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She put aside the cigarettes and held up a cheque. “I’m closing down the store.”
Mookie’s eyes widened and he teared right up. “No—”
“Okay, yes ma’am.” He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand.
“You can start calling me Ronnie.”
Ronnie passed the cheque to Mookie and held onto it. Their fingers touched and he felt a tingle that ran up and down his spine.
“Promise me something, don’t let people call you Mookie anymore,” she said.
Mookie looked into her green eyes. They were an ocean of green, a big warm-feeling sea of green. He felt himself begin to expand.
“You’re only a loser if you let people call you one.”
“Yes, ma’am — Ronnie.”
Ronnie Twilling let go of the cheque. It was made out to Stuart Morris. It was his name and he’d almost forgotten it.
“It’s not much,” she conceded.
Mookie wiped his nose with the back of his wrist. “I don’t know what much is.”
“Listen, my husband was a real piece of work. He was into some things you don’t need to know about. If he’s taken off for good, I won’t be feeling any remorse. Between you and me, I’m grateful you ran him off — did you really kill him? I need to know.”
“But the store?” he said.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any choice. I’ll help you find something. Handyman work. Mrs. Elgar for instance, you know her. She bought some paint. I bet the paint’s still in the can. I’ll call her today, but first I need to know, did you kill my husband? Or did he run off somewhere, like the police said.”
Mookie looked at the cheque. A hundred dollars. In his whole lifetime he’d never had a hundred dollars all in one place at the same time.
“I killed him,” he said.
The second he said it he saw Mrs. Twilling stiffen.
“He was on his boat. He was passed out, drunk I guess. There was nobody around. I had an iron bar. I just walked up and hit him with it in the head. Three or four times. Hard.”
Mrs. Twilling sat back and he saw the look on her face and knew something was wrong.
“I did you a favour,” he said.
“Get out,” Mrs. Twilling said.
“No, I did you a favour,” he said shrivelling more as he stepped towards her.
She pushed her chair back. Mookie got it. The cop’s hand on her back — checking that the wire was in place.
“Why—?” he said.
Mrs. Twilling looked at him. She said nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. He heard the door open. Mookie knew it was the cop.
“Help me,” he said.
Mrs. Twilling pulled another cigarette from the pack. She lit it quickly and blew a pillow of smoke at him.
“Sorry, Mookie, not today.”