Who is Jim Davis?” I asked.
“I killed him. Stomped him into the pavement and left him in a pool of his own blood. Susyn set me up and Davis was going to kill me, but he couldn’t pull it off.”
A little fear couldn’t hurt. Johnson had been about to curl up in a ball and go limp on me. Now he sat up straighter and his sorrow got pushed aside by his instinct for survival.
“I’m going to stop Susyn. I don’t want to kill her – but if I have to, I will. Do you understand?”
“Who are you? How did you get in here?”
Fear was helping Johnson grow a backbone.
“It doesn’t matter how I got in here. It doesn’t matter who I am. You are going to help me solve my problems and nothing you can do or say will change that.”
“I’ll call the police.”
I could have threatened Johnson. He was a skinny little guy. You could see that he always had been. I could have broken him like a stick. So what? If I threatened him, I would just embarrass myself. I didn’t have the heart to lay a hand on him, and I wasn’t actor enough to convince anybody that I did.
I didn’t have to. I said, “You own five pieces of property on which marijuana is being cultivated. The rent goes to a holding company along with the rent from twelve other pieces owned by Jim and Alan and Susyn, and you get a kickback equal to your school salary every month. I knew most of that before I came here, and your computer records told me the rest. You aren’t very smart, Johnson. The way you keep records, a ten year old boy could find evidence enough to convict.
“I can take everything away from you. I can get your property seized, including this house and your car. I can get your teaching credential revoked. I can take away everything you own and everything you are, and turn you into a skid row bum. So reach for the phone. Go ahead.”
The sun flared suddenly as it found a hole in the trees, setting toward the end of the day. The sky beyond the window was going purple. It would be dark in half an hour. I watched the day die outside because I didn’t want to watch Johnson’s last thin dreams turn to paste in his hands.
Finally he said, “What has she done this time?”
So I told him. The assault on the cruise ship, the assault in Marseilles, her deception, the attempt on my life in Venice. When I finished, it was nearly dark. Charlie was scratching at the door. Johnson made no move to let him in so I went over and pushed the screen open, standing to one side so no one in the street would see me. The old cat rubbed circles around my legs while his master sat with his face in his hands, then went off to pursue his own business. more tomorrow