"The other times were after we had a fight or something. This is for no good reason."
"What kind of fights?" Petrov said.
"The usualhomework, curfew, smoking."
"Oh, no." Liza Rummel put her hand to her breast, the gesture innocent, the breast heavy; both somewhat artificial.
"What have you done to find her?"
"Besides calling the police? Everything I could think ofdriving around, checking with the school."
In Petrov's experience, most people could think of more. He watched her. Was there something familiar about her, around the mouth, perhaps? She had full, shapely lips, mobile and expressive.
"Have we met somewhere?" he said.
"No. I'd of remembered meeting you." He knew what was coming next. "From the movie," she said.
The movie: ten years old now, and not a real movie in Petrov's eyes, just a TV movie-of-the-week, The Reasoner Case, Armand Assante starring as Nick Petrov; here, riding a tiny wave of hype, and gone. Was there another town in the whole country where anyone would remember? But this was L.A.
"Have you got a picture of Amanda?"
Liza Rummel flipped open her wallet. "This was at the Empty Box concert in July."
Petrov took the photo of Amanda. Face, mouth, eyes: a little lost already, the runaway look. Finding them, returning them, hardly ever changed it. Hardly ever, but not never. "Empty Box is a band?"
"She thinks they're God."
"What kind of music?"
"You know. Hard to describe."
Petrov liked the name of the band; he was also drawn to that age discrepancy between Liza Rummel's face and body, one of those human fault lines he had trouble staying away from. But the truth was he'd never turned down a case that involved a child. "I'll need to see her room," he said.
"Meaning you'll help?" Excitement lit her eyes, got washed over almost at once by worry. "I don't have a lot of money." Liza fumbled in her bag. "Here's fifty bucks. Is that okay to start?" She placed it on his palm, folded his hand around the money, squeezed it in both of hers. Her hands were hot and wet; the money hot and wet too. A big motorcycle cop watched from the other side of the parking lot, sunlight glinting on his blond mustache.
"My retainer is five hundred dollars," Petrov said. "After that, it's three hundred a day plus any special expenses like air travel, which I always clear with the client first."
"Oh," she said, letting go of his hand.
"Maybe you should try the police again," Petrov said. "I'll give you the name of someone good."
"Do you take checks?" Liza Rummel said.
Petrov took a check for four hundred and fifty dollars. He walked Liza to her car, an old baby blue Mustang convertible, dented on the outside, littered within, the ashtray full of red-tipped cigarette butts. Climbing in, she looked up and said, "Did you ever actually get to meet Armand Assante?"
"Once or twice."
"What's he like?"
Liza Rummel drove the baby blue Mustang in a way that said the carin its ideal, brand-new formwas her. Petrov followed110 to the 101listening to a Jussi Bjoerling recital. A man in the audienceprobably long dead, this was Paris, 1956called out a request: "Nessun Dorma." Laughter followed. Petrov had often listened to the recording, but now for the first time picked out one woman quite clearly, her amusement and excitement, sexuality even, captured in digital form forever. He could almost see the pearls around her neck.
The foregoing is excerpted from Oblivion by Peter Abrahams. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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