19. I’m Their Man

“Let’s go,” Duke said after Roscoe took off in his cruiser.

“We just leave them?” I asked. The three dead Mexicans were ripping up the carpeting with their bare hands.

“You got no worries with these guys. They work until they’re done.”

Hasta luego,” El Raton said, barely looking up.

Duke followed me to the Mercedes.

“Where you want to go?” I asked him.

“Back through the portal. I got meetings with Pimlipper and Graydon, plus the guys in Creative.”

“At this hour?” Sunrise was still a long way off. The night was cold and clear. A breeze rattled the leaves in the gutter.

“You don’t have to sleep, time doesn’t matter.”

“I’d miss the dreaming.”

“Depends on your dreams.”

We crossed the Victoria bridge over the freeway and headed up the hill. Past the Subway and Lee and Dee’s Barbecue Express, past the Baptist church.

Past all those markers that said, We’re striving. We’re rising. At least we hope we are.

Then we made the left onto Summit, where I felt like an impostor. Maybe everyone else did too.

“You felt at home here?” I asked Duke.

He was lost in whatever thoughts occupy the dead. “What?” he said.

“In your mansion, you felt like you belonged?”

“Why not? I had the dough. I owned the joint. If I didn’t belong there, who did?”

“You, me, Roscoe, same, same, same. The way we were raised.”

“The guys who built these places,” Duke said. “You ask them who they want to hang with, somebody like me or their fifth generation relation?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s me every time. J.J. Hill. Weyerhauser. They didn’t have a fortune because somebody wrote them into the will. They stole it, earned it, hustled it. Trust me, I tell them about some scheme I pulled off and their eyes light up. I’m their man. Not some Binky or Muffy sipping a gin and tonic at the tennis club. I’m the guy who belongs. Once we’re done with you, Fatman, you’ll be that guy, too.”

I pulled into the driveway. Duke followed me to the side door. I fumbled with the key.

“I still don’t have the hang of this,” I said.

“Here, give it to me.” Duke grabbed the key out of my hand.

Before he could get the key stuck in the cylinder the door opened. Doris stood there with a baseball bat in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

Tomorrow: Isn’t anything ever over?

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