"I’ve never known anyone who was stood up for her own divorce before." Tina Savage told her sister. "What’s it feel like?"
"Not good." Lucy Savage Porter tried to smooth her flowered skirt with a damp hand. "Can we go? I’m not enjoying this." She gave up on the skirt and clutched her lumpy tapestry bag to her as she glanced around the marble hallway of the Riverbend courthouse. "Bradley signed the divorce papers. We don’t even need to be here."
Tina shook her head. "Psychologically, we need to be here. You had a ceremony when you got married, you need one when you get divorced. I want you to feel divorced. I want you to feel free. Now sit over there on that bench while I find Benton to tell me why this is taking so long."
I’d feel a lot freer if you’d stop ordering me around, Lucy started to say, and then she blinked instead. She’d been having rebellious moments like that a lot lately, but they were hard to hold on to, especially since the only time she’d actually followed through on one, it had been a disaster. Right now she was sitting under a brassy head of curls because she’d decided to go blonde as a symbol of her freedom. Some symbol. She looked like Golden Barbie with crow’s feet.
Maybe the problem was that she wasn’t an independent kind of person. Other than the hair fiasco, every time she’d decided to be more independent, logic stopped her cold. After all, Tina was right. She did need the closure of hearing the divorce decree. And the bench was the best place to sit. It would be illogical to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing.
No matter how good it would have felt.
She went over and sat down on the bench.
Tina was gone already, trying to find her hapless attorney in the flood of suits that washed around her. Poor Benton. He’d gone beyond the call of lawyer-hood in ramming Lucy’s divorce through the courts in two weeks, but that wasn’t enough for Tina. Tina wouldn’t be satisfied until Benton brought her Bradley’s head on a platter. Lucy had a momentary image of Tina, dark and svelte and dressed in her white linen suit, standing in front of a flustered Benton who was offering her Bradley’s handsome head on a turkey plate.
She liked it. Tina always did have the best ideas.
Tina suddenly appeared before her, parting the suits before her like the Red Sea. "There’s some kind of delay. It’ll be another hour, but then we’ll go have lunch."
Another hour. "All right. At Harvey’s Diner."
Tina shrugged. "Whatever you want."
"Thank you." Lucy pulled her chin back in and dug her physics textbook out of her bag.
"What are you doing?"
"I have to teach Planck’s Constant tomorrow." Lucy paged through the book. "It’s a tough one to get across. I’m reviewing."
"You know, the next thing I’m getting you is a new job," Tina said and disappeared back into the suits.
A new job?
"I like my job," Lucy said, but Tina was already gone.
OK, that’s it, Lucy decided and closed her book with a thump. That’s the last straw. Nobody’s ordering me around anymore. From now on, I’m going to be independent even if it is illogical. I’m going to be a whole new me. That’s it. I’m changing.
"OK, that’s it. I’m quitting," Zack Warren said to his partner. His shaggy dark hair fell across his forehead, almost into his eyes, but he was too mad to brush it back.
"Don’t tell me, tell Jerry." Tall, cool, and controlled, Anthony Taylor nodded toward the man who had just pulled a gun on them.
Zack turned back to the gun, wavering now in the hands of the balding, middle-aged embezzler who stood quivering in his bad suit behind his empty desk. Jerry watched them warily, as warily as a cautious man might regard two big guys he was holding a gun on.
"I’m quitting, Jerry," Zack said. "You can let me go because I’m not going to be a cop anymore. You can have the badge." He started to reach into his worn black leather jacket, and Jerry squeaked, "No!"
Zack froze. "OK. Fine. No problem." He gauged the possibilities of taking Jerry there in his office. They weren’t good. Jerry was very nervous and the office was very small, leaving them no room to maneuver and nothing to take cover behind. It was furnished only with a metal desk, two plastic chairs, and Jerry. The furniture was marginally more interesting than Jerry, or had been until he’d reached in his desk drawer and pulled out the gun.
They deserved this. Just because the guy was pathetic, they’d gotten careless. Zack looked at the gun wobbling in Jerry’s hand with respect. A .45. The office currently had no windows, but Zack knew it could have a couple at any minute, a .45 being the kind of gun that left large holes in walls.
