The Lamorna Wink

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Authors: Martha Grimes
he and they were on intimate terms. When the name didn’t register with Johnny, he said, “Hardy’s Tess, Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The whole tragedy could have been averted if the note to her boyfriend that she’d shoved under the door hadn’t gone under the rug. He never saw it. Are you sure she didn’t leave you a message? Did you check under the rug?”
    â€œNo.” Johnny smiled. “There aren’t any rugs near the doors.”
    â€œI meant that metaphorically. Could she have left a message anywhere you might not have come across it? Could she have told someone to make sure they told you? That sort of thing.”
    Johnny nodded. “But if she had, they’d have told me.”
    â€œOkay, let’s take it from another angle. Forget about the note.” When Johnny opened his mouth to object—Chris would never have done such a thing, left without letting him know—Charlie held up his hand. “I’m just thinking out loud, running down possibilities. Say someone out of the past comes to the door, convinces her that she has to go with him immediately. Now, I can’t think of anything in her past that might warrant such an extreme action, but you—”
    Johnny shook his head.
    â€œDon’t be so quick to dismiss it. Chrissie’s had a tough life, tougher than she probably ever told you about.” Charlie had shifted his position; he sat sideways facing the bar, one leg crossed over the other at the ankle.
    Johnny watched him. “If you want a drink, Charlie, go ahead; don’t mind me.”
    Charlie smiled. “Thanks, but I’m testing my will.”
    â€œChris says it’s nothing to do with willpower. That’s a mistake most people make about—” He shrugged.
    Charlie was looking at the bar, shaking his head in a wondering way. “That’s Chrissie.”
    And in a way it did sum her up; that really was Chrissie, who never rushed to judgment, never condemned out of hand, had an open mind and a great sense of fair play.
    But she wasn’t soft, hadn’t that sticky sweet manner that one might expect to find in such a person. Chris could be sardonic and ironic, so that some people thought her too edgy. What a mistaken impression! What she had in abundance was patience. Like the way she treated Charlie. No, you could tell Chris anything and not be misunderstood or judged or told not to feel that way.
    â€œWhat do you mean Chris had a tough life? Tough, how?”
    â€œShe had to put up with a lot. After her mother died, it pretty much fell to Chris to take charge, she being the oldest. I guess, though, there’s some good that comes of that kind of responsibility. Once you undertake it, you don’t forget it.” Charlie stared glumly into his glass.
    There was a silence as Johnny thought Charlie must have been mourning the loss of a pint. After all, he depended on it, as alcoholics say, “like a friend, a best friend.” It was perfectly possible Charlie missed beer and whisky as much as Johnny missed Chris. He said, “She hadn’t been gone long; I mean, she’d only just taken things out of the oven.”
    Johnny’s tone was so dejected that Charlie reached across the table and put a hand on the boy’s arm. “This sounds like hollow comfort, but I bet when we know what happened, after she comes back, we’ll be amazed we didn’t see it.”
    â€œIt’s like she just—vanished. As if there’d been some sleight of hand, a huge trick played,” Johnny said.
    Charlie smiled. “Sleight of hand’s our stock-in-trade. Given what’s going on, you’d better have this.” He pulled the fake gun from his pocket and put it down on the table.
    â€œI thought you said a friend needed it for his act.”
    â€œI’ve got another.” Charlie flashed a smile. “Forget Chekhov.”

12
    H e had crossed the t’s and

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