361

361 by Donald E. Westlake Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: 361 by Donald E. Westlake Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donald E. Westlake
tell him what?”
    “I won’t tell him anything. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inform on you.”
    “I’m not worried.”
    “I’m going to ask him how they’re doing.”
    “They aren’t doing. Tuesday it’ll be two months. They don’t have a lead, a clue, a chance, or a hope. If they did, it wouldn’t take two months. It’s us or nobody.”
    “I can’t stay with you. I can’t be around you, with you pulling things like that.”
    “I told you, that was a mistake. I didn’t mean for him to die.”
    “Sure.”
    “You’re a cluck, Bill. You’re three years older than me, but you’re a cluck. He knew who chased Dad out of town. Did you hear what he said?”
    “I heard him.”
    “He knew. Do you think I wanted him dead?”
    He frowned at the wheel, thinking it over. After a while he glanced at me. I looked innocent. He glowered out at the highway again. “Then what the hell did you do it for?”
    “I was trying to scare him. I didn’t know it would hit him that big. It must look pretty bad.”
    In some out-of-the-way corner he found a grin. He took it out, dusted it off, put it on his face. It looked good there. “You don’t know how bad, Ray,” he said. “I about had a heart attack myself. You looked like something out of hell.” He glanced at me again, back at the traffic. “A little worse than usual,” he said.
    “You want a cigarette?”
    “I need one,” he said.
    We went back to the hotel and sat around. We went out for dinner and bought some more Old Mr. Boston. We drank and smoked and talked and played gin a penny a point. He won.
    After a while, we finished the booze and went to bed and turned the lights off. But I saw McArdle’s face, bluish red, the eyes bulging bigger and bigger. I got up and told Bill I was going out. He was asleep already, and he just grunted.
    I went out and it was one o’clock in the morning. No liquor stores open. I found a bar, but the only thing he’d sell me to go was beer. I had five fast Fleischmann doubles on the rocks, and then I bought two quarts of Rheingold beer and brought them back to the room. I knew they’d make me throw up and they did, but after that I could go to sleep.

Ten
    Johnson was around in the morning again. He wanted to talk. I had a split head, I told him to wait. He sat smoking in a chair while Bill and I hulked around and washed our faces and got dressed. Then the three of us went out for coffee.
    We went up Broadway to a Bickford’s, and filled our trays. Johnson just had coffee. Bill and I had eggs.
    At the table, Johnson stuck a spoon in his coffee and stirred for five minutes without paying any attention, while he talked. “I want to give you a little background on me,” he said. “I run a one-man agency. Maybe one or two jobs a month, enough to stay even with the bills. Last year I made thirty-seven hundred dollars. I hate the job, I don’t know why I stay in. Same way a little grocer down the block from the A&P won’t close up and go get a warehouse job. You keep waiting for something to happen, like in the paperbacks.”
    He held the spoon against the side of the cup with his thumb and drank. The spoon handle jabbed into his cheek. He kept watching me while he drank. Then he said, “Most of the time, it’s sitting around waiting for that one or two jobs a month. It’s boring as hell. So sometimes I get interested in something. Like you two. Upstate accents, with the broad A, and you’re living in a medium-price hotel and you’ve got medium-price clothes and a whole middle-class feeling to you. You aren’t the idle rich. And you’re too mad at everybody to be con artists. Besides, you paid me. You’re checked into the hotel by the week, for the cheaper rate. You figure to be here longer than a little, but not long enough to sign a lease on an apartment or get a job or anything like that.”
    He swallowed coffee again. When the spoon stuck into his cheek, it made him look wolfish. Otherwise, he looked

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