Dawn phoned Chip’s pager as soon as Raylan was out of the house, no wolf following him now, Raylan putting on what seemed his official hat as he walked from tree shade into sunlight, cocking the brim low on his eyes, and Dawn thought, He knows you’re watching. Okay, Mr. Raylan Givens, I’m gonna keep watching. Pretty sure he’d be back in the next couple of days.
Waiting for Chip to answer his pager she looked for a fingernail to bite on.
Sundays he was never home. He’d stroll one of the beaches or a mall or visit a Huggers Gathering in the park and try not to get hugged while he mingled and looked for runaways. Chip’s favorite kind were young girls who’d left home pissed off at their dads and feeling betrayed by their moms; they came to Gatherings homesick, would get caught up in the flashing peace signs and Huggers saying “Love you” with dopey grins and pretty soon the little girls would be dosing on acid.
The time Chip held a Gathering at his home Dawn stopped by to see what it was all about. There were Huggers all over the patio and what used to be a lawn that extended to the beach; Chip’s New Age pals and their girlfriends, about forty people, most of them hairy, pierced, tie-dyed and tattooed earth people and born-again bikers. They came in rusting-out vans and pickups with their beer and dope and got high while cops cruised Ocean Boulevard past the PRIVATE DRIVE, KEEP OUT sign, and while Chip moved among them grinning, showing his movie-star teeth he’d had capped in another time, before his life went in the toilet.
Dawn had the tip of her left thumb between her teeth, gnawing to get a purchase on the nail and thinking about Raylan again, a cowboy in a shirt with sailboats on it driving off in a dark green Jaguar she knew wasn’t his.
The phone rang.
Chip said, “This is important, right?” With his deadpan delivery he thought was cool. “Taking me away from business?”
“Where are you?”
“Dreher Park, West Palm; I’m picnicking.”
“Let’s see,” Dawn said, closing her eyes, “the girl you’re with has stringy blond hair, cutoff jeans, she’s from Ohio and hasn’t had a bath in a week.”
“Indiana,” Chip said, “she’s a little Hoosier. Nasty kid, hates her parents. I dropped acid in her eye and she sweetened up some.”
“Going on thirty, but dumb.”
“Her folks,” Dawn said, “don’t even miss her.”
“What’re you, a mind reader? I told her dad up in Kokomo, Indiana, I’d let him know where to find his little girl for five big ones. He goes, ‘She isn’t worth near that much,’ and hangs up on me. What we’re doing, you understand, we’re negotiating. I call him back. ‘Okay, twenty-five hundred and I’ll see no harm comes to your little girl. All you have to do is wire the cash.’ I give him the name I use and he hangs up on me, again. I’m thinking, What kind of a father is this guy? When I call back I’ll talk to the mom. Jesus, parents these days…”
“Try the mom for fifteen hundred,” Dawn said, “so I can get paid. Your new guy, Bobby? He said he’d bring it next week, and I’m sure he’ll come, but it won’t be to pay me.”
Chip said, “You call to chat or what?”
“A guy came by for a reading,” Dawn said. “It turns out he’s some kind of federal agent and guess who he’s looking for?”
Chip said, “What do you mean some kind of federal agent? He show you his I.D.?”
“He didn’t have to, except he doesn’t look anything like one. He’s forty-three. When he was younger he was a coal miner.”
“You check his fingernails?”
“He walked in, I thought he was a farmer, or maybe a rancher. He looks like a cowboy, that raw-boned, outdoor type. Wears cowboy boots and a hat with a curled brim.”
“The Marlboro man,” Chip said.
“Yeah, except he’s real.”
“And he’s looking for me?”
“Actually your name didn’t come up. He’s looking for Harry Arno.”
There was a silence before Chip’s voice came back on the line. “What reason did he give?”
“Are you kidding? The man was here Friday and hasn’t been seen since.”
“But why is this guy looking for him?”
“I just told you.”
“I mean, you say he’s a federal agent, is he investigating Harry’s disappearance or he’s a friend or what?”
Dawn wasn’t sure, so she said, “What difference does it make? He thinks Harry was here.”
“How could he?”
“I guess someone remembered seeing us together, at the restaurant.”
“What’d you tell him?”
“That he wasn’t here.”
“He buy it?”
“He’s thinking about it,” Dawn said. “I hope I get my money before he comes back.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“If I’m arrested for some dumb stunt you’re pulling, I want to be able to make bail.”
“There’s no way this guy can possibly get onto us, so be cool,” Chip said. “You thought he was a farmer?”
“I told you, he’s got that outdoor good-guy look. Even has crow’s-feet when he squints.”
“But he was wearing, what, a snappy blue suit and wing tips with the hat? That’s how you made him, huh? I mean why do you say he’s a fed, not some local cop?”
“’Cause that’s what he is,” Dawn said. “I’ll give you something else to think about. Not very long ago he shot and killed a man and did it deliberately, at close range. What I’m saying is he intended to kill the guy and he did.”
Again the silence before Chip said, “Come on, he told you that?”
“I felt it in his hand,” Dawn said. “The one that held the gun.”