“The guy just pushed the knife into Talant’s throat until the blood started to trickle. I had to shoot him.”
“You were armed?”
“I had my old army .45 in a shoulder holster under a loose jean jacket. I was young and I wasn’t drawing attention to myself, so no one was looking at me. I shot the guy through the elbow. It was the only clear shot I had. It ruined him. He was never really able to use that arm again.
“The police came, and the ambulance, and Talant and I had to go down to the police station to make statements. They questioned us separately. It took hours, and when we were ready to leave, I asked Talant why he hadn’t used his famous piece. He said it wasn’t loaded. He had never fired it. He said he just carried it to ‘put the fear’ into people.
“It irritated me.”
Ed chuckled. “I should think so.”
“On the way back I pulled him into an alley and slapped him silly. Then I took his ‘piece’ away from him and told him not to show his face again. Last time I saw him, he was slumped against a dumpster with a glassy look and blood running down his face.”
I left Ed sitting on the couch and went to stare out the window again. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Since Raven left, I had been holding my feelings tight inside. Now, in retelling the story of Talant, I had worked myself into a fine wrath. I didn’t want Ed to see my face, or the way my hands trembled.
Ed dropped me off at Joe Dias’ the next morning, and went off to pursue some ideas of his own. He gave me a number to call, a couple of hundred dollars, and said he would be available if I needed help. Otherwise, I was on my own. It suited me just fine. I like Ed well enough, but I didn’t need a nursemaid.
Carmen was at her usual place in the reception room. When I first met her, she was cute. Pert. Not quite chubby. She had been growing an inch or two a year since then, and I don’t mean taller. Now she pretty much filled the space behind the desk.
“Hey, Stud, you’re looking good,” she said. “What happened? Job in Europe didn’t pan out?”
“Something like that. Is Joe busy?”
“Just paper work. Go on in.”
Joe looked up, then came around the desk to pump my hand. He was about five ten, wiry; his skin was like golden leather with laugh wrinkles on his face. His warm brown eyes had seen every kind of depravity during thirty years in a dirty business, and somehow remained human.
The walls of his office were covered with framed pictures of his daughters, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, and every other known species of relative. He came from a huge extended family of Diases, mostly scattered around Livingston in the central valley. Joe’s grandparents had settled there early in the century after leaving the Azores. That section of California was practically a Portuguese colony, and Joe went back as often as he could.
In the years I worked for Joe, he had become a real friend. We took a while to update each other’s lives before we got down to business. more tomorrow