Robert B. Parker
leaves moved gently against the sky outside the bedroom window. He felt the stab of fear as he thought of Adolph Karl. Two cops had called him a psychopath. He’d talked with such conviction last night about killing him.
    He slid under the covers over against Janet. His pelvis pressed against her buttocks. He put his left arm over her and put his hand on her breast. She was wearing a bra.
Like armor
, he thought.
Always a bra, underpants, pj’s, socks, no matter how hot it is. Must be security or something. Sometimes a fucking bathrobe
. She rolled over onto her stomach away from his hand.
    “I gather,” he said, “you don’t care for a little nooky?”
    “Un-unh,” she murmured, still half-asleep.
    He rolled back over to his own side of the bed and lay on his back. His throat felt tight and again his eyes stung but no tears came. He thought of her as he had seen her on the bed the night before. Naked and helpless.
Couldn’t even spit
. Desire buzzed in his stomach. He looked at her beside him. She was on her stomach, her face turned away. Except for the slight rise and fall of her back as she breathed she was inert. One of her hair rollers had come loose and was half hanging out from her blue scarf.
    “You want me to kill some guy for you,” he said.
    She moved slightly, still asleep, and said, “Ummm.”
    He laughed without humor, or sound, and got up. He slept naked. In the bathroom mirror he looked at himself. He had the weight lifter’s mass. Pectoral muscles, deltoids, triceps, all over-developed. But there was fat, too, a roll around his waist that thickened his whole body, flesh that softened and sagged his chest over the big pectoral muscles. His upper eyelids had sagged so that the top round of his eye was covered, and the flesh under his chin was loose so that if he tucked his chin back at all his neck disappeared.
    He flexed at the mirror. He looked better when he flexed. What seemed soft was suddenly revealed as hard, what might have been fat was in fact shown to be muscle.
Not bad for forty-six. If I could only drop twenty pounds I’d be splendid for forty-six
.
    In the shower he thought about Adolph Karl.
But would it be right
, he thought.
Do I have the right to take the law into my own hands. Christ, I sound like a comic strip. Who was that masked man anyway? But
do I? But if I don’t, how can I stand being dishonored so? “I could not love thee half so much loved I not honor more.” I wonder if Richard Lovelace was married
. Was he just worrying about the ethics of it to avoid doing it? Was he simply scared?
    He lathered his hair with apple-scented shampoo and let the hot water run over him rinsing the shampoo away.
Let’s look at the problem of scared
. He tried to examine himself, to study his spiritual condition the way one might examine a painting. But his spiritual condition was evasive. It wouldn’t stay in frame, it shifted.
Like looking at an electron
, he thought.
The act of observation changes its behavior. Yes, I’m scared, but is that why I’m hesitating on this thing? Chris wouldn’t hesitate. Chris would go right to it. Ah, but I’m not Chris, nor was meant to be
.
    He shut off the water and stepped out of the shower.
The world is out of joint
. He toweled dry and went back upstairs to the bedroom to dress. He never used the upstairs bathroom. She used it to get dressed for work. A steamy shower would ruin her hair.
    The bedroom was empty. She was in the bathroom getting ready for work. He dressed and made the bed, tightening the sheets, making careful hospital corners, smoothing the quilt over the pillows. She never made the bed right, she simply rolled the quilt up over sheets and pillows so there was a sense of lumpiness under the quilt, and when you got in at night the sheets were wrinkly.
    He had breakfast on the table when she came into the kitchen. As he heard her step on the back stairs he poured the coffee, and everything was ready when she sat down. There were

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