There was some unstated agreement that this love making would require nonstop movement, not necessarily frenzied but definitely continuous. Stopping would lead to thinking and thinking would be bad. We took turns crushing each other into the slick, uncomfortably bumpy surface of the mattress, little pinprickers of rayon stitching needling us in our backs. The room was air conditioned but we quickly became sweaty and noisy until the sounds became an uncontrollable cause for the giggles and then almost as quickly stopped mattering. We rolled a little too far, off the side of the bed. I remember something about a pain in my elbow but that didn't matter much either. We readjusted and sat facing one another, Allison's chin at the level of my mouth and her feet curled against the small of my back. Allison hugged me very tight with her arms and legs and buried her face in my neck and trembled quietly, as if she were crying again. I inhaled sharply and joined her and my body didn't know to stop the movement until Allison's muffled voice spoke into my neck. "Please—okay. Okay."

We stayed still then, feeling each other breathe until the rhythm of our lungs slowed and the hardwood floor began to feel uncomfortable. Our skin separated in places like candle wax being peeled away.

Allison smushed her nose against my cheek and rubbed around until her lips connected with mine. When I kissed her the second time I kissed teeth.

"When you say 'let's do something constructive,' Mr. Navarre—"

"Shut up."

She laughed, pulled her face away, and cupped my ears lightly with her fingers. "Didn't happen."

"Of course not."

She kissed me again. "You're still holding out on me for fifty thousand dollars."

"You're just trying to get the money."

We showed each other how much we detested each other for a while longer.

At some point I remember looking up and seeing the Latina maid in the doorway, but when I opened my eyes for a better look she was gone, just a momentary vision of bored, aging eyes in an impassive face, showing more irritation than embarrassment at the gringos on the floor of the stripped bedroom, giggling foolishly and muttered little

"I hate you’s.” Maybe to the maid we were just one more item she would be glad to be rid of when the house passed to more respectable owners.


"I liked the Audi better," Allison told me.

We were sitting in the VW with the top up, the windows open, but not a bit of circulation coming through. The afternoon had turned thick and gray and lukewarm. Nothing interesting was happening at the warehouse across the street.

"What is this?" I asked. "Number seven?"

"Five," she corrected, pushing up the sunglasses. "It just feels like seven."

I borrowed the list of addresses from her, a photocopy of the document we'd found in Les SaintPierre's boat shed. I scanned the page. A total of twentythree addresses just in San Antonio. At this rate it would be way past Friday before I even had time to find them all, much less figure out ways to get inside and see if they had value to the case against Sheckly. Sam Barrera could have probably put his agency into high gear and gotten the job done in one afternoon if he hadn't had legal restrictions to deal with.

Sam Barrera could go to hell.

So far all the addresses were storage facilities or trucking yards. Not all of them said Paintbrush Enterprises on the gates but I had a suspicion Tilden Sheckly or his friends from Luxembourg had a stake in each, one way or another.

Each address had a date next to it. Allison and I had started the search with the location closest to today and worked our way forward in time. We were now on November 5, four days from now. The address was in a light industry park in the elbow of land where Nacogdoches met PerrinBeitel and became, in true Texas creative thinking, NacoPerrin.

The storage facility consisted of a pair of long parallel buildings, painted army green with mauve trim. The inwardfacing walls were lined with steel rollup doors and stubby loading docks and were just far enough apart that a semirig could back in and deposit its freight box on either side. The asphalt between the two buildings was scarred with large black semicircles from truck tires. It looked like somebody had been in the habit of drinking from Godsized Coke cans there and hadn't had the sense to use coasters.

The complex was ringed with tenfoot chain link, no barbed wire at the top but a security guard in a booth at the front gate and good night lighting all the way around. In the day, traffic on the back side of the industry park was heavy—a constant stream of cars cruising NacoPerrin's ugly strip malls and fastfood restaurants. On the entrance side of Sheckly's facility, traffic was lighter. The only neighbour was a sulfurprocessing plant across the street, acres of weed, and mountains of moon dust.

At the moment the guard at the gate wasn't very interesting to watch. He was reading a little magazine, Security Guard's Digest probably. The gates were closed and there were two detached freight boxes in the yard in front of closed loading doors. No business in or out.

Allison sighed. "This is better than staring at the walls at the old house. But only slightly."

Before we'd left Monte Vista, Allison had started referring to her home of two years as the old house. When she'd plopped into the shotgun seat of the VW she'd insisted that she was completely all right, over Les, finished grieving for Brent, ready to help me, and convinced that our afternoon together had been nothing but a nice little break from reality. I wasn't buying any of it and I don't think she was either, but it did let us set aside weightier issues so we could concentrate on watching empty loading docks.

I was about to suggest trying address number six when a white BMW sedan cruised past us on Nacogdoches. It slowed, then turned at the gate. The security guard immediately discarded his magazine and came out to the driver's side window.

