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“She’s a goddamned whore,” Harry Kyle said. “And I don’t want her in this house again.”
“For God’s sake, Harry, you’re talking about your own daughter,” his wife said.
“She’s a goddamned whore,” Harry said.
“You don’t know that, Mr. Kyle,” Susan said.
“The hell I don’t. I saw her in there hanging all over some guy older than me. I saw what she was doing and she can keep right on doing it, because she ain’t coming back here.”
“That doesn’t make her a whore, Mr. Kyle.”
“Don’t tell me what it makes and doesn’t make, lady. I don’t need some goddamned goody two-shoes coming around and giving me a lot of that bleeding-heart mumbo jumbo they teach nowadays.”
“Harry,” I said.
Susan looked at me. The look said shut up. A lot of people looked at me like that, but to Susan I paid attention. We were standing in the perfect living room of a perfect house in a perfect development in Smithfield. The upholstery was all in powder blue and the rug and walls and drapes all coordinated with it. The furniture was massive Mediterranean oak, probably—dark stained. You could tell they’d bought it all at once. It was a set, a living room set. I was willing to bet my new blackjack that there was a dining room set in the dining room and at least four bedroom sets upstairs. The cellar probably had a cellar set, all coordinated with the furnace.
Kyle was tall and fat with an unhealthy flush to his face and fleshy neck that spilled over his shirt collar. He’d made a lot of money selling insurance, Susan had told me. And he looked like he’d spent half of it on clothes. He wasn’t wearing his suit jacket, but the vest and pants were enough to say that the suit had been made for him and probably cost $750. Fat as he was, there was no gap between the vest and the pants.
“I gave that kid every chance,” Kyle said. “And she threw it in my face.”
His wife said, “Please, Harry.”
“I worked my ass off, to get us where we are. And she pulls this, after all she’s gotten? She pulls this on me? No thanks. I don’t have a daughter anymore, you understand?”
His wife said, “Maybe it was somebody else, Harry.” She was thin with a dark face and wiry black hair cut short. Her features were thin and her face was narrow. She was wearing a pink blouse and pants, and pink shoes. Her eyes were red. I assumed she’d been crying. I didn’t blame her. Harry made me feel a little teary myself.
“Mr. Kyle,” Susan said. “Talk to Spenser. He’s an excellent detective. He can find April, bring her home. You can’t reject a child simply because she doesn’t please you. Let us try.”
“Listen to her, Harry,” his wife said. “Your own daughter.”
Kyle looked at me. “Okay, let’s hear your pitch,” he said.
“I got no pitch,” I said. “I just swung by for a charm fix.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kyle said.
“Mr. Kyle,” Susan said, “April could be in serious trouble. If it really was she you saw in the Combat Zone with an older man, it is important to get her out of there.” She looked at me even harder than she had before.
“So what are you crying to me about?” Kyle said. “You’re worried about her, you go get her.”
“Because I need a home to bring her back to, Mr. Kyle.”
“Yeah, you don’t mind bringing her back, but you don’t want to take her in, do you?”
“Mr. Kyle, she’s not my daughter. Whether I wish to take her in, what’s more important is that you wish to take her in. Can’t you understand that?”
“Hey,” Kyle said, “I sold nearly two million dollars in life insurance last year, honey. I can understand a lot of things.”
“How much you got on yourself?” I said.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Kyle said.
“If you call Mrs. Silverman honey again, it’ll be relevant.”
“What are you, some kind of tough guy?” Kyle said. But he didn’t say it with very much starch.
“Yes,” I said. Susan put her hand on my arm and squeezed.
“Mrs. Kyle,” Susan said, “do you want your daughter back?”
“Yes.” She looked at her husband. “Yes, but Harry … I … Could I get you some coffee? And some cake? And we could sit down and try to …” She made a flutter with her right hand and stopped talking.
“For crissake, Bunni, nobody wants any goddamn cake.”
“Harry, I just asked,” Mrs. Kyle said.
“Just shut up, will you, and let me handle this.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I looked at Susan. I could see the anger tightening her face, pinching small commas at the corners of her mouth.
Kyle turned to us, an in-charge guy, and tossed his chin at me. “How much you charge?” he said.
“To work for you?”
“Two hundred billion dollars a day.”
Kyle frowned. For a moment he’d felt comfortable, talking price. He knew about price. “You being a wise guy?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You want the job or not?” Kyle said.
“I would rather spend the rest of my life at a Barry Manilow concert,” I said.
Kyle looked at Susan, “I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” he said.
Susan looked half mad and half amused. “He’s saying he doesn’t want to work for you.”
“Then what the hell did you bring him here for, for crissake?”
“When I came,” I said, “I didn’t know you. Now I do. If I were your kid, I’d run away too.”
Bunni Kyle said, “Mr. Spencer.”
Susan said, looking at me at full voltage, “The girl, the girl needs help. Her father is not her fault.”
“Never mind,” Kyle said. “The hell with him.”
“For me,” Susan said, looking right at me. “A favor. For me.”
I took in a deep breath. Mrs. Kyle was looking at me. I said to her, “I’ll work for you, Mrs. Kyle.”
“Like hell you will,” Kyle said. “I’m not paying you a dime to work for anyone.”
“One dollar,” I said to Mrs. Kyle. “I will work for you for a dollar. I’ll find the kid and bring her back to you.”
“Oh, no,” Kyle said. “No you don’t. I say no, I mean no.”
I put my face into his. His breath smelled of martini and peanuts. “If you don’t button it up,” I said with as much control as I had left, “I am going to hurt you.”
Kyle opened his mouth to speak and looked at me and saw something in my face that made him shut his mouth without speaking. Susan insinuated herself between us.
“Come on, ducky,” she said. “Let’s go find April.” She leaned back against me, pushing me away with her butt. If I hadn’t been so mad I’d have enjoyed it. “I’ll call you, Mrs. Kyle, the minute we find her.” Susan backed us toward the door.
Kyle was looking at me, the color of his face deepening to maroon.
“While you’re pushing me,” I murmured to Susan, “with your seat, could you sway back and forth slightly?”
She gave a harder push.
I said in a falsetto voice, “That’s not what I meant.” And we left.