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eleven

Dawn phoned Chips 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 youre watching. Okay, Mr. Raylan Givens, Im gonna keep watching. Pretty sure hed 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. Hed 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. Chips favorite kind were young girls whod 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; Chips 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 hed 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 wasnt 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; Im picnicking.

Lets see, Dawn said, closing her eyes, the girl youre with has stringy blond hair, cutoff jeans, shes from Ohio and hasnt had a bath in a week.

Indiana, Chip said, shes a little Hoosier. Nasty kid, hates her parents. I dropped acid in her eye and she sweetened up some.

About sixteen?

Going on thirty, but dumb.

Her folks, Dawn said, dont even miss her.

Whatre you, a mind reader? I told her dad up in Kokomo, Indiana, Id let him know where to find his little girl for five big ones. He goes, She isnt worth near that much, and hangs up on me. What were doing, you understand, were negotiating. I call him back. Okay, twenty-five hundred and Ill 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. Im thinking, What kind of a father is this guy? When I call back Ill 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 hed bring it next week, and Im sure hell come, but it wont be to pay me.

Chip said, You call to chat or what?

A guy came by for a reading, Dawn said. It turns out hes some kind of federal agent and guess who hes looking for?

Chip said, What do you mean some kind of federal agent? He show you his I.D.?

He didnt have to, except he doesnt look anything like one. Hes 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 hes real.

And hes looking for me?

Actually your name didnt come up. Hes looking for Harry Arno.

There was a silence before Chips voice came back on the line. What reason did he give?

Are you kidding? The man was here Friday and hasnt been seen since.

But why is this guy looking for him?

I just told you.

I mean, you say hes a federal agent, is he investigating Harrys disappearance or hes a friend or what?

Dawn wasnt 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.

Whatd you tell him?

That he wasnt here.

He buy it?

Hes thinking about it, Dawn said. I hope I get my money before he comes back.

Whats that supposed to mean?

If Im arrested for some dumb stunt youre pulling, I want to be able to make bail.

Theres no way this guy can possibly get onto us, so be cool, Chip said. You thought he was a farmer?

I told you, hes got that outdoor good-guy look. Even has crows-feet when he squints.

But he was wearing, what, a snappy blue suit and wing tips with the hat? Thats how you made him, huh? I mean why do you say hes a fed, not some local cop?

Cause thats what he is, Dawn said. Ill 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 Im 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.


| Riding the Rap | twelve