"Why do we do this?" Zack asked Anthony, scowling at the gun. "Life isn’t depressing enough, we have to do this, too? I’m not kidding, I’m quitting."
"Stop complaining." Anthony carefully picked a speck of non-existent lint off his tailored tweed sleeve, keeping his eyes steadily on Jerry the whole time. "You’re the probable cause of this anyway. You walked in here in that black leather jacket, looking like you hadn’t shaved in a week, and Jerry probably thought you were some lowlife." He smiled at Jerry, an oasis of perfect calm in a very sweaty situation. "I’d have pulled a gun on him, too, Jerry. I understand. Why don’t we talk about this?"
Jerry shook his head, but he kept his eyes on Anthony, listening to his even, relaxed voice. Zack moved very slowly a few inches to his right, taking care to seem as if he were only shifting on his feet.
Jerry suddenly shifted his eyes to Zack, so Zack picked up the conversation. "Oh, and if we’d both been dressed in pimp suits like you he wouldn’t have pulled the gun. I ask you, Jerry, was it the jacket that made you pull the gun? Or the badge?"
Jerry narrowed his eyes at Zack, and Anthony moved slightly to the left.
"Just don’t move," Jerry said as he swayed back and forth. "Keep your hands up."
"We’re not moving, Jerry," Anthony said soothingly. "You are. Relax. You’ll feel better."
"Don’t get smart," Jerry said, and the gun wavered between them again. "I’ll shoot."
"You don’t want to shoot us, Jerry." Zack spread his hands apart. "The hassle from shooting a cop is enormous. You wouldn’t believe it."
"Oh, yeah." Jerry looked at Zack as he talked, distracted by the movement, and Anthony eased another couple of inches to the left. "And the hassle from stealing thirty thousand from your boss is nothin’."
"Well, it’s not like shooting a cop," Anthony said, and Jerry’s eyes darted over to him. Zack moved a little more to the right. "Shooting a cop?" Anthony shook his head slowly. "They throw the key away. We don’t want that. Put the gun down, Jerry."
"I don’t think so." Jerry breathed a little faster and shifted his eyes to Zack. "I don’t think so. And you guys are moving." He closed his eyes as he aimed the gun at Zack and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Zack dove for the floor as he fired, and Anthony yelled, "Jerry!", and Jerry swung the gun toward where he’d been. Zack threw himself over the desk and tackled Jerry in the small of the back as Anthony flattened himself on the floor, and Jerry put a bullet neatly through the center of the door.
Then Zack slammed him down on the floor on his stomach with his hands twisted behind him.
Anthony rolled to his feet to help. "You all right?"
"Me? Oh, I’m as good as I get," Zack said, breathing a little heavily as he reached for his handcuffs. "Which is a hell of a lot better than Jerry is right now. How about you?"
"There were people in that hall." Anthony went out the door to see what Jerry had hit on the other side while Zack cuffed him.
"You have the right to remain silent, you jerk," Zack said and finished reciting Miranda sitting on top of him. Anthony came back and lounged in the doorway.
"Congratulations," Anthony said to Jerry when Zack was finished. "You shot a water fountain."
"Up yours," Jerry said, but it came out more embarrassed than defiant.
Zack stood up and glared down at him. "We’ve got to start hanging out with a better class of criminals."
"Actually, this is the cream," Anthony said, checking his jacket for damage. It was, as always, spotless. "You want to work Vice or Homicide?"
"No," Zack said. "I want to arrest polite people who don’t point guns at me. In fact, I don’t want to arrest anybody any more. I want to hang out with good people. Is that possible? Are there any good people any more?"
"Well, there’s you and me," Anthony pointed out patiently. "We’re supposed to be the good guys. Are you sure you’re all right? You’ve been acting strangely lately."
"Could you guys hurry this up?" Jerry whined from the floor. "I’m not real comfortable down here."
"You know, Jerry." Zack was suddenly soft-spoken as he looked down at him, "I could kick your brains out very easily right now." He gently nudged Jerry’s head with his foot. "Resisting arrest. Don’t push your luck."
Jerry shut up.
"Here’s some advice, Jerry." Anthony reached down and hauled him to his feet with one hand. "Don’t get smart with a guy you just pointed a gun at. He’s likely to be feeling hostile. And frankly, Jerry, we didn’t like you much before you pulled the gun."
