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'The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man' Chapters 23 & 24


spinner image illustration of a woman standing at her open front door with her hand raised to her mouth, standing in front of her are two people with only their backs visible from this view
Illustration by Steve Vance

 

23

Katie, Me . . . and Her Dad

 

I imagined her in her travel trailer but she was standing in the house doorway, framed in yellow backlight, so graceful and feminine my mouth went dry as I pulled up in my truck. Her eyes seemed lit with a mischievous humor, and they never left mine as I stepped inside. “So you split your time between a bar in Kalkaska and the East Jordan Library?” she asked lightly.

I felt myself blushing. “Oh, well . . . I was looking up things from when your dad disappeared.”

As soon as I said it the light went out of her eyes and I wanted to shout Wait, come back! at her.

“I sold this house once. They’ve remodeled the kitchen since then,” Alan noted, sounding like a Realtor.

“What sort of things were you looking for?” Katie asked, her voice a bit flat.

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I shrugged, oh so not wanting to talk about this. “Did you remodel your kitchen?”

“What?” She looked around, bewildered.

“It looks modern, like maybe you had it worked on,” I explained lamely.

“The countertops and cupboards,” Alan supplied helpfully, as if I cared about any of this. I wanted to slap my forehead again.

Katie offered me a beer and I eagerly accepted, but she seemed stiff as she got one for each of us. I sat on her couch and she settled into a chair, curling her legs underneath her body as she regarded me warily.

“Why would you be doing that, looking into my dad?”

“Ask her about other stories; there must have been some more coverage that we didn’t find,” Alan instructed. I could feel myself hating him.

I took a breath. “I just want to understand him, that’s all. Ever since the dream, I can’t get him out of my head.”

Alan had already heard that particular joke and didn’t laugh. Katie was watching me steadily.

“There were a couple of stories about the nursing home fire.”

“Oh, that,” Katie said in disgust. “Right, my dad disappears and then a month later there’s a fire, so he’s a suspect?”

“Did you know any of the people who were killed?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She looked sightlessly into the distance. “I remember I was pretty angry. Everyone forgot all about my father; all they wanted to talk about was the bomb and how all these people were killed.” She seemed to catch herself. “I mean yes, it was horrible that people died and everything. I get that. But my dad was still missing, and no one cared anymore. The only person to even mention it was this guy from the ATF or what ever it is called. Oh, and Nathan, of course.”

I went very still. “Nathan Burby?”

“Oh, I’ll bet he mentioned it,” Alan fumed.

“Right, he was always asking how I was doing.” She flipped a wrist as if getting something off her hands. “I’m past that, though. What’s done is done.”

“Then he sold the land,” I prompted.

“What?” Her eyes regained their focus.

“For the factory, I mean.”

“Oh, no.” Katie shook her head. “That was a huge shock.”

“I guess I don’t understand.”

“The city didn’t tell him. They didn’t have to; it was in the lease. The city council was working with the company that bought it, but Nathan didn’t find out about it until the deal was already set. I mean, he wasn’t exactly unhappy about it, because he got paid ten thousand dollars for every coffin he had to move, and he’s got a lot more room at the new property, but still, he had no idea.” She gave a sigh. “Why?”

“Oh. Nothing. I just, you know, was curious.” Katie glanced at her watch, and I felt my heart sink.

“It’s getting pretty late,” Alan remarked.

“I had a repo up here the other day,” I blurted, grabbing at something to say just to stay there. She smiled encouragingly so I told her about trying to pick up Einstein Croft, starting with the first try, the encounter with Doris the Attack Goose, and my efforts since then. When I told her about Kermit dropping the pickup off the tow truck, she threw back her head and laughed with delight.

“Now I just have to hand him the court summons, and my work is done,” I finished.

“How are you going to do that? It seems like he’s hiding from you.”

“I haven’t figured that out. It’s not worth it to me to sit in front of his house all day and night, waiting for him to make a run to the grocery store.” Maybe I would make Alan do it while I was asleep.

“Then the sheriff’s department goes and gets it? How do you feel about that?” she inquired, her eyes twinkling. She laughed again as she saw the implication of her question register on me.

“Well yeah, but those guys are armed. I mean, they can just see Einstein driving by and pull him over.”

“I was kidding.”

“They drive police cars. It’s not a real repo,” I argued.

“I know.” She shook her head, grinning. “Want another beer?”

