Lifeblood Chapter 2

IT WAS NEARLY three when I left Escott's, but Bobbi would be awake. She may have left her job and her room at the Nightcrawler Club, but she still kept club hours. Her new home was a suite in a respectable hotel that provided maid service, meals, and a bribable house detective--everything a girl could want.

I crossed the marble-floored lobby, waving at the night clerk, who knew me by sight. The kid in the elevator was sound asleep on his stool, so I charitably took the stairs up to the fourth floor. Her rooms were to the left of the stairs, taking up a corner block of windows that fronted the building. Light was showing under her door. I knocked softly, heard her bare feet patter close, and a single hazel eye peered through the peephole. I winked back and the door opened.

"Hello, stranger, I was beginning to think you'd never show up." She pulled me inside and locked out the rest of the world.

"So you're taking me for granted, huh?"

"Uh-huh, just like the laundry."

"You dress up like that for the laundry?"

"This is dressing down; something informal, yet intimate." She was wearing some baby blue satin lounging pajamas that made it difficult for me to think straight. When she walked, her legs made a pleasant susurrous sound. Slightly hypnotized by the rhythm, I followed her into the living room as we curled up on the sofa. At least she curled--

I stretched my legs out and hooked an arm around her shoulder.

"What kept you so long?" she asked.

"Charles needed some help tonight."

"What did he do, drag you backward through a distillery?" She sniffed my hair critically.

"Just about. Thought I'd lost the atmosphere of the place when I'd changed."

"Into what?"

"What do you mean 'into what'?"

"A bat or a wolf--"

"What are you talking about?"

She pulled a thick book from under a pillow and tapped the lurid red letters of the title with one nail. "It says in here"

Then I had to laugh and shake my head. "Bobbi, you nut, you can't be taking that seriously."

"Well, it's the only book I knew of about vampires."

"There are lots of others, but they're not necessarily right, either.

Why are you looking at that stuff? You've already got the real article."

"I wanted to know more. According to this, you'll be turning me into one any time now." She said it like a joke, but I could see a real concern underneath. She waited for my reaction.

I took the book and flipped through until I found the right page.

"There, read that part and try to ignore the scary language. Until we do this there is no chance of you ever turning into a vampire." I waited, listening to her soft breathing as she read, my arm close around her shoulders. She finally let the book droop.

"That scene wasn't in the movie."

"Too erotic."

"Erotic?" She sounded doubtful.

"Don't let the description put you off until you've tried it."

She looked speculative. "You want to do that?"

"Not unless you want to. It's your decision."

"What would happen?"

"One hell of a climax for both of us."

"And that's all? Not that there's anything wrong with a great climax,"

she quickly added.

"I'm glad you think so."

"Come on, Jack. What else is it?"

I nibbled absently at that spot over my eye. "Okay, it's got to do with reproduction"

"You mean I could get pregnant?" That possibility alarmed her.

"No, I mean you could get like me. My taking from you is one thing, but if you should take any of my blood, there's a remote chance you could be like me after you died."

"Would it kill me?"

"No, of course not."

"How remote a chance?"

"I don't know. As I understand it, it almost never works because nearly everyone is immune. They'd have to be or there'd be more people like me around."

"Maybe there are and you just haven't noticed them. You don't exactly look like a vampire, you know."

"Not the Hollywood kind, anyway."

"I mean you don't stand out in a crowd."

"Oh, thank you very much."

She swatted my shoulder.

"Okay, okay, I know what you meant."

She settled in again. "This kind of reproduction is that why we don't make love the usual way?"

"Yes," I said shortly.

"Hey, don't clam up on me, I was just asking."

"I know, honey."

I tried to relax and succeeded to some extent. She'd hit a sore spot, but it wasn't an unexpected blow. I wasn't--to put it delicately--fertile in the way that men are usually fertile with women.

The pleasure centers and how they operated had drastically shifted.

Oddly enough, I did not feel deprived, physically or mentally; I just felt that I should feel deprived, or that maybe Bobbi was losing out on things. There was no justification for it, so far our relationship was as mutually satisfying as anyone could wish for.