Jerry closed his eyes
"I was kind of hoping he’d resist arrest," Zack said.
"No, you were not," Anthony said. "You have plans for lunch. You’re arresting a master embezzler at Harvey’s Diner. What’s wrong with you?"
"Nothing." Zack pushed Jerry into the hall. "The weather. I hate February. And I hate office buildings." He looked around at the smooth gray walls. "Maybe I will quit. Get a nice job out in the open someplace. No guns. You think I’d make a good forest ranger?"
"You know, you worry me," Anthony said.
"That’s your problem." Zack moved down the hall, prodding Jerry in front of him. "So, Jerry, what’d you do with the money?"
Two hours later, Lucy slumped across from her sister in a battered turquoise booth in Harvey’s shabby diner and tortured a salad.
Tina scowled down at her salad. "Are you sure it’s safe to eat here? I think turquoise Formica is bad for you, and I’m positive this lettuce is. It’s white." She tapped a cigarette from the pack on the table and lit it smoothly, like a forties movie star.
Lucy leaned forward to put her chin in her hand so she could pretend to listen to Tina, and her brassy hair fell into her face again. Tina smoothed a dark, silky strand of her own precisely cut hair, and Lucy looked at her with envy. Maybe they weren’t sisters. Maybe Mother had lied to them. No, they had the same cat face: wide forehead, big eyes, little mouth, pointed chin. It was just that Tina looked like a purebred, and she looked like something condemned at the pound.
Stop it, Lucy told herself. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re just have a bad hair day.
Well, OK, a bad hair week. And then there was the divorce.
You’re just having a bad month. Pull yourself together. Spring is coming.
"You are going to get rid of his name, aren’t you?" Tina asked. "Lucy Savage Porter always sounded like you’d married a rabid bellboy."
Shut up, Tina. Lucy blinked. "Could we talk about something else?" She squashed her hair back to peer around the dim restaurant, hoping no one else had heard. Since the place was not only dim but small, it was a real fear, but it was also almost empty. There was only a bored waitress leaning on a chipped plastic counter beside a fly-specked case of doughnuts, and two men in a booth identical to theirs on the opposite side of the room.
Lucy was having a hard time ignoring one of the men.
One was tall, slender, and elegant, leaning calmly back in the booth, not a crease in his beautifully cut tweed suit.
The other man was his antithesis. Shorter, thicker, tense as a coiled spring in a creased black leather jacket, he leaned across the table and stabbed his finger into the Formica. His unshaven face looked like it was made of slabs, his hair was dark and shaggy, and his smile came and went like a broken neon sign. He was so intense, he was practically bending the table with the force of his personality. Lucy had been reluctantly aware of him ever since they’d entered the diner, kicking herself for stealing glances at him but stealing them just the same.
This was the kind of man who could leave a woman scarred for life. She wasn’t so dumb after all. She could have ended up married to somebody like him instead of Bradley.
But think how much excitement she would have had before the end.
"No, that would have been dumb," she said aloud.
"What would be?" Tina asked.
"Nothing." Lucy turned back to her. "That’s a beautiful suit you’re wearing."
"It should be. It cost a fortune. You couldn’t afford it. If you had to make a bad marriage, and I suppose you did since it runs in the family, couldn’t you at least have chosen somebody with money?"
"No." Lucy picked up her fork and jabbed at her salad, spearing a cucumber slice because it was there. "Money isn’t important."
"Oh? And what is important? And, whatever it is, why did you think that loser Bradley Porter had it? In fact, why did you marry him at all?"
Lucy thought of several cutting things to say about her sister’s second and third husbands and then blinked instead. "I married him because of the second law of thermonuclear dynamics."
"You married him because of a physics theory?" Tina put her cigarette out in one of her salad tomatoes, pushed the bowl away, and lit up another. "Well, at least you didn’t say ‘for lo-o-ove’." She blew her smoke away from Lucy. "So what’s the second law of thermodynamics?"
"It says that isolated systems move toward disorder until they reach their most probable form, and then they remain constant."
"I don’t get it. And what does that have to do with Bradley?"
"Nothing. But it has everything to do with me." Lucy pushed her bowl away with one hand and shoved her hair out of her eyes with the other. "I was an isolated system. I mean, there I was, living alone in that little apartment with Einstein for company, and Einstein is great company, but he’s also a dog."
