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I TOLD HIM, I said dont go with him, Moran said. He wanted to believe he had warned de Boya and wondered if he would have to repeat this to himself from time to time.

You dont tell him anything, Mary said, creeping the car toward a police officer in a rain slicker waving them to come on, come on, move it out. They turned off Arvida Parkway onto Cutler Road and the feeling of being released came over both of them at the same time, brought smiles and inside the old Mercedes was a good place to be with the windshield wipers beating and the tires humming on wet pavement. The weather was fine. They passed the fairways of Leucadendra and tennis courts standing empty, left the country club behind with a feeling of starting fresh, on a new adventure. Though Morans thoughts would turn and he would see de Boya coming out of the house-Spook him and make him run, hed said to Jiggs in the Mutiny and it was happening.

He said, If he lets Jiggs follow him or take him somewhere hes crazy. I told him. You heard me, you were standing right there. He had to stop thinking about Andres. But then asked, Where do you think hell go?

Well, he owns property all over. Apartment buildings, even farms, land hell develop someday. He could go down in the Keys, anywhere. Mary glanced at Moran. If youre worried about him, dont be. Andres takes care of number one, the son of a bitch. And if Corky has to give his life Andres will let him.

Right, it wasnt something new to these guys. Moran looked at her staring straight ahead at the windshield wipers sweeping, clearing the glass every other moment. He loved her profile. He could see her as a little girl.

Youre a good driver.

Thank you.

Hows your mouth? Is it sore?

Not bad.

The way your lower lip sticks out, its kinda sexy.

You want to bite it?

I believe I might. Did you hit him back?

I hit him first. It only made him madder.

There you are, Moran said. The first rule of street fighting, never throw a punch unless you can finish it.

Mary said, What are you, Moran, my trainer or my lover? She felt wonderful and wanted to say corny things about being free at last and tell him something that would bring amazement and hed say I dont believe it in that way he said it. But that could wait.

De Boya sat half-turned in the front seat holding his briefcase on his lap. He would look back through the mist the Rolls raised in its wake and see Jiggs Scullys car holding the pace, less than a hundred meters behind. They were on the freeway northbound, passing the Fort Lauderdale airport off to the right, a jumbo jet descending out of the gray mass almost directly in front of them.

Corky said to the rearview mirror, I can put my foot into it and leave him.

No, we bring him along, de Boya said. He knows something. They spoke in Spanish.

Youre sure of it?

Well find out. He wanted to take me to Boca Raton. He tells me a very safe place. Im supposed to say yes, of course, and put myself in his care.

He has little respect.

Thats the least of it. De Boya watched the green freeway sign gradually appear. Eighty-four, thats it, to the New River Canal Road.

Corky followed the exit ramp, his eyes on the mirror. Hes coming.

I hope so, de Boya said.

They drove west for several minutes past fenced land that was desolate and seemed remote, resembling an African plain. There were no houses in sight until they got off on a dirt road turning to muddy pools, passed through a stand of pine and tangled brush to arrive in the yard of a cement-block ranch painted white, flaking, lifeless in its dismal setting. De Boya had bought the house furnished, as is, surrounded by ninety acres of scrub; the house would serve as a jump-off if needed, close to the Lauderdale airport; the property could always be developed someday, turned into a retirement village.

Hes coming, Corky said, steering toward the garage that was part of the house.

De Boya looked back to see the red and white Cadillac creeping into the yard. The car stopped and Jiggs got out to stand looking around, hands on his hips. The rain didnt seem to bother him.

Stay with me, de Boya said.

He got out of the Rolls with his briefcase and approached Jiggs who was moving to the back of his car now, looking at his keys as though to open the trunk, then glancing at de Boya.

This is it, huh? General, I got to tell you youd be a lot more comfortable this place in Boca. Belongs to Jimmy Cap. Got a sauna, everything. He was bending over the trunk now.

What do you have in there? de Boya asked.

Jiggs straightened. I got a forty-four Mag and I got a twelve-gauge pump gun, a Browning. I got flares and a five-gallon can of gas. What else you need?

De Boya motioned to him. Lets go inside.

I thought youd want some protection.

Get it later, de Boya said.

As they started for the house Jiggs said, You want me to help with your bags?

No, well get those later, too.

Jiggs said, I was gonna say, General, I dont think you needed to pack those grips. Bomb squadll take the day-we shouldnt be gone moren one night. We can call em now you got a phone, see what they found.

Yes, well do that, de Boya said.

I wondered, the cops say who called em?

They dont know, de Boya said. What I dont understand is what Moran was doing there. What was it he said? That you want to take me?

Corky moved ahead of them to unlock the door.

Thats what it sounded like, Jiggs said. Only thing I can figure out, he was trying to confuse you, General, get your head turned around so he could run off with your wife. You want me to Ill go pay him a visit.

That would be all right with Jimmy Cap?

Jimmy said help you out anyway I can.

But I learn hes out of town, uh? Has been gone for a week or so.

