Evan hit the horn again
and the truck started to crawl forward. The two guys broke into a run. Evan
inched the car after it, his palms slick on the wheel. The truck made it to the
end of the street and stopped, waiting for a break in the traffic.
Evan's door flew open
and the guy who'd helped him in the bar leaned in and tried to pull the keys
out of the ignition. Evan knocked his hand away. Then the passenger door opened
and the other guy threw himself into the passenger seat, his gun trained on
Evan's chest. The first guy stepped back and motioned for Evan to get out. In
front of him the Fedex truck started moving again, made a right and was gone.
The street ahead was clear, but the truck might as well have still been parked
in front of him for all the good it did him. There was no way he could drive
off without getting shot.
Evan climbed slowly out
of his car and wiped his hand on the side of his pants, his heart banging away
in his chest. The second guy came around the front of the car and stood behind
him. He was trapped between them. He took a closer look at the guy in front of
him. He was heavyset and a couple of doors down from good looking with a
bandit's mustache and the sort of eyes you didn't want to catch if you knew
what was good for you.
'Thanks for stopping
that guy in the bar,' Evan said and grinned nervously.
'No problem,' the guy
said and grinned back, not so nervously.
'I don't suppose you've
chased me because I forgot to say thanks,' Evan said hopefully.
The guy dropped his eyes
and worked a small, sad smile onto his face. 'It was quite rude,' he
said, 'but, you're right, there is something else.'
Evan nodded. 'I thought
'Why are you asking
'Why don't you tell me
who you are first?'
The guy smiled. 'Sure.
I'm Juan and this is José,' he said with a sweep of his arm towards his friend.
José gave a slight nod of his head.
Evan looked past Juan to
where their car was parked. Juan saw him looking and shook his head. 'Don't be
silly.' He needn't have worried. Evan wasn't about to put himself at risk. He'd
already done more for Ellie than she deserved. He wasn't thinking of making a
run for it anyway; he just wanted to get a look at their license number.
'So, now you know who we
are, why are you looking for Dixie?'
'A client asked me to
try to find him.'
Juan nodded. 'What are
you? Some kind of investigator?'
Evan nodded back.
'So who's your client?'
'You probably wouldn't
Juan smiled again. 'Try
me. I know a lot of people.'
'His name's John
Juan cocked his head at
that, his eyes diminishing to slits as he gave it some thought. 'You're right—I
never heard of him. If he exists that is.'
He nodded to José
standing behind Evan who stepped up and slammed the barrel of his gun into the
side of Evan's head. Evan let out an involuntary gasp and staggered sideways
against one of the parked cars. A trickle of blood wound its way down the side of
'Let's try another one,'
Juan said as if nothing had happened. 'Why does this John Thomas want to find Dixie?'
Damn. Evan knew another bang on the head
was on its way whatever he said. Should he make something up? The truth—that he
didn't know—was guaranteed to annoy them.
'He didn't say,' Evan
said, glancing round at José behind him. 'That's the truth, by the way. Said I
didn't need to know.'
There must have been
something about the resignation is his voice that stopped them from hitting him
immediately. Juan cocked his head to one side again and studied Evan's face,
trying to make up his mind whether further motivation was called for. It didn't
take long. He nodded and José obliged with another clout on Evan's ear.
'That might teach you to
take a fuller brief from your client,' Juan said. He grinned again and José
'Thanks for the advice.'
Juan gave a no-problem
flick of the hand. 'My pleasure.'
He didn't say anything
more for a moment. Maybe he was all out of questions.
'Well, if that's it, I
think I'll run along now,' Evan said, and gestured with his chin towards his
José stepped forward and
drew his arm back to give him another whack when a noise in the distance made
them all freeze. The sound of police sirens. The delivery driver must have
called it in. Evan managed to keep the grin off his face but Juan saw it in his
Juan gave a small shrug
and pointed directly at Evan's face. 'You're a lucky man. If I were you, I'd
The sound of the sirens
was quite close now. They couldn't be more than a block away. It didn't seem to
'Tell your client that
you couldn't find Dixie. Give him his money back. Whatever. Just drop it,' he
said and patted Evan's face a couple of times.