"I wondered if you’d noticed that."
"Well, of course, I noticed. And I’d been teaching science for twelve years. Lecturing to kids all day and then going home alone to grade papers at night. The only real social contacts I had were at your weddings."
Tina stuck her tongue out at her and pulled a pepper strip from Lucy’s salad bowl.
"And then one day in class, we got to the second law, and I thought, ‘That’s me. I’m an isolated system, and I’m just going to get more isolated until I reach my most probable form which is probably where I am now, living in an apartment with Einstein.’ So I decided to get un-isolated. And that’s when Bradley picked me up in the library and I thought, ‘This must be it. Physics has brought us together.’ I mean, his timing was so perfect. It was so logical."
Tina shook her head. "No wonder you’re so screwed up. Life is not logical, and marriage certainly isn’t. Stop analyzing things so much. Try impulse for a change."
"I was impulsive once. I married Bradley after I’d only known him two months." Lucy felt a twinge of shame even as she said the words. She’d been stupid. Really stupid. "So I’m not a fan of impulse anymore. And, no offense, but I don’t see impulse doing much for you."
Tina smiled. "I’ve got twelve and a half million dollars, darling. And what have you got? A moth-eaten house and custody of three dogs. Impulse has done more for me than logic has for you. Just look at you. Do you ever have any fun?"
"Fun?" Lucy’s eyes went to the dark-haired man across the room. "Fun." She shifted her gaze back to Tina and picked up her fork to attack her salad again. "I don’t think I’m the fun type."
"Well, I think you’re taking life too seriously. It’s time you cut loose. Do something wild. Something spontaneous."
Lucy frowned at her. "I told you. I did something spontaneous once. I married Bradley. Face it, Tina, I’m not the spontaneous type."
Tina shook her head. "Marrying Bradley was not spontaneous. You just gave me a very sensible reason why you married him. Spontaneous is when it’s not sensible but you do it anyway because you want to."
"That’s not spontaneous, that’s irresponsible."
"Fine, then do something irresponsible. In fact, do something spontaneous and irresponsible. Do something just because you have the urge to do it, because it feels good. Do something selfish, just for you."
Lucy’s eyes went back to the dark-haired man across the room. "I don’t think so." She stabbed her salad again.
"How do you know unless you’ve tried it? You’ve never done anything selfish in your life."
"Well, you know, I did," Lucy said slowly, her fork frozen in her hand. "Once. In fact, I think that’s the real reason why I married Bradley. I dated Bradley because of the second law, but I think I married Bradley to get my house."
Tina looked interested. "Really? That’s so unlike you."
Lucy nodded. "I think I just convinced myself I loved him because it was so sensible that I should, and then when he offered me the house, it was just too much." She poked at her salad again, averting her eyes from Tina. "I love the house more than I ever loved Bradley. I think he knew it finally, and that’s why he cheated on me."
"Well, I’ll be damned." Tina put her cigarette out and leaned back in the booth. "This explains a lot. Is this what that fight you had last October was about?"
"How did you know . . .?"
"That’s when you moved upstairs to the attic bedroom. I never bought that story about Bradley snoring. I knew there had been a fight."
"No." Lucy frowned. "There wasn’t. We never fought. We just had a . . . disagreement. Over one of the dogs."
Tina winced. "For anyone else that would be a minor disagreement. For you . . . if Bradley did something to one of those dogs, he couldn’t have known you very well. And this explains why you’re not broken-hearted over the divorce. You’re upset, but it’s not because you miss Bradley. You’re glad he’s gone, aren’t you?"
"Yes," Lucy whispered. "That’s awful, but I am."
"No, it’s not. That’s healthy. What I don’t understand is what you’re so upset about. You’re free. You can do anything you want. What’s wrong with you?"
"I feel stupid," Lucy said.
"What?" Tina leaned forward. "You? You’ve got more brains than–"
"Not real-life brains. I have science brains. But real life?" Lucy shook her head. "I don’t even know what happened in my marriage. I know it was awful for me, but I would have sworn to you that Bradley was happy and he loved me, and then out of the blue, I come home and find him with a blonde. In my house. And she says they’ve been having an affair in my bedroom, and he flusters around obviously guilty, and when I get upset, he leaves." She sat back. "He just leaves."
