Seventeen

The pool, lucky devil, has three nude lovelies splashing around, in one corner is a Jacuzzi walled off from the pool itself. When they move to that, I bring out icy beers. Not crazy about cans, less crazy about broken glass, I’ve poured the beers into Tervis tumbler insulated plastic glasses.
“Enjoy, when you’re done boiling, there’s smoked salmon, crackers and the additions, chopped egg and minced onion.”
A chorus of ‘thank you Chef.’
Return to the kitchen.
There’s a shower adjacent to the pool, I see girls rinsing, laughing, big towels in a stack to dry, other towels around their heads. They come inside, zip past ignoring me. Must be some stories, they’re going a mile a minute. Natalie peels off to my room, Zoe C and Elle to hers. The place is soundproofed, if there are screaming hairdryers I can’t tell.
Natalie comes along first, steps up for a kiss, I pour her a glass of Gosset, one of my two favorite Champagnes, the other is Charles Heidsieck.
She sips, “Good god, that is the real deal.”
“Glad you like it.”
“I tried to worm info out of Zoe C. While she’s you biggest fan, I got nothing else. You have a serious pal there.”
“And the friendship is reciprocated. We just bonded, there’s no physical intimacy, we’re Platonic.”
“Come on, you’re a guy, she’s gorgeous.”
“Didn’t say I don’t notice, she’s into girls and has expressed no interest in any man, me included, not for sex. I have an equally luscious alternative right in front of me.”
She looks at me over her champagne glass, “Suppose I wanted to…”
“Then Zoe C would be a very lucky girl indeed.”
She holds out her glass for a refill, “You are too good to be true.”
“And I don’t even want to watch. My sex drive is fine, but I’m not a horn dog.”
“I have experience with your sex drive, it’s a Rolls. Unlike some of my other experiences, I never have to fake it with you. Oh, I’m officially out of the biz. Call me directly, not the service, at least not to ask for me.”
“Then I don’t need the service anymore.”
She grins and bites her lip, “You say the sweetest things.”
“To us,” we clink glasses, as she sips, a tiny tear rolls down her cheek, damn.
“Sorry, something in my eye.”
I wipe it with my thumb, lean in and kiss her, don’t go for the pithy reply. She’s revealed a bit of her heart. You don’t fucking stomp on it.
I spot Zoe C across the room.
“Am I interrupting a moment?”
“Have a glass and share the moment.”
I need to open a second bottle, good, gives Zoe C and Natalie some whisper time.
Elle comes in, “Park it, we’re doing bubbly and smoked salmon,” pour her a glass, refill Zoe C’s, Natalie’s still working on her second.
I let them nibble and check the veal shanks.
“They’ll take maybe twenty, sound right?”
Zoe C, “Can we start the movie? Which one first?”
“I think Pulp Fiction was before Get Shorty, but there’s no reason to watch them in any order, one has nothing to do with the other. I’ve seen them both, don’t wait on me.”
Girls move to the couch, I hear the opening of Pulp. They took the Champagne with them, I pull Russian Standard out of my booze freezer, get an insulated tumbler, this one for eight ounce drinks. Fill it full of cracked ice, add a cocktail onion and the vodka. I return the glass to the freezer. It can sit and marinate while the pizza cooks. Meantime open a bottle of crispy chilled Chianti, the best osso buco accompaniment. 
I hear, “If anyone one of you pricks move, I’ll execute every last one of you.”
Opening scene of Pulp Fiction.
Girls on the couch whoop and clink glasses. This will be an interesting evening.
The movie is as I remembered, crazy people doing crazy things, Samuel Jackson’s Bible verses, which I bothered to verify. Most of the speech is made up by Tarantino, the ending resembles Ezekiel 25:17. Insofar as most of the Bible consists of made up stories, I don’t see how Tarantino’s tweaks have any less substance than other verses. I won’t bore the girls with my over analysis, they’re having too much fun.
The craziness spikes when Uma Thurman and Travolta do the dance scene at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. There is a Jack Rabbit Slim’s in Perth Washington today, but no such burger bar existed in LA, the site was a soundstage in an abandoned warehouse.
Elle, “She’s so sexy, I gotta copy those hip moves.”
“The clip is on YouTube.”
“Awesome, tomorrow I’ll dance it, Zoe C, you have to be Travolta.”
Zoe C, “Not a chance.”
Natalie, “I’ll do it, we can practice by the pool tomorrow.”
