I wondered if he believed me. I wondered if I believed me. I poked him in the ear again with the muzzle of the gun to strengthen my argument.

“You’re here to snatch the girl. Right?”


“Nah, man,” said Michael. “We’re here for her husband.”

“Shut up,” said Lawrence.

“Huh?” grunted Michael.

“You remember what he said, doncha?”

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“Oh yeah, like I’m gonna be more afraid of fucking Andrew Jackson than I am this asshole”—Michael gestured at me with his chin—“who’s pointing a gun at me.”

“Who’s Andrew Jackson?” I asked.

“Man we’re workin’ for,” said Lawrence.

“He didn’t give us a name,” said Michael. “But he paid us in twentydollar bills.”

“That’s why we call him Andrew Jackson,” said Lawrence.

“What did he look like?”

“I dunno,” Michael answered. “Tall.”

“How tall?”

“’Bout six feet.”

“With black hair,” added Lawrence.

“Was he fat?”

“He could afford to lose a few pounds.”

“Uh-huh. What was the job?”

Lawrence glanced at Michael and sighed. “He’s going to be pissed, man.”

“Yeah, but think how happy you’re going to make me,” I said.

“He said snatch Sykora,” said Michael.

“But not the girl,” added Lawrence.

“He said not to hurt the girl,” said Michael. “He was pretty serious about that.”

“You tried to hit the girl before,” I reminded Lawrence.

“No, man. That was just a message. We were just sending a message, you know, to her old man.”

“I wasn’t there,” Michael said.

“I know you weren’t there,” Lawrence told him.

“I’m just sayin’.”

As if on cue, both men turned their gazes forward and stared out the windshield. Lawrence shook his head sadly. Michael smiled. “Damn,” he said.

I moved so I could watch them and see what they were looking at at the same time. It was a pretty sight. Pen leaving the restaurant and striding purposely toward a yellow cab, looking splendid in her rose-colored silk. The cabbie held the back door open for her. She lifted her skirt slightly and slid inside. The cabbie closed the door. A moment later, the vehicle eased out of the lot and down the street.

“Damn,” Michael repeated.

“We was told to snatch her old man, but he ain’t even here.” Lawrence looked me in the eye. “You’re here, though. What’s up with that?”

“Who told you her husband would be here?” I asked.

“Andrew Jackson.”

“How did he know?”

“What? Do I look psychic?”

“What did he tell you?”

“I told ya. He said to grab Sykora.”

“Then what?”

“Then we were supposed to take him to this place,” Michael said.

“What place?”

“A motel. On I-35.”

“Which one?” I asked, thinking, God, I’m getting tired of motels.

“Well, here. I have the—” Michael had taken his hands off the roof and was reaching for his pants pocket. He stopped when I turned the gun on him.

“I got a key,” he said cautiously. “In my pocket.”

“Fuck, Michael,” said Lawrence. “Why don’t you give ’im directions while you’re at it?”

“Slowly,” I told Michael.

The key had the name of a motel and a room number on it. I had Michael pass it to Lawrence and Lawrence pass it to me, always keeping the gun trained on them, yet just out of reach. I slipped the key into my jacket pocket.

“Then what?” I asked.

“He said he’d call with instructions,” Michael said.

“Just sit in the room and wait for his call. Is that it?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Do you know why you were supposed to grab Sykora?”

The two partners glanced at each other like each was expecting the other to answer.

“Do you even know who he is?”

No reply.

“He’s FBI.”

“A fed?” said Lawrence.

“No fucking way,” Michael insisted.

“We don’t like feds,” said Lawrence.

“We don’t mess with ’em, neither,” Michael added.

“Not in this lifetime.”

“Look at it this way, then,” I told them. “I’m doing you both a favor. Have you got any idea what kind of shitstorm would drop on your heads if you kidnapped an FBI agent?”

“Gee, mister. Thanks a lot,” Lawrence said, but I doubt he was being sincere.

I gestured toward the radio.

“I like your tunes.”

“Public radio,” said Michael. “It kinda soothes us.”

“Would you please shut up,” Lawrence told him.

I stepped away from the pickup.

“Gentlemen, you’ve been very helpful. But here’s the thing. I never want to see either of you again. If I see you again, I’ll figure it’s because you’re after me, and I’ll kill you. Do we understand each other?”

Both men smiled.

Yeah, right.

I took another step backward and fired two shots.

The first shot exploded the front tire. The second shot destroyed the rear.

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