"Men," Tina said.
"So I don’t have a clue where I went wrong. The only thing I’ve ever known for sure in my whole life is that I’m smart. And now I’m not even sure about that. It’s upsetting."
"Well, if you think he was angry about the house–"
"It’s not just that he cheated on me. It’s that he won’t talk to me now. In the lawyer’s office, all he said was, is this what you want? And I said yes, because it was, but . . . " Lucy bit her lip. "He hasn’t even come by to pick up the rest of his papers and things. It’s like a chunk of my life just dropped out of sight."
"Oh." Tina shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I may have had something to do with that."
Lucy froze. "What did you do?"
"Well. You know how upset you were when you called me that day and told me that Bradley and the blonde had just been there?"
"What did you do?"
"Well, I had the new locks put on . . . "
"Yes, I know." Lucy nodded. "And you threw all his clothes out on the front lawn. I know all that. What else did you do?"
"Well, when he came to the door to talk to you . . ."
"He came to the door to talk to me?"
"You were upstairs in your bedroom crying." Tina paused. "I was . . . angry."
"I know, I know, I lose it when I get angry." Tina lit another cigarette, inhaled, and blew out another stream of smoke before she went on, faster now to get it over with. "Anyway, I told him that if he ever tried to talk to you again, I would have private detectives digging up every slimy thing he’d ever done, and that I would personally see that they all made the front page of the Inquirer, and that I would also find every asset he possessed and take it from him."
Lucy looked at her, stunned.
"I think I might also have mentioned bodily harm. I was really upset. You never cry."
"So that’s why he hasn’t called? You are something else, Tina."
"I’m sorry," Tina said. "But I could just see him talking you back into that damn marriage. I couldn’t stand seeing you unhappy anymore."
"I wouldn’t have gone back. But I would have liked to have talked to him." Lucy took a deep breath. "I love you, Tine, and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but you’ve got to get out of my life. It’s my life."
"I know, honey." Tina fiddled with her cigarette. "But you need help. I mean, I let you pick the restaurant and look where we ended up." She glanced around at the plastic walls and the chipped Formica. "This place is a dump."
"I had a reason for wanting to come here," Lucy said. "Bradley wrote to me. He said if I’d have lunch here with him, he could explain everything." Lucy looked around the cheap diner again, perplexed. "It doesn’t seem like his kind of place."
"Do you want him back?" Tina asked. "I’ll get him back if that’s what you want."
"No." Lucy pressed her lips together and stabbed her salad again. "That’s not what I want."
"Well, what do you want? Just tell me what you want. I’ll make it happen."
Lucy smacked her fork down. "You can’t. Or you won’t. I want to live my own life. I want to make my own mistakes. I want you to be my sister, not my keeper. You don’t have to take care of me."
"I know I don’t have to." Tina frowned. "But I want to. I want you to be happy. You never have any fun."
"I don’t want to have fun." Lucy took a deep breath. "Do you know what I want?"
Tina shook her head, her eyes on Lucy.
"I want to be independent. I want to take care of myself, without you racing to the rescue with money and lawyers. You always tell me what to do, and you’re always right, and most of the time I don’t mind it, but then I married Bradley, and he was worse than you are. Between you and Bradley, I haven’t made a decision on my own in almost a year because everything you told me to do was the sensible thing, and it would have been stupid for me to argue. Only I did all the sensible things, and now look at my life. It’s a mess." Lucy stuck her chin out. "So, I’m changing. I want to make my own mistakes and mop up after them myself. I want to talk to my ex-husband without you threatening him with death. And if I want to dye my hair purple or adopt another ten dogs or . . . or . . . " Her eyes twitched to the man across the room. ". . . or go out with inappropriate men, I want you to stay out. It’s my life. I want it back."
"I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Just stop doing it."
"All right." Tina picked a cucumber slice out of Lucy’s salad. "Inappropriate men, huh?"
Lucy slid down a little in her seat. "Probably not. That was just big talk."
"What about that guy across the room you keep looking at?"
"Oh, no." Lucy closed her eyes. "I’m that transparent?"
"Well, he doesn’t seem to have noticed." Tina glanced across the room. "He really is attractive, though. Your instincts aren’t so bad."
