We Frequent the Moon Bar
When the power quit for a few weeks after Hurricane Jonas, there were more people out at night than during the day. Or so claimed a skinny new police officer named Hector George.
This was in Sarasota, during the mid 2040's, after pancake-flat Florida had started to drown, thanks to the rising sea.
"More people out at night?" asked Det. Eureka Kilburn, surprised. "You mean recently?"
The town was pretty deserted during the worst heat of the day. But the blackout caused by the storm persisted. The salt had destroyed the transformers and corroded the wiring. There was no telling when it would be fixed.
"You have to see it to believe it," he said. "The bars are full."
"The ones that are open, anyway."
Hector had first appeared at the station a couple of days after the hurricane passed. He was hungry, his clothes torn. He'd started in water-choked, gang-ridden Miami and walked across the state through razed fields of sugarcane and tomatoes. In one field he saw a torn-off porch. In another he saw a caved-in sugar warehouse, where mountains of sugar had dissolved into the floodwaters.
Even after that terrible journey he looked like he'd happily spring up and chop a fallen tree into a hundred pieces or rebuild the broken front walk with one hand. Eureka immediately offered him both some nata-rice and a job helping with the stack of corpses in the morgue.
She wasn't surprised to learn now that Hector had taken to roaming around at night.
"I've met some incredible people at the Moon Bar," he said. The Moon Bar was open only on nights when the moon was out. "I've talked to refugees. Musicians. Electricity rebels. In the light of day the powerful prey upon the weak. But at night the weak can slip from shadow to shadow in relative safety."
"Okay," said Eureka. "The Moon Bar. I'll have to check it out some time." She even half meant it.
"Lots of women go," said Ofc. George. His by-the-way tone of voice wouldn't have fooled a cane toad.
"Oh, right, women," said Det. Kilburn.
There were always women around Hector, and he was happy to have them, unlike many men. He dressed to please. He made the khaki pants and white shirt of his police uniform look like the latest style. His hair had a sculptural new cut.
"I talked to one woman last night who's in a lot of trouble," he said.
He also could be very protective, which may have been because his mother drowned in a flooded car when he was young.
Eureka nodded. "It involves a man," she said.
Evidently she had not spoken with enough respect. Hector shot her a look, frowning. These days everybody's past seemed to be a minefield. Even someone as young as Hector.
"She told me in confidence," he said. "But he's cruel to her, and unfortunately she's dependent on him."
"And she wants your help?"
"Your help, actually."
This was a twist. "Really?" asked Eureka. "You don't think she might prefer to be helped by you rather than me? That she might not want to be helped by me at all?"
"She wants me to bring you tonight so she can meet you."
"Tell her to come down to the station."
"It's complicated. Night is the only time she can sneak out." Hector switched to earnestness. "Listen," he said. "She's had some unusual experiences."
"Economic circumstances forced her to make some questionable deals."
"Questionable deals, mmm, sounds bad."
"When she was young, she ran errands she shouldn't have."
"I'm not getting much substance here."
"There are certain times when you have to make a choice," he said. "You have to go one way or the other. But it's hard to tell what's ahead. You know that."
"All right," she said. "I'll go to the Moon Bar tonight."
She was not happy. So far she'd considered the surprising range of Hector's acquaintances a plus on the job, not a minus, and she wanted to be able to go on doing that.
"Are you going to wear your uniform?" asked Hector.
"I don't have to," said Eureka. "Why?"
"She wants you to wear it. She said it would make her feel safe."
Det. Kilburn became even more unhappy. Up to now Hector's request had at least been predictable. But what was up with the uniform? Why would a civilian want to see her in it? She couldn't remember anyone wanting her to wear a uniform except her boss. Back when she had a boss.
"What else do you know about this woman?"
"Nothing much," said Hector. "Nothing relevant, at least."
A lot of people were outside that night. Whether it was more than during the day, Eureka couldn't say. The full moon, that magnet for the unbalanced among us, may have affected the numbers. In the pale and ghostly light she distinguished half a dozen shadowy townspeople working in gardens, strolling down broken sidewalks, and knocking on doors. She was reminded of her childhood on St. Thomas, when being awake at night seemed the exciting province of grown-ups.