I’m in for a lovely tomorrow, c’est la vie say the old folks, goes to show you never can tell.
“Dinner is ready.”
Zoe C, “We’ll pause it, time for a break.”
Girls go off to do whatever they need to do, then they come to the kitchen. I have plates, utensils, glasses of Chianti poured.
Natalie, “Service in this place is damn good, thank you.”
“My pleasure.”
I take a bite of the tender veal, thing turned out tasty if I do say so.
Elle calls over from the living area, “This is the best, congratulations Chef.”
“Enjoy, don’t be shy, there’s more.”
I took the wedding cake out of the refrigerator earlier, the spot where we’d cut it yesterday is a bit dried, I slice away that and dump it in the disposal, then join the girls for the rest of the movie.
They’re absorbed, no chatter, the film is as good as I remembered, already a classic. 
It’s over in another hour, they take plates to the kitchen, the wine is gone. I haul my vodka out of the freezer.
“What’s your pleasure? More wine, Cognac, a cocktail?”
Elle, “What’s that you have?”
“Vodka over crushed ice and a garlic olive.”
“I should take a break or I’ll be no good for…later,” she giggles.
Natalie, “Vodka for me.”
Zoe C, “Sounds right, splash a bit of water as well please.”
I make the drinks, “If you want cake, just slice off a piece, there are small plates and forks.”
Natalie, “Who got married?”
“It’s who didn’t get married. I went to the bakery we like and the owner said they couple called it off, so I bought it. Luisa runs an excellent shop, top tier doughnuts, pastries, cakes, Mexican pastries. I have to limit my visits, I could do her sugar doughnuts every day.”
We have dessert under the stars, I collect empty plates and stick those in the washer along with the dinner plates and utensils, add the soap and crank it up.
Natalie comes up behind me, I turn to face her, “Need anything?”
She blushes a bit, something I haven’t seen before, she was a professional escort after all.
“I may be a while before I come to bed,” she glances back at Zoe C and Elle still on the patio, “is that a…”
“That is an excellent idea, if you need me, you know where to find me.”

Eighteen

Natalie slides in, I peek at the clock, it’s seven. I slide out and do bathroom refreshing and join her in bed.
“Have fun? No details.”
She grins, “Delightful. I’ve done women as part of my former career, mostly they wanted to do me, and I was sort of mechanical about it. This was just girl play, and Zoe C likes to play. Elle falls just short of worship.”
“You or Zoe C? Never mind, I don’t want to know. My friends had fun, good.”
She got her hand around my man part, it’s doing its thing.
“Lay back big boy.”
Lovely, when she’s done with me, I scoot into the shower, I’m not a cuddler and my guess is she was cuddled silly last night anyway. She gets in, I’m done, we exchange kisses and I’m out. Time to crank up breakfast.
I walk to the other side of the house to check on the other two, they’re curled together but Zoe C peeks over Elle’s shoulder and waves. I make eating motions, she nods a yes.
Bacon and sausage patties in the griddle. Maybe pancakes? Why not. I whip up the batter and pour out cakes on the grill. We have a grill like a diner, I can fry bacon, cook burgers, grill vegetables, all on one four by three surface. A commercial vent overhead sucks out smoke and smells.
Natalie and Zoe C show up together, pour coffee and sit at the island watching me work and flipping through online papers on the laptop. Pancakes done, stack them in a warm oven with the bacon and sausage. Crack eggs onto the grill and stir them around for scramble.
Elle comes in, “Need a hand?”
“Syrup is in the pantry, butter in the keeper over there, it’s lightly clarified, doesn’t need refrigeration so it’s nice and spreadable. The only juice I have is V8, there’s sparkling water, diet Coke and coffee.”
She sets it out, plus the plates and utensils, we’re good to go.
Elle, “You eat like this all the time?”
Zoe C, “Chef takes care of us both, I can cook basics, but he likes to cook. I let him spoil me.”
“Pancakes are the best,” she crunches a piece of bacon, spears a sausage and puts it on her plate next to the scrambled, “everything’s the best.”
Natalie folds down the laptop, “Flipping world has gone crazy, another shooter on the loose, fortunately for us on the east coast, unfortunately for them.”
“How many?”
“Six, so far, it appears to be random. One bullet went through a woman and killed her two year old in a car seat. I know a life is a life, but a fucking two year old?”
“What else is going on? I don’t much keep track of day to day America.”
