Death and the stripper

 "Murder most foul" the prosecutor shouted.  The jury seemed to cower from his verbal assault.  The prosecutor went on to describe the murder of Leland Anders.  He described how the perpetrator broke into Leland's house with the intention of robbing then murdering Leland.  He claimed he had proven that Wade Williams had been the intruder and that murder was the intent.

 According to the prosecutor, Wade had been the lover of Leland's much younger wife.  He wanted to have her and Leland's money.  The only way to do that was to murder Leland so that his wife inherited all the money.  The robbery was a cleaver ruse and nothing more.

 The prosecutor ended with, "We have to send a message here today.  Adultery is an awful thing but murder is much worse.  For his sins against Leland Anders, Wade Williams must be punished.  The punishment is a decision for another day and another man, but the finding of guilt cannot be shoved off on anyone else.  It is a decision that you must make.  It is a decision that is simple.  Wade Williams is guilty of that.  There can be no doubt."

 The prosecutor sat down and the defense counsel tried to make a case for reasonable doubt.  There was no case to be made.  Everything pointed to Wade and only Wade.

 In the end it took the jury slightly more than one day to convict Wade.  It took another jury almost a week to agree on the death penalty.  Poor Wade would sit on death row for a few years then die of a lethal injection.  

 The last question to be answered was, "What about the widow Anders?"  Some people had her guilty of the conspiracy but others thought she was an adulteress but nothing worse.  I hadn't made up my mind yet.  In most cases it wouldn't have mattered what I thought.  In this one it just might.

 I had monitored this trial for my friend Skip Eddington.  Ship and I had gone to high school together.  He had gone to college then law school.  I had taken a different route.  I was what most folks would call a ne’er do well.  I puttered at photography but my background was as much in law enforcement as anything else.

 After the war I had joined the police department.  I had managed to stay two years.  I was in school for photography even then.  I had seen way too much ugly over the last four years.  I wanted to see something that was if not beautiful at least neutral.

 Ad hope they didn't give her the needle for adultery.

 My only surprise in the trial was that there was a trial at all.  If I had been Wade's attorney, God forbid, I would have pleaded him and rolled on the widow.  The widow must be holding something wonderful to keep Wade silent.  Of course she might be innocent in which case Wade had nothing to tell.  Of course he could have made something up.  Wade  didn't strike me as that much of a stand up guy. Maybe the widow promised to pay his attorney bills if he refused to testify against her.

 Anyway my advice to Skip would be to plead the bitch out and move on.  There was a lot more money to be made defending her so he wouldn’t.  I doubted that he would collect if she were convicted.  The old man's money was probably tied up in probate.  She wouldn't get a nickel if the widow was convicted.

 I walked into Skip's office after the conviction and before the sentence was announced.  I told him what I thought and he asked me to go back for the sentencing.  I did and now that part was finished.

 I was seated across from Skip smoking a cigarette when he asked, "Well will Wade roll over on her."

 "Not before the first appeal is denied.  I figure he took the sentence like a man.  He should hold up well till it gets closer."

 "Then I need to get Holly on the docket right away."

 “Damn Skip, plead the bitch and move on man."

 "She won't plead and frankly I need the money."

 "What money?  The estate is going to be tied up for years."

 "The lady has money of her own."

 "Where would a stripper get money of her own?"

 "Leland,  She convinced him to buy her a couple of clubs.  She didn't want to be a country club wife."

 "You mean they would allow her to be a country club wife so she became a strip club wife?"

 "Is that so?  Anyway the clubs made a lot of money and she banked it.  She somehow got Leland to pay the bills for her.  She banked almost all the money from the clubs."

 "Okay she won't plead and she has the money for a defense she is still going to break your heart."

 "I don't know.  As long as Wade doesn't roll over on her, we might be able to plant reasonable doubt in the jury."

 "Wade copped to doing the dirty deed with the widow.  This is the bible belt son.  They are going to hang her ass for fucking around."

 "Maybe not."

 "Whatever, here is my bill."  Skip looked at it and then took out his checkbook.  

 "Did you get to that intersection yet?"

 "No Skip, but I will shoot it on the way home.  You did want it at five o'clock didn't you?"

 "Yes," Skip answered.

 "Well I have been busy at five o'clock every day this week.  You should know  I was in the courthouse three of those days.  I do have other clients you know.  I promise I will shoot your intersection today.  How big do you want the prints?"

 "Eight by ten should do fine."

 "You got it.  I'm out of here."

 "Oh Linc, I am going to have to ask you to do some checking on the widow's alibi.  You are going to have time aren't you."

 "Probably Skip, why don’t you convince her to cop a plea."

 "No can do.  Besides this isn't Julie we are talking about you know.  This one might be innocent of everything except adultery."

 "They will shoot her full of poison for that down here.  Especially if she draws Jake as the prosecutor."    I was standing in the door as I gave him that last bit of wisdom.

 "I still don't know why Jake gave up his practice to become the DA.”

 "Because he doesn't need the money.  Also, because his dad wants him to be Governor."

 "Yeah but there are better ways."

 "Not to get publicity there is.  He will be trying this one as if she were Julie.  He won’t mind that it is a trip to the Governor's mansion at the end of the trial."

 "Do you really think he will use Holly as a stepping stone to the governor's office?"

 "Does a cat lick its ass?"  I left before Skip could waste any more of my time.

 I stopped at the intersection and shot a dozen photographs of it.  I would have to develop the slides to determine which ones I wanted to use.  I drove the battered old mail jeep to my garage.  I lived in a converted carriage house behind the oldest photo studio in town.  

 I had once owned the big house in front of my garage.  My old  friend and daughter of the original photographer owned it again now.  I had sold it to her husband as a painter's studio and gallery a year or so ago.              

 He was a native of Paris.  He  lasted in this country about a year before he gave up and returned to Paris.  Helen would have gone with him if he had asked.  He wanted to forget about America and Helen at the same time.  She and I worked out a deal that allowed her to keep the house so long as she ran the photo studio and made her payments on the house and the business.

 The house was too big for me and I never liked running a respectable business anyway.  The deal we worked out, allowed her to book work for both of us.  She called me on the new citizens band radio if I needed to shoot anything right away.  

 Helen didn't try to steal my customers because she really wanted to paint portraits.  If she could have made a living at it, I would have been out a partner.  Fortunately she couldn't.  Instead she shot about half the weekend work.  I worked all the out side jobs during the week.  She painted while also shooting any studio customers.  She also ran the office.  It worked out really well for both of us.

 I called her on the CB just to let her know that I would be in the garage.  She responded that I had a message.  It seems that Skip was trying to get me involved in the Black Widow affair.  I didn't rush to return his call.  Instead I processed the slides of his intersection.

 Skip's secretary called, "Linc, we really do need for you to start looking at Mrs. Anders alibi.  Would you please make an appointment to interview her?"

 "Tell you what Wanda,  you call the black widow and have her come here tomorrow at eleven a.m."

 "I don't know if that will be convenient for her?"

 "Well it is the only time I am going to have available for the next two weeks."

 "Come on Linc that is crap.  Everybody knows you don't make appointments more than a day ahead."

 "Okay, Wanda, my love, it is the only time I will have available for the black widow."

 "I'll try.  I certainly hope you don't call her that, at least not to her face."  I could actually hear the smile in her voice.

 "Wanda, you really should stop repressing  your feelings.  It can't be good for you to hold back so much."