It was after midnight when she picked up the squad car at the station and drove to a spot on the Tamiami Trail a block short of the Moon Bar. She parked near a motel sign that had toppled into the road, its two metal supports twisted and broken-kneed, its big white oversize marquee still looking up hopefully at the passersby. As she checked out the area around the bar, she realized that all traces of her sleepiness had disappeared and that she'd been unconsciously following protocol for an undercover operation. Normally she would never have driven somewhere just to have a drink, even with a colleague.
She saw commerce everywhere. A gray-haired woman sold vegetables from a cart. A taco place emitted a quick soft burst of laughter as its door opened and closed. There was a chair out on the sidewalk where a man was getting his hair trimmed. Now she knew why Hector had a new hairstyle.
The Moon Bar was wide and shallow, open on the street side, shaped like a diner only with a bar instead of a counter. A few hurricanes back the owner had started using candles, and he never went back on the grid. The moon proved to be a stable and predictable source of illumination, at least in comparison.
The room consisted of the wall of liquor behind the bar, the bar itself, and the bar stools, all occupied by silhouettes. The unsteady little tables in front of them were actually on the sidewalk. The tables were the size of birdbaths, and each had a rickety metal chair or two beside it. The moon washed some surfaces with its flat chalky light but threw most into shadow. The scene was all grays.
Eureka joined Ofc. George at one of the birdbath tables.
"Your friend's not here?" she asked.
"Not yet," said Hector. He had a bottle of beer and a shot of rum in front of him. Neither had been touched. He pushed the beer the few inches over to her side of the table, saying, "This is yours."
"Thanks," she said. She happened to know that a lot of the labels on the liquor bottles were fakes, copies printed off the internet. Which didn't make this place different from any other in Sarasota. It just made it sensible to drink beer.
"You see the guy in the jacket at the end of the bar?" asked Hector.
"I know who you mean," said Det. Kilburn carefully, not moving her eyes.
She'd noticed him right away. In Sarasota everyone wore whites or pastels during the day, to reflect the harsh sunlight. Here at the Moon Bar there were an unusual number of people in black. Still, the man in the black blazer at the end of the bar managed to stand out. The jacket was loose, low-slung, double-breasted, bulging open on top and displaying an oddly large expanse of his white V-neck T. It emphasized the width of his shoulders and suggested that no ordinary jacket could contain him, and who knows, maybe it was true. He was standing up, tree-trunk legs leaning, as if a mere stool couldn't contain him, either. She didn't recognize him, but then there wasn't much detail to recognize, in the moonlight and at that distance.
"He had the bartender send over these drinks. I have no idea who he is."
She turned to the man with the bulging black jacket, lifted the beer, and nodded at a slight angle.
He nodded back. His expression was unreadable in the fickle light.
"You think he may be your friend's husband? The one she's afraid of?" she asked, still keeping the guy in the jacket within sight although no longer looking directly at him.
"Could be. I never met the guy."
"He certainly isn't from around here," she said.
"They dress that way in Miami," said Hector. He was acting pretty jumpy. "Why would he buy me a drink?"
"To poison you?" Not totally joking.
"The bartender poured it. Besides, I don't see how the guy would know me."
"Maybe he likes cops."
This was not a crowd that smiled at the sight of their uniforms, though. Maybe Hector's lady friend wanted to show that she had protection?
Det. Kilburn heard the ping from her corephone indicating a message. It was from Kit Camayo, an older and much more experienced officer with a small, disgruntled mouth.
"I'll tell you who's up in the middle of the night," she said. "Kit."
His message read: "2 BLACK BOX TRUCKS HEADING N FROM WARBLER BEND UP TRAIL." By "trail" he meant the Tamiami Trail, the main north-south road, which had gotten very jungly as townspeople continued to abandon Sarasota for cooler climes to the north. Warbler Bend was an abandoned – but still gated – community south of Siesta Key.
Kit's messages usually combined abbreviations and fully spelled-out words. The familiarity of the style made Det. Kilburn aware of how long she had known him – nine years, almost as long as she'd been on the force. Hector George, on the other hand, she'd known for only a few weeks.
"People really are out tonight," she said. "Driving."
"I wish," said Hector.
"Not cars," said Eureka. Cars were scarce these days. Fuel was expensive, and few vehicles survived the regular flooding. "Trucks," she said. "Kit spotted two trucks coming up the trail."
"Cool," he said. "But so?"
"We do get trucks here sometimes," she agreed. They came up from Naples or central Florida or even what was left of the Everglades. But they did not usually travel in the dark. The streets were too rough.
"We got streetlights and everything," he reminded her.
