Read Four Kinds of Rain Online

Authors: Robert Ward

Four Kinds of Rain (21 page)

Had it ever really happened at all? It seemed not.

Bob remembered a patient he’d had years ago, an inmate named Shirl King, who had committed three murders. When Bob had asked her if she felt guilty about them, she’d said, “Yeah, unless I fuck a lot. Sex kills all the guilt.” That was, of course, a crude and reductive line, but Bob now saw the truth in it. Like sex, fame was such a shot of adrenaline that it literally wiped away bad memories and ugly feelings. He was on top now, and even when he tried (and, of course, he didn’t try very hard), he couldn’t really work up any great guilt over killing Emile. Or stealing the money. Or the deaths of his crew. He still saw the grotesque images from that terrible night, but they were effectively disconnected from his emotional center.

It was like, some guys had died, it was terrible, but I’m going to fly to Hollywood.

And like, I stole money from a patient, I felt horrible, but now I can do good with the money and the world loves me.

So, in the end, how wrong could it be?

It was all about trusting the process, Bob thought, as he fielded interviews and called Jesse’s relatives about their upcoming wedding.

It was amazing how important that seemed to him now. He and Jesse were a team. He had never met a woman with more talent, heart, and guts, not to mention sheer, overwhelming sensuality. This was the love of his life, the woman who had started him on the adventure that had turned his life around 180 degrees.

The woman who had saved his life.

He wanted a great blast of a wedding, and one last wild party at the Lodge … then they would check out all their new options and in a year or so quietly move out of town.

Where they would go was no longer a problem. When the world loves you, when you are a success, the world is your oyster.

New York? Maybe …

Los Angeles? Possibly.

Maybe they would just travel for a while, sample the world’s greatest spots.

They had money, fame, and each other.

Only one thing worried Bob, and that just a little. What if someone found Emile’s body? What would happen when his friends (if the son of a bitch had any) realized that he was missing? Would the police come and ask about him? How would he and Jesse handle it? Would they look nervous? Give themselves away?

No, they wouldn’t. They talked about it and decided to handle it simply. Emile hadn’t shown up for his last appointment. Bob, the concerned (but not overly concerned, patients skipped sessions all the time) psychologist, called his home number, got his message machine, and left a polite message, inquiring if he was all right.

That would be the end of it. After all, why should they suspect Bob?

Bob told himself to chill out, relax. He’d made it. Everything would be fine.

“After all,” Jesse said to him one night as they watched a late movie on HBO, “if we could handle killing the son of a bitch, we ought to be able to handle the cops.”

That was his girl, Bob thought. Tough, sexy, and capable. Man, what a lucky day it was when Jesse Reardon walked into his life.

It was the morning before the wedding. Jesse was out shopping on her own and Bob was getting ready to go pick up the new suit he’d bought down at Joseph Bank. It was a modest suit, summer weight, and he was debating whether or not he needed to buy new shoes, as well, maybe a pair of old-fashioned cordovans, when his phone rang.

He looked down at the caller ID and saw Dave’s number.

“Hey,” he said, happy to talk to his old friend. “How’s my best man?”

“Great, buddy,” Dave said. “You getting ready for the big day?”

“You know it,” Bob said. “Just heading down to pick up my suit.”

“Cool,” Dave said. “Listen, Bob, before you go, I wonder if you could do me a little favor?”

“Name it,” Bob said.

“Well, I kind of ran into these guys from the
Washington Post
yesterday, and they said they really wanted to do an interview with you for the Style section. They usually have their own staffers do this stuff, but since we’re old friends and all …”

“No problem,” Bob said. “I can fall by on my way downtown. Won’t take too long, right?”

“Nah,” Dave said. “Hey, don’t worry. I know I can’t expect too much time from the great Bobby Wells.”

Bob blinked and felt a wave of anger. Dave sounded a little bitter. Of course, that was only natural. He was probably a little jealous of all the attention Bob was receiving.

“You’ll have all the time you need,” Bob said, trying to sound generous. “Be right over.”

“Cool,” Dave said. “I worked up a few questions that maybe they haven’t heard before.”