“It’s like a soap opera, if you disappeared six months ago, you can catch up in fifteen minutes. This country has wandered into the wilderness.”
Zoe C, “It’s always been in the wilderness, the whole world wanders in the wilderness. There’s enough food for everyone, enough medicine for everyone, enough energy for everyone, but it never gets spread around. The idea that some kid in Africa has to die of malaria is just stupid. The idea that there are homeless people in every city in America is ridiculous. There are more vacant homes than there are homeless people and developers are building new homes all over the place.”
Elle, “My brother has to pay eight thousand dollars a year for health insurance. I’m still in school and covered by dad’s insurance.”
Natalie, “Eight thousand? That is fucked up.”
Natalie is twenty two, Elle and Zoe C are nineteen. They’re not caught up in clubs, what Taylor Swift did or didn’t do, don’t stare into their phones all day. None of them has a Facebook page, they don’t instagram, snapchat or tweet. I ask about it.
Natalie, “I can’t speak for Zoe C or Elle, I can’t stand that stuff. If I ever find myself staring at a phone while I order a latte, shoot me.”
Elle, “We talked about that yesterday, you were busy doing stuff to feed and water us. I did Facebook until assholes started asking me for titty pics, I closed my account. Zoe C never had one, Natalie was way too busy to screw with any of it.”
“I had me on the agency profiles, for business reasons. Girls in the escort business soon found out about trolls, smarmy little creeps who couldn’t afford us if they maxed out daddy’s credit card. None of us used social media.”
Zoe C, “My slave driver boss doesn’t give me time to Facebook.”
They laugh, Natalie, “You have the cushiest job on the planet.”
Zoe C, “Don’t tell him, he thinks I bust my butt.”
It’s girls playing the dozens, I know Zoe C does bust it, they’re jiving because so much of the rest of the world is too depressing to dwell on.
After breakfast, Zoe C takes Natalie and Elle home. They have things to do besides sit around the pool. Natalie starts at Goldman as a hire tomorrow, Elle is a full time student with eighteen hours of classes. Guess I’ll have to wait for them to dance by the pool.
Zoe C returns at noon.
“Want lunch, I can make up finger sandwiches.”
“Maybe in an hour?”
“Good, I’m not exactly starving either. Got in a workout while you drove.”
“That’s a thought, feel like Krav? You can be my victim, and give me resistance, don’t soft pedal.”
I put on my cup, shots to the groin are part of it, and we have neck braces, cushioned on one side and titanium on the other. Can’t go full force on either spot, but she can apply half power strikes. I haven’t figured out any reliable way to practice eye gouges.
I attack from all angles, also knife and gun. When she misses a move, we stop and go over it again. Then she gets her turn as attacker, we go hard for forty then she’s had it and I’m glad, I’m not far behind.
She’s on the mat staring at the ceiling, “Trying to kill me Chef?”
“Trying to keep you alive,” fetch gel packs and bottles of water.
After she downs the water, I cover the tender spots with the gel packs and let her freeze for a half hour while I shower.
When I return, she’s half asleep, let her lay. Good idea, I go to my room and stretch out on the bed. Coffee appears, I’ve been out for nearly two hours.
Zoe C, “So much for finger sandwiches.”
I sit up and sip, “Hungry now?”
She hands me half of a Premiere Protein dark chocolate almond bar, “This will hold you until dinner. I got up an hour ago, you were dead away. I showered, stretched my body back into shape, made coffee and ate the other half of the bar. Protein bars can be mealy and bland, this one is good.”
“I’ll reward you tonight with a fat ribeye, cauliflower au gratin, spinach salad.”
“Then we need to go shopping.”
We dress, take the NSX and head to Sprout’s. Their meat is reliable and they’re really good about fresh vegetables. While I pick out steaks, Zoe C rounds up the vegetables and a half dozen bottles of kefir. Add canned white beans, chipotle, jalapeno and habanero peppers out of which I’ll make a three pepper hummus. Sometimes I do it with black beans, very healthy, protein, low fat and high fiber.
Back home, steaks seasoned and resting in the refrigerator, I’ll make hummus tomorrow. Break up the cauliflower, wash it and the spinach, into colanders to drain.
Zoe C is on a stool at the island, “I checked the site, there’s a referral.”
“Tell me.”
“A man in Petaluma, a fireman actually. Just a grunt, not a Captain or whatever they call rank there. He got on a year ago, no work related incidents I could find. He doesn’t appear to be a fire starter.”