She jumped up before I could reply and went into the kitchen. I watched the rear end of her jeans as she walked away from me.

“Hey!” Alan shouted.

I jerked my eyes away.

“We shouldn’t be drinking and driving,” he admonished.

Katie was still smiling when she came back from the kitchen. “Let’s go look at the lake,” she suggested, handing me a brown bottle of beer.

“Sure, okay,” I agreed, pretty much willing to do anything she wanted. I followed her out the back door. The lights were off in her trailer, but the moon glinted off the silver sides and the yellow grass glowed white as I treaded beside her, my breath making foggy swirls.

“We’re not going in the trailer,” Alan informed me tightly. The trailer, I recalled, was where Katie usually slept.

He was right; that’s not where we were going. Just past the trailer the backyard, which had been bulldozed flat by the homebuilders, dropped away sharply, a steep hill that became steeper the closer it got to the lake. We stood at the lip of the hill, regarding Patricia Lake—a still, black body of water, a hundred acres or so, glimmering below us.

“We built the steps,” Katie informed me.

“Steps?”

She pointed and I squinted. Where the hill became too steep to walk down, a long flight of stairs took over, leading all the way to a sliver of beach. “The people who lived here before us never went down to the lake, if you can believe it. I mean, trying to get down there would be like falling off a cliff. So Mom hired these guys to put in the steps.”

We were talking about this, I realized, just to have something to talk about. “They did a nice job,” I noted lamely.

“They look too steep to me,” Alan complained. “They should have put in a landing.”

If he were there next to me instead of in my head I would grab Alan and fling him down the hill.

I saw that Katie was getting aggressive with her beer, tilting the bottle up for long swallows. Something was going on with her, but I was both figuratively and literally in the dark. I snuck glances at her in the night, tilting my own bottle up and ignoring Alan’s puritanical sighs.

“Okay,” she announced. “I’m cold.”

The lake-viewing portion of the evening was over. We retreated from the lip of the hill and trooped back into the house. Katie grabbed the empties and I heard them hit the recycling box as she grabbed two more from the kitchen.

“More beer?” Alan observed sourly.

When Katie returned she sat down on the couch next to me, hard, bouncing me a little like it was a game. We clinked bottle necks in a gesture that was both silly and fun.

“It’s probably time for us to go,” Alan observed frostily.

He repeated variations on this declaration for the next ninety minutes, while I took the tiniest possible sips of that beer, dragging out the experience as long as I could. Being with Katie felt free and easy and natural, so of course I had to screw it up. “I’m glad you’re not going to marry Dwight after all.”

Her expression sobered. She gazed at me, no longer smiling.

“I mean . . .” God, what did I mean?

“He’s not a bad guy,” she said.

“Oh, no! Of course not. I didn’t mean that. He’s a great guy.”

She pushed the hair out of her eyes. “I’m not some sort of prize for you two to compete for, you know.”

“I agree with her,” Alan said primly.

“What? No, of course not.”

Katie shoved herself off the couch and it took all my strength to keep from reaching for her and pulling her back down next to me.

“Neither one of you is the . . . ” She stopped herself, but her eyes were angry.

The man my father was, I knew she had been about to say. I felt the truth of it deflate me. How could anyone compete with the memory of the man she had been searching for since she was a little girl?

“My dad died when I was in prison,” I said haltingly. I didn’t know where I was going with this because I’d never allowed myself to say anything more than that, but now I tried. “He used to be so proud of me, it felt like my life and his life were the same thing, you know? He would throw the football to me until it got so dark I couldn’t see it. When I heard about him dying, I realized I couldn’t picture the world without him in it. I was glad I was inside—in prison, I mean—because it meant I didn’t have to go places where he should be but wasn’t anymore.”

Katie’s expression was unreadable.

“And now my sister . . . ” I had to pause for control before I got the rest of it out. “She told me she thinks it was the shame that killed them. I don’t believe that, but I do think, without me playing football, it gave them a little less to live for.” I gave her a crooked smile. “I know what it is like to have your whole life figured out.” I remembered being read my Miranda rights while I was still in the hospital, feeling like my life had become like a derailed train. “I mean, you were on track to marry Dwight, right? I think sometimes we get angry when we realize our plans aren’t going to work out.” The wisdom of Jimmy Growe. “But then in the end, it turns out to be better. This’ll be better.”

One moment she was staring at me with hot, weeping eyes, and the next she was on the couch, her warm mouth on mine.