She snuggled closer under my arm. "If you want to know, I really prefer it your way."

"You mean that?"

She lifted my hand and pressed it against the soft, warm skin of her throat. "When you do it this way, it just goes on and on"

That was how it felt to me. As a breathing man, I'd had some great experiences, but they were hardly an adequate comparison to what I now enjoyed.

"Sometimes I think I'll go crazy from it," she murmured, kissing my hand.

My lips lightly brushed her temple, the small vein pulsed beneath them.

Of their own will, my hands began to undo her buttons. "You sure you like it this way?"

"Yes, and for another good reason: I don't have to worry about getting pregnant."


She sat up straight, her top open almost to the waist and her perfect red lips curled into a sleepy, roguish smile. She nodded her head once toward the bedroom. "Come on, let's go get more comfortable."

Bobbi made a contented growl in the back of her throat, turned on her side, and burrowed close with her back to me, out bodies fitting together like two spoons. I draped an arm over her, and if my hand happened to end up cupping her left breast, nobody minded. We were in a lazy post-lovemaking afterglow and life was good.

"It's funny how you can get used to things," she said.

"I'm boring you?"

"I didn't mean it that way, and no, I'm anything but bored with you."

"Thanks for the reassurance. What is it you're used to?"

"I was remembering the time when I first noticed you didn't always breathe. It bothered me and now it doesn't. I just thought it was a funny thing to think of as normal."

"For me it is normal."

"Oh, I know that now."

"What else are you used to?"

"Umm the no-heartbeat thing. But if you live on blood, how does it get through your body?"

"Beats me. Charles is speculating it's some kind of osmosis."

"What's that?"

I'd asked Escott the same question and tried to repeat his answer to her. It must have been garbled--laboratory biology and chemistry had never been my best studies--but she took in enough to understand.

"It sounds like the way a root draws water up into a plant," she suggested.

"Maybe so, just as long as it works."

"What about mirrors? Have you figured out why you don't show up?"


"Let me know when you do, 'cause I'm not used to that, yet."

"If it's any comfort, neither am I."

"You mean you can't even see yourself?"


"Do you know you need a haircut?"

"Hum a few bars."

She groaned. "That stunk."

"It's old enough. Anything else?"

"That's it for now."

"Until you can think of something else to analyze?"

"If you want deep intellect, go to bed with a philosopher."

"Thank you, no."

"I thought you'd say that." She was quiet for a while, resting her head comfortably on my extended arm. I nosed into the platinum silk she had for hair and began kissing the nape of her neck. She squirmed. "You want to go again?"

"It might not be good for you. Your body has to adjust gradually, even to a small blood loss. Too often"

"But you don't take much."

"Neither did those doctors who killed a king from too much bloodletting."

"I heard of that, I think he was English. But this is different and I'm very healthy." She twisted up on one elbow to look at me. The satin sheet slipped down quite a bit.

"Yes I can see that."

She made a face. "I'm serious. I've been eating liver like crazy, and I hate liver."

"I had no idea."

"So do you want to go again?"

"It's very tempting, but better for you if we wait."

She thought about it, decided not to push the issue, and wiggled back into my arms again. "Who taught you all this restraint?"

I pretended it was a rhetorical question and resumed nuzzling her hair.

It smelled lightly of roses.

She went on. "I can't help but be curious about her. I won't ask anymore if you don't want me to."

"But you'll still wonder."


"Her name was Maureen." The words dropped out like lead, as always when I talked of her in the past tense.

"I can tell you loved her a lot. It's the way you look when you think about her."

"It's that obvious?"

"Sometimes. You'll be looking at me and then I'm not there for you, and I know you're seeing her instead."


"It's all right. Are we much alike?"

"Her hair was dark and she was shorter."

"I didn't mean like that."

"She needed love," I said lamely.

"Everyone does."

"She needed it like I don't know. It was all that mattered to her."

"And you loved each other a lot."

"God, yes. But I didn't realize how much until--we were both happy, a long time ago."

