“Right after, she and another bitch come by lookin’ for some clothes and stuff she stashed here before she got busted. Then they took off.”
“She didn’t say where she was goin’?”
“She didn’t say nothin’ except scream ’cuz most of her shit was gone. What the bitch expect, man?”
“Does she have any friends here?”
“Nobody’s got any friends here.”
“Where did she hang out before she went inside?”
“Cheney’s. When she wasn’t workin’ she was there. Cheney’s, you know, like the vice president.”
I was amazed he even knew who the vice president was.
“Tell me about the other woman. What did she look like?”
“A good lookin’ piece. Nice ass, tits out to—”
I hit him again.
“What the fuck, man?”
“I don’t need an anatomy lesson.”
“What you want me to tell ya?”
“What did she look like?”
“White girl, looked like Cole.”
“Real blond, almost white.”
“Didn’t see ’em. She was wearin’ shades.”
“Same as Cole, man. Look, Cole stashed her stuff in the trunk and they split, that’s all I know.”
“Tell me about the car.”
“It was a Beamer, man. Fuckin’ white BMW convertible. Wait, now I remember. James Bond.”
“Merci called her James, the other one. Called her James and I was thinking what the fuck kinda name is that for a woman. James. Then I see the license plate. It had a JB on it.”
“Just JB, man. You know, one of those vanity plates.”
“Thank you, you’ve been very helpful. Only listen. For what it’s worth, I do believe this life doesn’t suit you. You should work for the government, work for the state. Get one of those orange vests and walk along the interstate picking up trash. Think of the job security.”
When I was a kid, the Midway Shopping Center on Snelling and University was just a dinky little thing. It had a Kroger’s where my parents bought groceries, a G. C. Murphy’s where I bought comic books, and a hobby shop where Bobby and I sometimes raced model cars on Saturday mornings. Now it was a huge, sprawling enterprise saturated with national retailers, grocery chains, and fast food joints that covered several city blocks. About the only thing that remained from the old days was a locksmith. I stopped off there to have copies made of the keys to my lake home. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also picked up a small gift.
I knocked on the front door, opened it, and stuck my head inside.
“Shelby,” I called.
“In the kitchen,” she called back.
Shelby was about an inch shorter than I was, only you wouldn’t have noticed just then because she was bent over a counter wrapping chunks of beef, cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, assorted spices, and a tab of butter with rectangles of pastry.
“Hey, Rushmore. What are you doing here?”
She raised her cheek to me. I kissed it and said, “I brought over the keys.”
She straightened and brushed hair the color of butterscotch off her forehead with the back of her hand. Her eyes were the color of rich, green pastures at sunset.
“For my lake home.” I set three keys on the counter in succession. Each was a different color. “Red is for the house, blue is for the boat house, and green is for the garage.”
“Why are you giving me your keys?”
“Bobby didn’t tell you? He wants to use my lake home after he clears the case he caught.”
“He didn’t mention it.”
“Perhaps he means to surprise you with a weekend of passion.”
“That would be a surprise. He hasn’t surprised me for almost a month now.”
“Okay, that’s more information than I need to know.” I was embarrassed by her remark and something else—the suggestion that my best friends were having marital problems frightened me.
“Bobby didn’t tell you we’ve been having our ups and downs?”
“There are subjects we don’t discuss.”
“Politics and religion.”
“Actually, we talk about politics and religion all the time. It’s what we do in the privacy of our own homes that we tend to keep to ourselves. Ahh”—I raised a finger, anxious to change the subject—“I have a present for you.”
I handed her a small gift bag that I had kept hidden when I entered the kitchen. She took it gingerly. “Rush … ?”
I flicked my hand at her.
Shelby opened the bag and fished out a plastic snow globe of Mount Rushmore. She laughed, as I had hoped she would. She shook the globe and watched the tiny white specks fall around the plastic monument.
“Whenever I look at it I’ll think of you.”
“That’s the plan. Listen, I have to go. I’m doing a favor for a guy.”
“Bobby told me. Don’t rush off. Sit down. Talk to me. Better yet, stay for dinner. The girls’ll be home from school in a few minutes. God knows when Bobby will be home.”