business card with a picture of an eagle on the other.

He had parked the van on the first floor, just about twenty feet from the exit. To get that space he’d had to be here early and hang around all evening, but it was paying off now. She was already to the back door before she said, 'Wait, you’re making a mistake. Don’t do this.' She never pulled herself together enough to look up at him.

It was exactly what they always said, but it was a little disconcerting, because usually they tried to use their faces—the tiny quiver in the lips, the big wet eyes. And there wasn’t that little sob in her voice. It was like a whisper in the big concrete place, and it went right through him. He couldn’t let up for a second, he knew. 'No mistake, Mrs. Eckerly. There’s a legal complaint, and you’ll have to go back and clear that up. Face the van, please.' He had hoped to do this after she was inside, because the sight of the handcuffs sometimes made them panicky, but he had a feeling about this one. He slipped the cuffs off his belt and turned her away from him. As he pulled her left arm around behind her, it came too quickly.

He pulled harder, but that didn’t seem to help. He had been keeping her off balance, trying not to give her a chance to think, but she had been waiting for him to have to use one hand to get the cuffs. She stomped on his instep, turned with him, and brought her elbow up against the bridge of his nose. He heard the bone break and felt the warm blood streaming out of his nostrils into his mouth. He knew he was in trouble, because of the pain and the slowness. And something bad had happened to the bones in his foot. He stepped back to try to get time working with him again, but his toes didn’t want to hold him, so he had to rock back on his heel and use his other foot for balance. He was angry, maddened with pain. He was going to make her hurt just as much. In a second she would turn to run, and he would be on her. He pushed off to get started.

The woman didn’t turn, and she didn’t run. She drifted toward him, and he sensed what she had in mind. She was winding up for a kick in the groin. They always taught women that in those self-defense classes. He bent his body and held his hands low to grip her leg when she did it.

As he watched her legs, she leapt forward and butted her forehead into his face. The blow to his nose had been painful, but this time the world exploded. She had pushed off the ground with both legs, and knocked him backward with all her strength.

Killigan let out a howl as he hit the pavement. It was a screech of hurt and shock and, for the first time, fear. Killigan was desperately injured now, and he was down, where he couldn’t defend himself. She would go for his eyes in a second. He clapped his hands over his bloody face and rolled onto his belly on the concrete and shouted, 'Help! Help me!'

His ears told him she was hovering somewhere nearby, dancing around, circling to look for a chance to do whatever they had taught her to do. He tried to see between his fingers and keep his face down, and then he felt it. The handcuffs went around both of his wrists at once. He was outraged, scandalized.

He scrambled to his knees and tried to stand, but her voice came again. This time it was louder, but still calm: 'Stay down on the ground.' He put his fists on the pavement and pushed himself up, but the patch of concrete in front of his eyes seemed to flash as though it were electrified, and then he found himself on his side, his legs spasmodically working, trying to run. It had been a kick to the kidney. It occurred to him he could be dying. He lay there and screamed again. 'Help!' he shrieked. 'Help me!'

Suddenly, he saw lights that didn’t go away: bright, blinding and steady, and his sluggish consciousness tried to decide if she had gotten his eyes after all. That didn’t make sense, because he could see his hands. And then he heard it. 'Police officers! Don’t move!'

He tried to smile, but it hurt. His top front teeth felt loose, and his upper lip was swollen to a tight, hard lump that didn’t seem to belong to him. Then there were footsteps, and they got louder, and he could see one pair of cops’ black shoes and black pants, and he knew it would be all right. Then big, hard hands rolled him over onto his back, and the pain surprised him so much that he didn’t see anything anymore.

When Killigan awoke he was in a hospital room. He had no idea how long he had been there, but he knew he had not been wrong about the damage he had sustained. His whole head had a tender, fragile feeling, as though moving it would cause something to come loose and bleed. He heard a rustling noise, and then the cop was standing in front of him.

'Mr. Killigan?' He was the kind of cop that Killigan liked the least. He was trim and neat, with a short, carefully combed haircut that made him look like an army lieutenant. He pulled a little notebook out of the inner pocket of a gray tweed coat, letting Killigan see the strap of the shoulder holster.

'Yeah,' he rasped. He wasn’t sure why his voice sounded like that, and then he tasted that he was swallowing blood.

'I’m Detective Sergeant Coleman, L.A. Police Department. I need to ask you some questions about what happened. Your I.D. says you’re a private investigator.'


'Were you working?'


'What were you doing at the airport?'

'Picking up a woman named Rhonda Eckerly. Citizen’s arrest. There’s a complaint. She’s wanted in Indiana.'

'What charge?'

'Grand larceny.'

'So you’re a bounty hunter?'

Killigan heard something he didn’t like in the sound. It was a careful modulation of tone, as though the cop were trying to keep contempt out of his voice. Well, Killigan would make enough on this job to pay his salary for a year. Maybe he would find a way to mention the number and let this guy chew on it for the next few days. 'The victim retained me to locate the suspect and bring her back.'

The cop squinted and tilted his head a little. 'Who’s the victim?'

'Mr. Robert Eckerly.'

'I see,' said Sergeant Coleman. He stared at Killigan for a long time without letting his face reveal anything. Finally, he said, 'I’d like to bring in the woman who was arrested when the officers found you. Are you up to that?'

'Yeah. I want her held. I’ll press charges.'

The detective’s tongue made a quick search of his teeth as he headed for the door, but then he turned around again. 'How did she come to assault you?'

So that was it. The little bastard was so sure Killigan was weak—that it couldn’t happen to him. 'I was escorting her to the van, and she surprised me. She must have taken one of those courses.'

'Were the handcuffs yours?'


The detective pulled a chair close to the bed and sat on the edge of it. 'Mr. Killigan,' he said. 'You’re in a dangerous business. You must have some idea of how to pull this kind of thing off without getting yourself in trouble. I think you made a mistake.'

'It would seem so,' said Killigan. 'Now, where the fuck is Rhonda Eckerly?'

The detective stood up, walked to the door, and opened it. A uniformed cop came in with his hand on the arm of a woman. She was about thirty. She was tall and slender and olive-skinned, with large eyes and black hair. Then Killigan realized that she was wearing Rhonda Eckerly’s clothes. 'No,' he said. 'No. That’s not the one.'

'This isn’t Rhonda Eckerly?'

'No!' he shouted. A pain gripped him from his hairline to his jaw. It was as though his whole face had been peeled and a cold wind blew on it. 'You got the wrong one!'

'No,' said Detective Coleman evenly. 'You did.'

The sanctimonious little cop hadn’t needed to say that because, even distracted by pain and half paralyzed by the dope they’d shot into him to make him lie here, Killigan had been able to figure out that much. She was a ringer. The clothes, the amateurish way Rhonda Eckerly had tried to do things—it had all been planned so they could change in the bathroom.

The woman said, 'Can I talk to him?'

'I guess so,' said the cop.


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