Things had not gone well in Bay Ridge. Rufus had lied. Ganyuk had been waiting for them at the club. But they had got what they had gone there for, even if it meant cutting down a couple of the Russians.
Now he was just sitting there, in the kitchen, with a bottle of Rheingold. He had put on the radio. They were playing “Lost Highway” by Hank Williams. It was one of his favorite songs. He wondered what station was playing it. It was rare these days to have a station play Hank. Now it was all bad rap and bad pop. He took a long pull off the Rheingold and relaxed. Lit a Lucky Strike. Thought about Donna. Her straight black hair. The anchor tattoo above her right tit. The little knife she kept in a holster around her ankle. Her breath on his neck.
There was a knock on the door. He got up and turned down the radio.
Shit, he thought. Nobody knew about this place. Not Rufus. Not even Donna. He’d contact her sooner or later, but not even she knew about it. Who could it be? Probably just some nosy neighbor. Some goddamn local selling raffle tickets. Something like that. Had to be.
He went to the door. There was no peephole. “Who’s there?” he asked.
There was a long pause. “My name’s Sandy,” a girl said.
He asked, “Who are you?”
“I live up the road,” Sandy said. “Next door to Joe Breyer.Do you know Joe Breyer?”
“Yeah.” Joe Breyer was the one guy around here he did know. Joe was a mechanic in town at Roach’s Garage, and he’d gone there when he was having trouble with his Chevy Nova back when he was up visiting the house in June. He had gotten drunk with Joe at a dive called Peggy’s Runway and even told him about the deal with the Russians. He had slipped and felt bad about it later, but he didn’t think Joe had any connection with anyone outside of the garage. Anyhow, Joe was a quiet guy. Kept to himself. Drank some. Fixed cars.
“Are you Pete?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m Pete.”
“Joe Breyer just wanted me to come up to give you something.”
“What is it?”
“A present, I guess. It’s in a box, and it’s all wrapped up.”
Pete opened the door. There she was. Sandy. She had a long, slender neck and bright blue eyes. She wore a denim coat with a T-shirt underneath that said “Red Pony Bar and Grill” and jeans that looked like they had been spray-painted on.“Sandy,” Pete said.
“That’s me,” she said, sticking out her little hand to shake on it.
Pete shook and held on a bit too long. He noticed that Sandy was wearing Converse sneakers.Black ones. Just like he used to have when he was a kid.
“Here you go,” Sandy said, handing Pete the package from Joe Breyer. “Joe said it was something you’d need. Said maybe you lost yours. Or had to get rid of it.” She paused. “I don’t know what any of that means, and I don’t know why he wanted me to deliver it.”
It did look like a present. It was wrapped up in newspaper and had a bow on top. “Okay,” Pete said.
“Joe’s sweet, but he can be a weirdo.”
“I guess so.”
“He drinks cold coffee and warm orange juice. What I heard anyway.”
Sandy just stood there. She must have been about twenty-two or twenty-three. However old she was, she was a woman. Pete asked, “You wanna come in? Have a beer?”
Sandy shrugged. “Sure. Nothing happening at my place tonight.”
She walked in past him and took a seat at the kitchen table. Pete opened a Rheingold and set it on a coaster in front of her. She took a long drink straight away, and he could see the red rise up in her cheeks. “Take it easy, Sandy,” he said.
Pete sat down across from her at the table and crossed his arms. She looked kind of like a girl he’d dated a long time ago. She had great big lips. Pete said, “So, what’s your story, Sandy? You live next door to Joe Breyer with who? Your boyfriend? What’s your boyfriend do?”
“I live with my husband,” Sandy said, and the air went out of the room.
Pete gunned his Rheingold, got up and got another. “Your husband?”
“Yeah. My husband Eddie.”
“You’re young to be married.”
“Not that young. Not when there’s nothing else to do.”
“Good a reason as any to get hitched.”
They worked on their beers. Sandy eyed him suspiciously.
“What?” he asked.
“What do you do? This place is usually empty. Is it yours? Joe’s mentioned you once or twice, but I’ve never seen you. Said something about you being from Brooklyn.”
Pete said nothing. Tensed up. He didn’t like to think that Joe had been talking about him.
“It’s okay,” Sandy said. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“You can stay and have as many beers as you want, but there’s no time for my life history,” Pete said.
“Okay by me.”