Then the two of them
turned and jogged back to their car. They reversed out into the main street and
drove off just as the first police cruiser pulled across the other end of the
street. Evan got another look at their license plate then turned towards the
police and raised his hands above his head.
The police didn't take
long with him. With the delivery driver's story to back him up, he managed to
convince them it had been a mugging that went wrong. They probably didn't
believe him but they let him go anyway, which was the main thing, with a
promise to come in and give a full statement in the next couple of days.
As soon as they'd gone
Evan got back in his car and made a couple of calls.
Ellie rested her head on
the steering wheel and tried to think what to do next.
She'd followed Evan to
Kelly's bar and waited in her car to see what happened. She didn't know what
she'd expected but it seemed like Evan must have stirred things up in there.
She'd watched him back out through the door, ass first, before jamming a pool
cue through the handles. A couple of seconds after that the doors had bulged
outwards, the cue had snapped and two beaners had come rushing out and chased
after him. She'd felt an adrenal spike of fear quickly followed by a sweaty
giddiness as relief flooded her body. Thank God she'd sent Evan in there. To
think she might have just walked in herself, straight into their hands.
Evan had made it to his
car and taken off, making the two guys double back for theirs. She'd lost sight
of them all after that.
Her phone rang. She
fished it out of her bag—it was Evan.
Looks like he must
have got away from them.
'Where are you?' he
asked without bothering to say hello. He sounded pissed, but that was hardly
surprising—not that she was supposed to know anything about it.
'What's wrong?' she
said, trying hard to get the right balance between concern and surprise.
'I'll tell you when I
see you,' he snapped. 'Where are you?'
She had no idea where he
might be and she didn't want him to know that she'd followed him. In the phone
she could hear a siren in the background wherever he was. Then she heard it
faintly through her window. She wound it down and listened. The two sounds were
perfectly synchronized; they had to be the same, That meant he was still
somewhere nearby. How far did a siren carry? Two blocks? Three? She had no
idea. She turned away from the window, towards the sidewalk, and hunched over
the passenger seat as if she'd dropped something on the floor.
'Ellie?' He made no
effort to conceal his irritation.
'I'm . . . at my hotel.
'What's that noise? I
can hear sirens. Are you sure?'
She felt a rush of
panic. 'Of course I'm sure. I've got the window open. Hang on a sec.' She wound
the car window up. 'There, is that better?'
'Okay' He didn't sound
convinced. 'Stay there. I'm coming over. We need to talk.'
'You can't,' she said,
the words bursting out of her mouth a little too quickly. She didn't know if he
was two or three blocks closer or further away than she was? He might get there
first. 'I'm just about to go out.' It sounded so lame in her ears. He was
bound to be suspicious now. But it seemed his annoyance was getting in the way.
'Ellie,' he snapped,
almost shouted, 'this is important . . .'
'What do you need to say
that you can't say over the phone anyway? If it's that important, tell me now.
If not, it can wait.'
She allowed herself a gotcha
smile. There wasn't a lot he could say to that. On the other end of the line
she heard him take a couple of deep breaths. Take as many as you like.
'Yeah, I'm here.' That
was more like it. There was a satisfying amount of defeat in his voice. 'What
time will you be back?'
She relaxed a little.
'Why don't you come over
around six?' she said in an encouraging tone, like she was offering him the
last slice of pie.
'Okay. See you then.'
The phone went dead. He
really was pissed. With any luck he'd have calmed down by the time he
came over—another reason not to meet him straight away. She didn't want to be
on the receiving end of all that testosterone. She dropped the phone back in
her bag and straightened up. She better get back to the hotel just in case he
went there anyway, the suspicious prick. A movement registered in the periphery
of her vision. She turned and looked out the window and her hand flew to her
mouth, an involuntary shriek escaping through her fingers.