It didnt sound like prayer, not that Paz was particularly
familiar with the sound. She seemed to be talking to someone conversationally,
although he could not make out the words. It was much like the one-sided
conversations one heard lately on the streets from the people with cell phones.
Paz looked carefully: no cell phone. The woman was tall and thin and had the
bony good looks of a country-and-western star, a little faded. A C & W
singer whod never really made it, or one that had made it and then got ruined
by drink and/or shiftless men, living small in a Hialeah motel. A hard face, he
might have said, the kind you saw in the tank when the cops had rounded up a
bunch of whores, except that there was something transcendent in the expression
on her face that didnt go with the picture. She was dressed in a faded blue
T-shirt, very loose and a little soiled, a calf length brown cotton skirt, and
tire-tread sandals. Dusty feet. Her hair was crow black and cut into a boys
cap from which small lobeless ears emerged, close to the head. No earrings. Her
eyes, set deeply within a hedge of thick dark lashes, were (surprisingly, given
her hair and complexion) the color of washed blue jeans, against which the
pupils looked unusually small, like BBs. Drugged, maybe? That might explain that
expression too. She wore neither makeup nor nail polish, and her skin was sallow
in the way that indicates a deep tan faded. Against her neck, just above the
fabric of her shirt, he could make out a thin leather cord, perhaps attached to
some ornament she wore under the T-shirt.
"Excuse me," said Paz. To his surprise, the woman
rolled her eyes back into her head so that only the whites showed and toppled
gently over onto her side. Paz immediately knelt beside her and put his hand to
her neck. Her skin was moist and felt unusually hot, but the pulse beating
beneath it was strong and regular. A scent came off her, sweat and something
gas-station-ish, like oil or gas, and a faint floral note. Paz had handled many
floral arrangements in his time and recognized the odor: lilies.
The womans eyelids fluttered, her eyes opened, she jerked and
looked surprised when she saw Paz staring down at her.
"What happened?" she asked. "Whore you?"
A rural-sounding voice. Hur yew.
"You were kneeling and then you kind of keeled over,"
Paz said. "Im Detective Paz, Miami PD. Who are you?"
"Emmylou Dideroff. Is he here?" She sat up and looked
around the room.
"He would be Mr. al-Muwalid, yes?"
"Uh-huh." She rose somewhat shakily to her feet, and
Paz saw that she was tall indeed, somewhat taller than his own five ten.
"You ought to sit down," he said, "you look a
little shaky." She did, on one of the silly uncomfortable-looking French
chairs. "Youre from the police?" she asked
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