When the bartender returned, I asked him, “Have you seen Frank Crosetti lately?”
“That fat pig?” Talk about taking the happy out of happy hour. “No, I haven’t seen him, but if I do I’m going to kick his ass. Why? You a friend of his?”
He asked the question like he was inviting me to step outside.
“He’s no friend of mine,” I assured him. “And if you want to kick his ass I’ll be happy to hold your coat.”
The bartender’s smile returned just as quickly as it had left. “Sorry ’bout that.”
“Let me freshen that for you.” He refilled my mug. “So you don’t like Crosetti, either.”
“What’s to like?”
“I take it he was a customer.”
“But not anymore.”
“If I ever see him again …” He shook his head bitterly.
“What did he do?”
“He broke a woman’s hand.”
“For the fun of it.”
“Yeah, that sounds like my guy. When did you see him last?”
“About a week ago.”
“Know where I can find him?”
“No, but—” His eyes wandered to the woman sitting alone. “Are you screwing with me?”
“What do you mean?”
“You say you’re no friend of Crosetti. So why are you looking for him?”
“I want to hurt him just as badly as I can.”
I regretted the words the moment I spoke them—I could already hear the bartender repeating them to various cops and county attorneys. But playing off his anger seemed like a good idea at the time.
The bartender nodded and looked again at the woman, who was looking back. “You should talk to Janel.”
He gestured with his head. The woman smiled expectantly and rose from her chair. In her heels she ran to five-ten, most of it in her legs. I caught the blue in her eyes halfway across the room.
“Gentleman would like to speak with you,” the bartender told her when she approached.
“What would the gentleman like to speak about?”
The woman spun around neatly and, without a suggestion of haste, returned to her table.
“Guess she doesn’t want to talk,” said the bartender.
“What’s she drinking?”
“Bring her one.” I drained the coffee and bourbon. “And another one of these.”
I left the bar and sauntered over to the woman’s table.
“Hi, Janel. My name’s McKenzie.”
“Are you a cop?”
“Do I look like a cop?”
“Your instincts are good. I used to be one, but not anymore. May I join you?”
She didn’t say I couldn’t, so I took the chair opposite her. She watched me suspiciously.
“Like I said. I’m not a cop. I’m not a prosecutor. You have nothing to fear from me.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m looking for Frank Crosetti.”
I glanced down at her cast.
“So I can hurt him the way he hurt you.”
Janel slipped the cast beneath the table as if she were suddenly embarrassed by it.
She said, “F-ing Frank.”
“You know what I mean.”
I did. But the fact that she couldn’t bring herself to say the word was strangely endearing. When I first saw her, I guessed she was a prostitute. Now I wondered.
“Did you spend much time with Crosetti?”
“Some. He has a house on a hill not far from here. He would invite me to go to private parties over there. Finally, I did.”
“Do you know what I mean by private parties?”
“I thought we were—friends. I thought he cared about me. He said he did. He lied.”
The bartender appeared, set the drinks on the table, and left. Janel picked up the fresh gimlet and drank half of it.
“Thank you for this.”
“Sure. About Crosetti, why did he break your hand?”
“It was over a drink.” She looked hard at the glass in front of her, turned it slowly, then gently slid it away, but not so far she couldn’t reach it in a hurry. “He asked me to meet him here. I was late. Just a few minutes, but he was really upset about it. Said no one keeps him waiting. I said I was sorry. There was a drink in front of him, and I reached for it, to take a sip, you know, and he grabbed my hand.”
She pulled the cast out from under the table and held it up.
“He didn’t say anything. He just grabbed my hand and squeezed it as tightly as he could. Frank has strong hands. I heard the bones crack. Then he smashed it against the table—twice. Smashed it down hard. Broke a finger and three bones. Then he left. He never said a word. I never saw him again. We called the cops”—Janel gestured toward the bartender—“but they didn’t do anything.”
“I’m sorry.” I seemed to be using that word a lot lately.
“All because I wanted a sip of his drink.”
“Before this happened, did you spend much time talking?”
“Some, in the beginning. Not much after I started—you know, going to his parties. And never before the party. Frank wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. If there was any talking, it was always afterward.”