"I'm glad you were, that you had something like that. I never did--until now." Her voice was soft, I thought she was drifting off to sleep.

I tried to remember Maureen's face, but it was like recalling a dream.

The harder I tried, the farther it slipped away.

"I hope you believe me," she said.

"About what?"

"About liking your style better."

"Thanks. Are you sure you don't miss the old way, though?"

She shrugged. "Not much. It's apples and oranges; I like 'em both when it's done right."

My hands began wandering again. She rolled on her back and we did some serious kissing. Her breath came faster and her heart rate went up.

"I thought you weren't going to take any more from me tonight."

"I'm not, but maybe you'd like some oranges?"


I kissed her again, one hand passing over her smooth flank, dipping at the waist and pausing briefly just below her navel.

"Oranges," she murmured. "Handpicked, of course."

Asleep, she looked younger than her twenty-four years. Sleep lent vulnerability and vulnerability brought youth. I watched her protectively, feeling a fierce, quiet joy at the sight of her relaxed features. A little makeup clung to the pale skin, a trace of powder high on one cheek and the faint line of drawn-on brows. Her own had been carefully plucked away to follow the current fashion. I had seen many pretty faces, but few classic beauties, and fewer still with brains and personality. She was beautiful, at least as I perceived it, with the kind of looks that artists sometimes capture, if they have the talent.

Her blond head turned on the pillow, the lips parting slightly then closing. They were light pink now; all the lip rouge had been kissed away quite awhile ago. From previous experience I could guess that if any were left it would be on me. I didn't mind a bit.

It was a hard chore to leave, but necessary--the sunrise was coming and with it my daytime oblivion. I eased out of bed. got dressed, and kissed her forehead in farewell.

Her eyes opened, but she was still nine-tenths asleep. "Are you a dream?"


"Thought so." There was a sigh and she slipped under again.

After being with Bobbi, it was always a rude jolt to come back to my own spartan hotel room. The essentials were there: a bed, rarely used, a chest of drawers, a chair, a bath, even a radio. For $6.50 a week it was luxurious, but not really a home.

Bobbi knew where I hung my hat, but had never been invited over. There was little reason for it since her own place was more comfortable and larger. For one thing, she did not have a three-by-five-foot steamer trunk taking up most of the floor space. More than once the bellhop had asked if I wanted to have it stored in the basement. I tipped well so he was always alert to do me a favor. A basement might be better to avoid sunlight, but was not as safe. During the day I needed a DO NOT DISTURB sign hanging from the doorknob and the door firmly locked against curious eyes. The trunk was locked as well, the key on a chain hanging from my neck. Once, after getting back too late, the sun had caught me out. I'd been unable to sieve inside as usual and suffered a painful and panicky search for the key, an incident I planned never to repeat.

I drew a hot bath, cleaned the remaining booze smell from my hair, and tried to get comfortable on the lumpy bed. The bellhop had left my regular pile of newspapers outside the door. I filled in the remaining time before dawn flipping through them. Nothing in the news held my attention, and that felt odd since it had once been my bread and butter.

Times change, people change, and I had certainly changed more than most.

Automatically, my eyes scanned the personal columns, but as ever, there was nothing to see. Five years had gone by without a response.

The papers went into the wastebasket. I thought of Bobbi. and with a sharp twist of guilt, I thought of Maureen.

I remembered the touch of her body, smaller and stronger, with dark hair and light blue eyes. I remembered the long nights spent loving her and our hope that it would last forever. Together we decided to at least try to make it so. I had no guarantee that it would work for me, but the hope was there; it would have to be enough. After taking from me, she tilted her head back, drawing the skin taut, and used her fingernail in a deft movement over the vein in her throat. She pulled me close and I tasted the warmth of what had been my blood, filtered through her body and returned again. Its red heat hit me from the inside out like the rush of air from an open furnace. A shock of fire, a flash of inner light, and then the shimmer of her life filling me My hands clenched. There was no comfort in remembered passion, it was all gone. Maureen was gone.

