“Well, we didn’t really get back together. At least, not yet. I mean, I didn’t hear from him again until he went back to prison the last time for check fraud. He wrote me a letter. It was a beautiful letter, a beautiful thing. In the letter he told me how sorry he was for frightening me. He said that he finally realized, now that he was back in prison again, how much pain and anguish he’s been causing others, causing his family and me and people, and how he had finally seen the light and was going to change his life. He wrote that he didn’t expect me to answer the letter and that was okay. He wrote that he only wanted to apologize to me for what he did and wish me well. He said I should have a long and happy life. That is what he wished for. So I answered the letter. It was such a beautiful letter. Did I already say that? I told him that I wished that he had a long and happy life, too. And then he wrote me back. And I wrote him back. Anyway, we’ve been in touch ever since, just writing and talking. Talking on the phone.”

Imagine what a voice like hers might mean to a man in prison, my inner voice told me.

“You haven’t seen him?” I said aloud.

“No. He can’t have visitors at the halfway house except family. He invited me to visit when he stayed at his mother’s house, but I didn’t think that would be right cuz I’m not family.”

“So you haven’t actually seen him at all since he got out?”


Imagine what Scottie is going to think when he sees where that voice came from, my inner voice added. I silently told my inner voice that it was a jerk. It wasn’t listening, as usual.

“Jolene?” Karen said. “If you see him, if you hear from Scottie, will you call me?”

“Is Scottie in trouble?”

“He will be if I don’t hear from him soon.”

“Then I’ll call you.”

Joley was staring at me when she took Karen’s card. That’s your cue, my inner voice said.

I gave Joley pretty much the same story I told Tommy: I ran into Karen while I was looking for Scottie; I was hoping Scottie might do a favor for me. I didn’t explain why, and Joley didn’t ask for more.

She was escorting us to the door when her cell phone rang.

“No rest for the wicked,” Joley said.

My own cell phone rang while I was pulling away from the curb. I don’t often use the phone while I’m driving, but the display told me that Nina Truhler was calling. For her I make exceptions.

“Hi, sweetie,” I said.

“Hello, honey,” she said.

After two years, we’ve reached a point in our relationship where we call each other names.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Business sucks.”

“Does it really?” Nina owns Rickie’s, a jazz club named after her daughter, Erica, located in the Summit Hill neighborhood of St. Paul.

“Actually, it’s a pretty good crowd for a Wednesday,” she said. “Except there’s this spot at the bar where a man I know usually sits, and since he’s not here tonight, I figure the bar must be losing a fortune.”

“Since you usually comp the man his dinners and drinks no matter how often he demands a bill…”

“I like that you always ask for a bill.”

“So, business isn’t off.”

“Tips, McKenzie. Tips. The man nearly always leaves a tip that covers the cost of his meal and beverages. Do you know what that means to the waitstaff, especially considering how poorly their employer pays them?”

“I hadn’t given it that much thought.”

“You didn’t honestly believe Jenness and the others were extra nice just to suck up to me, did you?”

“And they say money can’t buy love.”

“Besides, I distinctly remember you telling me this morning that you were dropping by.”

“I meant to. Something came up.”

“Oh, really? Another one of your crusades? Pity you couldn’t be bothered to tell me about it.”


“McKenzie, you can be so inconsiderate sometimes.”

“Nina, don’t say any more,” I said. “You’ll only feel worse later when I explain everything.”

Nina paused before asking, “What is it?”

“I’m on the road. I really can’t talk about it now.”

“Is it serious?”

“As serious as it gets.”

She paused again. “Shelby and the girls,” she said.

“What makes you say that?”

“If it’s that serious, it has to be someone you love. Who do you love besides Shelby and the girls? And Bobby?”


“Well, it’s not me and it’s not Rickie. That leaves Shelby and the girls. Should I call? Should I go over there?”

“No, no, it’s… it’s still… Later, maybe. Later would be better.”

“Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Not now.”

“You will tell me.”

“Of course.”


“I’ll call first chance I get.”

“Thank you.”

I deactivated the phone. We were already on I-94 and heading toward the East Side of St. Paul when Karen said, “Was that your wife?”

“I’m not married.”



“What’s her name?”

“Nina Truhler.”

“Do you love her?”

“She’ll do until the real thing comes along,” I said. It was a pat and stupid remark, but I didn’t want to discuss Nina with a stranger.

“You called her sweetie,” Karen said.

“Stop asking so many questions and I’ll call you sweetie.”