“So he’s not, as best you can tell, an arsonist or serial killer.”
“No suggestion of it. He’s not a showboat, at least not at work, plays one of the boys, which is de rigueur in the fire business. It’s all about teamwork.”
“I’m guessing the referral came from someone in the fire brigade, is that what they call it?”
“I think so.”
“The details sound like a work contact, not a neighbor or relative. Otherwise they wouldn’t know about his on the job behavior.”
“Most punks don’t punk the kind of guys who are in the fire department, they’re big, strong, seen a lot of ugly stuff. A punk wants someone he can scare, not someone who can kick his ass.”
“I dug around in his history. He played football in high school, not recruited for college. He did a stint in junior college, got licensed as an EMT, joined the fire department. He married a Latino woman, which made her legal. Our referrer said, according to her husband, she’s accident prone. He calls her stumble-butt.”
“Injuries?”
“Black eye, both eyes, a cast on one arm another time. Our genius invited a couple of work buddies over for beer, barbeque and football. He went off on the woman verbally, checked himself after, according to our source, he threatened to ‘dump her stupid ass and kick it back to Mexico’.
“She doesn’t know any better, afraid of deportation.”
“Must be it.”
“What do you want to do?”
“She’s legally married, if he’s gone, she gets whatever it is they have and no deportation.”
“We can’t do murder without independent verification. The report is anonymous. In theory, it could be some guy who wants fireman out of the way, maybe for the woman.”
“Hadn’t thought of that. So what now?”
“We go to Petaluma and snoop. Tomorrow, get online and find a first rate listening device, good set of binoculars. When can you take a few days off?”
“Anytime, if I need to I can catch classes online.”
“I’ll find a place in Petaluma and rent us a car when you have the gear. Buy yourself a wig, watch caps and big sunglasses for both of us, they don’t need to be cool, just cover a lot of face. Let’s see, latex gloves, get me the big ones.”
“On it first thing.”
Time to fix dinner. 

Nineteen

Over ribeye, creamy cauliflower, warm spinach salad and a fat glass of red, we get off the subject of murder and on the subject of Natalie and Elle.
Zoe C, “Elle is nineteen, but like I’m an older nineteen, she’s a younger.”
“She seems to be all up into you.”
“How can you blame her?”
I grin, “No blame, she’s got a hot girlfriend with brains, makes her smart.”
“I admire her, her parents are happy she got into UCLA, although I think they wanted her to do career track, you know, law, medicine, something splashy.”
“Is it a thing? What did she tell them?”
“She described AI, and said she wanted to work on that. Once she told them what companies pay for people knowledgeable about it, can actually do the programming, they settled down.”
“As long as you give people a reason, they’re satisfied. I recall one of the endless behavior studies psychologists like to crank out. In the ancient days maybe twenty years ago, offices had a single copy machine which was shared by everyone. There were frequently lines waiting to make copies. They got a few people to ask if they could go first, jump the line so to speak. Sometimes they gave a reason, sometimes not. When they gave a reason, they usually got to go next, far more than when they didn’t. Here’s the thing, they could give circular reasons like, ‘I need to go first because I have to make these copies,’ and that worked as well as a more justifiable reason like, ‘I have to get this stuff to my boss, he’s catching a plane in thirty minutes’.
“But the first reason isn’t a reason, everyone was in line to make copies.”
“As I was saying…”
“People didn’t notice the reason made no sense, they just heard a reason. Wow, that’s useful information Chef. Just babble out damn near anything.”
“Our brains like explanations. Maybe why so many people seek out religion. It’s a ridiculous explanation of how things came to be, but better than uncertainty, people hate uncertainty.”
“They don’t get that uncertainty is what the world, the universe, is all about?”
“It scares them. Why do so many people live in the same town they grew up in, almost down the block from mom and dad, why do restaurant chains attract more customers than independents? The familiar feels safe.”
“Well, it does but it isn’t.”
“Doesn’t matter, people are feelings, not facts. And I can contradict what I just said. There is more movement now, sometimes jobs require it, small towns feel too small when the internet shows what’s out there to be explored. Fewer men marry the girl they met in high school. Immigrants change the complexion of the country, which, if people looked at it rightly, they would embrace. Different cultures, foods, traditions bring more life to life.”
“Then the contradiction is, that some people want the mix and change, which scares other people.”
“Yep. Granddad dug coal, dad dug coal, I dig coal, same town, same schools, same neighbors, root for the same football team, everybody I know looks like me, thinks like me. That would drive people like us insane.”
