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Showdown-Ed Gorman.

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me from my own cop days. They looked bored. Loop duty isn't a lot of fun.

      By the time I drove past Donna's office, which is outside the Loop, I was no longer pissed at Wade, if I ever had been exactly. I liked the bastard, couldn't help it, and so did Donna. Now I was worried about what he'd do next. Variety would certainly carry the story about how he'd been fired from a small theater in the boonies. It was just the kind of ammunition West Coast casting directors would need to shut him off for good.

      I drove into the parking lot at Donna's. Her car was gone. I felt one of those inexplicable pangs of betrayal. I really needed her. Couldn't she sense that through telepathy or some damn thing?

      "You're really in a bad mood, aren't you?" I said after she opened the door in her robe and curlers and stood, hip cocked, glaring at me.

      "I will be if you start that number again," she said in her best severe voice.

      The "number" she referred to was how I'd simply pointed out that she became intolerable the closer she got to deadline. I'd once made the same observation about the first few days of her period, but she got so mad—I mean fucking crazed—that I knew better than to ever bring that up again.

      There was a long and nervous silence. I saw her ironing board up behind her—she hates ironing the way I hate making beds—and the TV was on. It was Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield.

      "You could always invite me in."

      "Well, you can see the kind of shape the place is in."

      "Yeah, and you know how much I care about that sort of thing."

      "You sound kinda down."

      "I am, I guess."

      "Well," she said. "I mean, to be real honest, Dwyer, you think we should be together tonight?"

      "Why not?"

      "Well, even though I think your routine about me being crabby the closer I get to deadline is all in your imagination, the rain has sort of got me down. Or something. I mean I was sitting there watching a Fritos commercial and I just burst into tears. A Fritos commercial."

      "It's the rain."

      "Don't sound so goddamn smug."

      "Jesus, Donna, lighten up."

      "And don't tell me to lighten up."

      "All I said," I said, "was that it's the rain. You know how you get."

      "And you don't get that way?"

      "Well, sort of I do."

      "'Sort of.'"

      I shook my head. Right then I felt like an orphan. "Maybe you're right. Maybe tonight's not a good night to get together."

      She hadn't lightened up any. "Yeah, maybe you are right."

      "Well," I said, wanting her to stop me. But she didn't. "Well, good night, Donna." I knew better than to try to kiss her.

      "Good night, Dwyer." And with that she closed the door.

      I went down the stairs, feeling very sorry for myself. I was about twenty feet down the walk, the cold rain combining now with fog, when I heard a window being pushed up.

      "God, Dwyer, I'm sorry. I really am."

      I turned around. I had no shame. "So can I spend the night?"

      But that only irritated her again. "Why don't you just tell everybody in the apartment house that we sleep together?"

      I cupped my hands. "Donna Harris and a guy named Dwyer are sleeping together."

      "You asshole."

      "So can I come up?"

      "You asshole."

      I took that to mean I could come up.

      It wasn't the sort of lovemaking you read about in Judith Krantz novels. I mean, in terms of the old amore, we've certainly had better nights. I wanted to and she didn't want to, then she wanted to and I didn't want to, then neither of us wanted to, and then both of us wanted to, so we did—but by that time it was doomed to be less than wonderful. Holding each other afterward was actually better than the sex, holding each other and listening to the rain on the roof and watching the shadows of trees play in the streetlight and toss silhouettes across her bedroom walls like magic lanterns.

      "I'm sorry it wasn't better for you," she said after a long time. It was the first time all night she had sounded glad to see me.

      "Hey, I'm sorry it wasn't better for you. At least I had an orgasm."

      "Well, I had an orgasm, too."

      "You did? Really?"

      "Well, something like an orgasm anyway."

      Which meant that she hadn't had an orgasm at all but was being sweet and her being sweet there in the darkness really cranked me up again and when I got cranked up she got cranked up and this time it was really kick-ass good, the way it can be only when you're loving somebody you truly love.

      "Boy," she said afterward. "Boy."

      "I take it it was better that time."

      "You just want a compliment," she said and then promptly fell asleep without giving me one.

      I was on the bottom of an ocean, chained to a rock the size of a house. I was being called urgently to the surface but I couldn't escape, hard as I tried.

      I woke up realizing that the phone was ringing. It was on my side of her bed. She had her arms flung wide and was snoring. She was the only woman I'd ever known who could snore cute. I got the phone.

      There was a long pause on the other end, a heavy-breather pause. I wondered if it might be a twist-o, or her ex-husband, the very wonderful (just ask him) Chad. But it wasn't.

      He was very drunk and he had to say it twice before I could understand what the hell he was saying. " 's big trull. 's big big trull."

      Big big trouble.

      I remembered my police training. When you talk to somebody drunk or desperate, stay calm.

      "Where are you?"

      " 's one piece 'a trull I won't get outta."

      "Stephen, where are you?"

      Another long pause. I heard a match being struck. In the receiver it sounded like a bomb going off. "Where are you?" I repeated.

      The cigarette had apparently helped a bit. At least I could understand him on the first sentence now. "I'm at his apartment."

      "Whose apartment?"


      "Reeves's? Stephen, what the hell are you doing there?"

      By now Donna was awake, whispering, "Is he all right?" She had a daughterly affection for Wade. At moments such as these it would translate into terror.

      "Came over to 'pologize," he said.

      "So what happened?"

      There was a long sigh and then a silence and then a sigh again. "Fucker's dead."


      Another sigh. When he spoke again, he sounded miserable and lost. He sounded on the verge of tears. "I don't know what happened over here, Dwyer. Please come over right away. Please."

      With that, he hung up the phone.