F is for Fugitive Page 54


"That's right. She came to my office when she got the results of her pregnancy test."

"Why not have you run the test to begin with?"

"I couldn't tell you that. Perhaps she was embarrassed about the predicament she was in. She said she'd pleaded with the Lompoc doctor to abort her. He'd turned her down and I was next on her list."

He dried his hands thoroughly and hung the towel on the rack.

"And you refused?" "Of course." "Why 'of course'?"

"Aside from the fact that back then abortion was illegal, it's something I would never do. Her mother survived an illegitimate pregnancy. No reason this girl couldn't have done the same. The world doesn't end, though she didn't seem to see it that way. She said it would ruin her life, but that simply wasn't true."

While he talked, he unlocked a cabinet and took out a big jar of pills. He shook five into a small white envelope, which he handed to me.

"What are these?"

"Tylenol with codeine."

I couldn't believe I'd need painkillers, but I tucked the envelope in my handbag. In my line of work, I get bashed around a lot. "Did you tell Jean's mother what was going on?"

"Unfortunately, no. Jean was a minor and I should have informed her mother, but I agreed to keep the matter confidential. I wish now I'd spoken up. Maybe things would have turned out differently."

"And you have no idea who Jean's father was?" "I'd try ice on that arm," he said. "If the swelling persists, come back and see me. At the office, if you don't mind. There'll be no charge."

"Did she give you any indication who she was involved with?"

Dr. Dunne left the room without another word.

I scrounged a long-sleeved shirt out of the backseat of my car and pulled it on over my T-shirt so the rainbow of bruises on my arm wouldn't show. I sat there for a moment, leaning my head back against the seat, trying to marshal my forces for whatever was coming next. I was done in. It was only four o'clock and I felt as if the day had gone on forever. So many things bothered me. Tap with his shotgun shells loaded with rock salt. The $42,000 unaccounted for. Someone was maneuvering, slipping in and out like a dim figure in the fog. I had caught glimpses, but there was no way to identify the face. I pulled myself upright and started the car, heading into town again so I could talk to Royce.

I found the hospital on Johnson, just a few blocks from the high school, the architecture chunky and nondescript. No design awards for this one.

Royce was on the medical-surgical floor. The soles of my boots squeaked faintly against the highly polished vinyl tiles. I passed the nurses' station, following the room numbers. Nobody paid any attention to me as I made my way down the hall, averting my eyes when I passed an open door. The sick, the injured, and the dying have very little privacy as it is. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that most of them lay abed in a cluster of flower arrangements, get-well cards propped open, their television sets on. I could smell green beans. Hospitals always smell like canned vegetables to me.

I came to Royce's room. I paused just outside the door and disconnected my feelings. I went in. Royce was asleep. He looked like a captive, sides pulled up around his bed, an IV like a tether connecting him to a pole. A clear blue plastic oxygen cone covered his nose. The only sound was the breath whiffling through his lips in an intermittent snore. His teeth had been "taken away from him, lest he bite himself to death. I stood by the bed and watched him.

He'd been sweating and his white hair was lank, plastered in long strands across his forehead. His hands lay palms-up on the covers, large and raw, fingers twitching now and then. Was he dreaming, like a dog, of his hunting days? In a month he'd be gone, this ornery mass of protoplasm driven by countless irritations, by dreams, by desires unfulfilled. I wondered if he'd live long enough to have what he wanted most-his son, Bailey, whose fate he'd entrusted to my care.

18

At five-thirty I was knocking on Shana Timber-lake's door, already convinced there was no one home. Her battered green Plymouth was no longer in the drive. The cottage windows were dark and the drawn front curtains had that blank look of no occupancy. I tried the knob without luck, always interested in the notion of an unsupervised inspection of the premises, a specialty of mine. I did a quick detour around to the back, checking the rear door. She'd put a second bag of trash out, but I could see through the kitchen window that the dirty dishes were piling up again and the bed was unmade. The place looked like a flophouse.

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