 "If I didn't repress Linc, I would probably rape someone."  Wanda would  have to commit rape to get a man.  She was probably fifty and homely as sin.  She was one of the few people I didn't dislike on general principles.  She actually was a nice lady who almost never said anything bad about anyone.  She actually reminded me of what folks said my mother was like.  I had to take their word for it since my own memories were lost.  I left them along with a chunk of my skull along the DMZ in the Nam.

 After Wanda hung up the phone, I returned to my slides.  The film was dry enough to mount.  I looked at them, then decided on the four best ones for Skip.  I copied them onto print film then dropped the film into an envelope.

 I walked into the rear door of the studio to deposit the envelope into the outgoing mail box.  "Helen, do me a favor.  If Wanda, over at Skip's, calls with a time for the black widow interview put it into the schedule and then remind me."

 "You aren't going to get involved in that mess are you?"

 "I am going to verify her story, nothing else.  I personally don't give a rat's ass, if they shoot up the bitch or not."

 "Boy, you are up tight about her.  See yourself in poor old Leland?"

 "Probably a little.  If I had been Jake, I would have worried about having Julie around."

 "I'm surprised none of her boyfriends got the idea to pop a cap in his ass," Helen said.

 "Me too,  I don't think any of our homegrown thugs could think that far ahead.  It took a big city transplant to figure that one out.  Of course he is headed for that great love affair in the sky."

 "What's he like," Helen asked,  "I never met Wade?"

 "I didn't know him personally either.  I hear he was a big bad asshole."

 "Badder than you?"

 "Bigger anyway.  I'm going out for dinner.  You want to go?"

 "Hell no.  I stopped eating grease a long time ago," Helen said.

 "Too bad they are having stew at the Elms."

 "You should really stay away from that grease pit.  If they didn't use your mama's recipes, you wouldn't be caught dead in that place."

 "One reason is as good as another."

 I arrived at seven and even then it was hard to find a seat.  It hadn't always been that way.  I could remember when Miss Lois started the place.  It was touch and go for a while but she hung on and now her son's ran the place.  Miss Lois died before it really got big but she had lived long enough to make sure the business would support her two sons, Ezra and Jed.  Two men so different from one other that it was obvious they came from different fathers.  Jed was a nasty peace of work.  He was not violent, just really nasty to everyone.  Ezra, everybody called him E, was a gentle soul that who loved everyone.  If Jed didn't run the place at night, the business would be broke from E feeding the homeless.  If E didn't run it during the day, Jed would have run off all the customers by now.  They made a very good team.

 Jed was of course managing that night.  The place was absolutely full of cops.  Jed pretended to hate the cops hanging around but was secretly pleased.  He confided in me that there hadn't been any robberies or break-ins, since the cops discovered his restaurant.  They checked it closely and often.  The cops also loved old Jed for some reason.  He argued and belittled them but they kept coming back for more.

 I sat at the counter because all the booths were full.  "Damn Jed, you got a police convention going on here?"  There were two city cars outside, we only have three on the second shift.  It is after all a small town.  There were also two sheriff's cars and one highway patrol.  Those were in addition to the regular customers.

 "Man, I don't know what the hell they doin’ here.  Cops be like stray dogs, you feed one then next day you got two.  You feed them two and a week later you feeding every stray in town."

 "I guess.  Give me a bowl of mama's stew."

 "I am tired a tellin’ you that it ain't your mama's stew that is my mama's stew."  For a change he didn't seem angry.  "Hey Linc you seen that new lady cop?"  I shook my head.  "She sure is fine."

 "I wouldn't know.  She ain't from around here.  Word is she came from Greensboro."

 "I heard they kicked her ass off the Greensboro PD."

 "I hadn't heard that one.  I heard she was a nympho.  Goes to prove one rumor is as good as another don't it."

 "Yeah,  I heard the new chief brought her with him.  When you gonna break down and take that job."

 "They don't want me to be the chief."

 "Sure they do.  I hear these peckerwoods talking.  I hear they done offered you that job ‘bout a dozen times."

 "Well don't believe everything you hear."

 "I can't believe we had one chief was a hero and another that was a murderer."

 "Some towns have all the luck."

 I dedicated myself to the stew.  Jed lost interest and moved away.  I heard him giving the highway patrolman hell.  The patrolman of course thought he could bully Jed.  He soon found out that even though the locals didn't care much for old Jed, no outsider fucks with our people.  The city cops and sheriff's deputies asked the patrolman what his sergeant would think, if they gave him a speeding ticket in a highway patrol car.  He quieted down and left the restaurant.  Jed never even said thanks.

 When I arrived home after the stew Helen was waiting with my messages.  "Wanda called the widow will be here at eleven in the morning.  What are you going to do with her?"

 "I'm going to have her tell me her story on video tape.  Then my dear, I am going to follow up on it, all the while billing Skip thirty bucks an hour."

 "Oh yeah some broad name Honey called.  She said and these where her exact words, "Tell Linc I will see him on Friday if he really has the balls."  No what the hell was that all about.  Who is this Honey."

 "Honey is Mattie Smith,  You have to remember Mattie.  She was a year or so behind you in school."

  "Sure I remember, Miss Hot pants.  Everyone remembers Mattie, or maybe it was just the men."

 "I have no idea that was well after my time."

 "What are you and Honey going to be doing on Friday, that you need balls for?"

 "I am going to coach that women’s softball team.  We are going to practice on Friday night,"

 "I figured it had to be something like that.  I mean what would someone who looks like Mattie want with an old man like you.  By the way how did she get that nick name."

 "Supposedly her grandfather called her that everyone at  home did to.  She was only known as Mattie at school."

 "Leave it to you to coach a woman's team with the captain named Honey."

 "Why don't you play for us?  You could use the exercise you know."

 "I get all the exercise I want keeping up with you.  Besides you will be too busy with Honey to bother with me."

 "Enough, I'm going home.  I don't need all this abuse."

 I went  home and tried to watch TV but it was useless.  The summer rerun season had started.  I changed and went for a walk.  My walks are quite a bit different from other folks.  I practice creeping around like I did in the Nam.  It is very relaxing to be out at night.  It was even fun making sure I was not seen by the average people.  The cops and I had a bet.  I would sneak up on their parked patrol cars.  If they caught me, I paid them ten bucks.  If was able to touch them without being seen or heard, they bought me coffee.  

 I had paid off a couple of times, but I had a hell of a lot more free coffee.  This night I drove out to the country.  It had been a while since I stalked the river area.  If the wind were right, I could walk up on a deer at times.  It was quite a challenge but most often they heard me and ran away.

 Tonight I followed a game trail.  I stopped about two hundred yards from the creek.  I found a place just off the trail and waited.  I wanted to see if the animals would notice me.  I got close enough to touch several small animals.  I even saw a deer though they seldom travel that late at night.  I sat in the same position for several hours and waited.  I wanted a cigarette the whole time.  I even waited long past the point that I was so thirsty I couldn't raise a spit.

 I crept back up the game trail.  I even came face to face with another deer.  She bolted away after almost colliding with me.  I was having a great night till I got back to my jeep.  I saw the car parked down the road from my jeep long before anyone could have seen me.  I caught only the tiniest reflection of moonlight off chrome.  It was enough for me to identify it as a car.  Of course I had no idea who it might be.  

 I changed my direction so that I would come up on it from what I thought to be the rear.  It took me another hour to sneak up on it.  When I did, I recognized it as the crime scene van.  Jacob Stern would be sitting in it.  Jacob and I had been Friends for about four years now.  We  had once worked a case together.  Now I bothered him for information.  I tried to keep it to a minimum but I called him weekly just to talk.  He had a love for cameras and of course cameras were my business.

