Skip to main content
“The point is, you go to Drake and tell him he has to pay you to shut up.”
“Everything you just said, you totally made it up.”
I shook my head. “I can put two and two together.”
“He’s my brother, man.”
“Your brother! He wants you dead.”
“Yup, and you’re helping him.”
“He wants to knock you off so he can have the old man’s money all to himself.” I was tossing that thought out there to see what would stick.
“They already disinherited me,” Lobo said. He turned despondent, gazing at the sky growing pale through the window. It was morning now. We could see Cindy out on the balcony feeding beer to a cactus plant.
“C'mon, we’ll drive up to the mansion right now,” I proposed with enthusiasm.
“After this, I'm going to go straight,” Lobo resolved.
Lobo grabbed his phone again. He pounded the buttons and this time, finally, someone picked up at the other end. “Give me Carter right away,” he demanded. And he got passed through. He started telling this Carter the story about the jewels he wanted the cops to release.
My thoughts were racing. Lobo’s lawyer is named Carter. I was hired to track Lobo down by Carter Bacon, who is also a lawyer. How many lawyers in town are named Carter? Maybe more than one. Maybe not. I went out onto the balcony with my phone to leave a message for Sally to research that particular question. The problem with this case was that it was getting confusing.
Behind me I heard Lobo say into the phone, “He’s here now. Yeh. In a minute.”
What was going to happen in a minute? Why would Carter Bacon send me on a hunt for a person he already had dealings with? It didn’t make sense. No, it did make sense, it was obvious, how had I not seen it? It was a set-up. Lobo had been expecting me from the start. He had had been forewarned by Carter Bacon himself. Carter Bacon wanted me gone because my knowledge of his nocturnal philandering threatened his political roadmap. Carter had given Lobo a contract on me.
My first thought was to get the girl out of there before things get crazy. That’s the way I am, chivalrous. Also I didn’t want her around to help Lobo or to be a false witness against me if it came to that.
“Here’s a twenty, honey. Go to the Herc, get us some breakfast, get us some coffees and toasted westerns.”
I looked over the railing, looked fourteen stories down at the asphalt parking lot, the cars, a dumpster. An idea was whirring in my head. I would make it look like a suicide. I would tell the press that Lobo was grief-stricken because he couldn’t pay his pledge to his alma mater. The headline would be: Alumnus kills self due to remorse over pledge.
Lobo came out onto the balcony. He looked crazy. He was looking in my direction but his eyes were focused on a distance beyond me, as if I was secondary to some larger preoccupation.
“Whassup?” I said.
His eyes re-focused, focusing on me now and he smiled as if he had just noticed me for the first time. He approached with arms wide as if to embrace me like an old buddy but he could also have in mind to flip me over the railing. But by now I knew that he couldn’t fight worth a damn. I sliced him below the ribs with my right hand and with my left I rolled him onto the railing. The cactus plant toppled off the ledge and flew down, down in slow motion onto the asphalt where it cracked and exploded into spinning fragments like splattered brains.
“You stupid paranoid bastard,” Lobo sputtered, like he was the rational one. I had him halfway over, I needed only to hoist him another inch for his centre of gravity to slide over and he would plummet.
“Help,” he cried.
“Shut up!” I snapped. “Pay the goddam pledge!”
I thought, good God, what am I doing? My reputation would be in tatters if I killed an alumnus, and without even collecting the debt. There was no good outcome to this. And in that fraction of a second when my will wavered, my strength wavered too and Lobo got a grip on me so that if he went over, I would go over too. It looked like I was going to have to kill both of us.