“Susannah’s boyfriend. His name is Grady Parker, but I call him Johnny No-Good.”
“Because it’s what my daddy used to call boys who weren’t good enough for us. All the boys who came lurking around, who wanted things we didn’t want to give, and only ever intended to get us into trouble. Daddy didn’t like anyone sniffing around his girls, though.”
“And where is dear old dad, anyhow?”
She’s put on her best Southern Belle voice. Even as white trash she sounds delightful.
“Six feet under.”
“Oh.” There’s surprise on her face now, I see it out of the corner of my eye, but I don’t acknowledge it. “My apologies. I didn’t know.”
“How would you?”
Nostalgia bites me in the ass and grief threatens to sink its teeth in as well. I refuse to let it take hold. There’s no time to get weepy or sidetracked. Instead, I curse the traffic that’s piled up outside Treasure Island. There are six cars all trying to turn into the hotel’s pathetic round about. A glance over my shoulder tells me we’re going to be here a while. It’s metal to the front, side and rear.
“Recent?” she asks.
I kind of want to kick her out of the car instead of answer her question. But I hear myself say, “Three months.”
And I swear those words aren’t mine. The voice is all child-like and soft. Sadness is there, creeping in.
“Four weeks for me. Exactly.”
Now it’s my turn to be startled. When I glance over, the sorrow in her face mirrors what’s in my own heart.
“Guess we have more in common than I thought.”
“Guess so.” She’s focused out the window. Deep in thought.
That’s when I see him crossing the street. Hair slicked back. Pompous crocodile boots. Sunglasses. I know it’s him because my skin crawls.
“Who?” Sally leans in close to me, but my door is open and I’m unfolding from Candy’s lush red interior.
I’ve already stepped out into the unforgiving sun and I’m striding across the street. He exits the crosswalk. There’s sweat on his temple. My hands are balled into fists.
I push him hard from behind. He stumbles forward, splays on the pavement and rolls over. As he turns, he says, “What the hell?”
Funny how he’s ditched his lowbrow accent.
When he sees who I am, he jumps to his feet and comes at me. And there’s me without my gun. Not like I can shoot him down on the street anyway, not with all these witnesses. He grabs a chunk of my hair, but I’m all riled up and don’t feel the pain.
I pull him in real close and hiss, “Where the fuck is my sister?”
“Ain’t none of my business where Susannah went off too.”
Two men appear out of nowhere. There’s a little plastic bud in one of their ears which tells me they’re hotel security.
The bald one, with shoulders fit to do gymnastics on, asks, “Is this man bothering you, ma’am?”
Grady’s brother Kyle releases me, holds his hands up as if in self-defence and backs away.
“As a matter of fact, he is.”
Then there’s a fit load of honking and I turn to see Blondie behind the wheel of Candy. She’s pulling the messiest u-turn I’ve ever seen. When I shift back around, Kyle is striding towards the Venetian, but he keeps throwing glances over his shoulder in my direction. Blondie gets out of the car and comes over. The security guards are still standing there. She lays a hand on the one who isn’t bald and smiles this bright, brilliant smile more blinding than the sun in the afternoon sky.
“Do you think we can bother you two gentlemen for a little help?”
I’m only half listening because my attention is trained on Kyle who is disappearing into the Venetian. God must be smiling down on me from heaven above. What are the chances? Slim to none. And what’s the likelihood I’ll ever see him again. I take a step, with every intention of going after him, but Blondie latches onto my arm.
“Etta, you won’t believe our luck, these fine gentlemen are going to help us figure out which hotel that man is staying at so we can lodge a formal complaint with the police. Now, tell them his name and how long he’s been following you?”