 I approached the van on his blind side.  I didn't touch it but used it as cover to creep around to the driver's window.  I crouched a long time at the rear just in case he had a feeling.  Then I crept up to his window and touched what I thought was Jacob on the shoulder.  The body behind the wheel jumped to it's right and came up with a Smith and Wesson .38.

 "Easy there fellow.  Jacob, it is me, Linc."

 The voice that answered was not  Jacob.  It was the voice of a woman.  "Damn you, Mr. Jefferson you scared the hell out of me."

 "I'm sorry ma’am.  I thought you were Jacob.  Where is he anyway?"

 "Jacob doesn't work at night much anymore.  He is now the supervisor.  The peons do the actual field work these days."

 "When did this come about?"

 "Three days ago.  The sheriff and the new police chief decided they needed someone on call night and day.  I am the first of the city police officers assigned to the lab.  We are going to rotate every couple of months."

 "Didn't I see you at the Elms earlier?"

 "Yeah I was on my way to work.  This shift is so screwed up that I start at eight and work till four in the morning.  There doesn't seem to be any crime after four."

 "There is it just isn't spotted till folks come to work the next morning."

 "I know that.  I was joking."

 "Sorry, I do tend to come off as a smart ass.  I really don't mean to be.  What are you doing out here?"

 "Look I owe you a cup of coffee I believe.  Get in.  I got a thermos and two cups."

 "I really do need to be heading home."

 "Come on, fair is fair.  Besides I'll tell you what I am doing out here looking for you. "

 "You need ten bucks right?"  She didn't answer till I was inside the van with a cup of black coffee in my hand.

 "I am here because I understand you are the man around here."

 "Now what the hell does that mean.  The man."

 "I hear if I get your stamp of approval the cops and civilians will leave me alone.  Right now everyone stares at me like I am from outer space."

 "Well, what is your name anyway."

 "Sarah Lee Poole."

          "Well Saraboro when you were sent as back up.  A sergeant arrived real soon after."

 "Sometimes before."

 "Yeah well, the guys here know that there isn't going to be a sergeant.  Some nights, you are going to be all there is between them and an ass whipping."

 "I can hold my own in a fight."

 "I' m sure you can and it wouldn't even matter if you couldn't.  Just as long as you got in there amongst them."

 "You're saying to be willing to fight is more important than being good at it."

 "Exactly,  all these cops care about is that you are right there taking the blows with them.  You do that and it will mean a hell of a lot more than me indorsing you."

 "Okay, could I ask you a few questions.  I mean, since I have you kind of prisoner in my van."

 "I don't mind if you don't mind when I refuse to answer."

 "Fair enough.  How come you got named Lincoln Jefferson?"

 "I don't really remember but I was told that my daddy was the first republican to work in the mills down here."

 "I would ask you why they call you the ghost but I already had that answered for me."

 "No, you didn't, and you won't."

 "Try this one.  I understand you once dated a cop.  Is that true?"

 "Not really,  She was and SBI agent and we never really dated."

  "I heard you went ape shit when she died.  I heard you murdered the last chief of police."

 "Think I will pass on that one."

 "Why? Did you murder him?"

 "I already told you I was going to pass on that line of questioning."

 "A black man at the diner was talking to one of the older officers.  He said you were probably the badest mother fucker in the state.  Said you could kill a man and not even lose a minute of sleep."

 "If that were the case Sarah Lee Poole, I would be home in bed right now."

 "Okay, I'll answer your questions now."

 "How did you find me?"

 "Jacob gave me a list of places to look."

 "Why would Jacob do that?"

 "Well for one thing he likes me.  For another he likes you.  I told him I found you interesting and wanted to meet you.  He thought this would be a cool way.  I also wanted the ten bucks to hand on the wall at the police station locker room."

 "You are going to have to explain that one."

 "You mean you don't know?"

 "Know what?"

 "Every time you pay out the ten bucks, the officer who caught you puts it in a frame and hangs it on the wall.  They even make little notes in the margin.  I didn't know cops could be that honest."

 "I don't understand that either."

 "The ten-dollar bill is a mark of pride for them.  The notes are just here way of reliving the incident."

 "That wall must be worth a fortune."

 "Not really, there are only four frames up there."

 I actually could remember each of the incidents.  "I thought there were more."

 "No, you didn't.  One of the notes I remember was, ‘I caught the ghost when I turned to watch two dogs go by sniffing each other’s tails.’"  

  "Eddie Lamb no doubt, I was about four feet from Eddie when he turned on me.  I never did believe that he heard me.

 "All of the sights were accidental I think."

 "Not really I usually did something wrong.  Like Eddie,  I should have waited till the dogs passed.  I took it for granted that Eddie wouldn't follow them with his eyes.  I was wrong and would have been dead in another life."

 "You know Jacob said you were a nice guy.  I have heard so much about you I figured you would be a prick."

 "You were right before.  I am a prick.  Jacob and I just happened to something that's all."

 "I heard his version of the story.  Would you tell me yours?"

 "No, just believe about half of what he said and you will be about right."

 "How about Sally Rierson, should I believe half of what, he says about her?"

 "No, he told you less than all, because he knows less than all of it.  Sally was remarkable that much you can believe."

 "I would like to ask you one more question, but don't really know how."

 "Just spit it out.  I really don't bite.  I just say no when I don't want to answer."

 "Okay here goes.  The department is having a cookout Saturday night.  It would really help me get accepted by the men if you would come with me."

 "This means a lot to you.  I mean, being accepted."

 "Yes it does."

 "I don't usually go where I know the cops are going to be, but in this one case I will make an exception."

 "Can I pick you up?" she asked.

 "No Sarah Lee Poole, give me your address and I will pick you up."

 "In that," she pointed to the jeep.

 "If what I drive makes a difference, then you obviously have the wrong man."

 "Oh no you don't, a promise is a promise.  I would ride in a hearse to get this date."

 "It isn't a date."

 "Oh I know."

 I opened the door and slid out of the van.  "Write down your address.  What time do I pick you up?"

 She scribbled something on a piece of paper.  "Six would be nice."

 "Okay six it is."  I melted into the night.  I slipped back into the woods and waited.  She sat in the van for another five minutes or so then pulled away.  I waited till her lights turned onto the main road, then I slipped silently toward the jeep.

 I knew she was a cop and all but I still checked the jeep as closely as I could with the penlight.  I crawled under it and checked for anything unusual.  I then checked the edges of the hood to make sure my Scotch invisible tape was still in place.  The outside edges of the tape were covered with a greasy finger print.  It would be impossible to replace them exactly.  Everything looked cool so I started the jeep.  Since I was able to turn on the lights, I figured she had wired a bomb to it.  

 I know that sounds paranoid, but the head cop in our town once wired my old Toyota.  I hadn't trusted anyone since.  He  was supposed to be my friend.  If it hadn't been for a series of accidents, I would have been dead.  I had forgotten something in the house and left the door open in the car.  I got busy in the house and forgot the Toyota for a couple of hours.  When I returned, the already weak battery had died.  The poor devil from the service station died when he installed the new battery.  It could have been me though the chief swears it couldn't have been.  The bomb was timed to go off harmlessly in the middle of the night.  It of course hadn't.

 That wasn’t the only reason I was suspicious of Sarah Lee Poole.  I would probably have been a little suspicious of any beautiful woman who asked me out.  Hers was the best reason I knew.  She wanted to use me.  Most women do.  Sarah Lee was just honest about it.

