statement for an account I'd closed many years before, a department store circular, and a notice from Publisher's Clearing House telling me I'd been shortlisted for a million bucks. The third envelope I picked up was a credit card bill that I sincerely hoped I paid. What a disgrace that would be, a blot on my credit rating. Maybe that's why American Express wasn't sending me any preapproved cards these days. And here I'd been feeling so superior. Mickey's payments might be delinquent, but not mine, she said.

I turned the bill over to open it. Stuck to the back was another envelope, this one a letter that must have arrived in the same post. I pulled the second envelope free, tearing the paper in the process. The envelope itself bore no return address, and I didn't recognize the writing. The script was tight and angular, letters slanting heavily to the left, as if on the verge of collapsing. The postmark read SANTA TERESA, APRIL, 197. I'd left Mickey the day before, April Fool's Day, as it turned out. I removed the single sheet of lined paper, which was covered with the same inky cursive, as flattened as bent grass.

Kinsey, Mickey made me promise not to do this, but I think you should know. He was with me that night, sure, he pushed the guy, but it was no big deal. I know because I saw it and so did a lot of other people who are on his side. Benny was fine when he took off. Him and Mickey couldn't have connect after because we went back to my place and he was their till midnight. I told him I'd testify, but he says no because of Eric and his situation. He's completly innocent and desperetly needs your help. What difference does it make where he was as long as he didn't do it? If you love him, you should take his part insted of being such a bitch. Being a cop is his whole life, please don't take that away from him. Otherwise I hope you find a way to live with yourself because your runing everything for him.

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