Victor shrugged, speeded up a bit. “It looked good on that website, but I’m no car expert.”
“That’s for sure.”
He raised his hand, then lowered it. “Shut your trap. I’m the one who found his damned house. Don’t you rag on me, Lissy, you know I don’t like it. I remember my dad always telling my mother to stop her nagging. I don’t remember that she did all that much, but he thought so.”
“That’s why you hit me sometimes, isn’t it?”
He looked at her. “Don’t you accuse me of being like my dad. He was dead-on mean. He’d clip me whenever it suited him. I told you how he smacked Mom more. I didn’t like him much. When I hit you, you deserve it, that’s all. When he and Mom went back to his beloved Jordan, I saw my chance to get away from him.”
She said, her voice dreamy, since she was beginning to fade out, “And you came to me, Victor. You thought I was a little girl, but I wasn’t.”
Victor remembered that long-ago night waking up with Lissy licking his belly. “Yeah, I came to you. Your mom is nothing like mine. Mine’s all soft and boring. You mom, well, she’d shoot the nuts off a squirrel if she felt like it.”
Lissy giggled. “She had to be tough, since it was just her. I thought Mama was going to shoot you when she found a pair of your shorts under my bed.”
Victor remembered that day, remembered how he’d protected Lissy, taking all responsibility—after all, he was five years older, which made Lissy only a kid—but her mom knew her daughter, and that was why, he was convinced, she didn’t shoot him and bury him in the deep woods behind the house. She just ordered him out, which was bad enough.
The three years he worked for that bush-league home-security company in Winnett had been boredom punctuated with bursts of huge happiness when Lissy e-mailed him. He said, his voice hoarse with the memory of her absence, “I didn’t see you for too long, Lissy. I nearly went crazy without you. Then your mom called me up to ask me if I’d like to rob banks.”
“Yeah, I talked her into it. I told her you could drive the car. She said that was fine since you were a pussy.”
“I’m not a pussy, dammit!”
“All right, all right,” she said, her voice soft, dreamy. “Do you remember how we’d get under a sheet and play, my flashlight on?”
The memory made him jerk the steering wheel. He thought about those horrible hours when he didn’t know if she was alive, deadening hours when he’d lurked on the surgical floor, listening to the FBI agents speaking to the nurses and doctors about her. He went to the men’s room and vomited when he heard she was going to be all right. He said, “No pussy could have gotten you out of that damned hospital. Don’t you remember that big FBI agent sitting outside your door? Well, I fooled him good, didn’t I?”
“You saved me,” she said, her eyes closed, her hands over her belly, gently kneading. “I love you, Victor.”
He felt a fist squeeze his heart. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s good, real good. Why don’t we just leave now? Why do we have to hang around? I’m thinking I’d like to visit Hollywood, maybe see Angelina, learn how to surf, make love on the beach.”
Her eyes popped open. “Victor, I’ve gotta kill that old man, blow his brains from here to Oregon. He murdered Mama. I can’t let that go. And that FBI agent, Dillon Savich.” She started rubbing her belly harder now, her hand jerking. “What he did to me, what he did, I can’t let him get away with that, I can’t.”
“All right, we’ll kill those two, then get out of here. Give your mouth a rest. I’ll wake you up when we get to Fort Pessel. Go to sleep.”
Four minutes later Victor heard a siren. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw a police car, lights flashing, closing fast. He felt a punch of panic, then rage. Why was this jerk on him? He hadn’t done anything wrong. No way did they know this was a stolen car. Too soon for that.
He took a deep breath and slowly pulled the Impala over to the side of the road. It simply wasn’t possible somebody had already discovered the old woman’s body and reported her frigging car stolen. His hands felt cold and clammy. He hated it. He rubbed his hands on his jeans, breathed deeply, calmed his pulsing heart.
Sheriff’s Deputy Davie Franks shined a flashlight into the young man’s face as Victor lowered the window. “Nice wheels you got,” he said. “I had me an old Impala like this when I was about your age. You got a driver’s license to show me?”