My arms went around her as naturally as anything in the world.

“Ruddy,” Alan gasped.

I broke from the kiss. Katie blinked, looking a little puzzled. “I think maybe you’ve had too much to drink?” I said weakly, unable to believe what I was doing.

“Oh no, don’t worry about that,” she assured me. She came back into my arms, searching for me with her mouth.

“Uh . . . ” I backed away, retreating into the couch. She stood up, smiling.

“Come on.”

“Uh, where . . . where we going?”

She slid her eyes sideways. “When Mom’s out of town I sleep in the guest room down the hall.”

“What do you think you’re doing, Ruddy?” Alan demanded furiously.

What I was doing? I wasn’t doing anything—wasn’t he paying attention?

Katie held out a hand and I followed, completely unable to prevent myself from taking any other action.

“I certainly hope you don’t think you’re going to seduce my daughter,” Alan stormed.

I blew out a shuddering breath. “Katie . . . ”

Her reply was a sly smile. She began twisting the buttons on the front of her sweater, the material falling away from a silky camisole underneath. Before it was the guest room it must have been Katie’s bedroom, and it was still a little girl’s room, with a canopy bed and stuffed animals on the pillows, all of whom jumped to their deaths to make way for the grown-ups. In contrast to the rest of the house, everything here was neat and orderly, which made it seem all the more wanton when Katie unbuckled her pants and dropped them to the floor, standing before me in all lace, the most desirable woman I’d ever seen.

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“Leave. Now. Get out of this room,” Alan ordered, a note of desperation in his commands.

I simply could not imagine a worse situation. Katie lit a candle and then coiled on the bed, still smiling, and I moved toward her.

“Could we . . . ”

“Yes?” she replied, reaching for me.

“This is going to sound really weird.”

That stopped her: “Really weird” is not the most comforting phrase to hear from someone right before you have sex with him the first time. “Yes?” she prompted again, more cautiously.

“Could we just lie here? Would that be okay?”

She was so quiet I could hear the sputter of the flame gaining purchase on the candlewick.

“Are you . . . ” She gestured to my crotch, and I was a little hurt she couldn’t see the obvious answer to that question.

“No, of course not,” I assured her. “I’m fine there. Better than fine, I mean. Hugely better.” She laughed.

“I would just like to hold you; would that be okay?”

“You mean you really don’t want to?”

“Oh,” I nearly sobbed, “oh, I want to, but I just think it would be better. Trust me, okay?”

With a puzzled look she slid over and I climbed in, lying on my back. She put her head on my chest. “Like this?” she asked, her voice vibrating my heart.

I touched her hair, wrapped my arms around her, and sighed. “Yes, just like this.”

We didn’t talk after that. I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, watching the gentle circle of light from the candle dance above me.

 

When I awoke the birds outside the window were starting to chatter about the possibility of sunrise. I was sitting in a soft stuffed chair by the bed, with no memory of having pulled away from Katie’s embrace. She was huddled in her sleep, her face turned toward me, and I stared at it for several minutes before I stood and went down the hall into the bathroom.

I flipped on the light and looked in the mirror. “What’s up, Alan?” I asked softly.

“I wanted to look at her. She’s so beautiful.”

“Yeah, she really is.” I poured myself some tap water in a small paper cup. “Look, Alan, about last night, I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t be. After you went to sleep, I got to lie there and hold my daughter against my chest, just like I used to do when she was a very little girl. It was the most wonderful night of my life.”

I nodded slowly. “Yeah, me too.”

“I was a lot of things in my life, and if you had asked me then I would have told you the things I thought defined me: Realtor, businessman. But that would have been wrong. Nothing was more important than being a father. Those men, Wexler and Burby, of all the things they took from me, that was the worst.”

“She’s wonderful, and it’s because of you, Alan. You were there for the most important years of her life. And you’re still there now, I can see it in her.”

“Let me ask you something, Ruddy.”

I put my eyes on my reflection, sort of dreading the question, but Alan surprised me. “Why didn’t you play ball after you got out? If you were really that good, you served your time, why not make a couple million dollars while you still could?”

“A couple million? Yeah, well, that would be just great, wouldn’t it?”

“Wouldn’t it?”

“Picture what that would be like for her parents, Alan. One day they turn on their TV and there I am being interviewed by ESPN, having the time of my life. And their daughter was buried when she was seventeen years old, never even got to have her life. I’m making millions and Lisa Marie Walker lost everything. Can you imagine how they’d feel?”

