Dirty Money – Chapter One

 

 

WHEN THE SILVER TOYOTA AVALON bumped down the dirt road out of the woods and across the railroad tracks, Parker put the Infiniti into low and stepped out onto the gravel. The Infiniti jerked forward toward the river as the Toyota slewed around behind it to a stop. Parker picked up the full duffel bag from where he’d tossed it on the ground, and behind him, the Infiniti rolled down the slope into the river, all its windows open; it slid into the gray dawn water like a bear into a trout stream.

Parker carried the duffel in his arms and Claire got out of the Toyota to open its rear door and say, “Do you want to drive?”

 

“No. I’ve been driving.” He heaved the duffel onto the backseat, then got around to take the passenger side in front.

 

Before getting behind the wheel, she stood looking toward the river, a tall slender ash-blonde in black slacks and a bulky dark red sweater against the October chill. “It’s gone,” she said.

 

“Good.”

 

She slid into the Toyota then and kissed him and held his face in her slim hands. “It’s been a while.”

 

“It didn’t come out the way it was supposed to.”

 

“But you got back,” she said, and steered the Toyota across the tracks and up the dirt road through scrub woods. “Was one of the men with you named Dalesia?”

 

“Nick. They nabbed him.”

 

“He escaped,” she said, paused at the blacktop state road and turned right, southward.

 

“Nick escaped?”

 

“I had the news on, driving up. It happened a couple of hours ago, in Boston. They were transferring him from the state police to the federal, going to take him somewhere south to question him. He killed a marshal, escaped with the gun.”

 

Parker looked at her profi le. They were almost alone on the road, not yet seven AM, she driving fast. He said, “They grabbed him yesterday. They didn’t question him yet?”

 

“That’s what they said.” She shrugged, eyes on the road. “They didn’t say so, but it sounded to me like a turf war, the local police and the FBI. The FBI won, but then they lost him.”

 

Parker looked out at this hilly country road, heading south. Soon they’d be coming into New Jersey. “If nobody questioned Nick yet, then they don’t know where the money is.”

 

With a head gesture toward the duffel bag behind them, she said, “That isn’t it?”

 

“No, that’s something else.”

 

She laughed, mostly in surprise. “You don’t have that money, so you picked up some other money on the way back?”

 

“There was too much heat around the robbery,” he told her. “We could stash it, but we couldn’t carry it. We each took a little, and Nick tried to spend some of his, but they had the serial numbers.”

 

“Oh. That’s why they caught him. Do you have some?”

 

“Not any more.”

 

“Good.”

 

They rode in silence for a while, he stretching his legs, rolling his shoulders, a big ropy man who looked squeezed into the Toyota. He’d driven through the night, called Claire an hour ago from a diner to make the meet and get rid of the Infi niti, which was too hot and too speckled with fi ngerprints. Now they passed a slow-moving oil delivery truck and he said, “I need some sleep, but after that I’ll want you to drive me to Long Island. All my identifi cation got wasted in the mess in Massachusetts. I’d better not drive until I get new papers.”

 

“You’re just going to talk to somebody?”

 

“That’s all.”

 

“Then I can drive you.”

 

“Good.”

 

She watched the road; no traffi c now. She said, “This is still something about the robbery?”

 

“The third guy with us,” he said. “He’ll know what it means, too, that Nick’s on the loose.”

 

“That the police don’t know where the money is.”

 

“But Nick knows where we are, or could point in a direction. Are we all still partners?” He shook his head.

 

“You kill a lawman,” he said, “you’re in another zone. McWhitney and I are gonna have to work this out.”

 

“But not on the phone.”

 

Parker yawned. “Nothing on the phone ever,” he said. “Except pizza.”

 

Copyright © 2008 by Donald Westlake

 

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