“Fine,” Bob said. There was no mistaking it this time. Dave sounded a little strange. Well, whatever … he’d hang in with Dave just as Dave had for him. After all, there was a little matter of gratitude. He wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to turn his back on his old pal. After all, Dave had gotten the ball rolling for him. He just wished Dave wouldn’t get weird and use that proprietorial tone. Like Bob owed him. That was starting to get a little old.

Dave and Lou Anne lived just a few blocks away in a restored redbrick row house on Boston Street. The place was probably worth quite a bit now, as the area had become fashionable. In fact, Bob recalled, as Dave let him in, he had once been jealous of Dave’s property value. Just a year or so ago, Dave had learned that his house was worth about three times what he’d paid for it and had needled Bob about all the money he could make from selling the place.

Of course, Bob thought now, as he walked in and checked out the living room, if Dave ever did try to sell the place, any real-estate agent worth their salt would have to first throw out all this crummy furniture. Dave’s taste in furnishing was as bad as his prose. The theme was kind of nineteenth-century nautical, the house being only half a block from the wharf. The living room featured a couple of old deck chairs, which were hard and uncomfortable, and a corner in which every sailing knickknack known to man was on display. Sitting on a battered, old mess table were sextants, spyglasses, binoculars, a navy codebook from the same era, a belaying pin, and a grappling hook. The goddamn living room looked like the set from
Master and Commander.

“Want a little drink?” Dave said.

“Too early for me,” Bob said. Ten o’clock in the morning. Was good old Dave turning into a lush?

“Me, too,” Dave said. “But what the hell? Some days you just need a little pick-me-up.”

“I can dig it,” Bob said.

“Boy, some day tomorrow, huh, Bobby?” Dave said.

“Yeah,” Bob said. “Never thought I’d get married again.”

Dave gave a little chuckle.

“Boy, things have really turned around for you, huh, Bob?”

Bob nodded his head and sat down in one of the uncomfortable deck chairs.

“It’s great you’ll make the
Post,”
Bob said.

“Yeah,” Dave said. “They read my other piece on you in the
Sun
and they realized they want a more personal look at Bobby Wells, all-American hero.”

Dave took a gulp of his drink and Bob thought he felt the atmosphere change in the room. Had Dave actually been a little caustic with the “all-American hero” bit?

“So,” Dave said, clearing his throat, “might as well get to it, huh? Let’s talk about that night. You were taking a walk, right?”

“Yeah,” Bob said. “Right. But everybody already knows all that.”

Dave took out a small pad of paper and began writing things down.

“I know, but I just have to get the chronology straight. You know how tough those
Post
fact-checkers are. Much tougher than the guys at the
Sun.”

Bob nodded his head and tried out a friendly smile.

“I know this is boring,” Dave said. “Going over the same old stuff again and again. Guess you might call it the price of fame. Now you walked from your house all the way to Gay Street. That’s a long walk.”

“Right,” Bob said. “But I had a lot on my mind.”

“Of course you did,” Dave said. “But see, Bobby, right here is where I might have a little problem. With the fact-checkers, I mean.”

There was a long silence. Bob stared directly at Dave and was stunned to see Dave, lovable, old-shoe Dave, staring directly back at him. No blinks. No embarrassed turning away. No deferential cough.

“What do you mean, Dave?” Bob said.

“Well, Bobby,” Dave said. “As it so happens, I called your house that night. I was heading on down to the Lodge and thought you might want to tag along, have a few beers. But when I got through to your house Jesse told me you weren’t home. So I asked her if you were down American Joe’s … figured I’d stop by there and pick you up, but she said, no, you weren’t out drinking, but were at this lecture series over at Johns Hopkins. So I asked her which one and she said she wasn’t sure, but she thought it was all about the new activism, some anti-Bush kind of deal. Well, that struck me as odd. If there were something like that going on I’d certainly know about it. Wouldn’t you think, Bob?”

Bob felt his fingertips getting cold and a kind of panic had started roiling in his stomach, like he’d taken a little drink of battery acid.

Frantically, he tried to think of something … anything … that would cool Dave down, but he could think of absolutely nothing.