 I returned home and even managed to sleep a little.  I was awake with the sun and sitting on my second story deck drinking coffee when Helen walked over.  She climbed the new stairs and walked past me without a word.  Helen is like that she won't speak in the morning till she has a coffee cup in her hands.  When she returned, I said, "Well good morning sunshine."

 "Go to hell, how can you sleep two hours then be all bright and cheerful?"

 "I have a clear conscience."

 "God is going to strike you dead for lying like that."  She smiled and I laughed.

 "What's on the calendar for today?"

 "Holly, the black widow, will be in at eleven.  You have a deposition to tape at Two.  Sometime you need to swing by the park and shoot that new Jungle Gym set for the city."

 "I thought they were going to do that.  You know, use their own photographer for it."

 "Oh they did.  They had Jacob run by.  The problem was that it had all the warmth of a double murder.  Kids would have been scared to by it."

 "Okay Jungle Gym it is.  Is there anything else?"

 "Not yet but the day is young.  Don't forget we have wedding Saturday."

 Hell, I did forget Helen.  What times?"

 "One and three."

 "Did either of them ask for a particular photographer?"

 "Not really,” she replied.

 "Can I con you into taking the three?"

 "Sure I don't care, they are both nuts and mints receptions."  Which meant a three-hour reception at most?  "You got a date or something?"

 "Actually I do."

 "What woman in her right mind would go out with you?"

 "Sarah Lee Poole, our first females police officer."

 "That explains it.  She has a death wish."

 "Probably, damn my dance card is getting full.  Remember, don't schedule anything for tomorrow night.  I have that softball practice at six."

 "You know I am a full partner in this crime against art.  You really shouldn't give me orders."

 "You are absolutely right.  I shouldn't act like the boss.  God knows without you I would be lost."

 "Well, it looks like I am finally beating something into that thick head of yours."

 The sun was well over the trees when we finished the pot of coffee.  The conversation had covered the same things it did most morning.  Helen and I had become an old married couple without the sex or responsibilities of a relationship.  We were comfortable with each other.  She had even recently begun to date again.

 The newest man in her life was Wendy Sims.  Wendy was the town druggist.  He actually owned the store.  I was happy to see her getting out some.  I didn't understand exactly why she seemed upset that I wasn't upset.  Women are a total mystery to me and all other men.  I had already learned not to bring Wendy into the conversation.  When she brought him up, I was allowed to make a few comments but other than that I was to keep my mouth shut.

 She still hung around with Erlene and I wondered about them but it must not have been what I thought.  I mean she was at least dating a man.  

 Erlene and I had gone out once.  It was in the days when Helen and Claude, also know as that no good son of a bitch, were staying with me in the big house.  Erlene had wound up in bed with Helen and Claude so I wasn't sure who the attraction had been.   It must have been Claude, the no-good son a bitch frog.

 Helen and I had driven the phone man crazy.  We had phones installed all over the big house and the carriage house, where I lived.  There were three different numbers on each of the phones.   One number was my personal line, which Helen never answered.  One was her personal line which I never answered and the third was the studio line which we both answered.  The phones were installed in every conceivable place.  The phone rang at that moment.  Helen had of course brought it from the table beside the door leading to the deck.   

 She handed me the phone since it was my personal line.  "Hello," I answered.

 "Linc, this is Jacob.  I hear you ran into our new cop last night."

 "Damn Jacob, news travels fast in this burg.  Yeah I met her."

 "She's something isn't she?"

 "I guess, does your wife know you are working so closely with the first cop in our town with tits."  Helen's face reddened, not from embarrassment but from anger.

 "Hey there is nothing for her to worry about.  She knows that.  I hear  you are coming to our picnic."

 "I guess the whole town will know before lunch."

 "Are you kidding?  She has it on the radio by now."

 "God, am I going to be sorry I agreed to go with her?"

 "No, she is a good kid.  She is actually going to save it as a surprise.  That's why I called don't tell anyone."

 "I don't much like surprises but okay.  Look Jacob, there is something you can do for me."

 "I hate this part of talking to you.  What is it this time?"

 "How about running off a copy of ‘the black widow's’ police statement for me?  I could get it from Skip but he is so damned scatter brained I might never get it."

 "That would be in the city police departments records section.  You know I don't like to bother them."

 "Come on Jake you and I both know you will be going there today.  Just ask for a copy of the statement.  If they give you any trouble have them call Skip."

 "I can't do it Linc.  That damned Will is handled this one.  He will raise hell if he finds out it is for the defense."

 "I didn't know he had interviewed her.  I'll give him a call and pick it up myself.  Don't worry Jacob I wouldn't do that to you.  I know Willis is an ass."

 "Any other time Linc, but this is just too damned much trouble, especially with this new chief.  Have you met him yet?"

 "No, our paths haven't crossed but I guess they will today.  Thanks anyway and tell Sarah Lee not to worry.  I won't spoil her surprise."

 Since I had the phone in front of me, I called the repair shop.  "Melvin,"  I said when he answered.  "This is Linc.  I want my fucking car today.  I have given you three days to change the transmission fluid in it and I want it now.  I will give you till three o'clock then I am coming after it.  If I have to come get it, you won't like the consequences."

 "Linc if you paid your fucking bill, I would have done the car by now.  You are the biggest dead beat in this whole damned town.  If I didn't need the money, I wouldn't even work on this piece of cap. you call a car."

 "Okay Melvin unless someone is listening, you want to impress, when is the Ford going to be ready?"

 "It was ready last night.  You said there was no rush so I thought I would have Slim drop it off this afternoon.  If you need it before then, I could run it down now."

 "Why don't you come by at one.  We can go to the Elms for lunch."

 "Me in that place?  What would my clan brothers say."

 "If you had any, they would say you had good taste in restaurants."

 "Okay one it is but you are buying.  I couldn't find anything to fix that had enough profit in it for me to buy."  I hung up without saying goodbye.

 "What is it with you and your so-called friends?  You either cuss them or ask them insulting questions."

 "What the hell are you talking about?"

 "Oh you know,"  She mimicked my voice, "How they hanging Jake.  What the fuck you care about my plans."  You are such a pig.

 "God, have you been going to those women's liberation meeting again?"

 "Yes I have and I will thank you not to give me any more cap. about them."

 Before the argument got out of hand, the phone began to ring.  It was the office phone.  Just to piss me off she answered, "Picture Person."  I had to admit that it was really funny.  Helen began quoting wedding prices.  I know she had given them a hundred times before, but with her each time it sounded like she was winging it.  She was actually a hell of a salesman.

 I looked into the backyard of my neighbor while she quoted the prices.  Mrs. Wilson, our neighbor, was headed for her pool.  She looked up at me and waved.  I waved back, then she removed her swimsuit then dived into the pool.  It was a game we played every morning.  Mrs. Wilson was at least fifty.  She had kept her body in nice shape though.  Her kids would be off in high school if it isn’t summer vacation.  I guess they were off at camp or something.

 Helen hung up the phone.  "I see Mrs. Wilson is still showing us her body.  I wonder which of us she has the hots for."

 "I think it is you Helen.  You are so damned butch."

 "Kiss my ass, Please?"  We both laughed.  We actually made better friends than we had lovers.  

