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I walk around the living room, peer out the window. There’s a nice view of the city. “How much does your old man rent this out for?”

“Three thousand a month.”

“Oh boy. But I heard you tell George you’d give it to him for a thousand.”

Doyle blinks at me. He’s obviously not following my game.

“I’ll take it for a thousand,” I say. “And give me George’s number; I’ll need him to sublet my current place. I obviously won’t need a deposit because you took twelve thousand dollars from me.”

I start mentally arranging my furniture around the room: the castoff sofa from my neighbor, the kitchen table I bought from Target and hauled up the street in its box, by myself. That’s when Doyle decides to decline my offer with a shaky, indignant, helium-soaked voice.

“You’re fucking crazy.”

I giggle.

“Oh man, Doyle. Yeah. I am. But you stole twelve thousand dollars from a crazy person. What does that make you? You’re the real crazy motherfucker. You know what I’m saying? I’d hate to be you right now, Doyle. Because I have the gun, but even more importantly, I have this really vindictive personality. God, you should see how vindictive I am.”

Doyle doesn’t seem to be absorbing what I’m saying. He’s looking for a way out, his pint-sized brain churning up ideas to manipulate me. I can see it in his watery eyes. I walk a few steps toward him.

Whack.

I hit him in the face with the butt of my gun.

Doyle’s cry is muffled as he grabs his nose, which is spraying healthy amounts of blood through his fingers, and bends over at the waist.

“What. The. Duck.”

“What the duck, indeed. You didn’t even see it coming! You need to pay attention.”

I let him calm down a bit while I wait by the window. I like the view here. It’s very Seattle: water, fog, ferry boats, bobbing umbrellas. Peaceful. I’ll enjoy living here. It’s so different than the eating house. I find a deep contentment knowing it will be mine.

“So, Doyle,” I say. “Tell Daddy Doyle that the place has been rented for whatever he rents it for. Then figure it out. Give me your license,” I say, waving the gun at him. I get tired of holding the gun. I’m not cut out for the gangster lifestyle. Doyle digs in his pocket and pulls out a Batman wallet, still trying to plug the flow of blood with the sleeve of his fleece. I roll my eyes. He tosses it to me, and I catch it, flipping it open. Indeed! His true name is Brian. Brian Marcus Ritter. He lives on 22 Sycamore Lane. I read all of this out loud for him. What a stupid, stupid fuck.

“Now I know where you live, Doyle,” I say. I pull out a business card from his wallet. Ritter Enterprises. His daddy is a contractor. I stick the card in my back pocket without taking my eyes from him.

“I’ll have to go to the police, and of course Daddy Ritter, if you can’t comply with my request,” I say cheerfully. “I’m sure I can find some other scammed humans to solidify my story. Fraud will get you at least seven years!”

Doyle—or Brian—looks … cornered. He also looks like he’s about to cry, the forehead sweat thickening like a flour mixture. But he’s stuck. Stuck like Chuck. And I’m the one who stuck him.

A FEW WEEKS LATER, Judah sends me an e-mail. He wants me to visit him in California. Screw the evergreens, he says. Come see the palm trees! But I’m not interested in the palm trees; I just need to get out of Seattle for a few days. Sometimes I feel like the ghost of Peter Fennet is following me around town.

I spend a lot of time wondering why this time is different—why, after I killed Lyndee and Vola, I never had nightmares. I wonder if it’s because I killed Peter Fennet before he had the chance to commit the crime.

I tell Judah I’ll come, and he buys me a ticket. On the third weekend of June, I board a plane to Los Angeles with my newly purchased duffel bag. I have never flown before and have to ask strangers what to do.

“Where is the B gate?”

“Do I wait in line now? Or will they call me by name when it’s time to board?”

“Can I put my bag anywhere, or is there a space assigned to me?”

The flight attendants are frustrated with me, and passengers look on with sympathy when I ask if there is a separate bathroom for women. It’s all a nightmare until I disembark and walk down to baggage claim where Judah is waiting for me. I run to hug him, dropping to my knees and throwing my arms around his neck.

“Hey Margo,” he whispers into my hair. “I missed you.”

“Take me to your home,” I say, standing up. And then, “How are we getting there?”

“Cab it,” he says. “My place isn’t far from here.”

He says, my place, but there is something in the tone of his voice that says it is not just his place.

Judah has a girlfriend. Her name is Erin, a horribly androgynous name with too many hippie dippie spellings: Aaron, Eryn, Errin, Erinn, Aryn. I hate her on sight—all slender, feminine five feet six inches of her. Though, as it turns out, she spells her name the regular old way: E-r-i-n. She is lithe and thin, the bones in her wrists so frail and dainty I could break them with one meaty squeeze of my hand. I envision myself doing it every time she touches Judah. She has tattoos and an eyebrow and tongue piercing, and wears clothes whose only purpose is to say: I am a free spirit. I eye her pitch-black hair, which she keeps in a charming messy knot on top of her head, and hate the white blondness of my own hair. Erin is a nurse, so she has that naturally caring thing going on. Very annoying. Her brother is blind, so I suppose she has a soft spot for handicapped men.

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