"You wanna make some money?"
Heath lay on his back on the bed wearing only the sweatpants he slept in. He’d changed the sheets and pillowcases and done the dishes; Nora had gone home an hour ago. She had been impressed by the risotto he’d made, and had been lavish with her gratitude.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about her. On the one hand, she was fun, in a wanton sort of way. There was essentially nothing she wouldn't do in the bedroom, and she was good at making him feel like a man outside of it, too.
On the other hand, he didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her. Heath was in a place where he wanted his romantic entanglements to be relaxed and easy, and hot as Nora was, she was clearly a borderline personality disorder case only barely holding it together. Her movements were so studied and practiced in bed that there had been a few sessions where he had almost told her to go home midway through, and the facial acting she used to simulate passion bothered him in a way he couldn’t quite articulate.
If he were being honest, he knew he was playing with dynamite. Heath had more experience with girls like Nora than he had ever wanted, but he hadn’t had a lot of fun since he’d left Philly; she was familiar and he had been lonely.
His phone vibrated against the nightstand of the furnished apartment. Heath was on his feet, his hand frantically groping at his beltline, before he realized he was safe. He had not been twitchy before he had fled Philadelphia, but benzodiazapine withdrawal had made him so, along with a multitude of other undesirable physical symptoms he was able to keep in check with effort. He hoped it would pass.
He caught his breath and reached for the phone. The caller ID displayed a Philadelphia area code, but he didn’t recognize the number. He answered it. “Beckett.”
The goofy laugh on the other end was familiar. Heath could practically smell the Juicy Fruit gum on the breath of its owner, who went through four or five Plen-T-Packs a day. “That’s how you answer the phone now?”
Heath sat down on the bed. “Dominic?” he said, as neutrally as he could. “I thought you were in county.”
“I got out last week. You wanna make some money?”
Heath sighed. “That really depends on how. I’m trying to clean up my act.”
Dominic took his mouth away from the receiver and said something in Italian. Someone in the room with him laughed. “Nah, man,” he said into the phone. “Not that kind of money. You don’t gotta do nothin’ illegal.”
Heath sighed again. Dominic had been his dealer. He was a fence and a pillhead, but he wasn’t a bad guy by Heath’s definition. He had cut Heath off and stood over him while he called the treatment center, which had probably saved his life, but had certainly cost him his job. “What, then?”
“A guy I do some business with on occasion is looking for his daughter. He knows she’s up north, where you are.”
Heath rubbed his head. “She got blue hair and big tits?”
There was a creaking sound as Dominic leaned back in his chair. “Naw. Why?”
Heath yawned. “That describes the only girl I know right now.”
“You need to find yourself a black chick. I’m telling you, they’re the best. Once you go black, you never go back.”
Heath rolled his eyes. Dominic described himself as “a connoisseur of the finer things.” Everyone else just called him a whorehopper. “All girls are pink on the inside. How much is your guy offering?”
“Three stacks. He said you could have five hundred up front.”
Heath lay back on the bed, his feet still on the floor, and halfheartedly began a series of progressive muscular relaxation exercises he had learned when he was twenty-five, starting with his feet and calves. “Sure, why not. I could use the money.”
“Sweet. Gimme your email, I’m gonna send you some pictures of her.”
“Hang on.” Heath put the call on speaker and flipped through his phone without sitting up until he found the app he used to generate burner email accounts. “I’m gonna text you the email address,” he said. “There. Done. What’s her name?”
Heath closed his eyes. “Why are you doing this to me, Dominic?”
“’Cause I know you’ll do a good job. I already Cash Apped you the five hundred.”
Heath covered his face with his hands. “Fuck you, Dominic. I’ll find her, but fuck you. And lose my number after this. We’re done.”
Dominic smacked his gum. “Love you too, snookums. I’ll check in with you in a couple days.”
There was a beep and the call disconnected. Heath stared at his phone for a minute, then put it on its charger, climbed into bed, and turned out the light. He lay in darkness for a while, wondering what he’d done to deserve his luck, before falling into a troubled sleep.
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