“No,” she said, “I don’t like it.”
“Twelve hours more or less won’t make much difference.”
“Bullshit. Patrick, this is retarded. We were hired to find her and call Mulkern. OK. We found her. Now, we should be making the call and going home.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” she hissed. “How nice. Except you’re not the only component in this equation. This is a partnership.”
“I know it’s ”
“Do you? I have a license too. Remember? You may have started the agency, but I’ve put my time in now too. I get shot at and beat up and sit on forty-eight-hour stakeouts too. I’m the one who had to sweat out the DA’s decision whether to indict on Bobby Royce. I have a say, here. Fifty percent of one.”
“And you say?”
“I say this is bullshit. I say we do what we were hired to do and go home.”
“And I say...” I checked myself. “And I ask that you trust me on this and give me till morning. Hell, Ange, we’d end up sitting on her till then anyway. Mulkern’s not going to get out of bed and drive up to Wickham at this time of night anyway.”
She considered that. Her olive skin was darkened to the shade of coffee in the ill-lit alcove and her full lips were pursed tightly. She said, “Maybe. Maybe.”
“Then what’s the problem?” I said and started to get up.
She grabbed my wrist. “Not so fast, boy.”
“Your logic is good, Skid; it’s your motives I have a problem with.”
“You tell me.”
I sat back down, sighed. I looked at her, gave it my best “Who me?” look. “I don’t see that it hurts to learn everything we can while we have the chance. That’s my only motive.”
She shook her head slowly, watching me steadily and with some sadness. She ran a hand through her hair, let the loose bangs fall back down on her forehead. “She’s not a cat somebody left out in the rain, Patrick. She’s a grown woman who committed a crime.”
“I’m not so sure,” I said.
“Either way it’s irrelevant. We’re not social workers.”
“What’s your point, Ange?” I said, suddenly tired.
“You’re not being honest with yourself. Or me.” She stood up. “We’ll play it your way if you want. I can’t say it’ll make all that much difference. But, remember something.”
“When Jim Vurnan asked us if we’d take the job, I was willing to refuse it. You’re the one who said working for Mulkern and his kind wouldn’t be a problem.”
I held out my hands. “And my position hasn’t changed.”
“I hope it hasn’t, Patrick, because we’re not so goddamn successful that we can afford to botch a job like this.”
She walked out of the alcove, into the kitchen.
I looked at my reflection in the glass. It didn’t seem too pleased with me either.
I pulled my car in front of the house where I could keep an eye on it from the alcove. Nothing was stolen or broken or keyed and I thanked the great auto god in the sky.
Angie came back out of the kitchen and called Phil to tell him she’d be staying overnight and it turned into an ordeal, his voice plainly audible through the receiver as he ranted on about his fucking needs, damnit. Angie got a blank, faraway look on her face, and she held the receiver in her lap and closed her eyes for a moment. She turned her head and opened her eyes. “You need me?”
I shook my head. “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow around ten or so.”
She spoke back into the phone in a voice so soft and placating that it made me nauseous, and shortly after she hung up, she was gone.
I’d checked to see that it was the only phone and bolted the back door so no one could open it without making noise. I sat in the window seat and listened to the house. Through the bedroom wall, I could hear Jenna still trying to explain our deal to Simone.
Earlier, Simone had made some squawking noises about kidnapping and federal offenses, quoting me a whole shit-load of legal references that she learned from LA. Law. She was on something of a tear, babbling at the top of her voice about “enforced incarceration” or some such nonsense, when I assured her that the alternative to my handling of the situation would be a swift legal execution of her sister’s affairs by Sterling Mulkern and company. She shut up.
The voices in the bedroom died out and a few minutes later I heard the door open and Jenna’s reflection rose up over my shoulder in the window. She was wearing an oversize T-shirt over a pair of old, gray sweatpants, and her face was scrubbed clean of makeup. She held two cans of beer in her hand and when I turned, she put one in my hand. She said, “My sister made me promise to replace these.”
She smiled and sat on the window seat across from mine. “She told me to tell you to stay out of her fridge. She don’t want you touching her food.”
“Understandable,” I said and cracked the beer. “Maybe I’ll go in after you guys fall asleep, move things around just to piss her off.”
She took a sip of the beer. “She’s a good girl, Simone. Just really angry.”
“Who you got? The world in general, I s’pose. The white man in particular.”
“I don’t suppose I’m doing much to change her impression.”
“No, you’re not.”
She seemed almost serene, sitting there in the window, head resting against the pane, beer in her lap. Without any makeup, she looked younger somehow, less exhausted. Once, she might have even been pretty, someone men commented on as she walked down the street. I tried to picture her that way a young Jenna Angeline with a glow of confidence flushing her face because she was young and under the illusion that her youth and her beauty gave her options but I couldn’t. Time had laid too heavy a hand on her.
She said, “Your partner, she didn’t seem all that pleased, either.”
“She wasn’t. It was all up to her, we’d have made the phone call and gone home by now.”
She nodded and took another sip of the beer. She shook her head slightly. “Simone,” she said, “sometimes I don’t understand that girl.”
“What’s to understand?” I said.