Triage: A Thriller (Shell Series)

Free Triage: A Thriller (Shell Series) by Phillip Thomas Duck

Book: Triage: A Thriller (Shell Series) by Phillip Thomas Duck Read Free Book Online
Authors: Phillip Thomas Duck
from his home on the western shores of Africa. His skin was the exaggerated dark black of temporary hair dye, his teeth straight and near white. He’d told me his name, but I hadn’t really processed it. Didn’t want, or need, friends.
    “I have to get myself a vehicle,” I said, once we were in his car, traveling.
    “Rental, sir?”
    “Probably,” I said. “Hope I won’t be here long.”
    “Visiting family, sir?”
    “I know of a place to rent vehicles from. I’ll direct you there,” I told him.
    I caught the glow of his smile reflected in his rearview mirror. “You have something sporty in mind, sir?”
    “Anything,” I said, my gaze falling along with my voice, “but a Yukon.”
     

SIX
     
    “THAT ARROZ CON POLLO I smell?”
    I said it with a rare smile on my face. The smile did me little good. She still looked at me as though gas fumes were overtaking her foyer. I would have knocked at her door in the middle of night, preferring the cover of darkness myself, but considering her reaction now, even with a bloodred sun lighting my back, this day visit was the better bet.
    Not by much, though.
    “How long has it been, Mrs. Rubalcaba?” I asked.
    I already knew the answer: almost a year.
    She didn’t respond.
    We stood there on her porch, Narciso Lopez’s flag of Cuba extended above us on a flagpole bracketed to the frame of the house, the five blue and white stripes, the five-pointed star, the equilateral red triangle of the flag all remaining still in the breezeless sky.
    Mrs. Rubalcaba had a squat frame, porcelain white skin with swirls of pink in it, especially around her cheeks. Her legs turned to ankles of the same thickness. Curls of hair as white as camera flash peeked out from under a forest green knit hat. Her eyes were dark. Her mouth made angry by the age lines above and at the corners of her lips. Those age lines were the only ones on her face. Her skin was unblemished otherwise, smooth, and yet she still looked her age because of that angry mouth. I tried to picture her thirty years earlier. Imagined her thinner, attractive, pleasant. As in the sepia-toned pictures I’d been told lined the walls in her living room. It was a hopeless exercise for me. She wasn’t thin, wasn’t attractive any longer. Wasn’t pleasant, and had never been to me. I suppose I was someone to fear and hate. And she’d always let me know it.
    She was dressed in a faded print dress, an overdone apron with its tie straps barely able to reach around her ample waist. The apron had a deep pocket sewed in the front. The neck of a bottle of Cuban rum peeked over the pocket’s edge. Ron Santiago de Cuba. I looked at Mrs. Rubalcaba’s eyes, searched to see if they were marred by broken blood vessels or glazed over like a child’s new marbles. Surprisingly, she didn’t look away from my appraisal. My hand was a Royal Flush but she held her five junk cards without losing a bit of her edge. After a beat of us staring wordlessly at one another she said something I didn’t understand but knew was harsh.
    “Mrs. Rubalcaba, I—”
    “You leave please.”
    Her tone made me swallow. I was at the top of her porch steps, terra cotta flower pots crowded all around me, stains from soil overflow painted into the gray steps. Gray.
    I gave up trying to reach her. “Mr. Rubalcaba home? Let me speak with your husband. Your esposo.”
    Her husband, an old ally.
    “No.” She shook her head vigorously. “No Armando.”
    “I have some things I’d like to leave with him,” I explained. I turned toward my rental car, a shiny black Acura TL parked curbside, as if Mrs. Rubalcaba could see the items placed carefully on the backseat. Several seven-pound bags of dry dog food, Purina Beneful. Twenty-two ounce buckets of Buddy “Luv” dog treats, Chocolit Chip Cookie flavor. Three cases of 48-pack Poland Spring water bottles, eight ounces each. The brands and serving sizes very precise and exact.
    “No Armando,” she barked.
    My

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