“Oh, dear Lord, no. To children?”
“Not as far as we know.”
“But in this neighborhood? On this street?”
Teddy said, “I’m afraid so, ma’am. I was hoping you could account for your whereabouts yesterday so we’d know if you ever crossed paths with the gentleman in question.”
“Are.you accusing me of being a Communist?” Her back came off the pillows and she bunched the sheet in her fists.
Cawley gave Teddy a look that said: You dug the hole. You dig your way out.
“A Communist, ma’am? You? What man in his right mind would
think that? You’re as American as Betty Grable. Only a blind man could miss that.”
She unclenched one hand from the sheet, rubbed her kneecap with it. “But I don’t look like Betty Grable.”
“Only in your obvious patriotism. No, I’d say you look more like Teresa Wright, ma’am. What was that one she did with Joseph Cotton, ten—twelve years ago?”
“Shadow of a Doubt. I’ve heard that,” she said, and her smile managed to be gracious and sensual at the same time. “Jim fought in that war. He came home and said the world was free now because Americans fought for it and the whole world saw that the American way was the only way.”
“Amen,” Teddy said. “I fought in that war too.”
“Did you know my Jim?”
“’Fraid not, ma’am. I’m sure he’s a fine man. Army?”
She crinkled her nose at that. “Marines.”
“Semper fi,” Teddy said. “Miss Solando, it’s important we know every move this subversive made yesterday. Now you might not have even seen him. He’s a sneaky one. So we need to know what you did so that we can match that against what we know about where he was, so we can see if you two may have ever passed each other.” “Like ships in the night?”
“Exactly. So you understand?”
“Oh, I do.” She sat up on the bed and tucked her legs underneath her, and Teddy felt her movements in his stomach and groin. “So if you could walk me through your day,” he said.
“Well, let’s see. I made Jim and the children their breakfast and then I packed Jim’s lunch and Jim left, and then I sent the children off to school and then I decided to take a long swim in the lake.” “You do that often?”
“No,” she said, leaning forward and laughing, as if he’d made a
pass at her. “I just, I don’t know, I felt a little kooky. You know how you do sometimes? You just feel a little kooky?”
“Well, that’s how I felt. So I took off all my clothes and swam in the lake until my arms and legs were like logs, they were so heavy, and then I came out and dried off and put my clothes right back on and took a long walk along the shore. And I skipped some stones and built several small sand castles. Little ones.”
“You remember how many?” Teddy asked and felt Cawley staring at him.
She thought about it; eyes tilted toward the ceiling. “I do.”
“That’s quite a few.”
“Some were very small,” she said. “Teacup-size.”
“And then what did you do?” ,
“I thought about you,” she said.
Teddy saw Naehring glance over at Cawley from the other side of the bed. Teddy caught Naehring’s eye, and Naehring held up his hands, as surprised as anyone.
“Why me?” Teddy said.
Her smile exposed white teeth that were nearly clamped together except for a tiny red tip of tongue pressed in between. “Because you’re my Jim, silly. You’re my soldier.” She rose on her knees and reached out and took Teddy’s hand in hers, caressed it. “So rough. I love your calluses. I love the bump of them on my skin. I miss you, Jim. You’re never home.”
“I work a lot,” Teddy said.
“Sit.” She tugged his arm.
Cawley nudged him forward with a glance, so Teddy allowed himself
to be led to the bed. He sat beside her. Whatever had caused that
howl in her eyes in the photograph had fled from her, at least temporarily, and it was impossible, sitting this close, not to be fully aware of how beautiful she was. The overall impression she gave was liquid— dark eyes that shone with a gaze as clear as water, languid uncoilings of her body that made her limbs appear to swim through air, a face that was softly overripe in the lips and chin.
“You work too much,” she said and ran her fingers over the space just below his throat, as if she were smoothing a kink in the knot of his tie.
“Gotta bring home the bacon,” Teddy said.
“Oh, we’re fine,” she said, and he could feel her breath on his neck. “We’ve got enough to get by.”
“For now,” Teddy said. “I’m thinking about the future.” “Never seen it,” Rachel said. “’Member what my poppa used to say?”
“I’ve forgotten.” °
She combed the hair along his temple with her fingers. “ ‘Future’s something you put on layaway,’ he’d say. ‘I pay cash.’ “ She gave him a soft giggle and leaned in so close that he could feel her breasts against the back of his shoulder. “No, baby, we’ve got to live for today. The here and now.”
It was something Dolores used to say. And the lips and hair were both similar, enough so that if Rachel’s face got much closer, he could be forgiven for thinking he was talking to Dolores. They even had the same tremulous sensuality, Teddy never sure—even after all their years together—if his wife was even aware of its effect.
He tried to remember what he was supposed to ask her. He knew he was supposed to get her back on track. Have her tell him about her day yesterday, that was it, what happened after she walked the shore and built the castles.
“What did you do after you walked the lake?” he said.
“You know what I did.”
“Oh, you want to hear me say it? Is that it?”
She leaned in so that her face was slightly below his, those dark eyes staring up, and the air that escaped her mouth climbed into his. “You don’t remember?”
“You’re not. If you forgot that, James Solando, you are in for some trouble.”