He sat on the railing and swung both legs over. Easy for you to say. You arent named Melvin Pickle. And I bet you were a baton twirler in high school. You probably had friends. You probably date.
I dont exactly date, but I sort of have a boyfriend. What does sort of mean?
It means that he looks like my boyfriend, but I dont say it out loud.
Why not? Pickle wanted to know.
It feels weird. Im not sure why. Okay, I knew why, but I wasnt going to say that out loud either. I had feelings for two men, and I didnt know how to chose between them.
And I wish you wouldnt sit like that. Its creeping me out.
Are you afraid Ill fall? I thought you didnt care. Remember dead or alive?
My cell phone was ringing in my bag.
For crying out loud, answer it, Pickle said. Dont worry about me, Im only going to kill myself.
I did an exaggerated eye roll and answered the phone.
Hey, Lula said. Where are you? I been looking all over.
Im in the hotel at the end of the mall.
Im right outside of that hotel. What are you doing there? Do you have Pickle?
I dont exactly have Pickle. Were on the sixth floor, and hes thinking about jumping off the balcony.
I looked over the railing and saw Lula walk into the atrium. She looked up, and I waved at her.
I see you, Lula said. Tell Pickle hes gonna make a big mess if he jumps. This floors marble, and his heads gonna crack open like a fresh egg, and theres gonna be brains and blood all over the place.
I disconnected and relayed the message to Pickle.
I have a plan, he said. Im going to jump feet first. That way my head wont make such an impact when I land.
Pickle was getting noticed. People were dotted around the atrium, looking up at him. The elevator opened behind me and a man in a suit stepped out.
Whats going on here? he wanted to know.
Dont come near me! Pickle yelled. If you come near me, Ill jump.
Im the hotel manager, the man said. Is there something I can do?
Do you have a giant net? I asked him.
Just go away, Pickle said. I have big problems. Im a pervert.
You dont look like a pervert, the manager said.
I whacked off in t he multiplex, Pickle told him. Everybody whacks off in the multiplex, the manager said. I like to go when theres one of those chick flicks playing, and I wear my wifes panties and I
Jeez, Pickle said. Too much information.
The manager disappeared behind the elevator doors and minutes later reappeared in the lobby. He stood in a small cluster of hotel employees, everyone with their heads back, their eyes glued to Pickle.
Youre making a scene, I said to Pickle.
Yeah, Pickle said. Pretty soon theyre going to start yelling jump. The human race is lacking. Have you noticed?
There are some good people, I told him.
Oh yeah? Whos the best person you know? Of all the people you know personally, is there anyone who has a sense of right and wrong and lives by it?
This was a sticky question because it would have to be Ranger . . . but I suspected he occasionally killed people. Only bad people, of course, but still . . .
Excerpted from Twelve Sharp, copyright (c) 2006, Janet Ivanovich. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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