“He... he—no, wait a minute, waithe.., he gets all squirrelly eyed, starts looking at everybody’s chips just before he bluffs. When he’s got a hot hand, though? He’s all serene and inward-looking.” Trey ripped the air with his loudest guffaw and slapped the table.

“What about Marshal Daniels? How’s he give himself away?”

Chuck grinned. “I’m going to rat out my partner? No, no, no.”

“Ooooh!” Bibby pointed across the table at them both.

“Can’t do it.”

“I see, I see,” Trey said. “It’s a white man kinda thing.” Chuck’s face darkened and he stared at Trey until the room was sucked dry of air.

Trey’s Adam’s apple bobbed, and he started to raise a hand in apology, and Chuck said, “Absolutely. What else would it be?” and the grin that broke across his face was river-size.

“Mother-fucker!” Trey slapped his hand off Chuck’s fingers.

“Motherfucker!” Bibby said.

“Mutha-fucka,” Chuck said, and then all three of them giggled like little girls.

Teddy thought of trying it, decided he’d fail, a white man trying to sound hep. And yet Chuck? Chuck could pull it off somehow.  “SO WHAT GAVE me away?” Teddy asked Chuck as they lay in the dark. Across the room, Trey and Bibby were locked in a snoring com74 petition and the rain had gone soft in the last half an hour, as if it were catching its breath, awaiting reinforcements.

“At cards?” Chuck said from the lower bunk. “Forget it.”

“No. I want to know.”

“You thought you were pretty good up till now, didn’t you?

Admit it.”

“I didn’t think I was bad.”

“You’re not.”

“You cleaned my clock.”

“I won a few bucks.”

“Your daddy was a gambler, that it?”

“My daddy was a prick.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Not your fault. Yours?”

“My daddy?” ‘,

“No, your uncle. Of course, your daddy.”

Teddy tried to picture him in the dark, could only see his halds, welted with scars.

“He was a stranger,” Teddy said. “To everyone. Even my mother.  Hell, I doubt he knew who he was. He was his boat. When he lost the boat, he just drifted away.”

Chuck didn’t say anything and after a while Teddy figured he’d fallen asleep. He could suddenly see his father, all of him, sitting in that chair on the days there’d been no work, the man swallowed by the walls, ceilings, rooms.

“Hey, boss.”

“You still up?”

“We really going to pack it in?”

“Yeah. You surpnseo.

“I’m not blaming you. I just, I dunno...”


“I never quit anything before.”

Teddy lay quiet for a bit. Finally, he said, “We haven’t heard the truth once. We got no way through to it and we got nothing to fall back on, nothing to make these people talk.”

“I know, I know,” Chuck said. “I agree with the logic.”


“But I never quit anything before is all.”

“Rachel Solando didn’t slip barefoot out of a locked room without help. A lot of help. The whole institution’s help. My experience? You can’t break a whole society that doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Not if there’s only two of us. Best-case scenariothe threat worked and Cawley’s sitting up in his mansion right now, rethinking his whole attitude. Maybe in the morning...”

“So you’re bluffing.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I just played cards with you, boss.”

They lay in silence, and Teddy listened to the ocean for a while.  “You purse your lips,” Chuck said, his voice beginning to garble with sleep.


“When you’re holding a good hand. You only do it for a second, but you always do it.”


“’Night, boss.”


SHE COMES DOWN the hallway toward him. e:

Dolores, karats of anger in her eyes, Bing Crosby crooning “East Side of Heaven” from somewhere in the apartment, the kitchen, maybe. She says, “Jesus, Teddy. Jesus Christ.” She’s holding an empty bottle of JTS Brown in her hand. His empty bottle. And Teddy realizes she’s found one of his stashes.

“Are you ever sober? Are you ever fucking sober anymore?

Answer me.”

But Teddy can’t. He can’t speak. He’s not even sure where his body is. He can see her and she keeps coming down that long hallway toward him, but he can’t see his physical self, can’t even feel it. There’s a mirror at the other end of the hall behind Dolores, and he’s not reflected in it.

She turns left into the living room and the back of her is charred, smoldering a bit. The bottle is no longer in her hand, and small ribbons of smoke unwind from her hair.

She stops at a window. “Oh, look. They’re so pretty like that.


Teddy is beside her at the window, and she’s no longer burned, she’s soaking wet, and he can see himself, his hand as he places it on her shoulder, the fingers draping over her collarbone, and she turns her head and gives his fingers a quick kiss.

“What did you do?” he says, not even sure why he’s asking.

“Look at them out there.”

“Baby, why you all wet?” he says, but isn’t surprised when she doesn’t answer.

The view out the window is not what he expects. It’s not the view they had from the apartment on Buttonwood, but the view of another place they stayed once, a cabin. There’s a small pond out there with small logs floating in it, and Teddy notices how smooth they are, turning almost imperceptibly, the water shivering and gone white in places under the moon.

“That’s a nice gazebo,” she says. “So white. You can smell the fresh paint.”

“It is nice.”

“So,” Dolores says.

“Killed a lot of people in the war.”

“Why you drink.”


“She’s here.”


Dolores nods. “She never left. You almost saw it. You almost did.”

“The Law of Four.”

“It’s code.”

“Sure, but for what?”

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