H Is For Homicide Page 45

’’She brags about me?’’

’’No, Raymond. I'm just saying that to hear myself talk,’’ I said. ’’I don't suppose I could trouble anybody for some grub. We haven't had breakfast and I'm starving to death.’’

Raymond leaned forward and gave Luis a thump on the head. ’’What's the matter with you? Pull off here. Didn't you hear what the lady said?’’

Raymond studied me with amusement, talking to Bibianna over his shoulder. ’’I like your friend, here. She's got some spunk.’’

’’This isn't spunk, Raymond. This is irritation,’’ I said. Bibianna eyed me uneasily, but I was really on a roll. I was making up Hannah's character as I went along, and it was liberating as hell. She was short-tempered, sarcastic, outspoken, and crude. I could get used to this. License to misbehave.

Raymond smiled at me.

’’This okay, boss?’’ Luis, of the handsomely tattooed arms, was slowing near the entrance to a McDonald's on upper State Street.

’’This okay with you?’’ Raymond said to me. He seemed genuinely concerned that the restaurant meet with my approval.

’’Raymond, this is perfect. Way to go.’’

I ate three Egg McMuffins. If it had been 10:00 A.M., I'd have had a couple of QP's with cheese instead. Bibianna couldn't eat. She sat and picked at an apple Danish while Luis and Raymond, with a flair for the Gallic, ordered French toast and French fries, with a side of maple syrup. I had spotted a telephone in the narrow corridor leading to the ladies'room, but the wall-mounted instrument was in plain view of the table where the four of us sat. Raymond kept his arm loosely draped around Bibianna's shoulders, rubbing her upper arm in a manner meant to be se*y. Guys learn to do that in high school and it's very irritating. She was back to being passive, obsequious, and subdued. I wanted to see her sass him. Resist. I wanted her to thumb her nose at him. It was not going to help her to act like a whipped dog. It was time she stood up for herself again. If she acted like a victim, the guy was going to treat her like one.

I got up from the table. ’’I gotta go to the can. Come with me, Bibianna. You can rat my hair.’’

’’I'm fine.’’

’’Well, I'm not. Could you pardon us, Raymond? We have to go do some girl stuff.’’

’’Have at it,’’ he said.

I kissed my fingertip and placed it on the tip of his nose. ’’You're a peach.’’

He slid out of the booth so Bibianna could get up.


IN THE LADIES'room, she turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water in her eyes. I pulled out a paper towel and passed it to her. She buried the lower half of her face in the paper toweling, staring at herself in the mirror above the sink. She wiped her hands and threw the paper away. ’’Thanks for what you did in the car. God, I can't stand this. I really hate his guts.’’

’’He's certainly crazy about you,’’ I said.

She moved into one of the stalls, trying the window above the toilet. ’’Shit. This is nailed shut. Do you think there's another way out of here?’’

’’I don't know. I'll check,’’ I said. I was in a bit of a bind with Bibianna, wanting to help her without actually giving up proximity to Raymond Maldonado. I went over to the door and opened it a crack, making a show of searching for a rear exit. All I caught sight of was Raymond doing one of his head jerks. The public pay phone on the wall was tantalizingly near, but Luis was bound to spot me if I tried to use it. I closed the door again. ’’What's the matter with Raymond?’’

’’He's getting worse,’’ she said morosely. ’’I never saw him so bad.’’

’’Yeah, but what causes that?’’

’’It's called Tourette. TS, whatever that is. It's like something in his nervous system - neurological and like that. All I know is he does that stuff over and over and sometimes he gets into uncontrollable rages. He's got pills he won't take because he can't stand the side effects.’’

’’He's had it all his life?’’

’’I guess so. He doesn't ever talk about it much.’’

’’But he's not doing anything for it?’’

’’Smokin'dope helps, he says, and he sometimes shoots up.’’

’’Is that why you left, because of the Tourette?’’

’’I left because he's a jerk! The other I could live with, but the guy's turning mean. It's got nothing to do with his condition,’’ she said. ’’Jesus, we gotta figure out how to get out of here.’’ She moved into the second stall and tried the window there. Also locked. ’’The hell with it. We're going to have to make a break for it some other way. I wish Tate were here.’’

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