Pete turned the radio back up. They were talking now. He flipped around, trying to find another station. There was nothing. Reception wasn’t that good at the house. He found his box of CDs on the floor by the front door and put on Willie Nelson’s Phases and Stages. He thought it was a good album for just sitting there drinking with a strange married woman.
“You like Willie Nelson?” Sandy asked.
“Who else you like?”
“Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou, Dolly.”
“I like Tim McGraw.”
“Yeah, I guess he’s not bad.”
“That song he sings about his dad?”
“Yeah, that’s pretty good.”
“That’s got to be my favorite song of all time. Eddie hates it. Eddie likes, like, Eminem.”
Pete tried to get a picture in his head of Eddie. Eddie, storming in on them, with his pants down low, a baby blue ball cap cocked sideways on his head. “You got pretty different tastes in music there,” Pete said.
“Yeah, I guess.” Sandy finished her beer. “You got another one?”
Pete went to the fridge and grabbed her another Rheingold. He twisted off the cap and set it on the coaster in front of her. He was big on coasters.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Yeah, no problem.”
“I like this CD.”
“It’s good. Probably his best, except for Red Headed Stranger.”
“Red Headed Stranger, huh? That’s kind of like you. You’re a red headed stranger.”
“And you’ve got all those freckles,” she said.
“Yeah. Believe me, I heard it when I was a kid. I heard em all. Freckle-faced fuck. Good stuff. And I’m only half-Irish.”
Sandy laughed. “I wasn’t making fun. Just saying.”
“Yeah,” Pete said. “Listen, Sandy, where’s your husband tonight? Where’s Eddie? It’s not good to be sitting around with another man’s wife.”
“Eddie’s at work. He works at the Red Pony.” She pointed at her shirt. “He’s a busboy, you know? Kind of glorious work.”
“You work there too?”
“No. I work at the video store in town. Reel Good Video. It’s kind of a cool place. Pay’s shitty, but I get free rentals. That kind of thing.”
“What kind of movies you like?”
“My favorite is Key Largo.When Frank McCloud says, ‘When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.’ That’s the best. And Lauren Bacall—God, I just love her. That voice. I love everything with Bogie and Bacall. You work at a video store, even a shitty one, and you start to find the good stuff eventually. I’ve worked there since I was sixteen. Took me a while, but when I started seeing movies like Key Largoand Dark Passage, they just made me feel good. Made me see the world a different way, you know? Eddie doesn’t like the kinds of movies I like. I’ve got to watch them when he’s at work. Or when I’m at the store. He likes, like, only The Terminator and The Matrix and stuff like that. What do you like?”
“I like Westerns. The Searchers. Once Upon a Time in the West. 3:10 to Yuma.”
Sandy nodded and took a long pull off her beer. “You gonna open that box from Joe Breyer or what?” she asked.
Pete looked at it. “No rush.”
“Not even the least bit curious?”
Pete had been playing it like he wasn’t curious and all genuine curiosity had gone out of him. What could be in the box after all?Motor oil? “No,” he finally said. “Are you?”
“I guess, yeah.”
“I’ll keep you in suspense then.”
About an hour later Pete and Sandy were upstairs in the bedroom, and Sandy was showing Pete what she could do. It had all developed pretty quickly. They had about four more beers each.Around beer number five, Sandy got pretty friendly. She started touching Pete on the knee, rubbing his shoulders, saying that Eddie was a big time bum and that she was looking for something else. Pete thought for a second about Donna, but Donna wasn’t there and Sandy was, so he thought more about Sandy. Donna was beautiful, but she was getting old. She had wrinkles around her eyes and her hips were squaring out. Sandy was young, and she had a body like he hadn’t seen in a long time.
Afterwards, laying on the bare mattress in the bedroom, as they shared a Lucky, Sandy said to him, “Are you staying here, Pete? For a while? Or are you leaving?”
Pete chewed that over. He wasn’t really sure. He had planned on staying there until he could get in touch with Donna and get her up to the house without anybody trailing her. And he had thought about staying there with Donna for good after that. But now there was Sandy. “I’m not sure,” he said.
“If you are, that’s good. I’ll be around, and I’ll come over whenever I can. If you want. If you’re not, if you’re leaving, that’s even better. I’d get out of here with you right now. I wouldn’t even need to pack a bag.”
Pete thought about it. He thought about the places he could go. The places he could take Sandy.He didn’t have much money, but there was some. Still, there was this house, where he could live for free. The house had been in his family for a hundred years, but now he had no family left. There was only him and this house that nobody else knew about. The house had a wood stove, which would be great in the winter, and the only bill he would have to pay would be the electric. He wouldn’t even have a phone. “I don’t have much money, Sandy. Just enough for food and beer.”