Lucy looked at the two men across the room again out of the corner of her eye. The one in the black was talking, his fingers slashing the air while he spoke.
"He’s gorgeous," Lucy said.
"Actually, he looks a little dull. But if that’s what you want, let me see what I can do." Tina started to get up.
"Dull?" Lucy said. "He looks insane."
Tina stopped. "You’re talking about the one in the tweed, not the one in the black leather, right? You can’t be serious about the black leather."
"It’s my fantasy," Lucy said. "And sit down. You’re not going over there and embarrass me."
Tina sat down. "The black leather would not be good for you."
"I can’t tell you how tired I am of things that are good for me," Lucy said.
"I know." Tina nodded sympathetically. "But that doesn’t mean you should commit emotional hari kari. That guy is unstable."
Lucy’s eyes went back to the black leather. "Actually, you know, he’s just what you ordered. What I’m feeling for him is definitely spontaneous and irresponsible."
Tina looked at him and frowned. "Maybe if you just used him for the cheap thrill and then discarded him."
"I couldn’t do that." Lucy tore her eyes away from him. "I could never do that. I’d better just concentrate on being independent without the inappropriate man part."
But she looked back at the man in black leather one more time and sighed.
"I can feel it." In the booth across the room, Zack tapped his fingers on the scarred table. "Bradley’s here. Or he’s been here. Or somebody he knows is here. Or –"
Anthony leaned back. "All right. He’s here. So are we. But it’s been an hour and I’m getting bored, so just point him out to me, and we’ll arrest him and go. He’s disguised as one of those two women, right?"
"Fine." Zack glared at him. "Don’t help. I’ll do this without you. Fine." He drummed his fingers on the table.
"Zack, I want to get him as much as you do," Anthony said patiently. "He’s thumbed his nose at every cop who’s tried to nail him in the last nine months. And the million and a half he’s traveling on is not chicken feed. But I need more than just one of your instincts to keep me in this dive any longer."
Zack slapped the table and then drummed his fingers again. "Look, we got an honest-to-God phone tip that he’d be here, and it’s the best thing we’ve got so far. It’s not like we have anything else on this thing. It’s not like –"
"Zack," Anthony interrupted him. "You’re driving me crazy."
"What? Oh. The fingers?" Zack stopped drumming on the table. "Sorry."
"No, not the fingers. Although that’s got to stop, too. No, it’s the way you’ve been acting lately." Anthony shook his head slowly. "That was a bad moment today with Jerry. I thought you were really going to kick him."
"Me? Nah." Zack paused. "Probably not."
"Exactly." Anthony nailed him with a frown. "That’s what I’m talking about. The probably part. And all this rambling about quitting. I don’t like it. You’ve always been nuts. That’s fine. I can deal with nuts. But lately, you’ve been depressed nuts. I can’t deal with that."
"I’m not depressed." Zack picked up a package of sugar, tore it savagely across the middle, and dumped it in his coffee. "I’m not elated right now, but I’m not depressed."
"You just decapitated a sugar packet. That should tell you something."
Zack stared at the mutilated packet and then tossed it on the table. "I’ll tell you something. I was really disappointed in old Jerry today. I mean I felt sorry for the poor sap, and then he pulled a gun on us, and I thought, damn, nobody’s decent anymore. And then he shot at us, and I was really mad." Zack shook his head. "Sometimes I think there aren’t any decent people in the world anymore." He tasted his coffee and frowned. "So maybe the job’s getting me down a little, but I’m not depressed."
"You are depressed." Anthony spoke clearly and calmly, as if he were speaking to the mentally ill. "And your depression is affecting our work. I know what’s wrong."
Zack glared at him. "I hate this. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate it that you were a psych minor? A minor, for cripes sake. With a minor, you’re not even allowed to psychoanalyze dogs."
"It’s because you’re worried about getting older. It started when you turned thirty-six."
"I don’t want to talk about it." Zack turned his attention back to the restaurant. "Do those two women look guilty to you? There’s something strange about the blonde. I think it’s her hair. That hair is not real."
"Ever since your birthday, you’ve been snarling at the younger men on the force. And I have shoes older than the women you’ve been dating." Anthony shook his head. "You are really transparent on this one."