           By that time the sun had gotten high enough so that we deserted the deck.  Helen went to the studio and me inside to shower.  I had an appointment with the black widow.   I had recently begun wearing a uniform of sorts.  I had purchased half a dozen pairs of mens work pants, army green in color.  They were actually just that the out of style army fatigue pants.  Everybody had gone to jungle camouflaged uniforms leaving the manufacturer with thousands of the old green ones to dump.  I had bought them through the mail and was pleased with the pants and the price.  The pants gave me the idea to purchase a dozen shirts all alike.  The idea, of not having to decide what to wear, appealed to me.  I found a manufacturer in a neighboring town who made a light blue 75 percent cotton and twenty five percent, God alone knew what, shirt.  I bought a dozen of them.  I hadn't been disappoint in either of the purchases.  Helen hated the look but I didn't really care.  I wore the same outfit six days a week dressing only for weddings.

 I showered and dressed for the meeting with the black widow.  I wore my usual work day outfit.  I certainly didn't plan to dress up for this woman.  I went down to my studio and set it up for the video.  I did a bunch of video for one reason or another so the required changes were simple.  I opened a folding table then covered it with a grey fake fur.  Then hefted the Sony Betacam onto a large tripod.  

  With the preparations made I returned to the deck with a glass of day old iced tea.  The tea was still good so I emptied the glass and returned for another.   I was half way through when the long black kraut car eased past the big house and came to a stop in front of my door.

 I walked down the outside stairs and met Holly Leland, AKA the black widow.  I had never met her but had seen her a couple of times.  Unlike half the men in town I had never seen her without her clothes.  I had to admit that the black widow was a looker.  She was anything but black.  Her skin was startlingly pale.  Her hair was naturally red, which I guess accounted for the milk white skin.  Her large eyes were green and her lids were painted with a dark blue.  Her mouth was large with pink panted lips.  The body on her was perfect if you made your living stripping which she had.  She was shorter than average but her chest was much larger.  She wore a white blouse, tied calypso style over navy blue slacks.  The name holly was no doubt for the bright red hair.

 "Mrs. Anders, my name  is Linc Jefferson.  Skip asked me to talk to you."

 "Call me Holly please.  I understand you are to do more than talk with me.  You are going to help me prove my innocence."

 "I'm going to try.  Please come this way."  I led her into what used to be the middle of the three bays.  I motioned for her to sit at the end of the table opposite the camera.

 "Are you going to tape this conversation?"

 "Yes Holly, I am.  I would rather not make a mistake about what you said.  Your life may depend on me having everything just right."  She nodded that she understood.  "First let me explain that I work for Skip and therefore you.  Anything you say here is privileged and cannot be used against you.  The more you tell me the better I can do my job."

 "Exactly what is your job?"

 "I am going to retrace your steps and try to prove that things are just exactly as you say they are.  I have to admit that what I find may or may not help you.  The things I am going to be doing the prosecutor can do just as well so it may not make any difference in the end."

 "In other words you are going to charge me for work that may not help me at all."

 "Exactly,  If you would rather save the money then say so now and I will drop this thing from my schedule."

 "No I wanted to see how you would handle that."

 "A text?"

 "Sort of and you passed.  Could I ask you a question before we get started?"

 "Sure but I may not answer."

 "Are you as good as everyone says?"

 "Probably not, you know how things get exaggerated.  However if you don't want me to find out the truth then you should stop right now.  I am going to make an honest effort to learn what really happened to your husband."

 "Good then you can help me."

 "Let me turn on the camera and frame it in."  I walked to the camera and set everything.   I sat down beside it so that she would be forced to look into it.  "Now let's start with a little background."  

 She nodded so I went on.  "What was your position and where were you working when you met your husband?"

 "I was working at baby dolls, a strip club out on twenty-nine.  I was single and not really looking for a husband when Leland came to the club.  He actually came several times before I noticed him.  Frankly the only reason I noticed him at all was that he was a big tipper.  After the first time I really noted the size of his tips, I began to play to him.  You know dancing in front of him on the bar.  He seemed to enjoy it and the tips got even bigger.  After a couple of months dancing for him, he asked me out on a date."

 "Exactly how did that happen.  I mean when and where?" I interrupted

 "About a year ago at the club."

 "I'm sorry I meant what time of the evening and where in the club exactly?"

 "Oh it was late.  We were almost ready to close.  He asked me at his table.  I had gone over to sit for a minute.  I had begun doing that you know to keep the tips coming.  Anyway he asked me for a date.  I explained to him that I didn't do that.  I suggested he try one of the other girls."

 "Did you suggest anyone in particular or just any of the others?"

 "I told him to try Lucy.  Hell for fifty bucks she would blow his whistle."

 "Why didn't you go out with him?  Surely you aren't a virgin."

 "I don't think I like you Mr. Jefferson.  I may just leave."

 "The choice is yours.  I can kiss your ass and take your money or I can try to help you by doing my investigations just like the cops are doing them."

  "I guess you are right.  They sure asked me those kinds of questions.  Okay,  I have gone out with other men but I had stopped.  The money was good till one of them beat me up.  In addition to the pain, I couldn't work for a month.  I couldn't afford another vacation so I stopped going out with the customers."

 "How did Leland take the turn down?"

 "He was angry that I would think he wanted to hire me as a hooker.  He actually wanted to take me to dinner and nothing more.  When he explained, I agreed.  I figured he would try to get me into the sack.   I didn't think  he was the type to  hurt me."  She paused and took a sip of the water I provided before she had arrived.

 "So how long was it between his asking and the date?"

 "We went out the next evening.  Baby Dolls is closed on Sunday, something about your silly laws.  Anyway we went to this really nice restaurant in Williams.  The Williams inn.  Have you ever been there?"

 I nodded.  I didn't want her to begin asking me questions.  I waited till she began again.  "Anyway it was real nice.  After dinner he took my back to my motel.  I invited him in and we shared a bottle of brandy.  After a couple of drinks he left.  The next evening he was back filling my G string with ten dollar bills.  We went to breakfast every night after that.  We would sit in the Waffle and Egg and talk till dawn.  Leland was a real gentleman."

 "How long did this go on before he proposed to you?"

 "About a week.  I can see in your eyes that you think there was something wrong with him proposing that soon and me accepting.  Well there wasn't.  Leland was lonely and I was too for that matter.  A week later we were married in the club.  Leland told me that he didn't have any friends he wanted at the wedding so we got married by a justice of the peace in the morning then by a customer who was a preacher of some weird sect in the evening."

 "Who were your witnesses at the JP wedding?"

 "Eli, the club manager, and Lucy, one of the strippers?"

 "The same one you recommended to Leland?"

 "Yeah and I'm glad he didn't take my advice?"

 "So how was the honeymoon?  Where did you go, things like that?"

 "We left the next morning for two weeks in Florida.   You know Disney World and that stuff.  It was okay."

 "How was Leland in bed?"  I saw her face redden.  I caught her before she began to cuss me out.  "I mean, could he do it.  Were his desires normal?  That kind of thing?"

 "Oh,  yeah he could do it but not very long.  If he didn't get off right away, he lost the ability if you know what I mean."  I nodded again.  "He was fairly normal.  I mean he didn't make me pretend to be little Bo Peep or anything.  He liked some strange position and stuff but nothing that I couldn't handle."

 "How so strange?  I mean, besides the position."

 "Oh he had a camera like that one.  He would make tapes of us doing it.  He watched them in the den before he came to bed.  It, you know, helped him make it quicker."

 "Did he ever show the tapes to anyone else?"

 "God no Leland was pretty square when it came to sex."

 "Do you have all of them in your possession at this time?"

 "I guess so.   I never paid too much attention to how many he made."

 "How did you meet Wade Williams and how long have you known him?"

 "I always knew Wade.  We went to school together.  He is the one who popped my cherry."

 "When did he come to Greenpoint then?"

