The rain was harder, colder. I tried to draw Robin under the umbrella but she resisted, remained out in the open, raised her face and caught the spray full force. A man scrambling for cover turned to stare.
I reached for her again. She continued to balk, licked moisture from her lips. Smiled faintly, as if enjoying a private joke. For a moment I thought she'd share it. Instead, she pointed to a brasserie two doors up the street and ran in ahead of me.
"Bonnie Raitt," I repeated.
We were at a tiny table tucked in a corner of the clammy brasserie. The restaurant floor was a grubby mesh of white tile and the walls were cloudy mirrors and oft-painted brown woodwork. A clinically depressed waiter brought us our salads and wine as if service was harsh penance. Rain washed the front window and turned the city to gelatin.
"Bonnie," she said. "Jackson Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin, maybe others."
"At least three months," she said, still avoiding my eyes. "If it goes international, it could stretch longer."
"World hunger," I said. "Good cause."
"Famine and child welfare," she said.
She turned to me. Her eyes were dry and defiant.
"So," I said. "You're an equipment manager, now. No more guitar-making?"
"There'll be luthiery involved. I'll be overseeing and repairing all the gear."
I'll, not I'd. One-vote-election, nothing tentative.
"When exactly did you get the offer?" I said.
"Two weeks ago."
"I know I should've said something. It wasn'tit dropped in my lap. Remember when I was at Gold-Tone Studios and they needed those vintage archtops for that retro Elvis video? The tour manager happened to be in the next booth, watching some mixing, and ended up talking."
"Sociable woman," she said. "She had her dog with heran English bulldog, a female. Spike started playing with her and we started talking."
"Animal magnetism," I said. "Is the tour dog-friendly, or do I keep Spike?"
"I'd like to take him along."
"I'm sure that'll thrill him to no end. When do you leave?"
"In a week."
"A week." My eyes hurt. "Lots of packing ahead."
She lifted her fork and pronged dead lettuce leaves. "I can call it off"
"No," I said.
"I wouldn't have even considered it, Alex, not for the money"
She named the figure.
"Very good money," I said.
"Listen to what I'm saying, Alex: That doesn't matter. If you're going to hate me, it can be undone."
"I don't hate you, and you don't want it undone. Maybe you accepted the offer because I made you unhappy, but now that you've committed yourself, you're seeing all kinds of positives."
I craved argument but she didn't answer. The restaurant was filling, drenched Parisians seeking shelter from the downpour.
"Two weeks ago," I said, "I was running around with Milo on Lauren Teague's murder. Hiding what I was doing from you. I was stupid to think this trip would make a difference."
She pushed salad around. The room had grown hotter, smaller; scowling people crowded tiny tables, others stood huddled at the doorway. The waiter began to approach. Robin repelled him with a glare.
She said, "I've felt so alone. For a while. You were gone all the time. Putting yourself in situations. I didn't bring up the tour, because I knew you couldn'tshouldn't be distracted."
She rolled the side of a small fist along the table rim. "I guess I've always felt that what you do is important and that what I do is . . . just craft." I started to speak but she shook her head. "But this last time, Alex. Meeting with that woman, seducing her. Planning a damned date in order toyour intentions were good, but it still came down to seduction. Using yourself as a . . ."
Excerpted from The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman. Copyright 2002 by Jonathan Kellerman. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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