For a long time Alan didn’t reply, and when he did, his voice was a quiet whisper in my ear. “I thought it might be something like that. You’re a good man, Ruddy.”

“You’re telling me it would be okay for your daughter to date a repo man from Kalkaska, Michigan.”

“Something like that.”

“Great. Got any ideas how that’s going to work? I’m not even comfortable talking about it with you. Can you imagine how it’s going to go with you watching?”

There was a soft rap on the door. “Ruddy?”

Katie’s hair was tousled from sleep. She had pulled on a thick robe and looked so cute in it I just had to grab her, though my hug was as G-rated as I could manage.

“Good morning!” She laughed. She looked over my shoulder into the tiny bathroom. “You always talk to yourself?”

“Yeah, it’s called Repo Madness.”

“Okay, good for you. It’s pretty early, are we really getting up?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Well . . . ” She drew a finger down the length of my jaw, and I nearly shivered. “Wouldn’t you rather come back to bed?”

“Yes, I really would.”

“Well then, why don’t you?”

I looked into her smiling eyes. “Because there’s something I have to do, and I’m afraid if I don’t go do it right now, I’ll lose my courage, and then I won’t do it at all.”

24

Too Subtle for Me

 

Jimmy was awake when I walked in my front door. He was eating a donut and frowning at some cartoons on the television. Jake was sitting next to him, giving the donut significant glances. “Cartoons suck now,” Jimmy declared.

“What?”

“It’s like all fake, or something.”

“Jimmy, I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me. Fake cartoons?”

“He’s right; the animation’s awful,” Alan agreed. “Remember Jonny Quest?”

“This conversation is making me nauseated,” I said.

“Oh, sorry, would it help if I changed the channel?” Jimmy asked innocently.

“That was a great cartoon,” Alan insisted.

“Jimmy!” I yelled over Alan’s babbling. Jimmy jumped in surprise. I held out a hand. “Sorry. Jimmy, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“Sure, Ruddy.”

I sat down heavily and regarded my friend Jimmy. He sensed that this was going to be an intimate conversation, so he reacted as I would, turning to the TV and flipping channels. I watched him do that for about five minutes before clearing my throat. “Hey, turn it off a sec, would you?”

He switched off the TV and held out the remote in submission. I took it from him and set it aside. “Jimmy, there’s no easy way to tell you this.”

“Ruddy, what are you doing?” Alan asked in alarm.

Jimmy’s eyes were trusting as he nodded for me to continue. “Remember I was asking if you knew Alice Blanchard? And you said you didn’t.” Jimmy looked thoughtful. “Right.”

“Well, you do know her, Jimmy.”

“Oh. Okay.” Jimmy shrugged.

“Maybe we should just leave it at that,” Alan suggested desperately.

“The thing of it is, Jimmy,” I said sternly, “a friend of mine once told me there is nothing more important than being a father, and that no one in the world has the right to separate someone from his child, you know what I mean?”

Jimmy’s look was completely blank. “Sure, yeah.”

“Jimmy, you’ve got a daughter. She lives in Traverse City. I’ve met her. She’s maybe seven or eight years old.” Alan gave a sigh of resignation.

Jimmy blinked at me for what seemed like half a minute, then sat bolt upright as his synapses, straining, finally connected with each other. “What?”

“Yeah.”

Jimmy stood up, whirled around, then sat down.

“Well, I can see that this is even more upsetting than the decline of animation,” Alan observed.

“Are you sure? I mean, how do you know?”

“The mother told me. Alice Blanchard? She’s the mother.”

“I don’t even know an Alice Blanchard,” Jimmy protested.

“Well that’s her married name, Jimmy. I don’t know what it was before she got married.”

“Adams, her name was Adams,” Alan prompted.

“That’s it. Alice Adams.”

“I don’t know an Alice Adams!” Jimmy wailed.

“Look,” I said impatiently, “cut it out. I’m telling you, it’s your daughter.”

Jimmy sat there, his face slack, while I avoided the temptation to snap my fingers in front of his eyes.

“What’s her name?” he finally asked. “My daughter.”

“Um . . . ”

“Vicki,” Alan whispered.

“Vicki.”

He nodded, as if confirming that the name made sense.

“What should I do?”

“Shower.”

He focused on me. “Huh?”

