O is for Outlaw Page 93

"He seemed, I don't know, sexy and protective. He's mature. Scottie's temperamental, and he's so self-involved. With Mickey, I felt safe. He loves women."

"Oh, sure. That's why he betrays us every chance he gets. He loves each one of us better than the last, often at the same time but never for long. That's how mature he is."

"You think he's going to be okay? I've been worried to death, but I can't get the hospital to say a word."

"I hope so, but really I have no idea."

"But you're hooked in, aren't you?"

"I guess. What feels strange is I'd put him out of my mind. Honest, I hadn't thought of him in years. Now that he's down, he seems to be everywhere."

"I feel the same. I keep looking for him. The door at the Tonk opens and I think he'll walk in."

"Why'd he keep coming back? Was it you or was something else going on?"

"Don't ask. I can't help you. I mean, I care about Mickey, but not enough to put my life on the line."

"Isn't it possible Scottie knows?"

"About Mickey and me?"

"That's what we're discussing," I said patiently.

"What makes you say that?"

"How do you know it wasn't Scott who shot Mickey?"

"He wouldn't do that. Anyway, his dad told us Mickey was gunned down two blocks from his apartment. Scottie doesn't even know where Mickey lives."

"Well, that's weak. I mean, think about it, Thea. Where was Scottie a week ago last Wednesday?"

"How should I know?"

"Was he with you?"

"I don't think so," she said. She stared at the table, going over it in her mind. "Tuesday, I was off. I wasn't feeling good."

"Did you talk to Scott on the phone?"

"No. I called and he was gone, so I left a message and he called me back the next day."

"In other words, he wasn't with you that Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. We're talking May fourteenth."

Thea shook her head.

"What about the next day? Did you see him then?"

She stubbed out her cigarette. "I don't remember every single day."

"Start with what you do remember. When did you see Scottie last?"

Grudgingly, she said, "Monday. He and Tim had a meeting on Sunday. He drove up for the night and then left for L.A. the next day. I didn't see him again until the weekend. That was Saturday a week ago. He drove up here yesterday and goes back to L.A. tomorrow."

"What about you? Were you with Mickey at all on the night he was shot?"

She hesitated. "I went down to his apartment, but he was gone."

"Couldn't Scottie have followed you? He could have hung out in town. Once you got in your car, all he had to do was tail you to Mickey's."

She stared at me. "He wouldn't have done that. I know you don't like him, but that doesn't make him bad."

"Really. You told me he'd kill you if he ever found out. "

"When I said he'd kill me it was, what do you call it-"


"Figurative," she repeated. "Scottie wouldn't actually shoot anyone."

"Maybe his motive was something more serious."

"Like what?"

"A scam."

Thea's face underwent a shift. "I don't want to talk about this."

"Then let's change the subject. The first time I came in, Thursday of this week, Tim was pissed off at you. What was that about?"

"That's none of your business."

"Are Tim and Scottie partners?"

"You'd have to ask them."

"What kind of business?"

"I don't have a comment."

"Why? Are you involved in it too?"

"I gotta go," she said abruptly. I watched as she gathered up her jacket and her purse. She studiously avoided looking at me as she slid out of the booth.

It was:45 when I finally crawled into bed. I woke at 6 A.M. from long habit, nearly rolling out for my jog until I remembered it was Sunday. I lay for a moment, looking up at the skylight. The sun must have been close to rising because the sky was growing lighter as though a dimmer were being turned up. I felt oddly hungover for someone who'd drunk so little. It had to be the smoky bar, the conversation with Duffy, and tension between me and Thea, not to mention the latenight theorizing and driving around at all hours. I got up and brushed my teeth, took two aspirin with a big glass of water, and then returned to bed. In less than a minute, I was sleeping again. My bladder woke me at ten. I did an inner-body survey, checking for symptoms of headache, nausea, and weariness. Nothing seemed to be amiss and I decided I could face life, but only with the promise of a nap later on.

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