O is for Outlaw Page 85


"Mickey's a drinker."

"I'm puzzled why he'd give you an extension when he's having financial problems of his own."

Tim seemed surprised. "Mickey has money problems? That's news to me. Last time I saw him, he didn't act like a guy with worries. You think the shooting had something to do with business?"

"I'm really not sure. I was curious why he was spending so much time up here."

Tim crossed his arms, leaning against the wall. "Don't quote me on this, especially not to Scottie, but if you want my opinion Mickey was hot to get in Thea's pants."

"What about her? Was she interested in him?"

"Let's put it this way: Not if she's smart. Scottie's not the kind of guy you mess with." I saw him lift his eyes to someone in the passage behind me. "You looking for me?"

"Charlie needs your approval on an invoice. The guy wants a check before he heads back to L.A."

"Be right there."

I glanced back. One of the other waitresses had already turned on her heel and disappeared.

Tim patted my arm. "I better take care of this. Whatever you want, it's on the house."

"Thanks."

I followed two steps behind Tim, entering the bar with another quick visual search for Duffy. Still no sign of him. Shack, at Scottie's table, caught sight of me and waved. I guessed there wasn't going to be a way to get. out of this. Shack must have enjoyed the opportunity to burn me. Scottie turned to see who his dad was waving at, and then he motioned me over. I felt like a mule, stubbornly resisting even while I was being propelled in that direction.

Shack was sitting on the far side of the table, and he rose to his feet, saying, "Well, would you look who's here? We were just talking about you."

"I don't doubt that a bit."

"Sit down, sit down. Grab a seat."


The other fellow at the table rose and sank in his seat respectfully, the physical equivalent of a gent tipping his hat to a lady.

I said, "I really can't stay long."

"Sure you can," Shack said. He reached over and grabbed a chair from a nearby table, pulling it up next to him. I sat down, resigned. Shack's gaze rested on his son, his satisfaction and pride giving a lift to his normally heavy features. He was wearing a plaid wool shirt, unbuttoned to accommodate his thick neck. His companion appeared to be in his fifties, gray hair cut close, weathered complexion suggesting years of sun exposure. Like Shack, he was heavyset, bulky through the shoulders, his belly protruding as if he were six months pregnant.

Shack hooked a thumb at him and said, "This is Del. Kinsey Millhone."

"Hello."

Del nodded and then half rose again and shook my hand across the table. "Del Amburgey. Nice to meet you," he said.

We went through that "how're-you-tonight" shit while I squirmed inwardly, trying to think of something bland to say. "Are you here for a visit, or are you local?"

"I live up in Lompoc, so it's a little bit of both. I come down here now and then to see what you big-city folks are up to."

"Not much."

Shack said, "Well, that's not entirely true. This little gal was a cop back when I was in uniform. Now she's a P.I. . . ."

"What's a P.I.?" Del asked.

"A private investigator," Shack said.

I thought I was going deaf. He talked on. I watched his mouth move, but the sound was gone. I didn't look at Scott, but I was acutely aware that he was taking in the information with something close to alarm. His expression didn't seem to change, but his face shut down. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see his hands resting on the table, still relaxed, his fingers loose on the beer bottle, which he tilted to his lips. Aside from the casualness of the gesture, his body was completely still. I tuned in to Shack's commentary, wondering if there were any way to contain the damage he was doing.

just about the time Magruder left the department. What was that, '71?"

"The spring of '74," I said. He knew exactly when it was. We locked eyes briefly, and I could tell blowing my cover allowed him to enjoy a moment of revenge. Whatever I was up to, he would leave me fully exposed. Better take control, I thought, get a jump on the little shit. "That was when Mickey and I split up. I lost touch with him after that."

"Until recently," Shack amended.

I looked at Shack without comment.

He went blithely on. "I guess those two LAPD detectives drove up here and talked to you. They came around my place yesterday. They seemed to think you might've had a hand in it, but I told 'em I didn't see how. You showed up at my door Monday. I didn't think you'd call attention to yourself if you'd shot him the week before. You're not that dumb."

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