Mike didn’t turn to look at what had to be the fiftieth girl this creep had declared to be the most sensational creature on earth. Taking a drink of his third beer, Mike leaned toward the skinny little man. “You planning to tell me what you know in this century or not?”
He was sounding belligerent now because he was feeling belligerent. For two hours he’d been here in this sleazy bar trying to buy, sweet talk, bully, whatever he could think to do, information from this old alky. So far, he’d had no luck, and he was beginning to think that the anonymous note-writer at Jubilee’s had been lying when he’d hinted that Nelson knew anything.
“She’s buying a pack of cigarettes now,” Nelson said, his eyes to the right.
Pulling another fifty from his pocket, Mike slipped it across the table. “That’s the last of it. You don’t tell me anything after this, I’m leaving.”
“Keep your shirt on, muscle-boy. Can’t you spend a little time with a guy who’s down on his luck?”
Nelson was one of those people who had been born down on his luck. No doubt he’d found something wrong in his childhood, his mother spoke too sharply to him or some such, and now he used it as an excuse to wallow in grief and spend his life in bars cadging drinks. He was little, thin, dirty, and weasly looking, and he felt the world owed him a life.
“I guess you got better things to do than sit here with the likes of me.” His voice was a self-pitying whine. “Maybe you got somebody at home waiting for you.” The implication was that Nelson didn’t have anyone and that’s why he was so unhappy and had to drink and make those marks shooting whatever it was into the inside of his arm.
“Yeah, I got somebody,” Mike said, and thought of Samantha, of the pure cleanliness of her, and right now he very much wanted to be at home with her. Jeanne should be finished with her apartment by now, and Mike wanted to show it to Sam, to see her face when she saw it. Maybe, when she saw the rooms, she’d be so happy that she’d turn to him, throw her arms around him, he’d kiss her, then—
Nelson was snapping his fingers in front of Mike’s face. “You leavin’ me, boy? My God, but I think she’s comin’ this way. You gotta see her. Real Classy. And a body like I’ve never seen before.”
At one time Mike might have been interested in seeing this woman, at least in looking, if in nothing else, but he wasn’t interested in anything that patronized this dive.
“One of you boys have a light?” came a deep, sultry voice from Mike’s left. With a grimace, he picked up a book of matches from the ashtray, struck one, and turned to light the woman’s cigarette.
What he saw made him freeze. Samantha, sweet, perfect, innocent little Samantha, was dressed in a red-sequined tank top that was cut so low in the front that he could see nearly all of her breasts, and she wore a tight red skirt that, as far as he could tell, covered nothing whatsoever. All eight or so feet of her legs were showing beneath the “skirt.”
When she bent forward, he could see the deep, exquisite cleavage made by her large, round, beautiful breasts—the same cleavage that all the bums in this place could see. Samantha put her hand over Mike’s to hold the tip of the cigarette to the match flame. Lighting it, she stood, her hips thrust out, and looked down at him, fluttering her lashes a bit. “Mind if I sit down?”
Too intent on gawking at her to pay attention to the flame, Mike dropped the match when it burned down to his fingertips.
“Sit by me, baby,” Nelson said eagerly. “You’re new in here, aren’t you? Who you work for?”
Holding the cigarette between her two fingers, her elbow resting on her hip, Samantha looked down at Mike. “You going to invite me to sit down or not?”
“I’m going to kill you,” he said under his breath, but he moved over on the seat so she could sit by him.
When she was seated she tried to take a draw on the cigarette, but since she’d never smoked in her life, she gave a couple of very unseductresslike coughs.
Angrily, Mike took the cigarette from her. “Just what do you think you’re playing at?” He started to stub the cigarette out in the ashtray, but on second thought, he put it to his lips and took a very deep draw, a draw that burned the cigarette halfway down to his lips.
“Mike, I didn’t know you smoked.”
“I don’t,” he said tightly, letting out the smoke slowly. “I quit two years ago, but then there’s a lot you don’t know about me. A few more weeks around you and I may take up drinking.”
“Ditto,” she said, looking him in the eyes.
“Mike,” Nelson said, “looks like you two know each other. You wanta introduce me or you gonna keep her all night? You can’t keep her all night, can you?”
“You hear that, Samantha? Nelson thinks you’re a prostitute.”
Leaning toward Mike, she let her lips come near his. “And what do you think I am?” she practically purred.
“All show,” he said, drinking the last of his beer. “Let’s get out of here.”
Samantha was not going to leave yet. If she went home with him now, nothing would have changed. For whatever reason he was angry at her, he was still angry. Signaling the waitress to come to the table, she ordered a double shot of tequila gold. “And a quartered lime and a Dos Equis if you have it, and do you have some salsa and chips?”
Before Mike could say another word, a man came to the table and asked Samantha to dance with him. “I’d love to,” she said, starting to get up, but Mike put his hand on her shoulder, holding her on the seat. “I guess not,” Samantha said to the man apologetically.
When her drinks came, she turned to Nelson. “So what do you know about my grandmother? I assume you are Nelson, aren’t you?” Well aware of Mike’s eyes on her, Samantha knew that he realized she had to have looked inside his wallet to have seen the note.
“Not as much as I’d like to know about you, baby,” Nelson answered in what was meant to be a provocative manner.