“She’s always liked you, McKenzie.” Tommy looked up and down and around, everywhere but my face, as if he were afraid of his own question. “I know why Studder is here. This isn’t the first time she’s checked up on Scottie. Man, why are you here? What did Scottie do that makes you come here?”

“No, no,” I said and gave his shoulder a playful shake. “It’s nothing like that. I was looking for Scottie because I need to ask him for a favor. I just ran into her”—I gestured toward Karen—“and we decided to look together.”

“A favor? What kind of favor?”

Be careful, my inner voice said.

“I’d rather not say,” I answered. “But your brother, he knows people, people who might be able to help me with a problem I have. It involves—well, if you hear from him, just say I need a favor and ask him to call me.”

“I’ll do that,” Tommy said.

“Are you expecting to hear from Scottie?” Karen asked.

“No,” Tommy said.

“Mind if we take a look around?”

Tommy’s eyes flashed at the insult. “I said he’s not here. I said I haven’t seen my brother in two weeks. Do you think I’m lying?”

“I’m required—”

“Hey, you do what think you have to.” Tommy pivoted toward me. “If you want to search the house, go ’head.”

I gave him my best, most sincere shrug. “I’m good,” I said.

“I need to look,” said Karen.

I gave my head a little shake and spoke quietly to Tommy. “Officer of the court. What can you do?”

“Nothing,” Tommy said. He waved at Karen. “Go ’head. Knock yourself out. I’ll wait here.”

While we waited, Tommy told me that he moved back home a few months ago after his divorce. “Bitch took my kids, my house, my car, all my savings, and now I have to pay alimony and child support on top of it.”

“That sucks,” I said just to be friendly.

“Tell me about it. You ever get married?”


“Well, don’t. Not unless you’re absolutely, positively, rock-solid sure about the girl because, man, the only thing worse than a bad marriage is a bad divorce, I’m here to tell you.”

“Good advice. I’ll keep that in mind.”

A few moments later, Karen emerged from the house and joined us on the sidewalk. “I’m sorry about that, Mr. Thomforde,” she said. “It’s just something I have to do.”

“It’s okay,” Tommy said.

“I noticed the drum kit set up in one of the bedrooms.”

“My mom’s idea,” Tommy said. “She set it up for when Scottie came to visit. Said it would make him feel more at home. One thing about my brother, all the other shit aside”—he was looking at me again—“the sonuvabitch sure can play the drums.”

We thanked him and were making our way back to the Audi when Tommy called to us. “Hey, McKenzie? Did you try Joley?”

“Are they back together?”

“I don’t know. Scottie called her when he was here. They were on the phone for hours.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Talk about your bad relationships.”

We were pulling away from the curb before Karen asked, “Who’s Joley?”

“A woman Scottie was once involved with,” I said. “I’m surprised you weren’t informed about her.”

“Why would I be?”

“She had to take out a restraining order to keep him from stalking her.”

Her mouth hung open for a moment, and then she closed it with a snap. I could hear her teeth grinding behind her lips. After a moment, she said, “I should have been told that.” Later she hissed, “Bureaucracies,” as if the word were an obscenity.

Who was I to disagree?


Jolene Waddell was one of those girls who peaked at age seventeen, going from high school midwinter queen to dowdy middle-age in about a summer. Back in school, she was perky with a long-jumper’s body and legs. But the legs were the first to go, then the waist, then the rest of her. Only her voice remained unchanged. You’d hear that hot and humid voice over the phone and you knew—knew!—that she had the goods.

We met her under the porch light of her small bungalow in Highland Park, not far from where the Ford plant used to be. It had been a long time since I’d seen her, and when I hugged her my arms easily made it around her torso.

“You’ve lost weight,” I said.

“Thirty-five pounds since New Year’s,” she said. “Another thirty to go.”

“You’re lookin’ good.”

She smiled like a woman who hadn’t received a compliment in a long while, yet still remembered how it felt.

“No, I’m not,” Joley said. “I will be, though. I’m trying to get to my high school weight plus ten. That’s fair, isn’t it, McKenzie? Weighing ten pounds more than you did in high school.”

“More than fair,” I said.

“Our high school reunion is coming up, you know.”

“Is it?”

Joley nodded and smiled. “Still, a girl can’t hope to look like she did in high school.”

“I don’t know, Joley. You look pretty damn good to me.”