"Ignition," I said.

Allison sat up and looked.

Jean Kraus rolled down the BMW's window and spoke to the guard, who nodded. Jean spoke again, smiling, and the guard nodded even more vigorously.

The guard trotted up to the gate, unchained it, and swung open one side. The white BMW drove through. Jean Kraus parked next to the first trailer and he and two other men extracted themselves from the sedan. Jean was dressed for success—an Armani suit, beige, with a little black tie and plenty of silver accents. The other two men I didn't recognize. One was well built, Anglo, with curly brown hair and dress slacks that didn't match the sleeveless Tshirt. The third guy was taller, older, a black sweat suit and the remnants of black hair.

Jean seemed to be pointing out some things to the men, giving them the tour. After a fiveminute conversation and some head nodding and a few looks at the loading bays, all three got back in the BMW and left.

"They're moving cargo out," I said. "Getting rid of it early."

Allison looked at me. "Are we being constructive yet?"

"We're on the outskirts."

I started the engine of the VW.

We followed Jean's BMW for a few miles down Perrin Beitel before it became too difficult. The traffic was bad, Jean was a little too jumpy a driver, and my orange bug was anything but nondescript. To stay with him I had to risk discovery. I fell back and let him go.

"Does this mean we don't get to beat the shit out of anybody?" Allison wanted to know.

"I'm sorry, honey."

Allison pouted.

It was starting to get dark when I dropped her back at the old house in Monte Vista.

Allison insisted on staying there and she insisted on staying there alone. I didn't argue very hard with the second part. Seeing her get out of the car, I started developing a funny empty feeling in my intestinal basement that either meant I very much wanted to stay with her or I very much didn't. You get to feeling those extremes and not being able to tell them apart, it's time to go home by yourself and feed the cat.

I watched her walk all the way up the sidewalk and go inside and I watched the door for a long time after that. The door didn't reopen.

When I got home I showered, picked the cleanest things I could find out of the growing pile of laundry, then made two calls.

Ray Lozano answered at the Bexar County M.E.'s office.

"Raymond. This is Tres."

A moment of silence. "As in the guy who owes me the Spurs tickets?"

"Yeah, about that—"

"Save it, Navarre. You keep making promises and I keep believing, it'll just make me feel bad."

"Faith is an admirable quality, Raymond. You like the Oilers?"

"What do you want?"

I read Lozano the notes Frank had given me from the Avalon County autopsy of Brent Daniels.

"So?" he said.

"What can you interpret?"

"They were lucky to get as much tissue as they did, given the state of the body. It sounds like this guy was dead before he burned. No soot particles in the bronchi. No carboxyhemoglobin in the fluids. This guy didn't go down breathing smoke."

"And the lack of a positive ID?"

"Somewhat unusual, given that they know the victim, but it's early. They have to be one hundred percent sure. If you have to wait for Xray records from a big hospital, or wait for the odontologist, maybe the anthropologist to come down from Austin, it can take up to ten days. Sometimes more. It doesn't sound like there's really any doubt, though. The size is right, compensating for shrinkage? age and sex are right."

"What about these trace chemicals?" I read off some hardtopronounce compounds the M.E. had found in the few remaining fluids of Brent's body.

Lozano ticked his tongue a few times. "I'd have to check with a toxicologist. Was this guy an alcoholic?"

"Probably. Yes."

"Okay—that gives you a setup for liver damage, poor sugar processing. If the guy came in contact with certain other drugs in a large enough dosage, they could trigger the kind of chemicals you're seeing there, only that would mean the subject was in a diabetic coma before he died."

"A coma. You mean like if he came into contact with diabetes drugs? Gluco somethingorother?"

"Glucophage. Absolutely."

I was quiet so long Lozano finally said, "You still there?"

"Yeah. You think—would somebody OD on these, for suicide?"

Lozano blew air. "Not unless they were mainline stupid. Chances are pretty good the drugs wouldn't kill you, they'd just turn you into a vegetable. I know one nurse at the Medical Centre that happened to, man—alcohol and diabetes medicine. They're changing her diapers three times a day now. Plus it wouldn't make sense—a guy goes comatose, then dies, then becomes a crispy critter."


"That information helpful at all?"

I probably didn't sound too enthusiastic when I said, "Yeah. It's helpful."

"Now what was that about the Oilers?" Lozano started to say. But the phone was already halfway to the cradle.

Milo Chavez was even more thrilled to hear from me.

"Tell me Miranda is safe," he demanded.

"Miranda's safe."

"Tell me I shouldn't kill you for taking off with her like you did."

"Come on, Milo."

"I had a couple of Avalon County dicks in the office this morning, Navarre. They had some questions about how Les and I got along with Brent Daniels, why I might've hired a PI and what kind of work you did, whether you were licensed or not. I didn't like the direction they were going."