“Uh, yeah.”
“Do you want to catch Get Shorty, or wait until the girls are over?”
“Wait, they really enjoyed Pulp Fiction, there was a lot of…sexual energy afterwards.”
I laugh, “I have one for us, From Dusk ‘til Dawn, Clooney, Tarantino, Juliette Lewis in a sadistic vampire flick, a dance performance buy Salma Hayek that will make your eyeballs bleed and the funniest monologue by Cheech Martin I think I’ve ever heard.”
“Let’s do it.”
I make us Russian Standard over crushed ice with a fat garlic olive, plop on the couch and laugh our way through one of the most bizarre movies ever made. 
Zoe C, “That was crazy fun, I wonder if the girls have seen it?”
“We can have a Tarantino fest, stretch it out over their visits. There’s Django Unchained, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill one and two, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourius Basterds.”
“Perfect, the girls will love it.”
“We travel soon, should have a cover story. Maybe they won’t even ask, but still.
I suggest we’re scoping out real estate opportunities. We can say it didn’t seem worth the trouble, or the neighborhood didn’t show promise. Like we said about reasons, they’ll go with what we tell them. And if we do this on weekdays it doesn’t matter, they come over on weekends.”
“Got it. When do we see about Bad Fireman.”
“When is our stuff coming in?”
“Listening device tomorrow, I can go for binoculars and the disguise things tomorrow, didn’t see the point of ordering online and I’d rather try on the wig.”
“We’ll fly up Tuesday then.”
“Can you get us a reservation that quick?”
“I can the way I do it.”
She doesn’t ask, I let it slide, surprise her.
We’re whipped, time to crash, never got around to finishing the wedding cake.

Twenty

I pull the NSX to a spot in the Van Nuys airport.
Zoe C, “What’s this, it isn’t LAX.”
“No, Van Nuys.”
“I didn’t know this airport was here.”
“There’s our plane.”
“That’s a private jet.”
“Good call.”
“Fuck me, a private jet.”
“Best way to avoid TSA, we have Glocks in our luggage and I don’t want the TSA fumbling around in our stuff.”
We hand of the baggage to the attendant, climb aboard.
Zoe C, “Wow, this is so cool, my first private flight. Not that I’ve made a lot of regular flights.”
“We’ll be in Petaluma in less than an hour, our car will be waiting, then we take a ride and see the scenery.”
“And check out potential investments.”
“Yes, no mention of any other business, ever, to anyone. You can use your tablet or phone, the plane has wireless. If you talk or message Elle or anyone else, no mention of flying or where you’re going, or where we were when you get home. If you need to talk to me about the case, our target, do it in Japanese.”
There’s a Tahoe waiting for us. The flight and the car are in a corporate name with a corporate card, as is the hotel.
“Check-in is at three, we can scope out Fireman’s station, see if he’s there or at home, what’s he drive?”
“Jeep Cherokee, dark red.”
“Well, he is a fireman. Let’s see, right here, three miles, station should be on the left.”
And it is.
Zoe C, “Don’t see his Jeep, make the block just to be sure.”
I do, it isn’t, we head for his house. We worked the listening device yesterday, Zoe C got a good one, a small dish to point wherever we’re snooping. It has amplifier that makes it seem like you’re in the same room. She went to her bath, I went to the edge of the property farthest away from her. She spoke in a normal voice, I heard every word.
Twenty minutes later, we’re parked a few houses down from his. He’s in a standard subdivision in a standard ranch. His car in a carport, another older sedan parked in the double drive.
“The wig looks natural enough, especially from a distance.”
“I wouldn’t want to be a redhead, but this dark auburn isn’t bad.”
“Your blonde is better, I suppose I could get used to another color.”
“I’m not a hair color girl. Elle said she might try lighter, I think her medium brown is fine. Maybe if she wanted highlights, it’s her hair, not my concern.”
“Crank up the machine, let’s see what’s what.”
A TV, Spanish language, not loud. No other voices.
“He might have the late shift, sounds right for a first year fireman. If that’s right he’s likely asleep.”
“We can’t sit here all day.”
“No, let’s get coffee, what’s the time, one thirty. Are you hungry?”
“Not really, contemplating killing someone has tamped that down, coffee is fine.”
Do the easy bit, drive through McDonalds. I ponder the next move.
“We need to stay on the house or we’ll be here forever, I’ll drive the neighborhood, maybe something secluded near his place.”