Zack scowled at him. "It’s not age. Hell, you’re the same age I am."
"Yes, but I’m not depressed about it."
"Well, you should be." Zack fiddled with his spoon, spattering the scarred tabletop with flecks of coffee. "Remember Falk, the old guy I started out on patrol with? There’s a kid on patrol with him right now . . . I was in high school when he was born. He lived down the block from me."
"Zack, you’re thirty-six. These things happen. So there are people who are younger than you are. Deal with it."
"I’m not as fast as I used to be, either." Zack dropped his voice. "When we play one on one? I’m slowing down. A lot."
"This is all in your mind. I haven’t noticed you getting any slower."
"That’s because you’re getting slower, too."
Anthony narrowed his eyes. "Do you mind if we keep this your depression? Personally, I am getting better, not older."
"You’re getting older. But you don’t care because you’ve always been the brains. Brains don’t age."
"Oh, fine. And that makes you what? The brawn?" Anthony leaned back and folded his arms. "I can take you anytime, turkey."
"No, I’m the instinct. Lightning fast instinct." Zack sent his eyes around the diner again before he turned back to Anthony. "But lately, I’m losing it. When we were chasing that guy on the fortieth floor yesterday? The one on the roof? For a minute, just for a minute, I thought, this is nuts. I’m going to fall off a roof because somebody just boosted somebody else’s camcorder. It’s not worth it. And then today with Jerry? I kept looking at that damn desk, thinking, that’s going to hurt when I have to go over it. I kept hoping he’d surrender so I wouldn’t have to go over that damn desk. I tell you, I’m losing it."
Anthony visibly gathered his patience. "Look, lightning. You are not getting slower, you are not losing your instincts, and you are not going to die. You are just growing up. And, may I add, not a moment too soon."
"I’m serious –"
"So am I." Anthony pointed his finger at Zack, and Zack shut up. "You have been going ninety miles an hour ever since I met you eighteen years ago. I used to watch you and think, ‘How does he do that?’ and marvel. Then I grew up, and now I watch you and think, ‘Why does he do that?’ You have nothing to prove to anybody, and you’re still acting like some hotshot TV cop." Anthony leaned forward. "Not chasing the camcorder off the roof was good. It was a sign of maturity."
"Don’t say that word," Zack said. "Maturity means death."
"It does not. What’s wrong with you?"
Zack started drumming his fingers again. "I don’t know. Sometimes . . . . You know, my brothers are all married. They’ve got wives, they’ve got kids, they’ve got big houses, they’ve got responsibilities." He scowled at Anthony. "It’s like they’re living death."
"I’ve met your family. They’re happy. What are you talking about?"
"Responsibility," Zack said. "Maturity. The minute I stopped chasing that camcorder, death said hello."
Anthony started to laugh. "I don’t believe this. You’ve always been a flake, but this. This is new. You know what you need?"
"Nothing. I need nothing. I’ll be fine."
"You need to settle down. Look, you used to live for this job, but it’s not enough anymore. That’s good. But you look at your brothers, and you want what they’ve got, and it scares you, so you become depressed instead. That’s bad. Face it. Maturity is not death. It’s just the next step in life. Most people encounter it sooner than you did, but you’ll do fine." Anthony sipped his coffee. "You will have to change the kind of women you date, though."
"What’s wrong with the kind of women I date?"
"They’re younger than your car, they carry knives, and they ride motorcycles naked on I75."
"Well, they beat those plastic Yuppies you hang out with. What’s the latest one’s name? Cheryl? Please." Zack rolled his eyes.
"Cheryl has many fine qualities," Anthony said without much enthusiasm.
"She can read. Have you ever dated anyone literate?"
"Look, I don’t want to date anybody right now."
"You’re not dating?" Anthony frowned at him. "There are no women in your life?"
"I’m resting." Zack leaned back in the booth and tapped his fingers on the cracked upholstery. "I’m concentrating on my career."
"Oh, good for you. So how long has it been since you . . . dated?"
"Since New Year’s Eve."
Anthony shook his head. "That’s two months. That alone could make you depressed."
"I’m not that depressed." Zack’s tapping picked up speed. "Could we get off this please?"
"All right, you’re not ready for a wife. Start small. Get a dog."
