Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chapter 45 / Neighborly

“About last night . . ."

Andrew sat at Annie’s kitchen table, overlooking the deck and backyard. He had set Annie’s place across from him, with her cereal bowl and coffee in a capped mug.

“Did you sleep at all?” she asked, sitting down. 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, but I’ve been thinking, it wouldn’t be in Bryan’s interest to give the chief a bad tip, just to get even with me for making his hair sticky. I think he’s smarter than that. Dumb as he seems.”

Annie sipped her coffee, listening.

“So it may mean that I’m getting close to the chief. With my research. And he’s trying to—warn me off, as it were.” 

He was pleased with this idea, Annie observed, excited even. It brought a tiny smile to his face, not enough to flash the gold tooth, but a visible smile. Delusional? He had got the story on the Neanderthal, during Kathleen’s campaign, and he had come through with dozens of stories before that.

“I can’t stop now,” he was saying, matter-of-factly, as if he were concluding a report to a board meeting. “I’m connecting Schuyler to New York and Albany, and also to Montreal and Cambridge. I’m getting corroboration, I’m getting facts. It’s probably more information than the witches want, but I’ll talk to them first. Then I’ve got other contacts, at other papers.”  

Annie let Chloe in from outdoors as she listened, and gave the dog breakfast, which Andrew had put into her dish on the counter, complete with her dog vitamins. Chloe’s water was fresh. 

Annie sat down again, and Andrew cupped her chin gently to make her meet his eyes. “The question is—are you still in on this?”

She kissed his fingertips, imbued with their scent of tobacco and apples, and held his hand. “I thought about it too,” she said, “while you were wandering around in the dark last night. 

“Here’s the way I feel. If he keys my car, I’ll have to suck it up. If he slashes my tires, I’ll report it to the police, even if it’s the police that did it. 

“If he poisons my dog, I’ll have to kill him.” 

Andrew nodded. “That’s fair.” 

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“Logan, get up!”  

“Sorry!” Andrew sat up, from where he had fallen asleep, on the concrete lip of a truck bay. 

“Goddammit,” said Steve, “I can’t have this place littered with bodies like a—homeless camp.” 

“Girl dropped me off early, so she could get to work on time.” Andrew looked around him. “Lucky I didn’t get rolled.” 

Steve resisted a smile. “Is that your problem, Logan? That you can’t take anything seriously?” 

Andrew hopped to the ground, wincing at his chilled bones. “No, Steve. Not to be contradict-ory, boss—I have many problems, but that isn’t one of them.” 

“Don’t call me boss.” Steve unlocked the back door of the plant. At 60 degrees, indoors felt warm. 

Andrew stood just inside Steve’s office. “More important than my problems—were you going to bail us out last night?”

“—Depends on the charge . . . maybe.” 

“What did you think the charge was?”

“Are you interrogating me?”

The best undercover identity is closest to your real one. 

“One of my problems is curiosity. You thought something.”

“Drugs, of course. Or that your lady skimmed a stop sign.” 

“She didn’t. We’re clean. And because you were sitting there, they didn’t drop anything into the car.” 

In back of them, men were arriving. Glaron must have driven Billie and JR in Ginger Lincoln. They greeted the other guys, opened and closed locker doors; a toilet flushed.   

“No comment,” said Steve. 

“Did you tell him we worked for you?” 

“I did. And that Ms. Sullivan works for the newspaper. That’s what made the difference. Not apples.” 

The phone rang, and Steve waved Andrew away. Andrew left the door ajar and leaned against the wall, out of Steve’s sight, listening. Silent, JR joined him. 

“If you don’t come in today, don’t come in again,” said Steve, on the phone. “OK . . . ,” wearily. “Ten o’clock. No later.” He hung up, and Andrew and JR moved to the locker room. 

“What do you think?” asked Andrew, putting away his jacket and lunch. “Is that boy smarter than I thought?”

JR shook his head. “Chief’s after you.”

Andrew looked at JR, who met his gaze. “Why?”

“You tell me.” 

“Who says?”

JR nodded once. “It’s the word,” he said, and moved away. 

He would miss this place, thought Andrew, if they let him out of here alive. The basketball, the rumble of apples, their sweet smell, the humming with Glaron against the rumble of apples, snatches of Johnny Cash or gospel; last week they had remembered most of the words of “Deeper Well.” Work would go smoothly this morning, till ten o’clock, without the tangle of that boy.

“You got something on for Thanksgiving?” Glaron asked him now, as they took their positions on the line, where Glaron was trusted with the final sort and Andrew filled and carted boxes. 

Andrew smiled down at the apples, wanting to hug Glaron, operating in his parallel world, in which money was tight, drugs were sold on the corner and you remembered when Thanksgiving was. 

“Annie’s brother and sister-in-law,” he said. "Come on over, we’ll have plenty of food.” 

“No thanks, we’re ten so far. Just want to make sure everybody here has a place to go. “

“Neighborly of you.”

“More the merrier. Come by for dessert, all of you. We got four pies in the freezer. So far.” 

“Maybe we’ll do that. I’m just meeting the family, you know. The brother, his wife.” 

“Mm-hmm . . . nervous?”

“The brother should be like his sister, right? And his wife should be like him, who’s like his sister, right?”

“That’s the way it should work. Don’t always.”


“Well, you know.” 

“I know.”

“We’ll get you over one night for barbecue,” said Glaron.


“Naw . . .” Glaron’s front teeth flashed as he lifted his eyes from the apples, to make sure Andrew was joking. “Sauce takes days, and tonight there’s some other plan . . . sweet potato pie.”  

Copyright © Debby Mayer