The thud of heels that echoed behind hers as she stepped onto the wood confirmed there was someone behind her. Pulling her face into a tight frown, Josie stepped to the side and waved an arm.
“Go on, you’re much younger than me,” she said in her best old-woman voice. “I don’t need you stepping on my heels.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the sailor said, hurrying past.
Josie made her way halfway down the pier, where there was a bench near the shore-side railing. There, she settled herself on the seat and dug a loaf of bread out of her bag. In less than a minute, a young woman sat down next to her—a familiar one who’d visited her before. Unfortunately it was one who never said a word.
The woman took off one shoe as if her foot hurt. The signal for one box.
Josie took a small box out of her bag and set it on the bench between them. The woman put her shoe back on, slid the box into her pocket and walked away.
This happened several times within the next hour or so. When an older woman, not of great age but older than most of the prostitutes, sat down next to her, the hair on Josie’s arms quivered. The woman wasn’t familiar. She wasn’t dressed like a tourist, either.
Going with her gut instinct, Josie tossed the final few pieces of her loaf of bread over the rail to the gulls and then picked up her bag as she stood. The woman stood, too, and before Josie could take a step the other woman latched on to her arm.
“That’s right,” the woman hissed. “We are going to take a walk. Real slow so we don’t draw attention.”
* * *
Scooter was second-guessing his plan, and cursing himself for not gathering more information before he and Dac had headed to Duluth. He’d never visited the shipyards, and had no idea the area was this large. Having unloaded his motorcycle near the stockyards, he’d zipped in and out of half a dozen parking areas, spotting several blue Chevys, none of which turned out to be Dave’s.
Warehouses went on for what seemed like miles, and he hadn’t even reached US Steel’s property. That alone was massive. He had no idea which dock Josie used to pass out her condoms. She hadn’t been at the three he’d already jogged up and down. Changing his tactics, he’d decided to find the car first, figuring that at least would tell him she was in close proximity.
He headed for the last lot. Working his way back might be his best bet. Maneuvering around and through the automobiles, his heart skipped a beat at the sight of a blue Chevy. He’d recently started selling tires at his shop, and recognizing the ones he’d put on Dave’s car a short time ago was all the proof he needed, yet he rode closer, hoping, yet doubting, Josie would be in the car.
She wasn’t, but a man was in the Buick next to it. It was a Master Six model touring car, dark green with gold trim, including the wheel spokes. The car was a beauty, and Scooter wouldn’t have minded looking under her hood, if he had been in his normal state of mind. Right now, cars, although his one true love, weren’t foremost in his thoughts. As unusual as that was.
The man climbed out of the Buick to stand beside the passenger side of Dave’s car as Scooter stopped near the front bumper. Though tall and broad, the man was older, perhaps middle-aged, judging by the graying of his short sideburns. The rest of his hair was as dark brown as the three-piece gold-pinstriped suit he had on.
Scooter cut the engine on his motorcycle. “You see the driver of this Chevy?”
Leaning back against the side of his Buick, the man asked, “Who wants to know?”
If he’d gotten a look at the person who’d thrown the fireball or whoever had locked him and Josie in the boathouse, he’d know if this man was a foe or just a nosy stranger. As it was, all he had were his gut instincts. This man had been sitting next to Dave’s Chevy for a reason. “I’m just looking for a friend, mister,” Scooter said.
The man glanced at the Chevy. “There’s a brochure sitting on the seat of this car. It’s from Nightingale’s Resort in White Bear Lake.”
“So?” Scooter asked. “What’s it to you?”
“Just curious,” the man said. “I knew a woman named Nightingale.” After a sigh, he added, “Once.”
The pit of Scooter’s stomach turned cold. “Once?”
“Years ago,” the man said. “Her name was Rose.” Letting out a longer more wistful sigh, the man unfolded his arms and walked forward. Stretching out a hand, he said, “Clyde Odell.”
“Eric Wilson,” Scooter replied, before he had time to wonder if he should have used an alias.
“I met her out east, years and years ago.”