“Go take a shower. You don’t want to meet your daughter looking like that, do you?”

When Jimmy left the room, I turned the television on to see if I could find any good cartoons, but Alan wanted to talk.

“You know how angry Alice Blanchard is going to be over this?”

“I guess I do, yeah.”

“It doesn’t seem like you to meddle like this.”

I felt the blood rush to my face. “Is that what I’m doing, Alan? Meddling? This morning you told me the worst thing that Burby and Wexler did was rob you of time with your daughter, and now you want me to do that to my best friend?”

Alan couldn’t think of anything to say to that.

Jimmy came out of the shower looking as if he’d managed to wash all the color out of his cheeks. He trudged numbly after me outside, sliding into the truck and staring sightlessly through the windshield. Though it was a relatively mild day for that part of the country, he was dressed for an Arctic expedition, a parka pulled over a bulky sweater.

As I backed up, I had to brake a moment to let another vehicle go past, a gleaming SUV the color of midnight. The man behind the wheel gave me a quick glance and then looked away, but not before Alan and I both recognized him.

“That was Franklin Wexler,” Alan said tensely. “What’s he doing here?”

I decided to find out. Jimmy’s head snapped back as I put my foot into it, closing rapidly on the black SUV as it slowed for the town. The light ahead turned yellow and Wexler stopped. I eased up behind him, staring at his rearview mirror, but he didn’t raise his eyes. I tapped the horn, but Wexler remained resolutely focused on the road ahead.

Jimmy stirred. “Do you know that guy?”

“Yeah. We’re good friends.” I took my foot off the brake and crept forward. My front bumper kissed the back of the SUV, rocking it a little, but still no reaction from Wexler.

“What are you doing?” Alan asked, though I thought it was pretty obvious.

Still nestled up against the SUV, I tromped on the accelerator and my engine surged. Wexler’s vehicle, held fast by its own brakes, bounced up and down as my truck valiantly struggled to push it forward. With a low chugging sound, my motor died.

Finally, I had him. Wexler stared at me in his mirror, and I gazed back calmly, raising my eyebrows a little. Wanna play, big fella?

The light turned green and with a shriek his vehicle leaped ahead. I started my truck and took up pursuit, but Wexler drove without restraint, and I couldn’t bring myself to match his speed as we sailed past the Black Bear. The SUV was probably doing ninety as it rocketed out of sight. I followed at a sedate pace, chuckling.

Jimmy was wrestling with his demons and didn’t even ask me what that had been all about—I wondered if he’d even noticed. Halfway to Traverse City I pulled over and listened sympathetically as he vomited by the side of the road. “You going to be okay?” I asked, concerned.

His look indicated he honestly didn’t know. “Maybe we should get a toy or something,” he muttered when we were in town. I drove him to a Target and he spent an hour pondering his choice, eventually settling on a small stuffed rabbit with innocent, unaccusing eyes. He gripped the thing as if it was giving him strength as we cruised toward where the Blanchards lived.

“Will she be home?” Jimmy wondered.

“It’s Saturday.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“If she’s anything like her biological father, she’ll be watching cartoons,” Alan predicted.

Jimmy’s hands were shaking as he pulled open the door to the truck and followed me up to the Blanchards’ porch. I dropped the large brass knocker a few times, giving him a wink as the vibrations from within the house indicated someone’s approach.

When Alice Blanchard opened the door her anger at seeing the repo man turned to shock when she glanced at the person standing next to me. She raised a hand to her mouth.

“Oh, Alice,” Jimmy said in recognition.

As she had done before, Alice stepped out and pulled the door quickly shut behind her. She darted a look left and right around her yard, then glared at me with hot eyes.

“What do you think you are doing?”

“You can’t ask me to stand between a father and his child,” I lectured, feeling significantly less self-righteous than I had when I’d argued with Alan.

“His child?” she hissed.

“This was not the best idea,” Alan stated.

She raised her hand as if to strike me, then whirled on

Jimmy. “What are you doing here?”

“Uh . . . ” He half lifted the stuffed rabbit, then shrugged.

There was a sudden flurry of sound from the side of the house and little Vicki burst into view at a dead run—I got the feeling this was her standard method of getting from place to place. She stopped when she saw us, recognizing me, then switching her curious gaze to Jimmy, who had drawn in a sharp breath. When Vicki’s eyes found her mother’s, she sensed something, and looked back and forth between these two men, trying to figure out what was going on.