After a while they made love again, and then they went back downstairs. The package from Joe Breyer was still unopened on the table. Naked, Pete opened two more beers and put on American Recordings by Johnny Cash. “Delia’s Gone” came on, and Sandy, sitting at the table with a blanket draped over her shoulders, said, “Come on, Pete, open that package from Joe Breyer.”
“Maybe I will,” Pete said. “Maybe I won’t.”
“You’re playing games now.”
“You’re playing the oldest game of them all.”
Sandy laughed. “I’m not playing a game.”
“That’s the worst kind of game. The kind you don’t even know you’re playing.” Pete smiled.
“You’re just talking like an old movie,” Sandy said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Pete said. He went over to where she sat and stripped the blanket from her shoulders. She sat there naked, and it was pretty cold in the house so her nipples—long pink screws on the ends of her breasts—were hard and she had a bad case of goose pimples. Pete kissed that great neck of hers and those swell lips. They slipped to the floor and made love again.This time Pete was a little rough with her, pinching her breasts and pulling her hair as she came.She seemed to like it. Just like Donna. Donna always liked the rough stuff too.
When they were done, Sandy went into the bathroom and took a shower. It was a long shower, and Pete could hear her singing. She had a pretty nice voice. Pete put his clothes back on and finished his beer. He read the liner notes to American Recordings.
Sandy came back out to the kitchen, wearing a towel. Her hair was dripping wet.
“Feel better?” Pete asked.
“I feel great,” Sandy said. She went over and kissed him. Her towel dropped. He kissed her breasts and her stomach.
Sandy pulled away. “Let’s get out of this place, Pete,” she said. “I’m desperate.”
“Is that all I am?” Pete asked. “A ticket out of here?”
“I like you, Pete. I don’t really know you, but I like you. Let’s just get the hell out of here.Whether it works out between us or not. Let’s just go. What’re you gonna do here? Live a quiet life? Drink beer? Chop wood for the stove? I can tell you’re not that kind of guy, Pete. I can tell you’re in trouble. Like you’re on the lam.”
“Now who’s talking like an old movie?”
“Joe mentioned something about it, the line of work you were in.”
Pete tensed up again. “Huh.”
“I was talking to him the other day. He came into the store. I see him a lot. Talk to him a lot. He knows Eddie. Hates him. I was talking to him, saying how my life was shit, and he told me all about you. Said you’d be coming up here one day soon. Asked me to deliver the package. Maybe he knew you were my way out. Maybe he saw big things for me. Knew we’d like each other. Knew you were the opposite of Eddie. Maybe it was his way of being kind, having me deliver that present.” She paused. “Having you open the door on me. You liked me right away, didn’t you, Pete?”
“You’re not just a ticket out. You’re the right thing at the right time. Let’s go, Pete. You’ve got a car. Let’s go.”
“I don’t think we’ll get very far, Sandy. This isn’t an old movie. I’m not a stick-up man. I’m not gonna rob gas stations.”
“We’ll make it as far as we can, Pete. Then we’ll stop there and get jobs and an apartment. We can go to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine. Wherever. Even Canada.”
“We’ll probably drive each other crazy.”
“When’s Eddie get home?”
“We’ve got some time,” Pete said. “Have another beer.”
They had two more beers each, and Sandy became visibly nervous as neared. Pete wondered if she was nervous because she thought Eddie would find out about them or if it was just because she thought she’d never get the hell out of town. Pete calmed her with kisses on the forehead and chin. Sandy responded, and they necked like teenagers at the kitchen table. Pete put on Night After Night by Jerry Jeff Walker. Sandy got up and danced with him to “London Homesick Blues” and “Trashy Women.”
At about eleven-fifteen Pete said, “Okay, Sandy. To hell with it. Let’s go.”
They went out to his Chevy Nova. Pete carried the case of leftover beer, his box of CDs, and his backpack full of clothes and cash. Sandy carried the package from Joe Breyer. “You sure you don’t need anything from your house?” Pete asked.
“Nothing,” Sandy said. “I want to leave it all behind.”
Pete put the beer, the CDs, and the backpack in the trunk. Sandy held the package from Joe Breyer in her lap. They got in the car, and Pete started it up. The Nova turned over, and they sped away from the house towards the highway. Pete wondered what he was leaving behind. Anyhow, the house would still be there if things didn’t work out. And Donna would still be waiting on his call.
