See why? See what I’m talking about? If you move up you can get your fingers on the knot. The rope is cotton. It’s cotton rope. Do you know what that means?” “Cotton? Cotton.” “Right. Cotton,” Josie insisted. “It’s not jute. Cotton has some give. Whoever did this made a big mistake, I can tell you. Cotton rope. Come on. Come on! You’ve got to start working now. Massage the knot. I know it looks impossible, but if one of us can get the rope to relax-” Josie stopped talking as she recognized the silence of sleep. She shoved back with her rear and made contact. A rivulet of sweat tracked from her brow to lips. It was salty. Josie spit it out. Her shirt was plastered to her body. Even when she spoke softly, her voice sounded large and harsh in this little space. She would kill for a drink of water. “Do you remember my name? Josie. Josie Bates. What’s yours? Do you remember?” Working the rope was tough so she took a break. She rested, but kept talking just to hear her own voice.“Archer won’t be happy I'm sleeping with a woman I don’t even know. What about you? Are you married? Will someone be looking for you?” Josie looked at the knot. It was still tighter than tight. “I hope someone will be looking for you,” she muttered. “How about your name? You have to remember that.” There was nothing for a minute. Then she heard the woman make a great effort to breathe and out came: “Erika.”
Archer’s Apartment, Hermosa Beach
Archer sat on the deck in the one beach chair too low to see over the edge. Absentmindedly he twirled the pedal of the beach cruiser that had been banished from the garage to make room for the Hummer. He’d spent the hour since he returned home making calls. The first was to Daniel Young, but he got no answer. Then he started calling Josie’s current clients. There were eight of them. Hannah had been right about the DUI being nervous. The woman almost jumped out of her skin when Archer identified himself as a private investigator. There was a woman named Linda Lopez with a number in South Gate, and another woman named Martha Vabino who was in Los Angeles. Martha Vabino was a rep for a legal journal. Archer got the message machine which announced that the offices were closed, but if he wanted to book space in the next issue the drop dead date was three days before issue. Archer tossed it. Archer called Linda Lopez. It was a dead end. Her son was in prison, and she heard that Josie handled children pro bono. Her child was nineteen, a gangbanger and went by the handle ‘Biter’ because he liked to chew off body parts during a rumble. Archer told her she should probably find another attorney because Josie wasn’t taking on new cases. Linda was disappointed, but not devastated. In fact, the woman didn’t sound particularly sober. He called Peter Siddon’s number, got a woman who said Peter would only talk to Josie Bates and it better be soon. After what she did to him, he at least deserved to talk to her. Then the woman began to cry and hung up. Even though Peter Siddon wasn’t on the list found in Josie’s car, Archer put him high on his personal list of people to check out. He was about to pick up the phone again to dial the number on Cuwin Martin’s message when two things happened: the phone rang and the doorbell sounded. Archer pushed the button on the phone and held it to his ear as he crossed to the open door. One way or another, he was positive he’d be talking to Josie. He was wrong. Standing in the doorway was Daniel Young; on the phone was Hannah. In Daniel Young’s hand was a piece of paper. “My fingerprints are on it,” Young said.
An Outbuilding in the California Mountains
Do you have a last name?” The woman moved. She yelped. It hurt like hell when you pulled the wrong way. Josie knew that all too well. The woman whimpered, but something was changing. Whatever it was, it hovered in their hot little