said, 'It just seemed like the right thing to do.'

Eichord leaned back and shut his eyes for a moment, thinking about all the awful, gross, inane, fatuous, imbecilic, terrible, and stupid things that Eichord the man, as opposed to Eichord the cop, had lived to later regret. Burning humiliations and prickling embarrassments that had proved to be mercilessly unforgettable.

Always when he asked himself. Why — the same answer. Because it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Eichord sat with his eyes and mind squeezed tight to shut out the memories as the television set of a relative stranger roared in his ears, and he felt a momentary icicle of fear for his own mortality jab him with a cold point, and suddenly he was overwhelmed with sadness and self-pity. He had to laugh at himself.

He was laughing at the absurdity of his thoughts. Feeling so fucking sorry for himself — so sorry that he had to die one day. Feeling so sad about the way everything had gone, about the way his life had gone, about the way Edie's life had gone. He wished he could call her right now.

And this is what his host saw when he walked into the room to ask about salad dressing. Did Jack want vinegar-and-oil or Thousand Island? There was Jack watching a has-been comedian whose toupee appeared to have been spray-painted in place, laughing and enjoying the television show.

His host was heartbroken Jack wouldn't accept a ride back to his motel. Never mind that it was forty minutes away and that at 90 miles an hour, bumper to bumper, traffic moving at its usual mad pace. But Jack was adamant, and after profuse thanks for the home-cooked chow, he was in a Los Angeles cab and headed for nowhere or oblivion or neither of the above, whichever they hit first.

The cabbie intruded on his thoughts with sudden silence. He realized the driver must have paused in his monologue and asked him something.

'Pardon me?' he said.

'The Springs. You ever been to Palm Springs?'

'Not for years.'

'Yeah, well, my brother-in-law and me did some work on Frank's home there. We're in the pool business too, see. And we did a job on his pool. He was doing a picture for the director John Frankenheimer. It was the one where he costarred with Janet Leigh, who I had in the cab once. Anyway, this was at Frank's house in Palm Springs and ...'

Christ in heaven. Even the fucking cabdrivers out here were in show biz.

Dinner had turned into another family fiasco. Inside his head the man was Frank Spain, contract executioner. But to the girl at the dinner table he was only 'Dad.'

'Dad,' she whined, giving it two syllables.

'Tiff, don't whine,' he said as he chewed.

'You know I'm no whiner.'

'No. You're no whiner. So please don't start now, okay?'

'Dad, why can't you like Greg? You didn't like Jeff. You don't like any boy I like.'

'I like him fine.'

'Come on, Dad. You know you hate Greg. And he's a good guy and all. He's from a nice family. How come you don't like him?'

'I like him already. Give it a rest, please. Let's eat in peace, can't we?'

'It's the only time I have you let me talk to you anymore. You won't ever talk to me. Dad. Please. I just want to go with him to games and shows and stuff like that. It's not like we'd be going out on real dates or, you know, staying out late and stuff.' She was fourteen and flowering and he didn't know what to do.

'Do we have to think about it right this second while I'm trying to eat?'

'Can I see Greg, then?'

'When you're fifteen you can see Greg or any other nice boys just like we discussed. But until then I don't want to keep hearing about it, Tiff. Now that's it. Eat you dinner. Please.'

She sulked in silence. This girl who was neither a whiner nor a sulker. And she wondered what would become of them.

The Archilochus colubris had not yet joined the avian migration southward. The young girl who was the daughter of the one who called himself Spain stared out through the elegant curtains where a pair of brightly iridescent hummingbirds darted and soared and dove in an incredible air ballet. The female was airborne, zooming up and out of sight, and the tired male stopped to refill from the nearly empty feeder outside the window. As he began to drink, the female sped down from out of nowhere driving him away from his hovering feed-position and they began their elaborate aerobatics again. But the girl saw none of this as her unfocused eyes welled up with tears.

She paid little attention to the splendor of her surroundings as she sat perched on a love seat in her expensively furnished bedroom. Her parents' house was a fine home, and their exclusive residential area was beautifully maintained, free of any offensive ugliness, a haven for the local wildlife, almost a miniature park. But having known nothing but the finest, she had little frame of reference with which to appreciate the elegance of her environment. Nor would she have cared.

Her eyes filled with tears and overflowed in a salty trickle blurring her vision and dripping down her tanned cheek, and she wiped at the little flood with the back of her hand and snuffled into a tissue. She wept in sadness and hurt and anger at her mother, who had abandoned them, and wept for her father, who was so devastated by what had happened and who, grief-stricken, had closed out everything else in his life-including his daughter. And yes, she wept for herself, at the shame and the bitter unfairness of it all. And as she sobbed she thought how ridiculous she must appear right now, curled up on the love seat wallowing in self-pity.

Outwardly she was a lithe, tanned, attractive teenager with long legs and the soft, lovely curves of womanhood beginning to flower and envelop the angular planes, and a stranger would believe her to be sixteen perhaps, and not fourteen. But she was a troubled fourteen-year-old, Spain's daughter. And as she sat oblivious to her richly decorated room, not seeing the courting dance of the hummingbirds, she felt an ancient fourteen. Ancient and lonely.

She snuffled and wiped her eyes and blew her reddened nose again and uncurled the long, tan legs from the cushions, got up, walked out of her bedroom, and went downstairs. Her dad's office door was not completely shut, and she pushed the door open soundlessly and peered in at him sitting at his desk, unmoving. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of the phone ringing upstairs, and she ran back up and snatched it off the hook on the fourth ring.



'Oh, hi.' It was Greg. She'd been hoping he'd phone her all day. She felt her breath catch a little as she said, 'I've missed you.'

'Same here. I wish I could see you right now.'

'Me too.'

'Touch you. Just hold you. I could cuddle you for hours and never get tired of just holding you. You know that?' She loved his voice.

'Greg. I wish we were together right now too.'

'Well, why can't you meet me somewhere? Can't you get out of the house?'

'Dad doesn't want me going out anywhere, you know, with boys. He says not till I'm fifteen.'

'Oh, wow. Well, can I come over there?'

'Um. I guess you'd better not. He just doesn't understand that I'm grown up. I can't do anything. It's like being in prison since Mom . . . left. I miss you so much.'

'Go over to Amber's and I'll pick you up over there. I got Roger's car, man, come on. He'll never find out. No way.' Roger was an older boy who let Greg drive sometimes.

'Well, I guess I could get Amber to go with us and we could let her out at Herman's.'

'Yeah, okay, let's go. Okay?'

'I'm so lonesome for you. I . . . Oh, all right. I'll be over there about three.'

'See ya.'

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