Sandy had the idea to go to Montréal. She said she had always heard about how different it was there. How it was kind of like being in France, except you could drive there. Pete wasn’t sure if they’d be able to make it over the border without passports, but he thought it was worth a shot. If they were turned away, he figured they could just drive into Vermont and get a cheap hotel around Burlington.
They took back roads to the Thruway. Around Albany, the road split and they headed northeast. It was dark and empty, and Pete was pretty drunk. They drove straight to Montréal, stopping only once at a diner in Plattsburgh to sober up some. Pete had four cups of coffee and a grilled cheese, and Sandy had cherry pie and a vanilla Coke. They crossed the border at The border patrol didn’t press too hard about passports. Both of them had their licenses, and that was enough. By then, Pete had completely sobered up, and there was nothing to hide. They were just a couple in love headed to Montréal for a few days. Anyhow, maybe that was what they were doing.
Once across the border, Pete stopped at the first place he saw and exchanged some of his money.The exchange rate was good, and the thousand dollars he had would go a long way. He only changed five hundred of it, figuring he should keep some American money just in case. Sandy waited in the car for him and smoked a Lucky. While inside, he looked out the big front windows of the place and saw Sandy in the front seat of the Nova, exhaling smoke in a long straight line.He could hardly wait until they could hole up in a hotel room.
When he came back out and got in the car, Pete said, “Okay, Montréal here we come.”
“Yeah,” Sandy said. “Watch out.”
“We probably can’t check into a hotel for a few hours.”
“Yeah. We could just park and walk around. I’m sorry I don’t have any money, Pete.”
“It’s okay. I’ve got some.”
“I could’ve gone into the house to get some, but there’s not much, and I just figured it wasn’t worth it. What if Eddie came home? It wouldn’t be worth it to ruin this for, like, fifty bucks or something.”
“No, it wouldn’t.” Now that he was sober, Pete still felt the same way about Sandy. That was good. The thought had occurred to him that the first real thing he would feel when the beer wore off was regret. It hadn’t happened. Not yet anyway. Pete pulled away from the exchange place. Sandy put her hand on his knee.
The drive into Montréal was short. Sandy marveled at the highway signs, which were written in French. She thought it was funny that you could go so much faster in Canada. Pete explained the difference between kilometers-per-hour and miles-per-hour. Sandy laughed. “Oh, shit,” she said.“I feel like a moron.”
They parked in a municipal lot in Old Montréal and walked around. Pete carried his backpack with him. The first place they stopped was a café on rue St-Antoine Ouest. Pete had another coffee and a croissant. Sandy had a café latte and an omelette. They smoked the last of the Luckies and then bought a package of Gauloises rolling tobacco.
After breakfast, they walked over to the basilica of Notre-Dame de Montréal. Pete said he wanted to go inside and check it out.
“Are you religious, Pete?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah,” Pete said. He thought about the scene in Bay Ridge. How he had come out of the club, stepping over the Russians, blood sprayed on his shirt. How he had opened the door to the bright day (and closed it on the hand of the younger Russian) and looked up Fourth Avenue at St. Patrick’s, the church he had gone to as a kid. And how he had crossed himself just then, saying a short, silent prayer.
“I never would’ve guessed.”
“I mean, I guess a little. I don’t go to church or anything, but I believe in God.”
“The way a lot of people are, I guess.”
They went into the basilica, and Pete blessed himself with holy water. He lit a votive candle and kneeled in front of a painting of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys. He closed his eyes and prayed. He prayed about all the rotten things he had done. Sandy kneeled next to him. Pete opened his eyes.He could tell that Sandy was amazed by the place. He was amazed too. He leaned over to Sandy and said, “This place is something, huh?”
“Yeah,” Sandy said. “Never seen anything like it. The church I went to as a kid was, like, a little shack.”
Pete closed his eyes and prayed some more. “My mother’s name was Marguerite,” he said.“That’s why I’m praying here.”
“Where was she from?”
“Her family was French-Huguenot. They lived in the HudsonValley. My father was Boston Irish.He met my mother at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. They were both shopping for their nieces and nephews.”
“You ready to go?”
They went back outside and walked around Old Montréal for a while more. At around one, they went back to the car. They drove up rue St-Denis and stopped at a place called Castel St-Denis to see if any rooms were available. Pete parked the Nova on the street outside, and they went in.The woman behind the counter said that there were vacancies. She spoke English, but not very well. Her name was Marie. Pete asked where she was from. She told him Aix-en-Provence, France. She had come to Montréal to visit her sick sister in the Seventies, she said, and had wound up staying thirty years. Sandy seemed disinterested in Pete and Marie’s conversation.Pete said, “Merci,” and Marie smiled and handed him a key. He led Sandy by the hand upstairs.
