As she rolled away from him, she was extremely annoyed. Why was he always trying to drive her to the point where she was angry?
“Come on, Sam,” he said. “Don’t give me that look. Don’t turn back into little miss goody two shoes.”
What she should do, she thought, was go upstairs and read a book. Instead, turning, she looked at him sitting there on the living room rug and, in spite of herself, she smiled. “You can really be a pain, you know that?”
Before she could move, he kissed her neck. “Why don’t I give you some research cards and you type what I’ve written into your machine?” he asked.
“I see, I do all the work and you get the credit.”
“I’ll share anything I have with you,” he said softly with great meaning to his words.
Samantha pushed him away. “Let me load the data base, and I’ll start putting your information into the computer.”
As he smiled at her complacently, she knew he had attained his objective: a secretary.
An hour later, Samantha didn’t mind because what Mike was giving her to type was interesting. He had written out what looked to be a hundred pages of information on various gangsters who’d had something to do with Tony Barrett. She read the names of Nails and Hop Toad and Mad Dog and the Waiter and Half Hand Joe and Gyp the Blood with interest.
The more she read, the more she wondered about Tony Barrett, who might or might not be her biological grandfather. But there was very little information about him in the notes Mike gave her to type. When she asked Mike why there was so little on Barrett, who was to be the subject of the biography, Mike didn’t really answer but gave her notes on what Samantha soon realized was the slaughter of May the twelfth, 1928.
She didn’t like typing about that day in 1928. The leading gangster of New York had been afraid of Barrett’s growing power and had decided to kill him and all his men. It didn’t seem to matter that during his failed attempt to kill Barrett, Barrett had been in a speakeasy and that many innocent people were killed along with the gangsters in the blasts of machine gun fire.
With growing distaste, Samantha read about the bloodshed of that night. “I don’t like this,” she said, pushing the notes away.
Mike raised an eyebrow. “Maxie disappeared that night. Aren’t you curious as to why?”
She looked at him in disbelief. “It seems simple enough to understand why she left. Even if she did love Barrett, she wouldn’t want to be part of something as horrifying as that bloodbath.”
Mike looked at her for a moment, then asked if she wanted something to eat. When her answer was positive, he called a deli and ordered tuna salad sandwiches. After they arrived, they took them into the garden to eat.
“How did your mother die?” Mike asked abruptly, as soon as they were seated at the picnic table.
“I killed her,” Samantha said before she thought, then blushed and looked away. She was annoyed with him for making her tell things that she didn’t want to tell and annoyed with herself for confiding in him. “I don’t mean that, of course. It’s just what I felt at the time. A child’s fantasy.” She tried to make light of the fear that had plagued her for most of her life.
Mike was looking at her in silence, waiting for her to continue.
“I was twelve and I’d been invited to Janie Miles’s birthday party. It was a very important party because Janie was the most popular girl in school and she was going to have boys at her party, but Mother didn’t want me to go. When she said I was too young for boys, I got very angry and said she didn’t want me to grow up. Mother said I was right, that if it were up to her I’d stay twelve years old forever.” Samantha tried her best to make her story sound amusing, for she didn’t want Mike to know what she had felt—and still felt now—about her mother’s death. Actually, she didn’t want anyone to know the full extent of how her life, her world, had changed after that fateful afternoon.
Samantha took a deep breath. “Anyway, when Mother was late picking me up from school to take me to Janie’s party I was livid. I was pacing the school yard vowing to never again speak to her when the principal came to take me home.”
Mike was looking at Samantha’s hand as she had gripped the tuna sandwich so hard that it was oozing through her fingers. When she noticed where he was looking, she glanced down and saw the mutilated sandwich, then dropped it and used a napkin to clean her hand.
“Mother had been rushing so hard to get me to the party she’d run in front of a car. She was killed instantly.”
“Sam—” Reaching out to her, Mike tried to touch her, but she pulled away.
“Mother had been rushing so fast that somewhere along the way she’d fallen against a radiator and burned her arms and legs. But a little thing like third-degree burns didn’t make her stop to go to a doctor. Her only thought was to get her daughter to a party.” Pausing, Samantha’s mouth twisted bitterly. “A very important party.”
“Was it a hit-and-run?” Mike asked quickly, not wanting her to dwell on her memories, but he needed to know what she was telling him.
“Heavens no.” Looking across the picnic table at him, she tried to smile. “The man who hit her lived in Ohio, and he was very upset about the accident. He stayed in Louisville for two weeks after Mother…died and visited Dad and me, even showing me pictures of his own children.”
“Samantha,” Mike whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, thanks,” she murmured. “It was a long time ago and I got over it. People can survive a great deal.”
“Even husbands?” he asked, trying to make a joke.
She didn’t smile. “One can survive husbands who betray them and mothers who die and fathers who die and grandmothers who desert them. One can even survive a father who has so little confidence in his daughter that he attaches strings to her inheritance. I find that one can survive almost anything.” Getting up from the table, she started back into the house, but not before Mike caught her.