But Bobbi was here, vital and loving. I wanted and needed her just as much. It was hardly fair to her to have my mind drifting back to Maureen at awkward moments, nor was it fair to myself.

I found paper and wrote out instructions. It took less than two minutes, and another three passed downstairs as I explained what I wanted to the night clerk. He promised to fix everything. A minute for each year of searching and waiting, and that was how long it took to break off my last hope of contacting her. I felt empty, but no worse than usual. With Bobbi to help I could put the memories away for good. It was time to let the past rest; let it rest or it would continue to tear me up inside.

Let it rest, because God knows I was tired.

"Mr. Fleming?" It was the bellhop's voice, sounding faintly worried. His knuckles rapped on the door. "Mr. Fleming?"

I had no twilight moment of grogginess; I was either awake or totally unconscious. I faded from the interior of the trunk, re-formed outside, and answered the door, pretending to look sleepy.

"Yeah, what is it, Todd?"

"Sorry to wake you, but you got this phone message and the guy said it was urgent. He's been calling all day. You never answered, so we figured you were out." He gave me a slip of paper.

I unfolded it and read Escott's name and the phone number of his small office a few blocks away. He wanted me to call or come over immediately.

"You say he's called earlier?"

"A couple of times since I came on at four. It sounded important and I've been trying--"

"Okay, thanks for bringing it up. Did Gus get around to that stuff like I asked?"

"Yessir, got 'em all, he said to tell you. You still want your usual delivery?"

"Yeah, go ahead with that," I said absently, rereading the brief note.

Escott certainly knew better than to try contacting me during the day, so he must be in some kind of trouble. I dressed and shot down to wedge into the lobby phone booth.

He answered on the first ring, sounding perfectly normal.

"Hello, Jack, I've been trying to reach you."

"What's up?"

"Something extremely interesting. Another case, as a matter of fact. I'd like to talk it over with you right away."

"Sure, I'm on my way."

"Have you dined yet?"


"We could talk details over dinner--my treat."

I struggled to keep alarm from my tone. "Sounds great. Meet at your office? "


My premature relief was blown to bits. His perfectly normal manner had not been for me but for the benefit of whoever was in the office and listening to the call. He knew I no longer required ordinary food and was unavailable before sunset, but the listener did not. It did indeed look like the start of an interesting case.

Dusk was taking its own sweet time; the sky was still harsh and bright to me when I started my Buick. I fumbled on my sunglasses to ease the light down to a comfortable level. It didn't take long to cover the distance to Escott's office and park around the corner from his door. I wanted to check things out first before barging in.

He had two modest rooms on the second floor, each with a window fronting the street. Both were wide open because of the warm weather, but the blinds were drawn. Slices of light showed through the right-hand room.

The left, which served the back room, was still dark. Without hurry I walked until I was positioned directly under it, and since the street was momentarily clear, partially vanished.

By concentrating, I could control the degree of transparency. My body took on all the solidity of a double-exposed photo and about half the weight. My hand went out and I could see the bricks of the building through it. Like a helium balloon, but with gripping fingers, I went up to the second story. I did not look down. I hate heights.

I made it to the window and thankfully slipped inside, but retained my current state. This semi-solid form left me visible--if alarming to any witnesses--but did not deprive me of sight and speech and gave me agile and perfectly silent movement.

The connecting door between the rooms was wide open. A bright fan of light spilled in from the front, so I took care to avoid it and folded the sunglasses away for unrestricted vision.

Escott was seated behind his desk, his back to me and his head turned slightly to the right. A chair stood on that side, and from his posture alone I could guess it was occupied.

I vanished completely and got close enough to him to give him a chill.

After a moment, he stifled a shiver and cleared his throat. I drew off to one side to see what he wanted of me.

He cleared his throat again. "May I go get some water?"

A woman answered him. "No."

"I thought perhaps you might want some as well."

There was no reply.

"You might not be able to get us both, you know. My associate is extremely fast when he wants to be."

"I remember how fast, but no one's this fast."

"Perhaps. The first shot will be the most important. After that well, homemade silencers are notorious for problems."

"Not this one."

