N Is For Noose Page 72


Dolores shook her head. ’’I'm sure not. Clint would never do a thing like that. He might not want Pops in his house, but he'd never snitch on him. It's odd, but when my sister Maine called-this was just about a year ago-to say they'd found his body, I started laughing so hard I peed my pants. Homer had to call the doctor when it turned out I couldn't quit. Doctor gave me a shot to calm me down. He said it was hysteria, but it was actually relief. We hadn't heard from him for five years by then so I guess I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.’’

’’Why do you think he went from Clint's to Lake Tahoe?’’

’’My sister lives up there. Or one of them, at any rate. Not in Lake Tahoe exactly, but that vicinity.’’

’’Really? I've been curious what prompted him to travel in that direction.’’

’’I don't think Maine's husband was any happier to see him than Homer was.’’

’’How long was he with her?’’

’’A week or so. Maine told me later him and Alfie went off to go fishing and that's the last anyone ever saw Pops as far as I know.’’

’’Do you think I could talk to her? I'm sure the police have covered this ground, but it would be helpful to me.’’

’’Oh, sure. She isn't hard to find. She works as a clerk in the sheriff's department up there.’’

’’Up there where?’’

’’Nota Lake. Her name is Margaret, but everybody in the family calls her Marne.’’

SEVENTEEN

When I got home, Henry was in the backyard, kneeling in the flower bed. I crossed the lawn, pausing to watch him at work. He was aware of my presence, but seemed content with the quiet. He wore a white T-shirt and farmer's pants with padded knees. His feet were bare, long, and bony, the high arches very white against the faded grass. The air was sweet and mild. Even with the noon sun directly overhead, the temperature was moderate. I could already see crocuses and hyacinths coming up in clusters beside the garage. I sat down on a wooden lawn chair while he turned the soil with a hand trowel. The earth was soft and damp, worms recoiling from the intrusion when his efforts disturbed them. His rose bushes were barren sticks, bristling with thorns, the occasional leaf bud suggesting that spring was on its way. The lawn, which had been dormant much of the winter, was beginning to waken with the encouragement of recent rains. I could see a haze of green where the new blades were beginning to push up through the brown. ’’People tend to associate autumn with death, but spring always seems a lot closer to me,’’ he remarked.

’’Why's that?’’

’’There's no deep philosophical significance. Somehow in my history, a lot of people I love have ended up dying this time of year. Maybe they yearn to look out the window and see new leaves on the trees. It's a time of hope and that might be enough if you're on your way out;allows you to let go, knowing the world is moving on as it always has.’’

’’I have to go back to Nota Lake,’’ I said.

’’When?’’

’’Sometime next week. I'd like to hang out here long enough to get my hand back in working order.’’

’’Why go at all?’’

’’I have to talk to someone.’’

’’Can't you do that by phone?’’

’’It's too easy for people to tell lies on the phone. I like to see faces,’’ I said. I was silent, listening to the homely chucking of his trowel in the dirt. I pulled my legs up and wrapped my arms around my knees. ’’Remember in the old days when we talked about vibes?’’

I could see Henry smile. ’’You have bad vibes?’’

’’The worst.’’ I held up my right hand and tried flexing the fingers, which were still so swollen and stiff I could barely make a fist.

’’Don't go. You don't have anything to prove.’’

’’Of course I do, Henry. I'm a girl. We're always having to prove something.’’

’’Like what?’’

’’That we're tough. That we're as good as the guys, which I'm happy to report is not that hard.’’

’’If it's true, why do you have to prove it?’’

’’Comes with the turf. just because we believe it, doesn't mean guys do.’’

’’Who cares about men? Don't be macha.’’

’’I can't help it. Anyway, this isn't about pride. This is about mental health. I can't afford to let some guy intimidate me like that. Trust me, somewhere up in Nota Lake he's laughing his ass off, thinking he's run me out of town.’’

’’The Code of the West. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.’’

’’It feels bad. The whole thing. I don't remember feeling this much dread. That son of a bitch hurt me. I hate giving him the opportunity to do it again.’’


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