“Yeah. After you two killed that white man she decided to come back. You gonna help me with Domaque, Easy? You know you owe me after all the shit I gone through.”

There it was, the offer of redemption. I could pay Mouse back for the guilt I’d taken on. I just nodded. What else could I do?

“YEAH, EASE,” Mouse opined as we drove south toward Compton. “You ain’t got no reason to feel guilty. The way I see it it helped me gettin’ shot and all.”

“Helped you how?”

“Well, you know I was so upset back then, wonderin’ if all the violence I lived through was wrong. But when Jo patched me up she said that I’m just a part of a big ole puzzle, a piece. I fit in where I go and I do what I do. She said that and it stuck with me. Now I’m just fine with who I am.”

Etta’s new house wasn’t as nice as the servants’ quarters of the mansion she lived in, in the mountains above Santa Barbara. It was a small wooden cottage on a street of wooden cottages—all of them painted white. The only protection her little home had from harm was a wire fence that was twelve feet long and three-and-a-half feet high.

Mouse opened the gate and we scaled the three granite steps to the door. Before he could get his key into the lock it came open.

“Hey, Ray!” Domaque shouted. “Easy Rawlins!”

He was almost exactly the same as the last time I’d seen him, in the summer of 1939. Barrel-chested and lopsided, drooling and full of glee.

“I saw you comin’!”

“You don’t have to shout and spray like that, Dom,” Mouse said. “Damn.”

I offered my hand to Dom and he almost crushed it.

“Good to see you, Dom,” I said through clenched teeth.

“Wanna go fishin’ like we did back in Pariah?” he asked.

The outing came back to me with all the pain of those miserable days. I was coming down with a virus that nearly finished me. Mouse took Dom and me fishing with a pistol instead of a pole. He stunned the fish by shooting the water with a flat-nosed soft-lead bullet, shoveling them into a bag before they could regain their senses and escape. Raymond also killed three dogs and their master, his own stepfather. After that he married Etta and I joined the army for the comparative safety of World War Two.

“No time for relaxation, Dom,” Mouse said. “Easy got to get you outta trouble before Jo loses her mind.”

A pitiful emotion spread over Dom’s already damaged face.

The front door led into a makeshift dining room. There was a dark wood table just inside the door, surrounded by six chairs.

I grabbed a seat and turned it backward.

“Who was this girl you’d been seeing, Domaque?” I asked. I wanted to get down to business quickly.

“You ever learn how to read books, Easy?” he asked.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

When I’d met Dom and his mother I knew how to make out what words I needed to pick through instructions or read a love letter from a girl. But when I saw him read hard books out loud I got jealous because I realized that he could go further than I could in the world of his mind. It struck me that it was because of Dom that I learned to read.

“Her name is Merry,” Dom said. “E-R-R-Y Merry not A-R-Y the way it is usually. She was just on the beach one day while I was fishin’. You know you cain’t shoot the water in the sea for fish, Raymond. It’s too big.”

“Dynamite prob’ly work though,” Mouse replied.

“Tell me about Merry,” I said.

“She was real pretty, Easy. Real pretty and nice. She didn’t care I was ugly and humpbacked. She liked to laugh. For a few days she’d come around and talk to me. She even kissed me on the cheek and let me hold her hand.” A sigh shuddered through Domaque’s diaphragm. He was more upset about the girl than the police intent on sending him to prison. “But then she had me go to a supermarket-like place on the coast highway one day. She said that the guy who ran the place always tried to make her kiss him and she hated him. But she owed him some money and said for me to take it there.”

“Did the armored car come while you were there?” I asked.

“Uh-huh. It did. You know how much I like trucks and other big cars. I looked at it and they told me to get away.”

“Did Merry tell you that you could see the money car if you went down to pay her debt?”

“Sure did. But they didn’t have no record of her owin’ money and they told me to get away from there.”

“And the next thing you know the car is robbed?”

“Not till the next week,” Dom said, shaking his head. “It was a week later that we found that bag in the bushes.”

I glanced at Raymond. He just hunched his shoulders and looked away.

“What bag?”

“Jo fount a bag in the bushes outside our house,” Dom said.

“Was that after the cops came?”

“Uh-uh. She got the sight, you know. She felt somethin’ and started nosin’ around. That’s when she made me

Вы читаете A Little Yellow Dog
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