 "He was living here when I met Leland if that's what you are getting at.  He came up here because I was working here.  He was like my manager you know."

 "Where you sleeping with Wade when you went out with Leland that first time? "

 "Sure, it wasn't what everybody thinks though.  It was sort of friendship fucks.  You know what I mean."

 Actually I did and I wasn't sure I liked that I knew.  I nodded and she continued.  "I didn't sleep with him after Leland and I got married for a couple of months.  Actually it was almost six months before I went to him."

 "Let me get this straight.  You went to Wade not the other way round."

 "Right, see I hadn't climaxed since me and Leland got married.  He couldn't wait for me so I just didn't at least not with him."  She saw the look on my face.  "Don't get the wrong idea Linc,  I own a couple of dozen vibrators.  After six months without it happening, I went to Wade.   I figured it was better with someone I knew.  It was purely friendly.  We never talked about marrying or any of that other cap that they are putting on me."

 "So Wade had no reason to believe that killing Leland would make him rich?"

 "I didn't say that.   You see I talked to him in jail."  I didn't say it but that looked even worse for her.  "He seemed to think that without Leland I would give him some of the old man's money.  Wade ain't too smart."  I nodded again. "Anyway Leland knew about Wade."

 "He did?"

 "Sure Wade even came to the house once.  Me and Wade kind of put on a show for Leland.  It helped him get off.  If you know what I mean."  I didn't but nodded anyway.  That hadn't come up in Wade's trial.  It might have kept him away from the needle.  I wondered but didn't ask about it.  The question rightly belonged to Wade or his lawyer.

 "I don't suppose Leland taped that one?"

 "Sure, he was a tape freak.  I think it is mixed with the others.  Tell you what I'll bring them by and let you sort through them.  I would be to upset to do it." I doubted that but didn't say anything.   I turned the interview onto a faster track.  

 "Okay, Tell me about the clubs you own."

 "After a couple of months of marriage Leland knew that I wasn't satisfied with any part of my life.  There was nothing he could do about the sex but he could do something about my boredom.  He offered to set me up in business.  Any business I chose.  I explained that I only knew one business.  He didn't like the idea at first but came around the next day.  It was actually all in how I asked."  I'll bet, I thought.

 "I understand the clubs are doing quite well?"

 "It was better when Leland was alive.  He paid the rent for me.  All I did was stock the bar and find the girls.  Other than that it was all profit.  He did have one strict rule, no prostitution from the club.  I would fire a girl in a minute for it.  I personally didn't care but it wasn't worth losing Leland over a few bucks."

 "Okay Holly, I need for you to list for me all the places that you and Wade went while you were married to Leland."

 She listed off places and approximate dates and times for another half hour.  Those two certainly didn't try to hide their affair.  That was good at least.

 "Tell me again Holly.  Did you ever agree to marry Wade."

 "No."

 "Did you ever ask him to kill your husband?"

 "No."

 "Did you have sex with any other men during your marriage?"

  "None except for Wade."

 "Why do you think Wade killed your husband?"

 "I don't know unless he thought there would be something in it for him.  I can't see Wade killing anyone if you want to know the truth.  I'm not convinced that he did."

 "It would certainly be better for you if someone else did it."

 "I don't mean that.  I mean I just never known Wade to be violent."

 "There was an awful lot of evidence against him.  I mean he had the murder weapon in his truck.  Leland's credit cards were found in his apartment."

 "I know it looks bad for him but I just can't believe it."

 "Well I guess that will do for now.  I may have to call with more questions later but this will get me started.  Oh one more thing.  What are the names of the clubs you own?"

 "I bought Baby Dolls and the Green door."

 "That should do it."

 "Good, I will bring you those tapes."

 "I'll sort through them first chance I get."

 I watched her wiggle her ass out my door.  I followed her out.  When she slid into her car, I was glad she wasn't wearing a skirt. I would have seen her crotch the way she moved.  I don't think I could have taken that.

 I called Skip.  "Hey Skipper," I said when he finally came to the phone.  "I certainly home that you were doing your secretary.  She needs it and you kept me waiting at thirty bucks an hour."

 "No chance on the secretary, my client came by?"

 "Oh yeah."

 "What do you think?  I think she has more tits and money than brains.  Skipper plead her for god's sake."

 "You know better than that.  I am the white knight going to save the fair damsel. "

 "Right,  Look I can't get to this till Monday but I will start on it then."

 "Can't you at least check on Wade's apartment before Monday?"

 "Sure I can go buy any place that is open during the daylight but there ain't  many.  Most of her business was done in the dark.  I am going to be tied up tomorrow and Saturday but if I get a chance I will run by one of the clubs tonight."

 "Good man,  I knew you wouldn't let me down."

 "Skip, old buddy, I am going to let you down.  I can't think of a single thing I might find out that could help her."

 "Just try Linc and send me a bill every Friday."

 "No doubt about that."

 I hung up and began packing the camera for my next job.  I had to rush to take Melvin to lunch and still make the two o’clock deposition.  Melvin was a little early thank god.  He parked the fifty-eight Ford convertible under my one tree.  I rushed him into the jeep and we took off for the Elms.

 It  was just our luck that Jed had the place for lunch today.  "Linc,"  he shouted, "Get that racist pecker wood out of here or I will poison both of you."

 "Jed, you a bigger racist than me.  I seen what you did to that Stevens boy's car,"

 "Okay you can stay long as you don't tell nobody."

 We had BLTs for lunch while Melvin filled me in on the Stevens boy.  He had dated the black high school prom queen.  The black community was split over the incident as was the white one.  Somebody vandalized the kid’s new Firebird.  Everybody in town blamed somebody else.  Some blacks blamed the whites.  Some whites blamed the blacks but mostly everybody blamed the Stevens boy.  It was a good thing he decided to leave for college early.

 When I went to the register to pay,  Melvin said to Jed, "How they hanging brother."

 "I ain't your brother and they high and dry.  I emptied them into your old lady last night."

 "Good, I'm glad she wasn't lonely while I was working on Thelma."

 "You one sorry assed white man." Jed said with a smile .

 "I know but you got to have somebody to hate Jed.  You wouldn't be you, if you didn't."

 I knew Melvin wasn't one of those racist, who hide behind a sheet .  The kind who beat up on some out numbered black.  If Melvin had a problem with you, he would look you in the eye one on one and tell you.  He and Jed were opposite sides of the same coin.  I loved to watch them go at each other.  They never got violent because they respected each other too much.

 I drove to Jake's old law office to tape the deposition.  I thought to myself that things had really change without Sam or Jake around.  The secretaries looked more like secretaries than hookers.  I'm not so sure I liked the new look but then nobody cared what I liked.  I finished up the deposition at four and exchanged the tape for a check.  Jake's old firm actually had a Beta tape player.  Most everyone else required that I go home and copy the tape.  I actually preferred it that way.  There were no backup copies of this tape. If their machine damaged it, tough.

 I skipped dinner and drove out on the highway to Baby Dolls.  I got there at five.  I found the place open.  It even had a couple of customers.  It was hard for me to believe that men came out so early to look at women take off their clothes.  I took a look at the price list and understood why there wasn’t much of a drunk problem at the club.  I was on an expense account so I ordered the two fifty beer.  Of course it was  draft and watered.  I got the bartender to one side.  The problem with being me in a small town was that everyone knew how I made a living.  When I asked a question, they all knew it wasn’t idle curiosity .

 I learned from the bartender that the previous owner now managed the club.  He also wasn't in at the moment.  Lucy was still working here and would be available to talk after her number.  She was dancing at the time.  I turned to watch her take off her clothes.

