Posted by John on Monday, 23 October

Fred Dove gave her a thumbs-up. That was my next question. I kept my hand over the papers so he wouldnt see. Good girl. Can we get two checks instead of one I think so, Edie. Sure. One for the dwelling, one for the contents. Thats the idea, the insurance man said. An extra sixty for you and me. But dont say a word about this. No shit, Sherlock. Hes still got three bullets left, remember She pecked Fred Dove on the lips and aimed him out the back door. CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Skink and Bonnie Lamb kept watch over the house on Calusa while Augustine returned to the pickup truck for the guns. He wasnt in the mood to shoot at anybody, even with monkey tranquilizer. Making love to Bonnie had left him recklessly serene and sleepy-headed. He resolved to shake himself out of it. First he attempted to depress himself with misgivings and high-minded reproach. The woman was married, newly married! She was confused, lonely, vulnerable- Augustine piled it on, struggling to feel like a worthless low-life piece of shit. But he was too happy. Bonnie dazzled him with her nerve. Augustine hadnt ever been with a woman who would stoically snack on roadkill, or fail to complain about mosquitoes. Moreover, she seemed to understand the psychotherapeutic benefits of skull juggling. Touching death, shed said, or maybe teasing it. In the aftermath of passion, zipped naked into a sleeping bag, a lovers groggiest murmurs can be mistaken for piercing insight. Augustine had cautioned himself against drawing too much from those tender exhausted moments with Bonnie Lamb. Yet here he was with a soaring heart and the hint of a goddamn spring in his step. Would he ever learn As much as he craved her company, Augustine was apprehensive about Bonnies joining Skinks expedition. He feared that hed worry about her to distraction, and he needed his brain to be clear, uncluttered. As long as the governor ran the show, trouble was positively guaranteed. Augustine was counting on it; he couldnt wait. Finally he was on the verge of recapturing, at least temporarily, direction and purpose. Bonnie was a complication. A week ago Augustine had nothing to lose, and now he had something. Everything. Loves lousy timing, he thought. Secret moves would be easier with only the two of them, he and Skink. But Bonnie demanded to be in the middle, playing Etta to their Butch and Sundance. The governor didnt seem to care; of course, he lived in a different universe. Happiness is never grand, hed whispered to Augustine. Aldous Huxley. Being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune. You think about that. When Augustine got to the truck, he broke down the dart rifle and concealed the pieces in a gym bag. The .38 pistol he tucked in the gut of his jeans, beneath his shirt. He slung the gym bag over his shoulder and began hiking back toward Calusa, wondering if Huxley was right. As soon as Dennis Reedy and Fred Dove drove away, Edie Marsh hauled Levon Stichler out of the closet. Snapper wasnt much help. He claimed to be saving his energy. Edie poked the old man with a bare toe. So what are we going to do with him It was a question of paramount interest to Levon Stichler as well. His eyes widened in anticipation of Snappers answer, which was: Dump him. Where asked Edie. Far away, Snapper said. Fucker meant to kill me. It was a pitiful try, youve got to admit. So Its the thought that counts. Edie said, Look at him, Snapper. Hes not worth the bullet. Levon Stichler wasnt the slightest bit insulted. Edie pulled the gag from his mouth, prompting the old man to spit repeatedly on the floor. The gag was a dust cloth that tasted pungently of furniture wax. Thank you, he panted. Shut up, asshole, said Snapper. Edie Marsh said: Whats your name, Grampy Levon Stichler told her. He explained why hed come to assassinate the mobile-home salesman. Well, somebody beat you to it. Edie described