Payback

Payback by Sam Stewart Page B

Book: Payback by Sam Stewart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sam Stewart
“I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t think any of us do. The only thing I can do is offer a reward.” He squinted at the room. “Say half a million dollars for any information that’ll lead us to the killer.”
    Zoom lenses zoomed; hands shooting up at him from all across the floor. Mitchell looked around again, slowly, and now for the first time, at ease.
    Then he saw the redhead. Watching him quizzically and leaning on the wall. First thing that came to him was, Jesus—Joanna. Then he thought, uh-uh; couldn’t be; no. Then he said, “The man by the window in the tweed.”
    ***
    She was sitting there waiting on the hood of his car.
    Forget it; he couldn’t run away from his car and besides, he was dreaming.
    He wasn’t sure if it was a good dream or a bad dream. He wasn’t really sure about anything today except that anything could happen. The car could levitate. Ghosts could swim around the parking lot air.
    He stopped, lit a cigarette, and peered across the lot.
    Thirty yards away, and she could’ve been anyone—just another shined-up frizzy redhead with an angle and a pose. From twenty: Joanna. Fifteen: she was Jo, and he thought about running but he wasn’t sure where—going towards or away? He could say to her, reasonably, “Sorry, miss, I think you got a little bit confused.” He could say, “Who me?” He could say, indignantly, “What are you talking about, lady? I’ve never been to Elton, Colorado in my life.” He could say anything or nothing. No comment. No capish.
    Five yards away and she was tilting her head at him. Hair like a halo made of sunrise and fire. A yellow-rose sweater and a cream-colored skirt that was almost to her ankles. Funky little shoes. Eyes like a fawn. Smart fawn; nothing you could toss on your fender.
    She could say, “Do I know you?” He could look at her, smile, say, “No.—Would you like to?” All things considered, he could do it like that.
    She said, “Mitch?”
    He said, “You really look beautiful, Joanna.”

10
    He said in the car: “How it goes is, you’re not gonna ask me any questions and that way I’m not gonna tell you any lies.”
    She said: “I don’t know. How can I not ask you any questions?”
    He said, “I don’t know.”
    He said to her, “You wouldn’t believe it how I’ve missed you.”
    She said, “I don’t believe it. You know what it’s been?”
    He said, “Eighteen years.”
    She said, “Nineteen years.”
    And she said, “I’ve missed you.”
    He grinned in the mirror. He didn’t have the right to any happiness today but he couldn’t seem to help it. He wasn’t even certain if he trusted her or not.
    He said, “Do you believe you could trust me for a while?”
    She said, “I don’t know.”
    He said, “I don’t blame you.”
    He said, “There’s only one other thing I want to ask. You can ask it of me and I’ll answer it.”
    â€œWhat?”
    â€œAre you married?”
    â€œNo.—Are you?”
    â€œNever,” he said. “And I lied, because I’ve really got one other question.”
    â€œWhat?”
    â€œWhat time you want to meet me for dinner?”
    ***
    Standing at the open window in his living room, sun going down, vodka and tonics, Brubeck fiddling with “Time on My Hands” and the sky turning purple and Mitchell couldn’t move. Joanna smelled of Joy and he could stand there indefinitely, breathing her in. He didn’t want to speak. She was standing there next to him, dressed in something longish and fuzzy and pink that reminded him partially of cotton candy. He wanted to touch her but he knew if he touched her he wouldn’t ever stop.
    â€œSo,” she said. “What can we talk about, huh?”
    He said, “Lots of

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