  She was sort of a blond with a hatchet face.  She looked like she was right off a farm somewhere.  That is her face did.  Her body looked more like it had come off an assembly line.   My  guess is that the best part of it did.  I watched her take off her clothes bump and grind a few times then leave through the curtain in the rear.  I started in that direction.

 The bartender made two mistakes.  His first was he raised a sawed off baseball bat toward me.  The other and worst was that he warned me.  "Hey, you can't go back there."

 The bat was up and I reacted before I thought to just tell him I was working for the boss.  I squared off to face him.  He made another mistake.  Instead of continuing to talk to me, he tried to bring the club down on my head.  He swung but my head wasn't where he thought it would be.  I caught his arm as his own momentum turned him part way around.  He was quick and in good shape.  He had after all jumped the bar to come after me.

 He would have recovered quickly if I had let him.  Instead I helped him to land across a table.  At that point I could have explained about working for Holly or I could pound his pretty face into the top of the table about five times.  Of course I chose the latter.  I knew I broke his nose and I thought probably his jaw.

 "Damn," I thought, "Holly will be pissed, Skip will be pissed, and the cops will be pissed.  I am going to be sorry I did that.  Well fuck them all."

 I left him laying on the floor while I went into the back room.  There was no dressing room as such.  There was a small bathroom sized waiting room where the girls waited to go on.  I found Lucy and explained why I needed to talk to her.  She of course agreed.  When we went out the back door to talk, the bartender was calling the police.  I figured we had about fifteen minutes to talk before they arrived.

 I tend to get real blunt when I am rushed.  "Did you know Leland?"  I asked.

 "In what sense?" she asked.

 "Any sense."

 "Okay then the answer is every sense.  I screwed him before he married Holly.  She knows about it so don't bother asking her."

 "Why did Leland marry Holly instead of you?"

 "I wouldn't do the weird stuff and she will.  At least that is what I think."

 "What kind of weird stuff?"

 "I don't know just weird stuff.  You know like doing it in a casket."

  "He asked you to do it in a casket?"

 "Sure but that wasn't too bad.  He wanted to punch me some but I drew the line at that."

 "You're telling me he hit  you?"

 "No, Listen up Linc.  I'm telling you I wouldn't let him hit  me."

 "You mean he asked you to punch you?"

 "Sure he asked I said no, he brought me back to the motel.  End of story."

 "Do you think he hit on Holly?"

 "She got those bruises and marks on her back somewhere and it wasn't here."

 "Let me get this straight.  She had marks and bruises after she married Leland. "

 "Yeah, before and after."

 "He hit her before they were married and it continued after the marriage.  Is that what you are saying?"

 "That's exactly what I am saying."

 It was about then that the cops arrived.  "Hello Linc, I see you have been at it again.  Is there any chance we can charge you with assault on this fine upstanding citizen?"  The police sergeant asked.

 "Not a chance in hell Luke.   I'm afraid he wasted your time.  Is your back up interviewing the customers?"

 "Yeah,  I suppose you want to wait till he comes out before you make a statement."

 "Of course, I may not need to."

 It didn't take long since there were only a few of them.  They each told more or less the same thing.  The bartender swung his club at me without much of a warning.  Next thing any of them knew the bartender was face down on the table doing an impression of a woodpecker in a steel mill.

 The two cops were comparing notes when Holly arrived.  Evidently the bartender had made his first call to her then the police.  "Jack," she said to the bartender.  "What the fuck are the cops doing here?  I thought I told you no cops.   When they get through with you, get your ass out of here.  Don't ever let me see that fucked up face around here again."

 She turned to me.  "I'm sorry Linc, but that asshole takes his job too seriously.  You aren't hurt are you."

 "Everything will be fine as soon as the cops make a report.  I'm real sorry about leaving you short handed."

 "Oh I'm not.  I'm sure you get more than I usually pay a bartender but it can't be helped.  You can work till nine when the night girl comes on."

 "You are kidding right."

 "Hell no, I ain't kidding.  You busted it, now you gotta fix it."  She smiled at her own joke.

 "Linc," the cop said walking toward me..  "Looks like you squeaked by again.  Everybody tells the same story.  At least this time you didn’t eat any of him.  Seems you got away clean again.  Damn,  you are lucky."

 Not tonight Luke, I gotta tend the bar in this hole till the night girl comes on."

 "You mean Holly is gonna pay you to watch strippers,"  he looked at his watch, "For the next three hours.   Man you and god must have some kind of deal."

 "Asshole,"  I whispered.

 "Won't do you no good to try and piss me off.   I'm gonna tell everybody that Holly finally tamed the ghost."

 Holly took my hand and led me inside.  "Now that's the bar.  All you have to do is make change and sell beer.  Even you should be able to handle that.  Oh yeah make sure no customer goes behind the curtain."  She must have thought that was funny because she laughed and laughed.

 I went behind the bar like the penitent child that I was.  I made change, drew beer from the tap, and talked to the girls till the nine o’clock bartender arrived.  I even learned a few things.  Lucy was the only girl who had known Leland in any sense.  Most of them were new.  The turn over was wicked in a place like this.  

 All of them knew Holly though.  Lucy claimed she turned tricks for Leland and a lot more.  The other girls knew that she pressured them to turn tricks.  That was contradictory to her statement.  

 According to the girls if a dancer wouldn't turn tricks she wound up working here.  The hooker/dancers worked the green  door.  The green door was situated in the middle of a horse shaped motel.  The motel was a few miles down the interstate highway.  One of the rooms in the motel was always available to the girls.  The motel was also the office of Holly.  She managed the green door herself and left the management of Baby dolls to the previous owner.  

 I was informed by one and all that he wouldn't be in that night, not after the fight.  He didn't like trouble.  Especially trouble where the cops were called.  If I wanted to talk to him, I would have to return the next night.  By that time he might have calmed down.  That was always followed by a giggle.

 Nine and the night bartender arrived none too soon for me.  I was getting claustrophobic.  Even the sight of women taking their clothes off, lost its appeal.  When I had seen the same women do it a couple of times each I really lost interest.

 I was home by ten.  I called Helen on the intercom.  There was no news and nothing much happening for the next day.  She asked me about the Jungle Gym shots.  I had forgotten, but I would do them first thing in the morning.  

 For a change I slept really well that night.  I hated that violence always made me sleep better.  I had to fight the urge to kick hell out of people just for a good night’s sleep.  

 I was still asleep when Helen came in.  "Get  your sorry ass out of bed.  The sun will be up without us."

 I dressed and struggled to the deck.  Helen put the coffee into the pot and started it.  We had to wait ten minutes without coffee.  She didn't speak, which was her habit.  I didn't either which was not my habit.  I just couldn't seem to get with it today.

 Once the first cup of coffee disappeared, we were both able to speak.  "So I hear you were out at Baby Dolls last night." Helen said.

 "Working," I responded.

 "I had no idea your real calling was bartending."

 "It isn't.  How did you hear about it anyway.”

 “Jacob called to tell me.  He was afraid I might hear it from someone else and be worried.  Why he would think that I have no idea."

 "Well maybe it isn't all over town yet."

 "Don't count on it.  Holly probably spread it around herself."

 "Why would she do that?"

 "Are you kidding?  People would pack the joint to see you do some real work."

 "Enough, what's on for today?"

 "Jungle Gym and softball practice, nothing else yet."

 "Good, I need a day off."

 "Oh there is one thing.  The Konica man is coming by to show us a new machine.  You want to see it?"

