“What were you doing at the gravesite?” Cole asked.
“What were you doing there?” he shot back.
“Paying my respects.”
“So was I. You got a damn problem with that?”
“Okay. You don’t have to get all pissed off.”
He looked around. “Can we order some breakfast? I’m hungry.” He rubbed his head.
“Headaches again?” asked Puller.
“What’s it to you?” Randy snapped.
“Just asking. Maybe some food will help.”
Puller raised his hand and waved the waitress over.
After Jean and Randy ordered, Puller lifted his coffee to his lips, took a sip, and set it down. “You really look like you could use a few hours of sack time.”
Randy looked across the table at him. “Thanks for your concern.”
“No concern. Just an observation. You’re a big boy. You can take care of yourself.”
“Yeah, well tell that to my sisters here.”
“That’s what sisters do,” said Puller. “Worry. They worry about their brothers. Then when they get married they worry about their husbands.”
Cole said to her brother, “I don’t even know where you’re living. Do you even have a place to stay or are you just jumping from one friend’s place to the next?”
Randy laughed in a hollow tone. “I don’t have that many friends in Drake.”
“You used to,” said Jean.
“They’ve all grown up, got married, had kids,” said Randy.
“And you could’ve done the same,” said Jean.
Randy eyed her. “Yeah, Jean, you’re right. I could’ve married me a rich fat woman and lived happily ever after in some big house and drive around in some fancy-ass car.”
Jean didn’t even flinch. Puller figured she’d probably heard that one a million times from lots of different people.
“I don’t believe there’re any rich fat women in Drake, Randy,” she said. “And if you’re thinking of changing which side of the plate you hit from, the only rich fat guy in town is taken.”
“Don’t we all know that,” snapped her brother.
Jean smiled. “Sometimes I don’t know why I bother, I really don’t.”
“Never asked you to.”
“Oh come on, Randy. You’re laying a guilt trip on all of us. Slinking around town, never know where you are, you show up looking like shit, take some money, and then slink off again. We wait for you to call, and when you do, we make a fuss over you. You came to dinner last night only because Roger wasn’t there. And you shoot off your mouth, all your sarcastic little quips that you think are so funny. Poor Randy. I bet you just love it, don’t you? Makes up for a life that you just don’t have.”
Puller hadn’t seen that one coming, and apparently neither did Cole. She said reproachfully, “Jean!”
Puller glanced over at Randy, who never took his gaze from Jean. “Keep going, sis, I’m enjoying this.”
Jean said, “I saw him wandering down the road like a lost pup. Gave him a ride in my car. I brought him here to feed him. I’ve offered to get him work. I’ve offered to help him any way I can. And all I get back for that is shit thrown right in my face. And I’m tired of it.”
Her voice had risen steadily to where heads at other tables were turning in their direction and Puller could see folks muttering together.
Cole put a hand on Randy’s arm. “She didn’t mean that.”
Jean exclaimed, “Of course I did. And you would too, if you’d take your head out of the damn sand.”
Randy’s manner suddenly changed. The grin and the confidence came hurtling back. “Hey, Jean, does Roger pay you each time you screw him? Or does he get a volume discount? And after he slaughtered Mom and Dad, did you charge him double to bang you? You know, to show your anger at him wiping out our parents and not giving a shit?”
Jean reached across the table and slapped her brother so hard that Puller saw her wince from the shock of the blow. Randy didn’t show any reaction, even as the skin where she had struck him turned pink and then a dull red.
“Is that the best you got?” said Randy. “All the money has really made you soft.”
He stood. “I got things to do. Hey, Jean, thanks for the ride. Or maybe you should thank Roger for me. It’s his car after all. He owns it, the house, the business and you.” He looked out the window at the Benz. “That model’s looking a little old, sis. Rog might be looking to trade it in. He’s gone so much, makes you wonder. Didn’t know coal men needed to fly off on their fancy jets all that much. And despite all your working out and dieting, a little too much alcohol and birthing two kids is taking its toll. Now don’t get me wrong. You’re still nice-looking. And Roger is fat and ugly. But the rules are different for men and women. They’re not fair rules, but they are the rules. And whoever has the gold makes the rules. And that would be Roger. Now you have a good day, big sister.”
Randy turned and walked away. As Puller watched he high-fived a couple of guys in one booth and then slammed the door on his way out.
He turned to Jean, who just sat there looking as stunned as she probably felt.
Cole said, “Both of you said things you didn’t mean.”
“I meant every word I said,” replied Jean. “And Randy did too,” she added quietly. She looked back out the window, at the car. Puller could see the thoughts running through her mind like frames from a film. Where was Roger right now? Was he thinking about trading her in?
Cole reached over and took her hand. “Jean, what Randy said was bullshit.”
“Was it?” her sister snapped.
Cole looked down.
Jean glanced at Puller. “What do you think? You’re supposed to be a great detective.”
Puller shrugged. “I can’t read people’s minds, Jean. But if your husband cheats on you then you sue his ass for divorce and end up with as much of the gold as your lawyers can get. Since you married him before he struck it rich I assume there’s no prenup.”
“Then I wouldn’t worry about it. Best advice I can give.”
When Jean and Randy’s food came the waitress looked around and said, “Is he coming back?”
“I seriously doubt that he is,” said Jean pleasantly. “But if you can keep it warm and then wrap it for me, I’ll try to find him and give it to him.”
“Okay.” The waitress walked away.
Jean cut up her eggs and was about to say something when Puller rose.
“Going somewhere?” she asked.
“I’ll be right back.” Puller had just spotted Bill Strauss sitting at a table in the corner. He walked off.
Jean looked at Cole. “You two sleeping together yet?”
“Jean, why don’t you just shut up and eat your eggs?”
Cole wriggled out of the booth and hurried after Puller, who was already standing next to Strauss.
“Hello, Mr. Strauss. John Puller, CID, you remember me?”
Strauss nodded. He had on another expensive three-piece suit with a French-cuffed monogrammed shirt.