“And the man did run out on you … are you sure you called the right room?”

“No,” said Fletch. “Everybody gets a wrong number once in a while. But the hotel guest I spoke to didn’t seem surprised when I told him he’d lost a wallet.”

Fletch put the wallet in the back pocket of his jeans.

“I really don’t know,” Cavalier said. “I suppose we’ll have to notify the police, in any case.” He smiled at Fletch. “Just to protect ourselves, you understand.”

“A kid walks in with twenty-five thousand dollars,” muttered Smith, “and walks out with twenty-five thousand dollars.”

“I expect you to call the police,” Fletch said. “I gave you my name, didn’t I?” He pointed at the pad on Cavalier’s desk. “And my address?”

“Yes, you did, Mister Armistad,” said Jacques Cavalier. “Indeed you did.”


J A R   O F peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a jug of orange juice, and thou,” Fletch said.

Bellies on the sand, head to head, at only a slight angle to each other, they were still wet from their swim. They were alone in the cove.

“Pretty romantic,” said Moxie.

“Pretty romantic.”

“Not very.” The late afternoon sun sparkled in the dots of salt water on her arms, her back, her legs. “Peanut butter, bread and orange juice.”

“And thou.”

“And wow. Not chopped carrots and strained beans, but it still doesn’t cut the mustard romantically, Fletch.” Moxie rose up enough to brush sand off her bare breast, then settled her cheek against her forearm and sighed. “Not very romantic days, these.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Romance is gone from life. A thing of the past.”


“Gone with crinolines and cramps.”

“I thought I was pretty romantic.”

“Sure. Pick me up at one thirty, ignore the reservation for two I made at the Cafe Mondrian, drive like a bobsled team captain to this abandoned beach down here, passing up several good places to stop for lunch—”

“You hungry?”

“—tumble me around in the surf like a—like a …”

“Like a what?”

“Like an equal.” She wriggled forward on her elbows and kissed him on the cheek. “Do it in the sand without even a blanket, a towel, anything.”

“Fair’s fair. We did it on our sides.”

“Not very romantic.” Moxie blew in his face.

“Romance was an idea created by the manufacturers of wine and candle sticks.”

“And smelling salts.”

She licked his cheek.

“What could be more romantic than peanut butter and orange juice? That’s protein and Vitamin C you’re scoffing at, girl. Very energizing foodstuffs, you know.”

“You getting energetic again, Fletcher?”

“Sure,” he said. “It’s been a whole five minutes.”

They had examined the hillsides above them the first time. There was only one house overlooking the cove, and that was pretty far back. Its main plate-glass window looked blind.

They were sitting on the sand, washing peanut butter sandwiches down with orange juice.

“So?” Moxie said.

“So I took the twenty-five thousand dollars …” He took the orange juice carton from her and drank. “What do you want to know?”

“Last night, if I remember correctly, you were full of self-importance and duty and went on and on about getting back to the newspaper today in time to work the night shift and if I wanted a ride with you I had to be up and packed and ready to go before I woke up …”


“Damned near pomposity.”

“You’re not famous for getting up early in the morning, Moxie.”

“I’m not famous for anything. Yet. Sleeping late was the first thing I learned in Drama School.”


“Yeah. All the classes were in the afternoon.”

“You theater people have to be different.”

“I don’t know what time the night shift on a newspaper starts, Fletch, but that red frog crapping on the ocean over there is the setting sun. And I figure we’re a good seven hours’ drive from your precious newspaper.”

“I’m a changed man.”

“What changed you?”

“I got fired.”

Fletch watched the shallow crease in her stomach breathe in and out a few times. She said, “Oh.” Then she said, “Hey.” She resumed chewing. “You like that job.”

“It gave paychecks, too.”

“You can get a job on another newspaper. Can’t you?”

“I really doubt it.”

“What happened?”

“Long story. Sort of complicated.”

“Make it simple. If I don’t understand first time round, I can ask questions. Right?”

“Well, I was assigned to do an unimportant story on an unimportant business company and I guess I got sold a big, fat lie.” Fletch spoke rapidly. “My main source was a guy named Blaine. Charles Blaine. Vice-president and treasurer. He gave me a file of memos back and forth between him and the Chairman of the company, a guy named Tom Bradley, and said I could quote from them. So I did.”

“So what went wrong?”

“Tom Bradley died two years ago.”



“Died dead?”

“Deader than romance.”

“You quoted a dead man?”

“Very accurately.”

Moxie giggled. “Jeez, that’s pretty good, Fletch.”

“I could have done worse,” Fletch said. “I suppose I could have quoted somebody who’d never existed.”

“I’m sorry.” Moxie rubbed her nose.

“What for?”

“For laughing.”

“It’s funny. Wake me in the morning.”

“Were these recent memos you quoted? They couldn’t have been.”

“They were recently dated memos. I put their dates in the story I wrote.”

“I don’t get it.”

“That makes at least two of us.”

Her eyes went back and forth over the sea. They were purple flecked with yellow in the setting sun. “Was it

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