Читать онлайн "Before The Killing Starts" автора Harper James - RuLit - Страница 3

 
 
     


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His head started to clear. It felt as if it had expanded and snapped back into place like a rubber band. He could hear Patsy Cline singing I've Loved & Lost Again in the background, which was some sick coincidence if you asked him. The song ought to be banned. Ellie was saying something to him.

'Evan! Have you heard a word I'm saying?' She took hold of his arm and shook him.

'I'm not sure I heard you right,' he said. It came out more like a croak than his voice, hollow behind the blood in his ears.

'I said I can't guarantee anything, but I think I can help.'

He grabbed hold of her arm more roughly than he meant to and squeezed. 'Where is she?' Five years' worth of pain and hurt crammed into three little words.

She slapped at his hand. 'You're hurting me.'

He let go and slumped down into his seat. 'Sorry.'

'You have to help me first,' she said.

It took a moment for her words to sink in. He stared at her open-mouthed. Did she think this was some kind of game and he'd pulled the short straw? But there was obviously something in the way he was looking at her that made her realize she'd strayed into territory where anything could happen. Her face softened and she put a conciliatory hand on his arm. Her voice took on a calm, measured tone, as if he was a patient waking from a coma and she had to give him some important, but bad, news: Sorry, we had to amputate your legs; deal with it.

'If I tell you what I know now, you'll be out that door'—she nodded her head towards the door which had just opened behind them—'faster than a scalded cat.'

Evan nodded several times, his breath exiting through his nostrils. He had to admit—to himself at least—that she was right about that.

'Also,' she said squeezing his arm in a patronizing way so that he knew something nasty was on its way, '. . . and there isn't any nice way to put this, but you've been waiting five years already. Another day or two won't make any difference.'

He felt as if he'd been slapped.

Had she really just said that? You've been waiting five years already.

'I need help right now. If you don't help me, I probably won't be around in five days' time, forget about five years.'

He didn't believe a word of it—she was being melodramatic. But he was back where he seemed to spend most of his life—between a rock and a hard place. He was going to have to do what she wanted if she was going to help him. Unless he took her outside and beat the crap—and the information—out of her. That idea was currently a very close second. It wouldn't take a lot to move it to the head of the line. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, his eyes never blinking, and almost prayed for her to give him an excuse to erupt.

'Evan?'

He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, his jaw moving tightly, as another hateful hypothesis intruded into his mind; did she really know something or was she just pulling his chain, pushing the right button to make him help her? There was only one way to find out and he hated himself for being so easy to manipulate. He threw his hands up in the air, unable to put his frustration into words.

'So, what's this guy's name?' he said eventually, sucking air up from the floor.

He saw a flash of triumph in her eyes.

'Dixie.'

He pulled a face. 'That's it?'

'No, his full name's Richard LaBarre, but everybody calls him Dixie.'

'Why? Is he from down South?'

She shrugged. 'I don't know—it doesn't matter anyway. I know he spends a lot of time in a bar called Kelly's Tavern. That'd be a good place to start looking for him.'

Evan knew the place; it was probably the roughest dive in the whole city. No danger, my ass.

'What do you want me to say to him if I find him?'

'Just ask him to call me.' She handed him a piece of paper with her number scribbled on it.

'Nothing else? What if he asks why?' His voice had taken on a long-suffering tone. He wondered if this is what his life would feel like after a few more years if Sarah ever did come home. A life of summary orders handed down to him without explanation or the possibility of non-compliance: do this; don't do that; do this chore now; what the hell are you doing that for? until he wished that she'd never come back. If only he knew, because if that's what life was going to turn into, he'd be out the door right now and Ellie could shove her problems up her (shapely) ass.

'I might be prepared to do everything you ask without a word of explanation,' he said, 'but not everybody's so amenable. Some people want a reason before they hop to it.'

'He won't,' she said, ignoring the jibe, the smug confidence in her voice irritating the hell out of him.

Everything she said made him realize there was a lot more going on that she wasn't telling him (all the important bits) and here he was about to walk into it all blindfolded. If it wasn't for the carrot she was dangling . . . Christ, how many more times did he have to think it before he got up and walked out and hoped next time she left it ten years before she came looking. In fact, make that twenty.

Talk about a prisoner of hope.

'Have you got a picture of him?'

She fished in her bag and pulled out half a photograph. It had started out as a photograph of two people but one of them had been cut out. It looked as if it had been taken somewhere hot and sunny and he could see a woman's arm but that was all. He wondered if Ellie was the other person and she didn't want him—or anyone else—to know it.

'Was that you who's been cut out?' he asked.

'No.'

'Really?' He leaned away from her and studied her for a moment. 'Because that'—he pointed very carefully at the dimples of cellulite pocking the white flesh under the woman's arm in the photo—'looks like your arm.' He chewed on the inside of his mouth to keep a grin from breaking out.

Her self-satisfied smile evaporated and was replaced with a look like she’d sat on a hot coal. She shot him a look of such hatred and contempt, it gave him goosebumps. At least she had the presence of mind not to glance down at her arm.

He gave a small it was worth a try shrug and topped it off with a smug smile. He felt much better. 'Do you know who it is?'

'No.' She shook her head. Not no, sorry, just no.

He smiled again as if to say he'd have been surprised and disappointed by any other answer. He'd find out who it was if he needed to, but the cellulite would never go away. Ha, ha, ha.

'There's no risk of me drowning in a sea of facts then.'

She climbed off her stool and picked her bag up off the bar, ready to go. That suited Evan just fine; he hadn't been about to offer her another drink anyway. He gave her his number and she punched it into her phone as if he'd given her the number for dial-a-cockroach. He watched her in the mirror behind the bar as she walked back towards the door. He was pretty sure she stole a quick look at her arms in the mirror as she went. A number of the other guys were watching her too, all sitting in a line at the bar like grinning idiots. One of them picked up his beer bottle and blew a hollow toot with it. You couldn't blame them—she was good to look at after all, in a selfish, manipulative bitch sort of way.

He ordered another beer and sat staring into the distance, wondering how likely it was that a person, even one as narcissistic as Ellie, would wait five years before telling her best friend's husband what she knew about her disappearance. Unless the best friend had asked her not to, of course . . .

Chapter 4

Dixie didn't say anything. He just sat quietly and waited for Chico to finish. The way things were looking, he should probably have brought a pillow.

     

 

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