“Then what ”
“There are things. There are things.” She nodded to herself, stabbed her cigarette downward into the air, kept pacing.
I leaned forward in my chair a bit, my head following her like I was at Wimbledon. I said, “What things, Ms. Angeline?”
“You know, Mr. Kenzie,” she said, as if she hadn’t heard me, “all of a sudden, everyone looking for me, hiring people like yourself, hiring worse people probably, trying to find Jenna, to talk to Jenna, to get what Jenna got. All of a sudden, everyone need Jenna.” She crossed the floor quickly to me, her cigarette poised over me like a butcher knife, her jaw clenched. She said, “Nobody getting what I got, Mr. Kenzie. You hear me? No one. ‘Cept who I decide to give it to. I make the decision. I get what I want. I do a little using myself. Send someone to the store for me, maybe. See people work for me for a change. See them fade into furniture when I don’t have no use for them anymore.” She stabbed the glowing cigarette in toward my eye. “I decide. Jenna Angeline.” She leaned back a bit, took a drag on the cigarette. “And what I got ain’t for sale.”
“Then what’s it for?”
“Justice,” she said through a stream of smoke. “And lots of it. People going to be in pain, Mr. Kenzie.”
I looked at her hand, shaking so badly the cigarette quivered up and down like a recently abandoned diving board. I heard the anguish in her voice a torn, slightly hollow sound and saw its ravages on her face. She was a wreck of a person, Jenna Angeline. A heart beating fast in a shell of a body. She was scared and tired and angry and howling at the world, but unlike most people in the same situation, she was dangerous because she had something that, at least as far as she was concerned, would give her something back in this world. But the world usually doesn’t work that way, and people like Jenna are time bombs; they might take a few people down with them, but they’ll go up in the inferno too.
I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Jenna, but I was even more certain that I wasn’t going to get hit with any shrapnel if she self-destructed. I said, “Jenna, here’s my problem: we call this sort of case a ‘find-and-a-phone-call’ because that’s pretty much all I’m paid to do find you and call the client and then go on my merry way. Once I make the phone call, I’m out of it. The client usually brings in the law or deals with it personally or whatever. But I don’t stick around to find out. I’m ”
“A dog,” she said. “You run around with your nose on the ground, sniffing through bushes and piles of warm shit until you find the fox. Then you step back and let the hunters shoot it dead.” She stabbed out her cigarette.
It wasn’t the analogy I would have chosen, but it wasn’t entirely false no matter what I wanted to think. Jenna sat back down and looked at me and I held her dark eyes. They had the odd mixture of terror and resilient bravery of a cat backed into a corner; the look of someone who isn’t sure she’s up to the task, but has decided there’s no other way out but straight ahead. It’s the look of the crumbling soul trying to pull it all together for one last worthwhile breath. It’s not a look I’ve ever seen in the eyes of people like Sterling Mulkern or Jim Vurnan or Brian Paulson. I never saw it on the Hero’s face or a president’s or a captain of industry’s. But I’ve seen it in the faces of most everyone else.
“Jenna, you tell me what you think I should do.”
“Who hired you?”
I shook my head.
“Well, it was either Senator Mulkern or Socia, and Socia’d just have you shoot me where I sit, so it got to be Senator Mulkern.”
Socia? “Is Socia any relation to Roland?” I asked.
I could have broadsided her with a wrecking ball and had less impact. She closed her eyes for a moment and rocked in place. “What you know about Roland?”
“I know he’s bad news.”
“You stay away from Roland,” she said. “You hear? Away from him.”
“That’s what people keep telling me.”
“Well,” she said, “you listen.”
“Who’s Roland?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“OK. Who’s Socia?”
Another head shake.
“I can’t help you, Jenna, if ”
“Ain’t asking for your help,” she said.
“Fine,” I said. I stood up and walked over to the phone. I reconnected it, began to dial.
She said, “What’re you doing?”
I said, “Calling my client. You can talk to him. My job’s done.”
She said, “Wait.”
I shook my head. “Sterling Mulkern, please.”
An electronic voice was telling me the time when Jenna pulled the phone cord out of the wall again. I turned and looked at her.
She said, “You got to trust me.”
“No, I don’t. I can leave you here and walk down to the nearest phone booth and make my call there.”
“But what if ?”
“What if what?” I said. “Lady, I got better things to do than fuck around with you. You got a card to play? Play it.”
She said, “What sort of documents you supposed to be looking for?”
No point in lying. I said, “They pertain to an upcoming bill.”
“Oh, they do?” she said. “Well, Mr. Kenzie, someone been lying to you. What I got don’t have nothing to do with bills and politics or the State House.”
Everything has to do with politics in this town, but I let it go. “What do they pertain No, fuck it. What do you got, Ms. Angeline?”
“I got some things in a safety-deposit box in Boston. Now, you want to find out what those things are, you come with me tomorrow when the banks open, and we’ll see what you’re made of.”
“Why should I?” I said. “Why shouldn’t I call my client right now?”
She said, “I think I know people pretty well, Mr. Kenzie. Ain’t much of a talent for a poor black woman to have, but it’s the only one I got. And you, well, maybe you don’t mind being someone’s dog every now and again, but you sure ain’t nobody’s bag boy.”
Angie said, “Are you out of your fucking mind?” It came out in a harsh whisper. We were sitting in the alcove, looking out at the street. Jenna and Simone were in the kitchen, probably having a similar conversation.
I said, “You don’t like it?”