Actually, few of the streetlights worked anymore. And she was surprised that he used the word "we" so easily.
But her mind quickly returned to the image of the heavy black trucks. She resettled her feet more sturdily on the cement under the little table. Box trucks started out white. These must have been painted black to better blend into the night. They would be rolling very slowly toward the dark town, at no more than twenty-five miles an hour. Anything faster would be suicide, given the roads. They'd have to make frequent stops on the way to reconnoiter the potholes, many of which were larger than the birdbath table she and Hector were sitting at.
"I wonder what's in them," she said.
"Drugs," said Hector promptly. "Lots and lots, all different varieties and prices." He was enthusiastic but also distracted and nervous.
"Oh, drugs," said Eureka. "Nowadays so many have been legalized no one bothers with them anymore."
"How about refugees?"
"I haven't heard of anyone trying to keep them out of south Florida."
"Yeah. I guess you're right. Human trafficking, then? The sex trade?"
"I suppose anything's possible," said Eureka doubtfully. "But they could always be regular old moving vans."
If there were any left. Many, many people had moved away, and no one had returned, which affected the balance of trade in trucks and vans.
Hector stood up then, and she took in the cause: a small slender woman in a white spandex dress shirt, black pants, black ankle boots, and long straight black earrings like exclamation points. Eureka didn't realize that this was Hector's friend until he introduced her.
The woman – Lulu – was way too old for him, in experience if not in years. She did not look soft or bruised. She was anxious, yes. But her face was as smooth and tight as a mask. Her eyes, highlighted by smoky make up, were deep dark pools. Her hair was as stiffly spiked as a monkey-puzzle tree. She could have made some wrong choices, anyone could have, but she was no damsel in distress.
Det. Kilburn immediately assumed that she had some connection with the man spilling out of his jacket, even though they were on opposite sides of the bar, and they had not looked in one another's direction. No one else in the place wore such smart new clothes. Probably no one else in town did. The two also looked hard in the same way, as if they might have suffered plenty but that was all locked away long ago.
"How do you do," said Det. Kilburn, giving her a cop's nod.
The uniform affected different people different ways, and even though Lulu had supposedly claimed that seeing it would make her feel safe, she was eyeing it warily. There were a lot of possible explanations for this, but mostly it meant she was no ordinary civilian.
"What I've learned is, either people are for you or they're against you," said Lulu.
"Okay," said Det. Kilburn.
"That's the important thing. More predictive than any ideas you have about the way you're supposed to act."
"Got it," said Det. Kilburn. "So what can I do for you?"
If anything, Lulu's face hardened.
"I want you to tell me what you think of Hector," she said.
"I told you you can trust her," he said.
"Does this have anything to do with the man at the other side of the bar?" asked Det. Kilburn.
"I don't know who you mean," said Lulu coldly. But she hadn't bothered to look.
Det. Kilburn shrugged. "I just noticed him. He kind of stuck out. Like you."
"He bought me a drink, Lulu," said Hector.
"Lots of people buy cops drinks."
Hector didn't look happy, but he said to Eureka, "Why don't you just tell her she can trust you."
He picked up the rum and took a tentative sip. He was not a natural sipper.
"I don't let people commit crimes here," Det. Kilburn said to Lulu.
At least not many.
"Not everything's a crime," said Lulu. "Although I know it might look like it to a cop."
Contempt radiated off Lulu in waves.
"I'm not sure we're getting anywhere here," said Det. Kilburn, hitting her thighs in preparation for rising.
"I'd like to speak to your boss alone," said Lulu, turning her smooth indecipherable face toward Hector.
"I'll be in the back." He meant in the area behind the building where men but not women could urinate, which was most unfair.
"Take your time," said Lulu.
"I hear you."
The two women watched him disappear into the shadowy recesses. Det. Kilburn sensed that the man in the black jacket watched him leave, too, although it was hard to be sure without openly tracking him.
"Hector claims you treat him well," said Lulu.
"He's a good officer."
"You have no idea. He's a sweet kind boy. And a hard worker."
Boy? Det. Kilburn frowned. "He says you're in trouble."
"Yes and no," said Lulu. "Yes and no."
She pulled a small reusable grocery bag from her pocketbook and dropped it on the tabletop with a soft thud.
