'You wanna invite me to stay in your dumb-ass garage, then throw me out 'fore I can even get a good night's sleep? I'm onto you. I got your ways. You won't be foolin' no more with the Crown Prince of Cameroon. On the Nickel I may not be popular, but at least they understand me.'

'John, I'm pretty sure you saved Alexa's life,' I finally admitted. 'I don't know how to square that. It's the greatest gift anybody has ever given me.'

He closed the book and set it on the shelf, then pulled another down. He didn't seem to care.

'She wants to meet you. She's outside waiting. I brought some warm clothes for you. A new parka and some warm sweatpants, some money for a hot meal.'

His eyes got bright with mischief. 'Now you finally talkin'.'

We left the library, but not before one of the security guards thoroughly searched John. Apparently he'd been caught stealing books and pawning them at Jungle Jack's.

'I ain't never coming back here. Gonna go to another city,' he promised the guard. 'This town don't know how ta treat a royal personage.'

I led him to the Acura and Alexa rolled down the window and looked at my scruffy friend.

'You're John Bodine?' she said, smiling up at him.

'I'm Samik Mampuna, Crown Prince of the Bassaland,' he corrected her.

'Shane tells me you saved my life. I wanted to thank you.'

He seemed embarrassed, then said, 'I didn't do shit.' He turned to me. 'Is zat enough? Do I gotta say any more? How 'bout them warm clothes and what-alls?'

I went to the trunk, got them out, and handed them to him along with four fifties. I watched as he put the clothes on over what he was wearing.

'Things are way too big. Why n't cha get me stuff that fits?' he complained. 'You a complete piece a shit, you know that? You ain't worth yer weight in vomit. Still gonna go get me a smart street lawyer. Your junk's all gonna be mine 'fore long.'

'I'll be here if you ever need me, John,' I told him gently.

'Who needs some run-me-down-lie-like-a-junkie popcorn fart like you?'

He turned and, shaking his head in disgust, started up the street wearing my new parka with the fur collar turned up. He didn't have his shopping cart tonight. Somebody had probably taken it from him. He looked small and alone, and I was still worried for his safety.

I got behind the wheel, but before I could start the engine, John came back and knocked on Alexa's window. She rolled it down and he looked in at her for a long time. His expression was puzzled, as if he couldn't remember what he wanted to say.

'Yes?' she finally asked.

Then he held up one of the fifties and showed it to her.

'This the only muthafucka ever feeds me,' he told her solemnly. Then he turned and walked slowly up the street, finally disappearing in the dark.

It was the last time I ever saw him.

Вы читаете White sister
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