Tags: General Interest
, Mystery & Detective
, Suspense fiction
, Detective and Mystery Stories
, Parker (Fictitious character)
nodded. "I'll take you over the route."
They rode a while longer, and Handy said, "You nervous, Parker?"
"There's too much to watch. I don't like this Alma thing. If it gets worse, I pull out."
"I'll go with you."
They followed the green Dodge when it turned off Springfield Avenue. They drove along secondary streets a while. Handy lit a new cigarette, using the match he'd been poking against his teeth. "I been meaning to ask you about something."
When he didn't go on. Parker said, "What?"
"I heard you was dead. I heard your wife done it. Then Skimm told me you done your wife in, and the syndicate was after you."
"Outfit," said Parker.
"They call it the Outfit. I was in an operation that went sour. This guy Mal, you wouldn't know him, he put Lynn in a squeeze. Either she dropped me or he'd drop her. She did her best, and this guy Mal thought it was good enough. Then he went to New York and used my share to pay off an old debt to the Outfit. They took him on in some kind of job, and when I got on my feet I settled him and got my money back from the Outfit."
Handy grunted again. It was the way he laughed. "They didn't like it much, huh?"
"I had to louse up their business day a little bit."
"What about your wife? Lynn. I heard you settled with her, too."
Parker shook his head. "I wanted to, but I didn't. When she found she hadn't done me, she killed herself."
Handy grunted. "Saved you the trouble, huh?"
Parker shrugged. He'd wanted to kill her, to even things, but when he'd seen her he'd known he couldn't. She was the only one he'd ever met that he didn't feel simply about. With everybody else in the world, the situation was simple. They were in and he worked with them or they were out and he ignored them or they were trouble and he took care of them. But with Lynn he hadn't been able to work that way.
He'd felt for her what he'd never felt for anybody else or anything else, not even himself, not even money. She had tried her level best to kill him, and even that hadn't changed anything, the way he felt about her or his helplessness with her. He didn't want that to happen again, ever, to feel about anybody that way, to let his feelings get stronger than his judgment. Oddly enough, he missed her and wished she were still alive and still with him, even though he knew that sooner or later she would have found herself in the same kind of bind again and done the same thing.
Ahead of him, the green Dodge turned into a driveway next to a small faded clapboard house. This was an old section here; all the houses were small and faded – most of them with sagging porches.
There was no garage. The green Dodge turned into the back yard and stopped. Parker pulled up beside it, and he and Handy got out. Alma and Skimm were waiting for them, by the back door. There were three warped steps up, and a small back porch half the width of the house. The kitchen door had masking tape over a break in the window. Skimm lived in places where broken things were patched with masking tape.
They all went into the kitchen and Alma told Skimm to open up some beer…'
"Sure," said Skimm. He wasn't nervously happy any more, he was sullen now.
Alma told the others to come on into the living-room. She'd argued most of her belligerence out on the drive. She was sure of herself now, and in charge.
They went through the dining-room, going around a scarred table. The house was one storey high, with a living-room and a dining-room and a kitchen and two bedrooms. One bedroom was off the dining-room and the other one was off the kitchen. The bathroom was off the kitchen on the other side, next to the steps to the basement.
Alma clicked a wall switch and a ceiling light went on, four forty-watt bulbs amid a cluster of stained glass. Alma led the way into the room. "Look at this lousy place. Just look at it."
It wasn't very good. The sofa was green mohair, worn smooth in some places and spiny in others. The two armchairs both rested the