"I'll tell you another thing I've learned," said Lulu. "The best weapon is a person's own nature. You find out what it is, and you turn it against them. I could have taught Hector a lot. But I didn't want to. He was different. He was smart, and he was good. Besides, he always worried too much." An odd assessment – baffling not only in its obvious untruth (Hector was no worrier), but also in the curious picture it gave of the relationship between the two of them.
"Maybe he had reason to worry," said Det. Kilburn.
"Oh, right." Sarcasm.
"Who are you?"
"That doesn't matter," said Lulu. She upended the green bag to reveal half a dozen wads of cash cinched with paper bands.
These were not, say, store receipts, which would be stacks of mostly ones and fives, their foxed edges not quite aligned. This was new money, real money, the kind you'd find in banks, with twenties visible on top. Not that there were any banks in Sarasota, Florida, anymore, but there used to be.
"Are you sure you want everyone to see that?" said Det. Kilburn mildly.
The couple at the next table stared. This was a real couple – on a date – unlike Hector and Lulu. The man in the gaping black jacket was staring as well.
"The money's for Hector," said Lulu. "Tell him it's safe."
"Safe?" asked Det. Kilburn. "You mean properly laundered?"
"Surely by now you understand that I would never do anything to get him into trouble."
"At least you owe him an explanation."
"He'll know." Lulu stood up. Her tone of voice said she was already gone. Det. Kilburn could have tried to grab her, but she saw no reason to. Better that she keep track of the cash.
Lulu took off down the Trail, the opposite way from Hector, and slipped into the dim ghostly light.
Hector appeared almost immediately. "What was that?"
"She said she'd see you again."
"But the money…"
"It's for you. She says it's safe."
"Safe," echoed Hector.
"You were watching?"
He sprinted after her.
Det. Kilburn stuck the cash back into the green bag. She was curiously unmoved by handling it. She nodded to the bartender. The man in the gaping black jacket was gone.
As she trudged back to the squad car she looked around but could see no sign of him or of Hector or of Lulu. She locked the money in the evidence safe, got behind the wheel, messaged Hector, and settled in to wait. If Hector didn't show up, at least she'd get to see the trucks.
The trucks loomed larger than ever in her mind. They meant something, she could feel it. The idea of their secret holds of cargo chilled her.
She was parked on the right side of the Trail. The fallen motel sign provided a bit of cover. It would be easy for her to pull into the street behind any stray fleet of trucks heading north. That didn't mean she was going to do it. There were so few vehicles on the road that she wouldn't be invisible once she was driving. Maybe instead of following these trucks she would simply stop them. But she had no warrant, not even a legitimate suspicion. Not even an illegitimate suspicion. It was funny, what a precisely foreboding picture she had in her head of these trucks she had never seen.
Then she thought about young Hector George and the preposterous gift that Lulu had brought him. It had been a very busy night. Crazy busy. Certainly more jam-packed than your average daytime. In that Hector had been right.
Det. Kilburn's mind wandered some more. For a while now the conviction had been growing on her (for no good reason) that there was a connection between the trucks and the other events of the evening.
The most obvious possibility: Lulu was giving Hector George his cut of the proceeds from the contents of the trucks. If Hector had had a part in some legitimate business, he would have let Eureka know. So he must be crooked. A ridiculous notion. But one impossible to dismiss.
Oh, the trucks, the trucks. She could feel the weight of them on her chest. She pulled out her corephone. She suddenly needed to know how long it would take them to arrive. If they'd been moving steadily since Kit had messaged her, they would be here soon.
She did not believe that Hector knew what was in the trucks. Drugs, refugees, sex slaves, he'd said. These suggestions seemed based on some crackpot idea of crime rather than any experience of it.
Then Hector slid into the seat beside her. He knew the trick to opening the passenger door when it was locked from the inside – try the handle. Worked every time.
"No luck?" asked Det. Kilburn.
He shook his head.
"Who is she?"
"I can't tell you. I promised I wouldn't."
"All right, I'll be the one to tell you. You didn't meet her last night. You've known her a long time. Maybe someone who took you in after your mother died? A sister, an aunt, a cousin, a family friend."
The woman in black with the exclamation point earrings hadn't looked much like Hector, but a lot of that was in the way the two presented themselves: Lulu frozen, Hector fizzy.
Right now he was drumming his fingers on the car door. Then he said, "I owe her everything, you know. Yes, she's my sister. She used to be a regular girl. She baked cakes and listened to folk guitar and she was just as silly as any other girl, even if she was a lot older than me. Then suddenly our mother was gone, and Lulu was the one who had to take care of everything. More than that. She had to save us. Otherwise we wouldn't have survived. It's not just like she tried, or she did her best. She made up her mind, she was going to get it done no matter what she had to do. And yes, she got it done. The situation was really hard, but she got really hard to meet it. She did some scary things."
