H Is For Homicide Page 43

Bibianna was getting into passive resistance, slowing down, hanging back. ’’Listen, Raymond. Maybe I could go another time, okay? Hannah's been talking about going home with me,’’ she said. ’’And we do have plans...’’

He turned and smiled at me. ’’We're getting married.’’


He shook his head. ’’Soon, though. It was all set up, but she said she wasn't ready. Next thing I know she takes off. Just like that, she's gone. Doesn't even leave me a note. I wake up one morning and she's disappeared...’’

Bibianna's face was drawn and pale. ’’I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you, Raymond, but what could I do? What was I going to say to you? I tried to tell you...’’

He raised a finger to his lips and then he pointed it at her reprovingly. ’’You don't leave a guy, Bibianna.’’ He turned to me, one hand out, palm up, arguing his case. ’’I've been in love with this woman for how many years now? Six? Eight? What am I going to do with her, huh?’’

Bibianna was silent, her eyes full of dread. I couldn't believe the change that had come over her. All the confidence was gone, the high energy, the se*iness. My own mouth was getting dry, and a whisper of fear tickled me in the small of the back.

We reached the car. Another fellow stepped out, a Latino with a dark knit watch cap pulled down to his ears. His eyes were black, as flat and dull as spots of old paint. He had acne scars on his cheeks and a mustache made up of about fourteen hairs, some of which looked like they were drawn on by hand. He was my size. He wore sharply pressed khaki pants with numerous pleats across the front and an immaculate white undershirt. Tufts of underarm hair were visible, straight and dark. His bare arms were muscular, tattoos extending from his shoulders to his wrists - a graphic rendition of Donald Duck on his right and Daffy Duck on his left.

’’That's a copyright violation,’’ I remarked, nearly giddy with anxiety.

’’That's Luis,’’ Raymond said.

He had a gun. He held the rear car door open, like a well-mannered chauffeur.

Bibianna balked, one arm braced against the car. ’’I'm not going without Hannah.’’

Raymond seemed taken aback. ’’Why not?’’

’’She's my friend and I want her with me,’’ she said.

’’I don't even know this girl,’’ he said.

Bibianna's eyes flashed. ’’Goddamn it! This is just like you, Raymond. You say you love me. You say you'll do anything. First thing I ask for, all I get is an argument. Well, I'm sick of it!’’

’’Okay, okay. She can go if she wants. Anything you say.’’

Bibianna turned to me with a look filled with mute pleading. ’’Please. Just for a few days.’’

I felt myself shrug. ’’I got nothing else to do,’’ I said.

Bibianna got in first, sliding across the backseat. Raymond slid in beside her. I hesitated briefly, wondering at the wisdom of it.

Luis turned the gun so that it was pointing at my chest. It clarified my thinking most emphatically.

I got into the backseat. The dashboard was covered in white terrycloth with ’’Raymond and Bibianna’’ machine-stitched in glossy green script across the face of it. A rosary hung from the rearview mirror along with a Sacred Heart of Jesus, bleeding. The interior of the car, including front and back seats, was upholstered in white acrylic teddy bear fur. There was a Radio Shack car phone on the front seat. All the car lacked was a collection of bobbleheads on the rear... or a four-inch Virgin Mary with little magnetized feet. The minute I got in, I knew I'd made a mistake.

Luis started the engine without a word. The mufflers sounded like distant jackhammers as he pulled out onto the road. He kept both hands on the steering wheel with his arms fully extended, his trunk and head inclined back. He made a U-turn and sped toward the freeway. Raymond's ticcing recurred at perhaps three-minute intervals, sometimes less. I found myself unnerved at first, especially in the absence of any explanation. The others seemed to take it for granted. At first, I would jump every time he did it, but I found myself adjusting, marveling that anybody had to live like that. Was there no help for him?

Bibianna now seemed to be in the mood for an argument, maybe to forestall any amorous intentions. ’’How'd you find out about last night?’’

’’Dawna called and told me some of it before the cops picked her up. Who's the guy?’’

’’What guy?’’

’’The guy last night shot Chago.’’

’’How do I know who he was? Just somebody in the restaurant with a gun.’’

’’Dawna said you were with him.’’

’’I was there by myself.’’

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