The room was at the end of a long hallway, far from the other rooms. It was very small. There was a television with an eight-inch screen, a double bed, and a simple bathroom. Pete went out to the car to get his backpack, the CDs, the beer, and the package from Joe Breyer. Sandy sat on the bed and waited for him. When he came back into the room, lugging the backpack and boxes, Sandy asked, “Well, are you finally going to open that package from Joe?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Pete said. He set down the backpack and boxes and sat on the bed next to Sandy with the package from Joe Breyer in his hands. “You know,” he said, looking over at the box of CDs, “I brought all those damn CDs and forgot about the radio.”
“Poor baby,” Sandy said.
Pete tore the paper and bow off the package to reveal a plain white box. He opened it, and there was a small handgun inside. “A gun,” Pete said. “That’s strange. Did Joe Breyer give you a note or anything?” He took out the gun and checked it for bullets. It was loaded.
“Just what I told you earlier. He said it was something you’d need. Said maybe you lost yours or had to get rid of it. Are you in trouble, Pete? Are people after you? The work you do, did something go wrong?”
Pete looked at her crossly. He said nothing and thought about Joe Breyer. Maybe Joe was trying to be a friend, showing him he was behind him after he had spilled about the Bay Ridge situation. Maybe he really—honestly—thought he’d need the gun. Or maybe it was something else all together. Truth was he didn’t know the first goddamn thing about Sandy.
“You know, Joe is kind of absent-minded,” Sandy said. “Maybe he, like, accidentally put the gun in there.”
“It’s definitely weird.” Sandy took the gun and fired off a couple of fake shots, making soft shooting noises with her mouth. “Gun,” she said, as if she were naming it.
“Well, Joe Breyer’s long behind us anyhow.” Pete wrapped his arm around Sandy. He leaned over and kissed her on the neck, brushing one hand over her breasts.
Sandy pulled away. “Not now, Pete. I’m tired. Let’s take a nap.”
Pete looked at her, surprised. “A nap?”
She pointed the gun at him. “Yeah. Sure. It’s been a long night.”
“Put the goddamn gun down, Sandy.”
Sandy laughed and put the gun down on top of the television. They stretched out on the bed. Pete flipped on the television and settled on the Discovery Channel. Sandy fell asleep quickly, curled up on the edge of the bed away from Pete. Pete couldn’t sleep. He cracked a Rheingold and rolled a Gauloises. He lit the cigarette with a book of matches he had picked up at the café. He watched Mythbusters, and, after that, he watched Dirty Jobs.
Sandy woke up about two hours later. She turned to him and smiled. “Hello, Pete,” she said.
“Hi, Sandy.” Pete moved in to kiss her.
Again, she pulled away.
“What is it now?”
“I don’t know, Pete.”
“This isn’t why I ran away with you, Sandy. So I could get turned down every time I make a move.”
“What’s going on?”
“Pete, you’re, like, a really nice guy.” She leaned over and kissed him on the nose.
Pete was getting angry. He should have never left the house in the Catskills. It was a stupid thing to do. Sandy was using him, he could tell. He figured now that she would use those getaway sticks of hers the first chance she got. In the end, he was just her ticket out. She knew all along she wanted to get to Montréal. Probably had somebody up here waiting for her. She didn’t have to tell him. He knew it. “Okay, Sandy,” Pete said, and he stood up. He opened another Rheingold and gunned it. “I wish they had a radio in here,” he said. “I could really go for some Merle. ‘If We Make It Through December.’ You know that one? It’s got to be my favorite song.”
“I don’t know it,” Sandy said.
“It’s the best.”
“Listen, Pete. I’m going to take a shower, okay?” Sandy said.
“You’ve got plans, huh?”
“What are you saying?”
“Forget it.” He felt like swinging on her suddenly. Those great big lips—they had looked so good earlier—glimmered in the soft light of the room and told the story of a woman born to betray.
“Come on, Pete.”
“You think I’m a goddamn patsy.”
“Don’t go diving off the deep end, Pete, huh?”
“Yeah.” He felt hot all over, and his hands were shaking. He tasted blood in his mouth, the way he did sometimes when he got upset. Just like it had been with the Russians after he realized Rufus had lied.