Escott was taking a hell of a risk apprising me of the situation in this manner. She could get the idea to shoot him first and then wait for me to come along later. If my scalp had been intact, the skin would be crawling.

Their conversation died, but had lasted long enough for me to get an idea of their relative positions. She was seated with her back to the wall next to the open window, about seven feet from Escott, close enough not to miss hitting him, but not so close that he could try taking the gun from her. There were also a few seconds of critical time in her favor, since he was seated so firmly behind the desk. As far as I could tell from a swirling sweep of the office, they were alone.

The problem wasn't too complicated. I could appear and grab the gun away before she knew what hit her. It was something I'd managed before, but a dark alley was a different situation from a well-lit office. She would wonder where I'd come from and how I'd gotten so close without being seen. If the cops got involved there might be more complications, and I could not risk coming to official attention.

"Where is he?" The ground-glass quality was back in her voice.

"Please be patient. It won't be long."

"It's been too goddamned long as it is. Call and see if he's left."

"As you wish."

I heard dialing sounds. Her attention would be fully focused on Escott.

I got into place in front of the window. She was right-handed and that would be the one to grab. I readied my own hands--or what would become my hands--over hers.

Just as Escott said hello I re-formed and twisted the gun from her grip.

The hammer had been cocked back and the safety off. Hardly any pressure was needed to finger the trigger; my attempt to disarm her was more than enough. The thing suddenly jumped and coughed, and a neat hole appeared in the far wall. I yanked the smoking rod free and let it drop. It decided not to go off again.

She jumped up and both my hands were full, one cutting off her surprised and angry shriek and the other pinning her arms. Escott hung up the phone, came stiffly around the desk, dodged her kicks, and grabbed her ankles. We shoved her back down in the chair by weight alone, needing every pound because she squirmed and bucked like a hooked pike.

"I must confess that you are a most welcome sight," he told me, still struggling with her legs.

"Anytime. Now what do we do with her?"

"The police, I suppose. They still want her for that robbery."

"Can you leave me out of it? I'm in no shape for a court appearance."

"Yes, as you wish. But without you for a witness, this incident could end up as my word against hers, that is, if I press charges."

"With her record do you need to?"

"Let's put it this way: after what I've been through today, I would very much like to. Hang on a bit. I've some cuffs in the desk."

He released her ankles and dodged another kick as he picked up the dropped automatic. He took it off cock, removed the magazine, emptied the firing chamber of its bullet, and put it away in his desk. From the same drawer, he drew out and opened a set of cuffs.

I put pressure on her shoulders to keep her in place and nimbly kept my fingers away from her teeth. Escott clicked the cuffs over her wrists, then produced a washcloth and a long strip of bandage from the tiny bathroom in back. Between us we shoved the cloth in her mouth and tied it firmly in place so that her outraged screams wouldn't bring well-intentioned, but misinformed help. Some of the fight went out of her by then, but I wasn't going to relax my hold.

Escott was puffing. "This is certainly no way to treat a lady."

"I could debate that," I replied, sucking a finger. She'd managed to lock her teeth on it for a few seconds while we were gagging her.

Selma Jenks, alias Miss Green, glared hard and hatefully at each of us, and I hoped the daggers she was throwing remained wishful ones. Today she wore a now-rumpled blue dress; the remains of a matching hat were on the floor. The skirt part had hiked up in the struggle, revealing a nice stretch of leg and the gartered tops of her blue stockings. I made a move to pull the skirt down, but she threatened to start up again, so I left things alone.

Escott excused himself and went back to the bathroom for his belated glass of water and other things. He returned, his tie loosened a little, and painfully eased his cramped limbs.

She walked in at two o'clock and kept me sitting there all bloody afternoon. Five hours in one spot is certainly brutal on the lower spine."

"You sat there for five hours?"

He shrugged. "It was that or get shot. She was quite upset on how we'd crossed her last night and even more upset that we survived. She looked my name up in the phone directory and came a-hunting. It is my admittedly inexpert opinion that she is more than a little loony."


