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A Channel Eight news van was parked just down the street from the crime scene van. They wouldn't be the only buzzards swooping down for a good look. And how long would it be before the phone started ringing and the neighbors started to gather? How long before the Spivey family saw fit to start their own fact-finding mission into Jimmy's death? I needed some place to hide, somewhere no one would look for me.

I put my head down and kept right on past my house. I must've driven in circles around UNCG's campus, winding across Spring Garden Street and down Tate Street, pausing in front of A Cup of Joe before realizing that even it wasn't open. One by one, I ruled out my friends. It didn't take too long, either. Since the divorce, I hadn't made the effort to get out and make new friends. Bonnie, my partner, was the closest to a best friend I had, but she was a single mom with six kids. And I sure couldn't afford to fritter money away on a hotel, not unless I went back to cutting hair full-time.

I don't know exactly how I arrived at the conclusion that I should go to Harmonica Jack's. Maybe I just happened to turn onto his street. It could've been because the band rehearsed in his huge, echoing, loft apartment. Or perhaps I knew, instinctively, that he was the least likely to make a pass at me, and even if he did, he would take no for an answer. Whatever the reason, he was my last shot.

Jack's loft was in a very transitional part of Greensboro, in the heart of the historic district, across the train tracks from the upscale renovated lofts. Jack really lived in a converted warehouse, retrofitted, by himself, for human habitation. It was a work in progress. He had no doorbell or front door, only a loading dock. Whenever we came to rehearse, we banged on the loading dock garage door, a battered metal contraption that worked on pulleys.

In the still-early morning, I pounded and the door sounded like a yard dog chasing an alley cat across garbage cans. It took quite a bit of pounding on that door to rouse Jack from what could only have been a few hours of sleep. I heard clattering from deep inside the building, swearing, and finally the groan of the pulley system, working to open the loading-bay door.

"What in the name of sweet Jesus," he groused, the door only halfway up. I bent down, peering up under the door.

"Jack, it's me, Maggie. I know this is a hell of a time to bother you, but I…" The tears that I hadn't known were coming, came. "Sorry," I said, rubbing my sleeve against my eyes and trying to get the control back. "I don't mean to get like this. I haven't had any sleep and…"

Jack popped the door up, anchored the chain on a cleat on the doorframe, and pulled me inside.

"Maggie," he said, his arm around my shoulders, "it's all right. Come on in." He released the chain with one hand, his other still resting on my shoulder. The door slid quietly back into place. He led me across plywood floors to a dilapidated sofa which rested in front of the warehouse's sole heating system, a pot-bellied stove. "Take a load off," he said, pushing me gently down into the sofa's soft cushions. "I'll make us some coffee."

He turned and walked to the makeshift kitchen which seemed to consist of a microwave and a hot plate. He looked no different fresh out of bed than he did most nights at the club. His wiry blond hair stood out in wild tufts around his head, and he was smiling, a soft, gentle smile I'd never seen him without. Jack was a hippie in a generation that no longer recognized them. He'd missed his era.

He wore wrinkled, wide-legged jeans and no shirt; his feet were bare. His chest was smooth and for the first time I realized that he was too thin. He'd been away from his mama long enough to get scrawny and not long enough to learn how to tend to himself properly. He probably wasn't more than twenty-six or -seven, but his face looked younger.

He could make coffee, though. Just like I liked it, strong and black. Mama always said, "Weak coffee, weak character," and she was probably right. Jack didn't seem to lack character.

"Now," he said, settling into the arm chair next to me, "what happened with the cops?"

I told him, skipping the details. When I got to Jimmy, a tear or two started leaking down my cheeks and Jack handed me a wrinkled napkin for a tissue. He didn't say much, just listened, sipping his coffee, his eyes slowly widening.

"That stupid detective seems to think I killed him," I said. "I was there for hours and hours, saying the same thing over and over, but he wouldn't listen."

"So you've been there all this time?" he asked.

"Yeah. Well, there and driving around trying to figure where to go. I can't go home. I didn't know where else to go and…" I broke off, refusing to give in to my feelings. "I'm going to get the creep that killed Jimmy. You watch me!" The coffee sloshed dangerously in its cup when I saw myself, facing down Jimmy's killer, a gun in my hand.

"Maggie," Jack said, standing up in front of me, "here." He grabbed one of my hands, took the coffee mug from the other, and pulled me up from the couch. "Come on." He led me from the room, up a roughly framed set of steps and into the huge loft that overlooked the downstairs and functioned as his bedroom.

"You haven't slept in more than twenty-four hours. You gotta get some sleep." He led me over to his unmade waterbed, pushed me down onto the edge, and proceeded to take my boots off. "Here," he said, pushing me back against his pillow and covering me with the thick quilts that layered the warm, squishy bed. His voice was as soft as the little waterfall by the old home place. "You go to sleep. We can talk when you wake up."

Patting me on the shoulder as if I were his little sister, he sank down onto the frame of the bed.

"I gotta call Sheila," I muttered, half attempting to get up and grab the phone.

"No, you don't. Call her later," he said, and I wondered if he knew who Sheila was. He reached over to the bedside table and picked up one of the harmonicas lying there.

"Maggie," he said, his voice the softest whisper, "listen to this. I thought I'd play it behind that song you wrote." He began to play and I closed my eyes, working to listen. Now and then I struggled to open my eyes, but it was no use. My mind was following Jack's tune, deeper and deeper into the darkness.

Chapter Six

In my dream I was floating on a yellow raft somewhere in the Caribbean. The warm waves gurgled beneath me and felt warm. I flipped over, onto my stomach, and looked at the water below me. It was so clear that I could see the sandy bottom, fifty feet away. Brightly colored fish swam by as I watched, floating in and out of a clump of black seaweed. As I watched, the seaweed swayed with the movement of the water, then left the sea floor to float toward me. The black weeds changed shape and became Jimmy's body, arms and legs swollen pink logs, the eyes eaten away.

I screamed, instantly awake, panting, struggling to sit up and unable to move. For a moment, I couldn't remember where I was. Then it all came flooding back. I was in Jack's house, on his waterbed, and Jimmy was dead in my house. I tried to hop out of the bed but I couldn't. Whenever I moved, the waterbed seemed to surround me, resisting my attempts to leave.

I finally settled for rolling to the edge, grabbing the wooden frame, and sliding off onto the floor. I could hear soft music coming from the floor below, and smell the faint trace of old coffee.

"Jack?" No answer.

I grabbed my boots and walked to the edge of the half-framed wooden stairway. There was no sign of Jack anywhere.

I had no idea what time it was, but from the way the sun hit through the trees, touching the window, I guessed midafternoon. I needed coffee and I needed a plan. I wandered in a stupor into the designated kitchen area of the big open room and started searching for coffee. A note from Jack and a garage door opener lay beside a dirty white carafe.