“Of course, it’s always possible I could have missed the lecture,” Dave said, warming to his own voice now. “So I called Hopkins and talked to a woman I know over there, Julia Dietz, who runs the series. And I found that no such lecture had taken place. That struck me as odd, Bob, very odd. But I doubt I would have pursued it if Jesse hadn’t picked up on my silence. You know how perceptive she is, Bobby? Well, it turns out she was worried about you, said you’d been out meeting with your accountant, what’s his name, Schur … a bunch of times lately. At night. She was worried about that, too … she even asked me about your savings … wanted to know if I knew how much money you really had. Seems she’d heard how you lost all your money playing cards.”

Bob looked at Dave with a deep scowl on his face now. He didn’t like where this was heading, not at all.

Dave smiled and poured himself another drink.

“Anyway,” he said, “I might not have paid any of this much notice, but it so happens Mike Schur was down the Lodge that night with a couple of his buddies and I asked him how you were doing, and he said, ‘As far as I know, fine.’ Well, when I asked him what that meant, he said that he hadn’t seen you for a few months, and in fact, you owed him a bill that he couldn’t collect. Well, now, I found that very, very interesting. Seems you were going out at night a lot and lying about it. Tell you the truth, I might have still let it all go, but then the explosion happened, and they found Ray Wade up there and that was too good. So I went down and saw Ray’s good old mom, and she told me that you had come around to see Ray a couple of times, and that he had mentioned he had to meet with you about something. Well, what could my old friend Bob Wells want with a guy like Ray Wade … that was hard to figure. Until I heard that the same night of the explosion another fellow I know, Emile Bardan, the art dealer, had been robbed of a precious antique mask. Then it all added up. Because I remembered once you’d told me that Emile Bardan was your patient. Your only interesting patient. I did a little more digging and I found out that he’d been arrested a few times for suspected art theft. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the rest. You used your position as his shrink to find out about the mask, then you got Ray and the other guys to rob him … then you went to fence the mask at the American Brewery Building, but something went very wrong. How am I doing, Bob?”

There was a long and terrible silence. Bob felt as though something was crawling up his spinal column.

“It’s a fascinating story, Dave. Maybe you should write that novel after all.”

“But this isn’t fiction, Bob. It’s all real. I even figured out the motivation. Jesse. You met this great new woman and you had to have money to keep her. But you’d lost all your money. A fact she doesn’t know. So what to do? Then Emile came along….”

Bob stared at Dave with such ferocity that Dave finally looked away.

“Oh yeah,” Dave said finally. “The two kids, Leslie and Ronnie, that you saved? I don’t see them as part of it. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, taking drugs and screwing, and Bob Wells, decent man that he is—at heart, that is—saves their lives. I think that about covers it.”

Bob twisted in his seat. He heard the roaring inside his head again and for a second he shut his eyes and had a visual image of a whirlwind of fury, like a screaming mouth.

“If you knew all this, why did you write the piece?” Bob said.

Dave gave a nervous little laugh.

“Because you and I are so much alike,” he said. “See, you met a nice girl who expects something more out of life, and I met one, too. Lou Anne is a lot like Jesse, Bob. Okay, not as sexy—on the surface, granted. But what she knows in bed more than makes up for that. Anyway, just like you and Jesse, Lou thought that meeting a published writer was a big step up the ladder. But now she sees us eating the same old frozen dinners and having to clip coupons and she’s already starting to wonder if she made herself that good a deal. There’s plenty of those rich D.C. guys hanging around the Lodge these days. My piece on the Rockaholics saw to that. Lou Anne is getting hit on all the time, and she’s not the loyal type, like Jesse. In short, I need money, Bobby boy. So I decided to make you a hero. And it worked. You gotta admit that. It worked better than I could have ever expected.”

Bob slowly nodded his head. The roaring was louder now and there was this terrible pressure in his temples. Like a hand inside his head pushing out.

“So what do you want, Dave?”

“I propose that we go into business together. The Bob Wells Hero Business.”

“You do?” Bob said. He looked at Dave and felt a strange sensation that this wasn’t really Dave talking at all. Not the real Dave, who was as loyal as a Chesapeake Bay retriever. This was somebody else, somebody who had temporarily taken over Dave’s mind and body.

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