"That's the word." He sighed deeply and drew a handkerchief over his face. "She kept me calling your hotel to get you over here, I did what I could to warn you."

"It worked."

"Thank heaven. Spending the day a bare two yards from a nerved-up woman holding a hair trigger is not my idea of entertainment."

"It isn't?"

He shot me a considering look and let it pass. "Well, I suppose it's time to call the police."

"What about her partner, Sled?"

"From the little she dropped in conversation, I got the impression he doesn't know about this, nor, I think, would he approve."

"That's something. So maybe he's not down the street waiting for her."

"Quite likely. He'd have been up here ages ago to find out what was taking so long."

"All the same, could you go out the back way and take a look around just to be sure? He might guess where she is, and if he's down there any cop car will spook him off. You could spot him better than I, you know the street."

"Well, just to be safe I'll be back shortly." He went to the back and I heard the sounds of his exit. He'd equipped the bathroom with a hidden panel that opened onto the upstairs storeroom of a tobacco shop that faced the next street over. He used it now to make a discreet exit outside without exposing himself to anyone watching his regular doorway.

As soon as he was gone, Selma launched from her chair for the door, slipping from my grip like a greased eel. Catching her was no problem, but she was stubborn and full of fight, and in the end I had to lift her bodily and swing her down on the floor with a thud. She was small and that helped, but it was a hell of a lively wrestling match. I threw one leg over her knees, pinning them flat, used one hand to keep her nails out of my eyes, and the other clamped across her forehead. By a little twisting, we were intimately face-to-face. Her eyes were wild, the whites showing all around, but not from fear; her skin under the powder was flushed beet red from sheer fury.

She abruptly stopped fighting, her breath loud and labored through her nose, and stared at me with pure loathing, waiting for my next move. She knew nothing about me, Escott was gone, along with any protection his presence offered. I was someone unknown to her and taking advantage of the opportunity while it was available. No doubt from certain points of view I would be guilty of a kind of rape, but for me it would make things a lot easier.

My eyes on hers, I said her name.

Escott returned from a clear street in ten minutes and found us as before in the office. I still held her shoulders, but she had calmed down considerably.

"May as well call the cops," I said as soon as he came in. He dialed the number and asked for someone by name. He explained the situation and was told to expect a car to come right away.

"All the business at the station will take a bit." he said after hanging up. "I suppose a late supper will have to do for me."

I nodded in sympathy. "I'll wait till the cops are at the door and go out the back. You can handle this wildcat for that long."

"She's not so wild now," he observed.

"Probably tired herself out."

"Indeed. Thank you for coming. I hope it didn't disrupt your evening unduly."

Bobbi and I were going to the movies, we'd still be able to catch the second feature.

The cops showed up in due time. At the last second, Escott cut away her gag, tossed it to me, and I slipped into the back. I waited long enough to hear the opening questions, then went out the window the same way I entered. My car and I were long gone by the time they were ready to take her away.

Bobbi had wanted to see Last of the Mohicans because she liked Randolph Scott, but Escott's accent had given me a taste for Shakespeare, and I talked her into going to Romeo and Juliet instead. Much to her own surprise, she enjoyed it.

"You can understand what they're saying in this one," she commented during intermission. We'd arrived late and missed the newsreel and cartoon, but were in no particular hurry to leave. I bought her an extra soda and popcorn while we waited for the next cycle of features to start.

"Why not? The sound's good."

"Well. I saw this once as a stage play and it was awful. The actors were bellowing to reach the back row and talked so fast you couldn't understand a thing. This kind of stuff you gotta talk clearly so you know what's going on. I like it as a movie better than on the stage."

"I should get you and Charles together to discuss it."

"Oh, yeah, but he's a good egg, he'd let me win just to be polite."

"Don't be too sure, he's got some pretty firm ideas about the stage and Shakespeare in particular."

"Staging I don't know, but I could give him a tough time about Shakespeare."

"How do you mean?"

"Like this show, it was good, but the girl was a nitwit for not running away from home to start with. That's what I would have done. She was wearing enough jewels to live off of for years."

"It wouldn't have been a great tragedy, then."