Corky held the aluminum screen door for both of them, de Boya first, Jiggs saying, General, I hope youre not doubting my word, his tone offering a strong measure of injured pride as he gave the place a quick look: a living room that had the flavor of a hunting cabin, knotty pine walls, maple furniture, a poker table, Indian blankets. Jiggs pulled his shirttail out to wipe off his glasses. Ill give you a number you can reach Jimmy Cap or theyll tell you exactly where he is. You dont mind, Id like you to talk to him and get this straightened out. Very serious about it.

Yes, I would too, de Boya said. Let me have the number. He handed Corky his briefcase.

Jiggs put his glasses back on. His hands went to his breasts in the loose seersucker jacket and gave them a pat, then touched his right hip. Yeah, I got it. In my wallet. General, let me go the can and take a leak first, I can almost taste it. He moved off toward the hall where he saw the bathroom door open, green tile inside.

De Boya watched until the door closed, then extended a hand toward Corky and snapped his fingers, twice.

Corky was opening the briefcase on the poker table. He brought out a Walther P .38 automatic and handed it to de Boya. Now he took off his suit coat. From a shoulder holster snug beneath his left arm Corky drew a revolver, a Colt .38 with a stubby snout, and followed de Boya to the hallway. There was a bedroom at each end, doors open to empty rooms, neat twin beds with chenille spreads. The bathroom stood in between, its door closed.

They waited to hear the toilet flush, raised their pistols and began firing point-blank into the center of the door, the reports earsplitting in the confined area. Then silence. Corky turned the knob carefully, opened the door a crack, stepped back and used the sole of his foot to bang the door completely open.

Jiggs came out of the shower stall arms extended, holding a blue-steel automatic in both hands, ignoring Corky to level it straight at de Boyas face. He saw those ice-water eyes wide open for the first time.

Something I learned a long time ago, General, never take your joint out with guys you dont trust. Specially you hot-blooded fellas like a lot of noise, shoot the place up. Come in here. Come on, Jiggs said, stepping back on broken glass and bits of porcelain to let them come in past him. Drop the guns in the toilet Thats the way. You too, Corko. Whats this a truss? He snapped the elastic strap of Corkys shoulder holster. You got a hernia? Thats it, in the toilet. Now I want you to take your clothes off. Thats what you do, right, General? Strip em down bare-ass.

As he began to undress de Boya said, I pay for my life, uh? How much I have to pay you?

Gonna make it easy, Jiggs said, edging past them to sit down on the toilet. Only take your suitcases. Corky, gimme the car keys. Ill get em after.

I begin to think its what you want, de Boya said, but I dont see how you know about it. He paused unbuttoning his shirt, occupied with his thoughts. Unless it was my wife?

You told me yourself, Jiggs said, talking to Jimmy Cap, that day out at Calder. All the rest of the bullshit is just bullshit, way to get you here. He said to Corky, Whatre you looking at? Come on, get your clothes off. He raised the automatic in Corkys face. Cant figure out what this is, can you? Looks like your standard nine-millimeter Smith Parabellum except for that hickey sticking out. Jiggs dug into his side coat pocket, brought out a five-inch gunmetal tube and screwed it onto the threaded stub, the hickey that extended from the muzzle of the automatic. Factory-modified. They call it a Hush-Puppy. Come on, General, take it off. Take it all off-like the broad says with the shaving cream. You too, Corko, drop the Jockeys, but keep an eye on the general there he dont try and cop your joint Shoes, everything.

He seemed proud of his gun and showed them the profile with the silencer attached.

Got a slide lock here on the side. You fire once it doesnt eject, so you dont hear the slide click open. You dont even hear that poumpf you get with a silencer. You know why? I use a subsonic round, very low muzzle velocity. Take the lock off you hear the slide jack open and close as you fire, but thats all, just that click-click You guys ready? Leave your clothes on the floor there.

De Boya said, Youre going to take our clothes? He stood straight, shoulders back and seemed to be in good shape, heavyset but not too much flab.

Ill see they dont get wrinkled, Jiggs said. Now getn the shower. Go on, move.

Both of us? de Boya asked.

Both of you the same time. Jiggs stood up now and motioned them into the stall. Corky, watch yourself. Dont drop the soap. Corky was skinnier than he looked in clothes; chewing on that pussy mustache like he was going to cry. Okay, turn the water on. Get it how you like it.

De Boya said, What is the need of this?

Jiggs said, Just turn the water on, will you, please?

He shot de Boya high through the rib cage with his arms raised to adjust the shower head, lung-shot him and shot him again in near silence as de Boya flattened against the wall and began to slide, smearing the tile. Corky was screaming now, hunching, holding his hands out protectively. He shot Corky twice in the chest through one of his hands, Corkys body folding to fall across de Boya curled up like he was trying to keep warm. He watched their heads jump with a final twitch as he shot them each again, watched the stream of water cleanse them, then pulled the shower curtain closed. Hed let the water run while he went out to get the suitcases.

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