Long Lost Page 46

He folded his arms across his chest. ’’That\'s Tuesdays,’’ he said.

’’No, I mean ’’

’’I know what you mean.’’ He stifled the smile and pointed a beefy arm tattooed with a green D toward the dance floor. I expected Berleand to be in a quiet shadowy corner, but no, there he was by the stage, front and center, eyes up and focused on the, uh, talent.

’’Is that your Frenchman over there?’’

’’It is.’’

The bouncer turned back to me. His name tag said ANTHONY. I shrugged. He looked through me.

’’Anything else I can do for you?’’ he asked.

’’You can tell me I don\'t look like the type of guy who\'d come to a place like this, especially during the daytime.’’

Anthony grinned. ’’You know what type of guy doesn\'t come to a place like this, especially during the daytime?’’

I waited.

’’Blind guys.’’

He walked away. I made my way toward Berleand and the bar. The soundtrack blasted Beyoncésinging to her boyfriend that he must not know about her, that she could have another man in a minute, that he was replaceable. This indignation was kind of silly. You\'re Beyoncé, for crying out loud. You\'re gorgeous, you\'re famous, you\'re rich, you\'re buying your boyfriend expensive cars and clothes. Gee, yeah, it will be impossible for you to land another guy. Girl power.

The topless dancer onstage had moves that I would describe as ’’languid’’ if she dialed it up several notches. Her bored expression made me think she was watching C-SPAN 2, the pole not so much a tool of the dance trade as something that kept her upright. I don\'t want to sound prudish, but I don\'t quite get the appeal of topless places. They simply don\'t do it for me. It isn\'t that the women are unappealing some are, some aren\'t. I discussed this once with Win, always a mistake when it comes to anything involving the opposite se*, and concluded that I can\'t quite buy into the fantasy. It may be a weakness in my character but I need to believe that the lady is really, truly into me. Win could care less, of course. I do get the merely physical, but my ego doesn\'t like se*ual encounters to be mixed with commerce, resentment, and class warfare.

Label me old-fashioned.

Berleand wore his shiny gray Members Only jacket. He kept pushing his dorky glasses up and smiling up at the bored dancer. I sat next to him. He turned, did his hand-rub-wash thing, and studied me for a moment.

’’You look terrible,’’ he said.

’’Yeah,’’ I said, ’’but you look great. New moisturizer?’’

He tossed back a few beer nuts.

’’So this is your secret locale?’’

He shrugged.

’’Why here?’’ Then, thinking about it: ’’Wait, I get it. Because it\'s so off the radar, right?’’

’’That,’’ Berleand agreed, ’’and I like looking at naked women.’’

He turned back to the dancer. I\'d already had enough.

’’Is Terese alive?’’ I asked.

’’I don\'t know.’’

We sat there. I started chewing a fingernail.

’’You warned me,’’ I said. ’’You said it was more than I could handle.’’

He watched the dancer.

’’I should have listened.’’

’’It wouldn\'t have mattered. They would have killed Karen Tower and Mario Contuzzi anyway.’’

’’But not Terese.’’

’’You, at least, put a stop to it. It was their screwup, not yours.’’

’’Whose screwup?’’

’’Well, mine in part.’’ Berleand took off the too-big glasses and rubbed his face. ’’We go by many names. Homeland Security is probably the most well-known. As you may have surmised, I am a French liaison working for what your government termed the war on terror. The British equivalent should have been watching closer.’’

The busty waitress came over wearing a neckline that plunged to somewhere just above her knee. ’’Want some champagne?’’

’’That\'s not champagne,’’ Berleand said to her.

’’Huh?’’

’’It\'s from California.’’

’’So?’’

’’Champagne can only be French. You see, Champagne is a place, not merely a beverage. That bottle in your hand is what those who lack taste buds dub \'sparkling wine.\' ’’

She rolled her eyes. ’’Want some sparkling wine?’’

’’My dear, that stuff shouldn\'t be used as a gargle for a dog.’’ He held up his empty glass. ’’Please get me another tremendously watered-down whiskey.’’ He turned to me. ’’Myron?’’

I didn\'t think they would have Yoo-hoo here. ’’Diet Coke.’’ When she sauntered away, I said, ’’So what\'s going on?’’

’’As far as my people go, the case is over. Rick Collins stumbled across a terrorist plot. He was murdered in Paris by the terrorists. They killed two more people connected with Collins in London before being killed themselves. By you, no less.’’

’’I didn\'t see my name in any of the papers.’’

’’Were you looking for credit?’’

’’Hardly. But I do wonder why they kept my name out.’’

’’Think about it.’’

The waitress came back. ’’Korbel calls it champagne, Mr. Smarty Pants. And they\'re from California.’’

’’Korbel should call it septic-tank droppings. That would be closer to the truth.’’

She dropped our drinks down and went away.

’’Government forces aren\'t trying to hog the credit,’’ he said. ’’There are two reasons to leave your name out. First off, your safety. From what I understand, Mohammad Matar made it personal with you. You took out one of his men in Paris. He wanted to make you watch Karen Tower and Terese Collins die before killing you. If it somehow gets out that you killed Dr. Death, there are people who will seek retribution on you and your family.’’ Berleand smiled at the dancer and held his palm out toward me. ’’Do you have any singles?’’

I dug into my wallet. ’’And the second reason?’’

’’If you weren\'t there if you weren\'t at the scene of the killings in London then the government doesn\'t have to explain where you\'ve been for the past two-plus weeks.’’

The antsy feeling came back. I shook my leg, looked around, wanted to get up. Berleand just watched me.

I said, ’’Do you know where I\'ve been?’’

’’I have an idea, yes. So do you.’’

I shook my head. ’’I don\'t.’’

’’You have absolutely no memory of the past two weeks?’’


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