"Romeo could have swiped her money, left her stranded-- anything could have happened."

"That's kind of a negative view."

"It's more believable than gulping down drugs to fake your own death. I think it stinks that Shakespeare didn't let them get together in the end like they wanted, after all the trouble they went through. What made you want to see this instead of Randolph Scott?"

"He makes me jealous."

"No, really."

"They had the biggest ad in the paper and this is a fancier theater. I wanted to impress you."

She glanced at our opulent surroundings. "It worked. They could show a blank screen and people would still pay admission to sit here."

"They do."

"What?" She was half-wary for a joke.

"No kiddin', I knew this usher who swore to me that the ticket is for the chair you sit in, the movie itself is free."

"That's crazy."

"Nah, that's just the way it works out. This usher also told me that theaters make most of their money off popcorn sales."

"It must take a hell of a lot of five-cent bags to pay the rent on this joint."

"Eat up, then, I'll get you another. I like this place."

Another evening ended very pleasantly and as ever I was reluctant to leave. When I dragged my feet back to my hotel room in the small hours, though, I found Escott waiting for me. He was drowsing in my one chair, his feet propped up on the trunk.

shook his shoulder. "Anything wrong?"

He blinked fully awake and alert. "I think not. Did you enjoy your movie?"

"How'd you know I went to a movie?"

He indicated the paper I'd left on the bed, opened to the entertainments section. "Or perhaps you went to a nightclub, but I recall hearing Miss Smythe state she was fed up with them for the time being."

"She is, but how'd--"

"Her rose scent is quite distinctive, and traces of it linger on your clothes. What film did you see?"

"Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty good."

"Yes, the principals were decent enough, if a little old for their parts, but the fellow playing Iybalt seemed to know what he was doing."

I had no illusions that he'd been waiting all night to deliver a review.


He straightened, putting his feet on the floor and fixing me in one spot with his eyes. "I came by to have you satisfy my curiosity."

"About what?" I tried to sound casual, but it wasn't working. He was far too sharp for me to lie to him, but I wasn't going to make it easy.

"About Selma Jenks It was very odd, but when they began questioning her, she made a complete confession."

"She did?"

"In fact, she confessed to every robbery and extortion she and her partner committed since they teamed up. She then told the police where he could be found. They lost no time bringing him in, though he was not nearly so cooperative as Selma."

"Sounds like a good thing, though."

"Yes, an excellent bit of luck. But now I'm curious as to what you said to her after you got me out of the room."

"I want you to know that that was a legitimate request."

"I don't doubt it, but it was convenient for you. Did you hypnotize her?"

My tie suddenly felt too tight. I tore it loose and tossed it on the bed. He waited patiently, knowing there were some things about my nature I was reluctant to discuss.

"It seemed like the easiest thing to do. I didn't want her talking about me or giving you more trouble than you needed. I just calmed her down and gave her a few suggestions."

He was amused. I'd expected reproach. "Suggestions? Good Lord, you should be in the district attorney's office with that talent. You'd never lose a case. I doubt if a priest could have gotten so thorough a confession."

I shrugged. "But it showed. You knew."

"Only because I got so well acquainted with her that afternoon. Her behavior at the station was normal enough, but such a flood of information was hardly in keeping with her personality."

"You said she was a loony," I pointed out.

He got up, stretching his muscles with small, subtle movements. "Why were you so reluctant to tell me about this?"

I shook my head. "I don't know. I didn't want to tip her off to any funny business, I didn't want an audience, stuff like that. What I did, it's not something well, it's" I broke off with a tired and inadequate gesture for my feelings.

"Nothing you need be ashamed of," he quietly concluded. He let that sink in for a thick moment, then picked up his hat. "Well, this has been a long day--and night."

I grabbed at the change of subject. "You wait long?"

"No more than an hour."

"You could have called me at Bobbi's."

"It was hardly a pressing issue, I'd no wish to disturb you. Phone calls at late hours are bad for the heart."

"Thanks." I meant it for more than just his consideration.

He echoed my reply from earlier. "Anytime."

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