"A dog? A dog?" Zack slapped the table. "A dog. That’s all I need is some dopey dog with big sad eyes telepathically telling me he never sees me and where have I been?"
"Besides I had a dog once. I got him when I was three. He died."
"I went away to college and he died. Dogs are a responsibility. You can’t leave them."
"You went away to college." Anthony cast an imploring look at the ceiling. "I don’t believe this. Zack, if you got him when you were three, he was fifteen by the time you went to college. That’s 105 in dog years. He died because he was old, not because you went to college."
Zack wasn’t listening. "You start taking responsibility for things, they worry you. I don’t need that. Worry slows you down. You start to second guess everything. And then, pretty soon, the instincts go. That’s why I hang out with you. Nothing ever happens to you."
"Thank you," Anthony said. "I think. All right, a dog is not a good idea, but maybe –"
"Look, could we get back to work here? This conversation is really depressing me."
"Fine. But think about what I said." Zack scowled at him and Anthony held up his hand. "All right, back to work. Now, which one of those two women over there does your sixth sense tell you is John Bradley, embezzler?" He studied them. "The hot brunette has a mean look to her, but I suppose the blonde’s a possible, too."
"You don’t think the blonde’s hot?" Zack shook his head. "You have no taste in women. The hair’s a little weird, but the face is good, and the body is excellent."
"How do you know? They’re sitting down."
"She went to the counter to get another fork. I may be getting older, but I’m not dead yet. The blonde would definitely be worth some time." Zack squinted over at her. "You know, I think she’s been looking at me."
"Hey. Women look at me. It happens."
"Well, at least you’re not depressed anymore." Anthony checked his watch. "We’ve wasted an hour here for nothing. Would you like to arrest the blonde so you can pat her down, or shall we just leave?"
"Fine. Make fun." Zack shoved his coffee away and tossed some coins on the table as a tip. "But I’m telling you right now, there’s something here that would have helped us break this Bradley case. And now we’ll never know."
"I can live with that," Anthony said.
"That’s because you have no instincts," Zack said.
"OK," Tina said as Lucy finished her salad. "Let’s concentrate on the basics — getting your new life started."
"Let’s not," Lucy said.
"First of all, you’ve got to get rid of anything of Bradley’s that’s left. Then we’ve got to change your hair. And then I’ll fix you up with some presentable men I know. Everyone I know has money, so at least you’ll be eating in decent restaurants. Not like this dump."
"Wait a minute."
"The first thing you do when you get home–"
"Tina," Lucy said. "No dating. I will fix my hair because it looks awful, but no dating."
"What about Bradley’s things? I think you should throw whatever he left out on the lawn. Or better yet, burn it and dance around the flames."
"Tina, that’s ridiculous. You’re blowing this out of proportion."
"No, I’m not. Psychologically, this is a very big deal. Get rid of his things and you’ll get rid of him."
"I am rid of him," Lucy protested. "I just want to talk to him so I know what happened. I don’t want him back."
"Good. Remember that." Tina stood and took her black silk trench coat from the rack at the end of the booth. Then she handed Lucy her bright blue quilted-cotton jacket and bag. "What have you got in that bag? It weighs a ton."
"My physics book, remember? I brought it so if the divorce got boring, I could review. And sure enough . . ."
Tina closed her eyes. "I have to save you. This is too painful." She jabbed her finger at Lucy. "You go home and start throwing Bradley out. I’ll make an appointment for your hair tomorrow."
"Tina. No. If I want my hair done, I will do it."
"I know this wonderful woman on Court Street–"
Tina stopped. "All right. But at least get rid of Bradley."
"Maybe." Lucy took a deep breath, full of independence. "Maybe."
"Damn it. I was sure there’d be something about Bradley here." Zack stood up.
"Your blonde’s leaving," Anthony said and they both turned to watch.
They were splitting up, the brunette heading for the back door to the parking lot, the blonde to the street door. Just before she got to the door, the brunette turned.
"Lucy," she called, and it sounded like an order. "I mean it. As soon as you get home."
"All right, all right," the blonde said. "As soon as I get home, I will get rid of Bradley." Then she turned and walked out the door.
"Instinct," Zack said and took off after her.
"I hate it when you do this," Anthony said, and moved toward the parking lot door to stop the brunette.