hide in the space. She knew the cops would be there.”

Before I could ask what was in the bag Raymond pulled it out from a closet next to the table.

It was a Wells-Fargo bag that had three stacks of a hundred twenty-dollar bills and a short .38 with a rough black handle the shape of a lightbulb. I didn’t touch the money or the gun.

It was a beautiful frame: the girl with the fake name that nobody ever saw; the witnesses at the country market and evidence poorly hidden in the bushes.

“But what about the guards?” I asked out loud. “I mean there’s no mask in the world that could hide Dom.”

“Dead,” Mouse said. “Both of ’em shot in the head. And I bet you ten to two that it was this here .38 done it.”


“She prob’ly had partners,” Mouse said. “I mean Dom says she wasn’t big or tough or nuthin’.”

“Yeah,” Dom put in. “She was prob’ly tricked by some guy wanted to fool me too. I don’t wanna get her in trouble for that.”

“You see why I called on you, Easy,” Mouse said. “If I knew who they were it would be a piece’a cake. But I got to find ’em before I could convince ’em to let up on my cousin here.”

I had to laugh then. It was really funny. Maybe I wasn’t an African prince but I had my own domain. I wasn’t a sovereign maybe and I didn’t wear a crown or signet ring. But I too spent my time working for my people.

“What the hell you laughin’ about, Easy?” Mouse complained.

“It’s good to see you, Ray. It really is.”

THE FRONT DOOR OPENED and a tall and lanky youth came in tripping over his own big feet.

“LaMarque!” Dom shouted.

The boy, who was at least six foot three, winced.

“Is that you, LaMarque?” I asked.

“Hi, Mr. Rawlins.”

“Boy, you’ve grown a foot.”

“Yes sir.”

His skin had grown darker in just the few months since I’d last seen him, and he had brooding eyes. His shoulders slumped and his head hung down. He was Jesus’s age, seventeen, and prey to all of the sour emotions of an adolescent.

“Say a proper hello to Easy and your uncle,” Mouse ordered his son.

“He’s not my uncle,” LaMarque replied.

“What you say?” Mouse asked.

I stood up and stuck my hand out. “It’s great seeing you, son.”

After a moment’s hesitation LaMarque took my hand.

“Ray,” I said. “Let’s go somewhere where we can talk. This is some serious business and it should just be us three involved.”

“You gonna say hello to your uncle?” Mouse asked his son.

“Hello, Uncle Dom.”

Dom grinned and waved with his long arm.

The level of drama around Mouse was always higher than it was anywhere else in the world. A week in Raymond’s company would age a normal man a year or more.

He smiled at LaMarque and said, “Okay, Easy. I got a place we could go.”

“What you want me to tell mama?” LaMarque asked his father.

“That I went out. That you don’t know where I went or who I was wit’.”

The brooding boy nodded and turned away toward the kitchen.

WE CAME TO A SMALL HOUSE with a brick facade off of Denker. Mouse had the key and so we went in the front door. The door opened onto a good-sized living room. There was a picture of a shapely black woman and a bespectacled black man on the coffee table. The table was flanked by two sofas. Dom and I sat on one couch and Raymond took the other.

“Whose house is this?” I asked.

“Pamela Hendricks and her husband Bobby.”

“They friends of yours?”

“She is. I don’t think he likes me too well.”

“Where are they?” I was wondering what Mouse thought I meant when I asked for privacy.

“He took her up to Frisco for a vacation. They gonna be gone another ten days.”

“And they gave you keys to their house?”

“She did. He prob’ly don’t know about it. But even if he did—what’s he gonna do?”

Вы читаете A Little Yellow Dog
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