It sounded like something dying, screaming for mercy as it tore down the hill and rattled the boards of the old covered bridge. Some metallic piece of itself clanked, flew off, and smashed a window. The shattering glass set off barking dogs and groggy voices swearing in alarm.
"What the hell was that?"
"Just a car. Some idiot." Asa Cawley ran a hand over the soft bare bottom of the woman curled up next to him. "Ignore it."
Ignoring his growl as she slipped away from him and out of bed, she stood naked at the window, peering between the curtains. "Lights are going on.
Something must've happened this time. People are coming out to look."
He smiled, enjoying the shape and silky sheen of her body in the moonlight, the utter lack of self-consciousness she displayed with him. She was younger than the women he was used to. Way older than him in the life she'd already tasted. "Some damn kid flooring it through town again, that's all. Get back here."
"Maybe we should call the police."
"They'll do it themselves."
"Yeah, right. They'll call Woolly Zeb. Or that creep hiding out here from the mob. They'll do it themselves, all right. Rough justice, my ass."
He chuckled, reached for what was left of his whiskey. "Our very own mobster in a spider hole? I like that. Some imagination you got." He wanted to say she had some ass, too, and make the obvious joke about showing her some rough justice of the kind she liked every once in a while. But she wasn't always easy to read. She could turn on him, rip him a new one for being such a macho creep, and then he might as well get dressed and go home. "You sure are jumpy. It's just teenagers and their hormones out there, pissing everybody off like they’re supposed to."
"I don't like this."
"You're wasting our precious time. I'm not liking that."
She padded back to bed, burrowed under the covers, and grabbed him so he yelped.
"Your hands are freezing, woman!"
"I can't help it. I get scared. Paranoid. Who doesn't, anymore?"
"I got a cure for that." He kissed her forehead, wrapped his arms around her.
"Janine, nothing bad happens here. That's why people come here. We don’t even have tall buildings. We got nothing worth attacking here."
"I bet my husband has a different take on that."
The phone rang, drowning out Asa's grumbling. Janine waited a few beats before answering, then pretended to sound awakened from a deep sleep. "What? No .
. . what time is it? . . . Good grief, who in their right mind . . . ? Well, I thought I heard something. What happened?"
She shook her head at Asa, amused at how the stupidest things turned him on.
Busy with a phone call? How sexy, let's do it so the person on the other end has no idea. Boy, there's an original one, right up there with sex in the shower.
"Really? A hubcap? Was anybody hurt?"
She lay there with her hips arched, not making the slightest sound, running her nails down his back until he was spent, and then clamping a hand over his mouth so he wouldn't give away his own juvenile fantasy.
"Thanks for calling. See you tomorrow." She hung up the phone. "She didn't catch on. Was that fun?"
"Depends," he murmured. "Who was it?"
"Who else? Mad Muriel."
"Oh, God. With her radar, she not only caught on, she's on her way over to join the party."
"Afterward she'll write a song about it, immortalize the moment, and then sling mud all over us."
He sat up and cleared his throat. Looked for the cigarettes he'd made another New Year's resolution to quit. "So what happened?"
"A car nobody saw hit a pot hole and shot a hubcap through Bill McCurdy's kitchen window."
"Jesus! Was he sitting there staring out it?"
"No, apparently he 'had to go to the head,' so he'd left the ship's bridge for a minute."
They sat in silence, picturing it, knowing Bill would demand pulpit time in church next Sunday to bear witness and thank God for sparing him to do more of his earthly work. Which meant he'd be even more delusionally aggressive about treating the locals like mutineers who defied his orders.
"As long as he doesn't show up tomorrow," Asa said quietly. "I might have to kill him."
Janine didn't comment. She rolled on her side with her back toward Asa, tucking the covers snugly around herself.
"I wish you'd go, Jan. Be there with me."
"No way in hell."
"What if I said I needed you there?"
She watched red seconds flash on her bedside clock for a while before answering. "I can't go to your wedding, Asa."