“Pete, don’t freak out.”
Pete said nothing.
Sandy got up and took off her clothes. She went into the bathroom and turned on the shower.Pete watched her dance around naked, tempting him. She came over and kissed him on the nose again. “Pete,” she said. “Don’t look so blue.”
Pete said nothing.
Sandy got into the shower and started to sing. Pete went over and picked up the gun. It was light, and it felt good in his hand. He thought about the way that Sandy had aimed it and fake-fired.It had been sexy.But upsetting too. She had come off like a girl with a plan. She knew how to handle the gun. It fit just right in her little palm. When she had pointed it at him, he felt his guts tighten. It was the kind of thing someone did to loosen you up—to make you think that a loaded gun in your face was funny and that they would never fire it off—before they shoved it under your chin and blew your teeth up through your eyes.
Sandy was singing “Our House” in the shower. She sounded good.
Pete played it all over in his mind. He was nothing but a patsy. He rolled the gun in his hand and checked on the bullets again. He felt a hard anger, the kind that cuts down to the bone.
“Pete,” Sandy said through a stream of water. “You like ‘Our House’? I love it. And ‘Teach Your Children.’ My mom used to sing them to me.” She launched into “Teach Your Children.”
“Yeah,” Pete said, and he walked into the bathroom, leading with the gun. He saw the outline of Sandy behind the thin shower curtain. He was in Canada because of her. Because, drunk on beer, he had allowed her to convince him it was a good idea. And it had seemed like one, when he was inside of her up to the hilt. Even afterwards. Then she started to withhold. But it wasn’t until he had seen her—only a couple of hours before—with the gun that things had changed all the way. The fucking gun. They had crossed with it. She claimed the package was from Joe Breyer. But it made more sense that the gun was hers. She was a girl with a plan. There was a hot pulse in her, a deep blind thing that Pete feared.Sandy was the girl your old man taught you not to follow, the kind of broad who crossed you off a list when she was done with you.
The gun felt cold in Pete’s hand, and he took a long hard swallow. Sandy’s silhouette shook. He took one last look at her ass and the dark shape it made through the curtain. He fired the gun high and put two in her back. She gasped and slumped down over the edge of the tub, coughing blood. The curtain came down around her.
Pete wiped off the gun and lifted off the top of the toilet tank. He dropped the gun into the water, and it clattered against the rusty bottom of the tank, settling next to a bleach tablet. He replaced the cover and put a vase of fake flowers and a basket of toiletries on top of it.
He went back out to the bedroom and looked around. He picked up his backpack, the box of CDs and the beer, and he went downstairs. Marie wasn’t at the counter. He left sixty dollars Canadian for her and walked out of the place. He threw his stuff in the trunk of the Nova, got under the wheel, and punched the gas. He sped away from Castel St-Denis. Sandy. He’d done to her what she was bound to do to him.
He drove back the way they had come. Getting back into the States took a little more time. There was a long line of cars, and he sat there, smoking. As soon as he crossed the border, he stopped at the first place he saw and changed what was left of the five hundred back to American. He bought a fifth of whiskey and a cheeseburger and sat at a picnic table out behind the station. It was cold, but the whiskey cured that. The hamburger was rough and tasted gritty. He threw it out after two bites. He thought about Sandy. How the bullets had ripped into her mid-song. How they had shattered the tiles when they came out the other side. How that final gasp of hers had filled the room. Pete rolled another cigarette and finished the whiskey. He was calming down. He wondered why she had put the gun in the box. Why she didn’t just carry it. It was too much to think about anyway. He would have to go see Joe Breyer. Whatever had happened, it was Joe’s goddamn fault. Sonofabitch was half-a-redneck with no sense of minding his own business.
Pete put out his cigarette on the hard ground and looked down at his hands. They were steady now. He filled up on gas and then he found a payphone and called Donna. She was glad to hear from him. She said she had been thinking a lot about him. He said that was good and imagined taking that knife out of her ankle holster and playing it up the inside of her thigh. She said that she had a present for him, a bottle of Black Bush. He said that sounded good too. She said she couldn’t wait. He told her where the house was, and she said she’d be on the first bus up. He wasn’t worried about anybody trailing her. He hung up the phone and got into the Nova. He turned on the radio and fiddled with the knob until he found a country station. Hank was singing “Cool Water.” That was swell luck: Hank on the radio again. He put the volume all the way up and pulled away from the place. It would be a good drive back to the house, he could tell.