H Is For Homicide Page 49


One of the guys snapped at the dog in Spanish, but the animal didn't seem to understand the language any better than I did. The guy jerked his head in my direction, the knot of his hairnet sitting in the middle of his forehead like a spider in a web. ’’Don't make no sudden moves and don't never touch his head. He'll tear your arm off.’’

’’I'm sorry to hear that. What's his name?’’ I asked, praying it wasn't Cujo.

’’Perro,’’ he said. And then with a grin, ’’Means 'dog'in Spanish.’’

’’You think that up all by yourself?’’ I said mildly.

Everybody laughed. Ah, they do speak English, I thought.

His smile was thin. ’’He hates gringas.’’

I glanced at the dog again and shifted my weight, trying to ease away. How could the dog know my nationality? He flattened his ears and exposed his teeth. His upper lip curled back so far, I could see up his nose.

’’Hello, Perro,’’ I sang. ’’Nice dog. Good doggie.’’ Slowly, I allowed my gaze to drift, thinking the eye contact was perhaps too aggressive for the little fellow's taste. Wrong move. The dog lunged, erupting into a savage barking that shook his entire body. I shrieked involuntarily, which the guys seemed to think was hilarious. The couch humped about four inches in my direction, bringing him almost in range of me. I could actually feel the hot breath of his bark against my leg like little puffs of wind. ’’Uh, Raymond?’’

Raymond, still talking on the phone, held a hand up, impatient at the interruption.

’’Could somebody call the dog, please?’’ I repeated the request, this time audibly.

Raymond snapped his fingers and the dog sat down. The guy with the Sony Walkman smirked at my relief. Raymond put a hand across the mouth of the receiver and jerked his head in the guy's direction. ’’Juan. Take the dog out.’’ And then to me, ’’You like a beer? Help yourself. Soon as Bibianna's done, you can shower if you want.’’ He returned his attention to the phone. I didn't move.

Grudgingly, Juan removed the handgun from his waistband and laid it on the table. He picked up a chain leash from the arm of the couch and attached it to Perro's collar. The dog made a quick snapping feint at his hand. Juan pulled his fist back and for a minute the two locked eyes. Juan must have been Alpha male because Perro backed down, reinforcing my contention that dogs aren't that smart. A drop of sweat began a lazy trickle down the small of my back.

Once the dog had been removed, I helped myself to a beer and then took a seat in a wide-armed upholstered chair on the far side of the room. I pulled my feet up under me just in case there were vermin cruising at floor level. For now, there was nothing to do except sip my beer. I laid my head against the chair back. The false high I'd experienced in the car had now drained away, replaced by a thundering weariness. I felt heavy with fatigue, as if tension had generated a sudden weight gain.

13

I MUST HAVE dozed off because the next thing I knew, someone had removed the half-empty beer bottle from my hand and was giving my arm a gentle shake. I woke with a start, turning to stare at the woman blankly, trying to reorient myself. Oh, yeah. Bibianna. I was still caught up in the aftermath of the shoot-out between Chago and Jimmy Tate. Luis and Raymond were still in the apartment, but the others had gone.

Bibianna was looking better, some of the old confidence in evidence. She was wearing a thick white terrycloth robe, her hair wrapped in a towel. She smelled of soap. Her face had been scrubbed, shining now with the wholesome look of youth. She went into the kitchen and fetched herself a beer. Raymond, still on the phone, followed her with his eyes. I felt a surge of pity. He was a good-looking man, but his longing was unabashed and gave him a hangdog appearance. Now that Bibianna's cockiness had resurfaced, his uncertainty had surfaced, too. He seemed needy and insecure, qualities most women don't find that appealing. The macho swagger I'd seen earlier had been undercut by pain. He must have known she didn't give a rat's ass about him. The power had shifted, lodging now with her where it had once lodged with him.

’’Come on. I got some clothes you can borrow,’’ she said.

’’I'd kill for a toothbrush,’’ I murmured as we moved toward the bedroom.

She stopped, glancing back at Luis, who was now perched up on the kitchen counter. ’’Run over to the Seven-Eleven and pick up a couple of toothbrushes.’’

He didn't respond to the request until Raymond snapped impatient fingers at him. Luis hopped down and crossed to Raymond, who shoved some crumpled bills at him. As soon as he'd left, Raymond turned on Bibianna. ’’Hey. You don't talk to him like that. Guy works for me, not you. You treat him with a little respect.’’


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