We stood there in the morning air for what seemed like a long time, though it might have been only an instant. I saw Jimmy try a trembling smile, for the first time in his life unsure of himself around a female.

“Vicki,” Mrs. Blanchard said. Her voice sounded distant. “Remember when I told you that your father had to go away, and he would never be back?”

Vicki blinked, processing this. Suddenly her eyes grew wide. She flung a panicked look at me, but before I could even shake my head she was staring at Jimmy, and I knew she had seen the rabbit.

“Hi,” Jimmy choked.

She was past us like an explosion, up the steps and to the door, which she threw open with such force that the recoil brought it back to a close. The three of us gazed after her, and then Mrs. Blanchard sighed.

“Okay?” She turned to me. “Okay now?”

“Maybe, I could like send money . . . ” Jimmy stammered. “No! I don’t need your money,” she snapped.

Jimmy turned pleading eyes to me, but I shrugged, helpless to assist him. He tried again. “Well for college, like a college fund? I’d like to do something.”

“Now? Now you’d like to do something?” Mrs.

Blanchard repeated contemptuously.

“Alice, I didn’t know,” Jimmy begged.

“You said that you weren’t ready for a relationship,” she said, her voice bitter as she mocked Jimmy’s words. “ ‘Maybe things have gotten too serious too fast,’ you told me. And when I asked you if there was someone else, you said ‘just once.’ Just once.”

Jimmy swallowed. “Yeah, I’m . . . ” He shook his head in self-loathing. “I’m sorry. . . .”

“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t say you’re sorry,” Mrs. Blanchard said furiously. “Don’t say anything, Jimmy.”

He hung his head.

“I got over you a long time ago. Please don’t insult me by pretending any of it matters now.”

We stood there for a bit, and there was the sense of waiting to see if there would be any more punishment. Finally she drew in a deep breath, looking toward the closed door. “It was a mistake for you to come here. Vicki doesn’t need you.”

“Okay,” Jimmy agreed.

We turned to leave, sort of slouching down the porch steps like whipped dogs. Jimmy was biting his lip, staring sightlessly ahead of us as we walked along the cement path toward my truck.

“Wait!” came a call from behind.

We turned. Vicki was running down the sidewalk after us. She stopped, her face almost identical to Jimmy’s as it gazed up at us with an open innocence. “Want to see my pictures?”

They weren’t drawings, but photographs, each carefully mounted behind plastic in the small album in her hands. They sat down together on the curb and went through each one, Vicki chattering easily with her biological father, already miraculously okay with the situation. Jimmy hugged his knees, clinging to them for support, and kept staring at his daughter in disbelief.

I strolled away to give them some privacy, stopping to examine a swing set in the corner of the yard. From that vantage point, I could slide a sideways glance over to the front porch and see Alice Blanchard’s face as she watched Vicki and Jimmy sitting at the curb. There was none of the hostility I’d expected—if anything, her gaze seemed to contain a small measure of satisfaction.

“That’s why she did it. Not for revenge or anything complicated. She wanted Jimmy to find her. She couldn’t call him, her husband would never forgive that. But this way, he tracked her down,” Alan proclaimed. “Mr. Bank President might provide a house, but he refuses to truly accept Vicki as his own.”

“And every child needs a father,” I murmured.

“That’s right. She did it for her daughter.”

“Still a little subtle for me,”confessed. I thought about what it must have taken for Alice Blanchard to decide that even though he had torn a hole in her heart, Jimmy was safe, even essential, for her daughter. He might be useless when it came to resisting the easy seductions of life, but no one who knew him could deny that he was anything but a gentle, caring person.

Alice’s eyes were completely unreadable as they settled on mine when we got into my truck. Vicki jumped up and down, waving, and Jimmy grinned and waved back, but Alice was going to have to deal with her husband over this, and that was going to take some strength. I wanted to raise my hand in some sort of a salute, but dismissed anything but a nod as being inappropriate. In all likelihood, Mrs. Blanchard still thought of me as despicable.

Alan fell asleep, and Jimmy was deep in his thoughts, so I had an uninterrupted opportunity to think about Katie Lottner for an hour—a very pleasant way to pass the time.

We went straight to the Bear so that Jimmy could be on time for the lunch shift. We walked in and Becky came across the floor and put her arms around me. “Oh, Ruddy.” She sighed. “It’s a sex line.”

 

NEXT: Chapters 25-26

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