 "I don't know what kind of machine?"

 "One that develops and then dries slides.  According to him when the film comes out all it needs is mounting."

 "Can we afford it."

 "I certainly can't, but you can."

 "Okay what time is he coming?"

 "I told him he could come at two.  I also told him to be on time if he wanted to have even a chance."

 "You must have liked him."

 "He seemed nice."

 I killed two hours watching the sun come up and Mrs. Wilson go down into the pool.  Then I showered dressed and went to breakfast.  After breakfast I went to the park to look at the Jungle Gym.  It was a bunch of wooden post put together to form several different attractions for children.  I shot a complete roll of slides.  I shot them from the lower angles, ones from which a child might see the giant tinker toy.

 I finally remembered the statement Holly had given the police.  I drove to the station and found Willis.  "How they hanging Willis?"

  "None of your damned business.  What do you want anyway?"

 "Boy somebody sure gave you hell.  What is the problem."

 "I'm sorry Linc, it is this damned summer cold.  I feel like hell."

 "Man those are the worst.  You need to take a day off, get roaring drunk, and crawl under a half dozen quilts.  Sweat that bitch out. "

 "The roaring drunk part, at least, sounds good."

 "What can I do for  you?"

 "I need a copy of the Holly Anders statement."

 "You workin’ for that bitch?"

 "Skip Eddington," I admitted.

 "Almost as bad, I hate lawyers.  I would hate you but it might not prove healthy."

 "You know better than that Willis."

 "Oh I don't mean you personally.  You just got some powerful friends."

 "Not anymore, I think all the powerful ones are dead or in jail"

 Willis laughed, it was a good sign.  "Sure hold on a minute and I will run you a copy.  I hope you brought your big wallet."

 "Why? "

 "The charge is now one dollar a page."

 "Gone up again.  Every new chief makes it tougher on me."

 "It gets worse.  The statement is thirty-four pages."

 "God Willis couldn't you single space it."

 "I did.  We couldn't shut the bitch up.  We read her the Miranda a dozen times hoping she would take the hint."  I laughed and he joined me.

 I left the police station with the report and without thirty-three dollars.  I made sure to put the receipt in my wallet.  Skip had a copy of the report.  I had the official police copy.  I hadn't wanted a copy of Skip's.  By that time he would have it marked up pretty good. I wanted a fresh copy and a fresh look.

 I called Helen on the CB and found that I had a message from Jake to stop by his office  if I had the chance.  I didn't have anything else to do right now so I went.  The court house and the police station are in the same block so I turned off the jeep without ever having to move it.

 I found Jake in his office.  "Not like the old days when you could go to the tennis club for lunch on Friday, then just stay all day?"  I asked.

 "Not at all."  Jake said standing and offering me his hand.  Jake and I had become friends only recently.  A couple of years ago we hated each other.  A woman will do that sometime.  Jake had married my ex.  Unfortunately, she hadn't changed her sluty ways for him either.  I chased and even caught her killer.  Fortunately for me the killer turned out to be a woman.  Otherwise, I would be in jail instead of her.  

 "Linc I'm glad you came.  How the hell you doin’?"

 "Bout the same as last time I saw you.  What can I do for you Jake?"

 "Well I considered offering you a bribe for a while then thought better of it.  I have been authorized to hire an investigator for the county.  I wanted to offer you the job.  I don't suppose you want it."

 "Not a chance."

 "That's good  because it would sound like a bribe when I ask you the next question.  I know I can't stop you from checking into the Anders thing.  I hoped I could convince you to let me know before you pull the rug out from under me."

 "Jake, I know you want to be governor and I promise if I can without hurting Holly Anders I will let you know what's going on."

 "I know.  You and I both know that anything unethical will cause me a damned site more trouble than looking like a fool.  I would like to avoid both.  I am going to down play her prosecution for a while.  If you find anything that could make me look foolish just tell me that and I will trust your judgement."

 "Fair enough.  You let me know before you take her to the mat.  I might or might not know anything by that time."

 "It sounds more than reasonable. Listen, you want to go to the club for lunch.  Angela asks about you all the time."

 "Yeah, hoping I am dead no doubt."

 "She does seem to enjoy the stories of your failures a little too much."

 "I'm going to pass on the club.  How about meeting me at the Elms?  Hell, I will even let you buy."

 "Sure, it will be good for the black vote.  How about one p.m.?"

 "Sounds fine to me.  Let me call Helen to make sure."

  I called Helen and nothing had come up.  I invited her to join us.  Ordinarily she wouldn't be caught dead there.  However for a chance to have lunch with Jake, she lowered her standards.  I didn't mind.  I kind of hoped they would get together again.  I had serious doubts since Helen was Jewish.  It might have happened if Jake’s parents were dead.  He had gone against them by marrying Julie.  He didn't have the guts to do it a second time, especially in those days.

 I left Jake to continue his work.  I drove to the studio to kill some time till lunch.  I found a rather large box sitting on my deck.  The box had a note.  

 "I promised to send these over so here they are.  This is everything Leland ever shot I think.  I haven't looked at them, but you can."  She had drawn a wreath with red dots as a signature.  The broad was a trip.

 I took the box into the house.  I had over an hour to kill so I started one of the tapes.  There were about thirty in the box.  I was surprised for a man with a sex problem to have made thirty tapes in a year was a real trick.

 The tape was made with a newer and lesser quality camera than mine.  Nonetheless the subject matter was interesting.  It opened with the usual, "Wait honey, I need to check this thing. Okay go ahead, I think it's running now."  The voice must have been Leland but the picture was definitely Holly.  Music began to play and Holly began a fifteen minute strip.  When she was naked, she began to do things to turn Leland on.  It was very rough stuff.  Finally Leland came into the scene.  The two of them disappeared for a few minutes then the camera shifted to the bed where Holly lay alone.  Shortly there after Leland joined her.  She was correct about one thing the next scene lasted only a couple of minutes.

 I fast forwarded through the dead tape till the end.  I didn't want to miss anything.  When the tape ended, I turned off the machine.  I had only a few minutes before I was to leave for my lunch with Jake and Helen.  I called the house to ask Helen if she wanted me to drive.  That was a joke.  She didn't laugh.  She hated the jeep.

 Instead she drove.  We were lucky.  E was managing the lunch that day.  "Why Miss Helen, it has been a long time since you was in.  I sure hope you will come more often.  I always thought you and Mr. Linc made a fine looking couple."

 "Not a chance E. Mr. Linc is a jerk.  I usually refuse to eat anywhere I might run into him."

 Before he could ask why the exception today, Jake came into the restaurant.  E hated Jake for some reason.  He walked away from the table.  Thelma came over to serve us.  Since Jake  was buying, I had the chicken fried steak.  He and I both knew that I generally had a sandwich for lunch.  I loved to gouge him and he didn't mind.  After all, the full meal would be much less than a sandwich at the club.

 Jake talked about his new job for a while then Helen talked about Paris.  She failed to mention the son of a bitch frog.  Since Jake had been to Paris, they knew some of the same places.  Of course Helen had actually lived there while Jake only visited on vacations.

 Since I had never been, I listened but couldn't contribute.  Since we had been run out of Vietnam, I couldn't even talk about the frogs being run out of there.  I had absolutely nothing to say.  I didn't mind though, I had other things on my mind.  Things like trying to figure out the best time to talk to the manager of Baby Dolls.  I of course couldn't talk to Jake about that.

 "Linc, are you listening?" Helen asked.

 "I'm sorry my mind