O is for Outlaw Page 86


"That was a ruse and you fell for it," I said. I was smiling, but my tone of voice was snide.

"What brings you out to Colgate?"

"Mickey lent Tim ten grand. A no-interest loan with a five-year balloon. I was curious if the money was repaid when it came due." Scottie began to tap one foot, which caused his knee to jump. He crossed his legs, trying to cover his agitation.

"When was that?" Shack asked, still enough of a cop to pursue the obvious.

"January fifteenth. just about the time Mickey started coming in," I said. "You didn't know about the loan?"

"You ready for a drink? I'm heading to the bar," Scottie said. He was on his feet, his eyes pinned on me.

"Nothing for me, thanks."

"What about you, Dad? Del?"

"I'll go another round. My turn to buy," he said He leaned forward, hauling his wallet from his right rear pocket.

Scottie waved him off. "I'll take care of it. What's your pleasure? Another of the same?"

"That'd be great."

"Make that two," Shack said.

Once Scottie left, Shack changed the subject, engaging me in chitchat so banal I thought I'd scream. I endured about three minutes of his asinine conversation and then took advantage of Scott's absence to slide out of my seat.

"You leaving us?" Shack said.

"I have to meet someone. It's been nice seeing you." "Don't rush off," he said.

I made no reply. Del and I exchanged nods. I shouldered my bag and turned, scanning the crowd as I made my escape. Still no sign of Duffy, which was just as well. I didn't want Tim or Scottie to see me talking to him.

TWENTY-ONE.

The outside air was chilly. It was not even ten o'clock, and the main street of Colgate was streaming with traffic, car stereos thumping. The occupants seemed to number four and five to a car, windows rolled down, everyone looking for action of some undisclosed kind. I could hear a chorus of honks, and coming up on my right I saw a long pink stretch limo bearing a bride and groom. They were standing on the backseat, their upper torsos extending through the sliding moon-roof window. With one hand, the bride clung to her veil, which whipped out behind her like a trail of smoke. With her other hand, she held her bouquet aloft, her arm straight up in a posture that mimicked the Statue of Liberty. The groom appeared to be smaller, maybe eighteen years old, in a lavender tuxedo with a white ruffled shirt, purple bow tie, and cummerbund. His hair was cut close, his ears redtipped with cold. Numerous cars tagged along behind the limo, all honking, most decorated with paper flowers, streamers, and clattering tin cans. Their destination seemed to be the Mexican restaurant down the block from the Tonk. Other drivers and pedestrians were honking and hooting happily in response to this moving pageant.

I found my car and got in, pulling into the line of traffic behind the last of the procession. Of necessity I drove slowly, forced to a crawl as car after car turned left into the restaurant parking lot, waiting for breaks in the traffic. Glancing over to my right, I spotted Carlin Duffy walking with his head down, his hands in his jacket pockets. I'd only seen the man twice, but his height and his yellow hair were unmistakable. Had he been at the Tonk and I'd missed seeing him? He appeared to be heading toward the nursery, a distance of perhaps a mile and a half. Like a gift, the man turned, extending his right hand, his thumb uppermost.

I pulled over, leaning across the seat to unlock the passenger door. He already seemed puzzled that anyone, let alone a woman, would give him a ride at that hour. I said, "I can take you as far as the 101 at Peterson. Will that do?"

"That'd be good."

Spurs jingling, he slid into the passenger seat and slammed the door. He looked back over his shoulder with a snort of derision. "You see them beaners? What a bunch of Pacos. Groom looks like he's thirteen. Probably knocked her up. He shoulda kept his pecker in his pocket."

"Nice talk," I said.

He looked at me with interest. At close range, his features seemed too pinched for good looks: narrowset light eyes and a long thin nose. He had one goofy incisor that seemed to stick straight out. The rest of his teeth were a snaggle of overlapping edges, some rimmed with gold. The yellow in his hair was the result of peroxide, the roots already turning dark. He smelled funky, like wood smoke and dirty gym socks. He said, "I seen you before."

"Probably at the Honky-Tonk. I was just there."

"Me too. Took a bunch of money off some niggers playin' pool. What's your name?"

"I'm Kinsey. And you're Carlin Duffy. I've been looking for you."

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