We cruise past the house, take a left at the next corner and another left.
Zoe C, “Ease up, I need to see the third house on the left, it seems empty.”
“No for sale sign.”
“Drive down a couple of houses.”
She gets out and walks back. I see her holding her phone next to her ear, then staring down at it and typing, she stares at it then walks to the front door, then past the front windows. I don’t get a text, she must be covering herself. Like she’s interested in the house and texting someone or looking up something. She disappears around the corner for a minute, appears on the other side and returns to the car.
“Empty, not a stick of furniture. I didn’t try the back door, don’t see an alarm but doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”
“Nice work sneak. Any places to stay out of sight behind the house?”
“Yep, there’s a board fence between that yard and the target’s, maybe six feet high, and hedges taller than me. I could sit out there all night.”
“The houses on either side have privacy fences, long as neither place has a dog, a barky one anyway.”
“What if one does, or both of them?”
“I have an idea, we have to wait until dusk anyway.”
“Why? I can sit back there and tune in. If he goes off on her and we’re someplace else, what good is that?”
“Suppose I leave you here, turn the sounds off on your phone, keep in touch by text. I’ll go to the hotel and check us in. That gets rid of us just cruising around. You have your gun?”
She pats her side, “Ready.”
“Don’t second guess, don’t get brave, somebody comes along, beat it. Stick the gun in their face if you have to, don’t shoot unless it’s unavoidable. If you even think they have a weapon, kill them. Dead people can’t testify.”
She nods, I don’t know if she can do it, but she thinks she can, that’s three quarters of the battle.
“Okay, one errand first.”
Drive to a supermarket, buy a pound of ground beef, a pack of disinfectant wipes and a bottle of antihistamine capsules.
“While you’re sitting around, make meat balls. Open the capsules and drizzle the drug in, two pills each. When you have them nice and tight, toss a couple over each fence. If they don’t have a dog, no worry. If they do, be very still and wait. The dog is going to sniff out the meat. Twenty minutes later, he’s out or too drowsy to care. It won’t hurt the dog, it will wear off in a few hours.”
“This is turning into an exercise in logistics.”
“You want to bail? No problem, we can go to the hotel, chill, find a good place for dinner and fly home tomorrow.”
“Are you kidding? This is the most fun I’ve had since I discovered vibrators. My head’s on straight. Drop me here and I’ll do my creep. I’ll text every ten.”
She gets out, I shrug, she wants to do this, I let her. Head to the store, buy cold cuts, brick of cheddar, vodka, garlic olives, bottle of red. To the hotel, check in.
Rooms are nice, I got a suite with a refrigerator and sink and another standard room that connects. I put the wine and vodka in the refrigerator along with the food. Find the ice machine and fill both buckets. 
As promised, I get a text every ten, a lot of nothing. If there’s a dog on either side it hasn’t been let out.
Next text, ‘dog right side house heard the patio door open then close i could hear Fido sniffing around don’t know if he or she ate the meat, but no bark
door slid open again, guess the dog went back inside.’
I text, ‘good, no action from the target?’
‘hang on…conversation..need to focus’
I don’t reply, wait.
Ten minutes passes, then twelve, then fifteen.
“ru ok’
‘argument he jumps her about some nothing, his fucking uniform, sounds like a body falling, not a scream, a cry and whimper, hard to say, she isn’t yelling but his tone is nasty, typical, stupid cunt, spic shit on TV fucking back to Mexico…like that..then quiet.’
‘on the way, keep still, text u when I am there.’
I stop down the block, text her, she shows up a minute later.
“Anything new?’
“No, he left for work, if she was hurting it didn’t register. The TV came on again, otherwise nothing.”
“We have enough, but if you have the moxy, suppose you knock on the door, think up survey bullshit. See if she’s hurt.”
We drive around to his street. Zoe C gets out and walks to the front door, knocks.
I see the door open, just a crack. An exchange, Zoe C is typing something into her phone, back and forth, Zoe C turns, the door closes.
“She’s got a fat bruise on her cheek and was hunched over, like a rib or something lower, definitely injured.”
“What was your fake survey about?”
“I babbled neighborhood stuff, do we need speed bumps, should there be fencing or exterior color restrictions, just HOA crap. She gave vague answers, said she would talk to her husband. Which she won’t, she never asked me for any phone number, email, nothing.”
“Okay, enough. Now we figure out where to take out fire-boy.”

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