Cry Uncle

By: Judith Arnold


JUST LEAVE, Pamela ordered herself. Get out. Save your life.

Two suitcases—a Pullman and a folding bag—stood by the door, her trench coat draped over them. The lights and the air conditioner had been turned off, the drapes drawn against the early morning fog. The traveler’s checks she’d purchased yesterday were stashed carefully in an inner pocket of the Pullman. In her purse she had her passport, her driver’s license and her credit cards, each of them required for travel, for escape.

She allowed herself a farewell look at the living room. Her gaze took in the dramatic abstract sculpture adorning the far corner, the wall of glass that faced Puget Sound, the gleaming hardwood floors. The sleek white L-shaped sofa. The glass-topped coffee table. The Dhurrie rugs. The Waterford crystal coasters, stacked neatly beside the matching cut-crystal ice bucket on the wet bar. The embroidered silk throw pillows. The plants, a ficus and a couple of philodendrons, standing lush and green in ceramic pots.

Oh, lord, the plants. She should have given them to someone to water in her absence.

But she’d been preoccupied by so much else: arranging to have all her mail forwarded to her attorney’s office, discontinuing her newspaper delivery, emptying the refrigerator. Packing. Figuring out where on earth a woman could hide so a hit man wouldn’t find her. Dreaming about when she could come back and resume her normal life.

If the plants die, they die, she thought. Better them than me.

She hated running away like this, ceding control over her existence, depending on the whimsies of fate to determine her course. But as long as Mick Morrow was out on bail, free to roam Seattle looking for her, she had no choice.

She checked her watch: six-thirty. She ought to be sipping a cup of fresh-brewed coffee right now, and scanning the front page of the newspaper, after which she would don an elegant business suit and drive down to Murtaugh Associates, where she would take her place at her drafting table or behind her desk and contemplate her next assignment—an assignment she’d had to relinquish to Richard Duffy because Mick Morrow was on the loose. She’d done the preliminary designs for the strip-mall face lift. She’d made the presentations and won the client, but now Richard was going to get to oversee the project. Pamela no longer had a say in it.

She no longer had a say in anything. Ever since she’d realized that the same car was following her for the third time in one week, driven by the same man she’d testified against in court, she’d lost her sense of safety.

The police thought she was paranoid, and maybe she was. They’d sworn they had an officer on Mick Morrow’s tail twenty-four hours a day, and he hadn’t been anywhere near her. She wished she could believe them, but she didn’t.

Without her testimony, the District Attorney would have a difficult time winning a murder conviction. Pamela had already seen Morrow commit murder once. Was it really so terribly paranoid to believe he’d commit murder a second time, if murdering her guaranteed his freedom?

She wasn’t going to stick around to find out. She was going to disappear.

Chapter One

NONE OF THE WOMEN in the Shipwreck looked like wife material to Joe.

The usual crowd filled the tavern: sun-burned beach bums, a few arty types, some Navy guys and the standard allotment of amateur fishermen, professional fishermen and big talkers eager to regale any sucker who wandered by with stories about the one that got away. The Shipwreck’s female clientele fell into similar categories—boaters, Navy personnel, beach bunnies, artistes. Joe knew at least half of them. The other half he figured he probably didn’t want to know.

“She’ll be here,” Kitty promised, sidling up to the bar and slapping down her tray. “I need two rum-runners and a Cutty on ice.”

Joe wrenched his attention from the noisy, dimly lit room, with its knotted plank flooring, its walls draped with weathered nets, and its ceiling equipped with broad-blade fans that churned the sticky air without doing much to cool it. In front of him the bar stretched left and right, his personal chest-high fortress. In front of the bar stood Kitty, his head waitress. Despite the heat, her skin was dry, her platinum-blond hair only the slightest bit droopy.

“Two rum-runners and a Cutty on ice,” he repeated, reaching for glasses. “What time did you tell her to come?”

“I didn’t. She’ll get here when she gets here, okay?”

“This is important, you know.”

Kitty snorted. “If it’s all that important, why don’t you marry me?”

Grinning, Joe cascaded a generous portion of scotch over the ice cubes in a highball glass. “That would make me, what? Your fourth husband?”