Three A.M.

Three A.M. by Steven John Read Free Book Online

Book: Three A.M. by Steven John Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steven John
Tags: Dystopian, Noir, Dystopia
Albergue and offered up a huge sum of cash on her own, a wronged-man murder backstory and having done her homework on me, no less. I was staring at the worn, gray cassette as I thought about Rebecca, and twice already I had leaned forward toward my tape player to put it on; twice I’d paused, arm outstretched, and then leaned back into my seat—not yet.
    When I talked to her, I knew I’d need to feed her information that would be digested by someone else. But it’s hard not to say too much or to ask the right questions when the person you’re plugging for info isn’t the one holding the hand you need tipped. She was sharp, too. Intelligence lurked behind those smiling gray eyes. But people who think they’re smart almost invariably think they’re brighter than they actually shine. I could use that to my advantage.
    I set the cassette tape down and rose. Pacing around the place, I finished off my glass of whiskey and set it in the little kitchen alcove. I was hungry, but about all I had in the apartment was rice and beans. I tried a few pieces of old, dried-out bread, but it was too moldy. I went for the pills instead.
    I popped open the little white bottle and dumped its contents out into my palm. Four pills. Fuck. I had meant to see Salk that afternoon, but a few drinks and a bit more time than I’d expected at Heller’s had thrown my plans off. I didn’t like having that few meds around. The addictive mind never truly craves something until it’s in short supply.
    I filled my glass and stood by the window, staring out into the charcoal gray night. I felt bad for having grabbed the kid’s neck so roughly earlier. It had turned yellowish by the time I’d left him. Heller had seemed like a strung-out nuisance when I met him; now he seemed more like a lonely, sad-bastard young man. I wondered what he thought about me. He must have hated me to some extent. But I’ve been changing over the past couple of years—growing less tough, more resigned.
    I wheeled from the window and set down my glass. Moving quickly, before I could hesitate again, I shoved the cassette in the player and turned it on. For the next hour or so, I slowly got drunk and more than a few times sat with tears running down my cheeks as music filled the room and my mind. Eventually, around two o’clock, I collapsed onto my bed. I had the rare pleasure of sleeping soundly through three o’clock that night.
    *   *   *
    As I made my way to my office the next morning, I felt uneasiness akin to the apprehension before a first date. But I needed to realize that all the conversations and exchanges that I had imagined might occur between us would not. Any words I had put in her mouth were not going to come out, so all my clever or charming rejoinders were useless. I needed to act the consummate professional I used to be and drop all the preconceptions. I stopped in the dead air behind a blower and lit a cigarette.
    “Also,” I said aloud, unconsciously gesticulating with my hands as if explaining the situation to an external self, “she won’t fuck you, Tom.”
    Hearing it ring out loud like that straightened my thinking a bit. I took a few drags off my smoke and then walked at a faster pace toward my little closet of an office. The glowing numbers on my sun sphere had read 11:18 when I left home, so it was likely now half-past. I figured I’d have at least a couple of hours to get on my game face.
    Anyone would call my office a shithole. And I knew I was not in the right mental frame when the first thing I thought upon entering was that it would make a bad impression on a refined lady. There were stacks of paper and cassette tapes strewn everywhere. A few of the photos and items Eddie had let me take as samples were piled in one corner. My chair is a dumpy wood and cloth thing I found in an alley. Tripped over is more accurate. Before finding it, I’d sat on a metal folding chair for almost two years, and that’s where I was going to put

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