Full Scoop(9)

By: Janet Evanovich


Zack stowed his luggage in the back. The two shook hands, and Zack climbed in and started the engine. He put the gear into drive and started forward, just as the man in the Elvis suit hurried toward him lugging his suitcase.

"Hey, could you give me a lift to my hotel so I don't have to sit around all afternoon waiting on a cab?" he asked.

Zack had already studied a map of the town and knew the Holiday Inn was on his way to Maggie Davenport's house. "Put your stuff in the back," he said.

* * * * *

Carl Lee Stanton opened his eyes and blinked several times from behind the thick lenses of a pair of fake glasses that made up his disguise. He resembled Jerry Lewis in the Absentminded Professor, hair greased and slicked back, white shirt and bright red bow tie, and black slacks that were a good three inches too short. In his shirt pocket, he'd tucked a mouth appliance that fit over his top teeth for a bucktoothed look. He yawned. "Where are we?"

"Just outside Tyler," the man at the wheel said.

Carl Lee looked at the clock on the dashboard. "This is bullshit! We've been on the road four hours. We should be halfway to Shreveport, Louisiana, by now."

The man gave Carl Lee a quick glance. He'd been nicknamed Cook during his long stay at Texas Federal for "cooking the books" and skimming money at a federal savings and loan company he'd worked for. That his mistakes had been glaring proved he was not as smart an accountant as he thought. "It takes longer driving the back roads," he said. He adjusted the oversized cowboy hat he wore that had a habit of slipping forward. His country-western shirt, faded jeans, and boots made him look like a cattle rustler.

"I don't see why we can't drive the interstate," Carl Lee said. "Who the hell is going to recognize us in these getups?"

"You can go right back to sleep if you're going to start complaining again about that outfit. I think I did a damn good job putting it together." He paused. "It wouldn't hurt for you to show a little gratitude, you know?"

Carl Lee gave a grunt of annoyance. "I don't have to be grateful. I'm paying you a lot of money for your services once we get to Beaumont. If we ever arrive," he added.

"Hey, I'll drive the interstate," Cook said, his voice filled with sarcasm. "Hell, yeah! And if we get pulled over you can explain the clown in the backseat with a bullet in his gut."

"If he knew how stupid he looked in that clown outfit he would welcome death."

"People like clowns. Nobody would suspect a clown of doing anything wrong, which is why people were caught off guard when we showed up. And Loopy makes a perfect clown on account of he's got such a goofy-looking face."

"That's because he's crazy," Carl Lee said. "Everybody at Tex Fed knew he was crazy. Why would you hire a crazy person to do this kind of a job?"

"I can't do anything to please you," Cook said. "All you do is criticize and nag. You don't appreciate my sacrifices and hard work."

"You're not going to pout again, are you?"

Cook started to answer, but the man in the back moaned. "It wouldn't hurt you to check on Loopy, you know. I should probably change his bandage. I'm afraid he's lost too much blood."

Carl Lee turned in the seat. Cook had unzipped the front of the clown suit when he'd tried to stop the bleeding with an old T-shirt that was now saturated with blood. "I can't tell if he has stopped bleeding or not," Carl Lee said, turning around once more. "There's nothing we can do. If he dies, he dies."

Cook shook his head. "You're a cold man, Carl Lee. I don't know how you sleep at night."

* * * * *

Maggie closed her eyes and counted to ten as Butterbean paused to chew on a paper cup. "Hey, goat," Maggie said, giving a gentle tug on the chain, "how many times do I have to tell you I'm in a hurry?" The animal raised her head and looked at Maggie through skewed brown eyes, even as she continued eating. Horns blew and people called out to Maggie, but she ignored them. By car, her house was a mere five-minute drive, but the goat was plodding along at turtle speed even as Maggie's mind raced a gazillion miles a minute.

How to tell Mel. How to tell Mel. How to tell Mel.

I need to tell you about your father, Mel.

Um, Mel, about your father ...

By the way, Mel, did I mention that your real father is a convicted killer? No?

Damn. How many times had she rehearsed the speech in her mind, only to have it die before it reached her lips?

Suddenly, the goat came to another dead halt. Maggie turned. "What now?" she said.

Butterbean just stood there. Maggie wished she knew something about goats. She had been raised on a cattle farm but there had been no goats. She'd never even been around goats.

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