"She just showed up at the Moon Bar last night?"
"I told her to meet me there. Yesterday I got a message from her out of the blue saying she was in town."
"Where's the money from?"
"You still have it?"
"Can I see it again? I never saw anything like it before."
"She says you'd know all about it."
Hector shook his head. "She always promised she'd set me up the right way. She just didn't ever have a chance. I suppose that's what she was talking about. But she thought it was great I became a cop. She was really interested, asked a lot of questions." He hesitated. "The questions were all general. I didn't tell her anything I shouldn't have."
Det. Kilburn nodded unhappily.
"It's a coup, to get a job like this, and she knew it," he explained. "There aren't any ordinary jobs anymore."
"Being a cop isn't an ordinary job?"
"There is not one tiny thing about this job that's ordinary."
"Did she really tell you she was in trouble?" asked Eureka.
"Yeah. She didn't tell me what it was, but I figured it had to do with her new boyfriend. His name is Sokrates, and he's the real reason I left Miami. The hurricane provided an excuse."
Det. Kilburn asked what was wrong with the guy.
"He's a businessman. Lulu swore he was legit. So far as it went. But eventually she told me more about what he did. Hired illegals so he didn't have to pay them anything. Made them work till they dropped. Gave them crappy food and deducted exorbitant sums from their paychecks to cover it. A real creep."
"He lived in Miami?"
"Yeah. But you know how bad it's gotten there. He was paying everyone off. I don't know why it's better business to buy a bunch of politicians than to pay your workers a decent wage."
"You think he could be the guy in the black jacket at the end of the bar?"
"I guess so," said Hector. "Probably. I never got a good look at him back in Miami. At first Lulu was excited about dating him. She told me how much it would mean for me. He could send me to college. I mean, he had that much money. Then when she learned more about him, she made excuses to keep us apart. But she didn't give him up. She could taste his money. She said it tasted like oysters. Slimy and disgusting, yes. But also expensive and rare and hard to open. Nutritious. They'd clean the water in the Gulf for us if people would only let them, she said."
"Oysters really are tasty," Eureka objected.
"Well I never tried them."
"And you have no idea where this money comes from?"
"It's not Lulu's," he said. "She doesn't have any. It's got to belong to Sokrates."
"It certainly sounds like it," Det. Kilburn agreed. "But Lulu knew he was at the bar. Otherwise she'd have looked in that direction when I asked her about him. She knew he was going to see her hand me the money. It was like she planned it that way. The question is why."
"I don't know. But you have to understand. Lulu is not a bad person. She didn't steal the money. I'm sure she didn't do anything too awful to make it."
"And I didn't do anything at all." Hector was getting exasperated. "I never even met the guy. Not really. He came to the house once, but she didn't let him in."
"So he wouldn't recognize you, either?"
"I don't think so. I had a glimpse of him, but as far as I know he ever set his eyes on me."
"So we're just cops to him."
"Just cops." His words struck an oddly happy note. "Just cops," he repeated.
The front of a truck appeared in her rearview mirror. It was every bit the big looming shadow that she'd imagined. Few lights. No grille or front bumper to speak of. No gleam of chrome at all. A heavy, rumbling, brooding shadow.
"The trucks are here," she said.
"The trucks," said Hector, as if he'd forgotten all about them. He turned all the way round in the passenger seat to see the first one in the distance.
"Lulu says the best way to fight someone is to turn their nature against them," said Eureka.
"She told me it was easy to fool a greedy man. But I personally didn't know any greedy men. I only knew men who wanted to eat."
Det. Kilburn nodded distractedly, turning on the siren and the overhead strobe for the first time in years, and pulling into the road. "Now we're going to say hi."
The first truck was still far enough away that she figured she could safely turn perpendicular to it, blocking its passage. She and Hector got out quickly and moved to the sides. The trucker might conceivably ram into the squad car but would never try to go off road. It was too dangerous.
As the truck came closer, Det. Kilburn could distinguish the angry throb of the jake brakes. The two police edged back in anticipation, but the truck kept coming at them, rolling, rolling, rolling, until it finally stopped with an airy snort only a few yards from the squad car. This was awfully close, too close, as if the driver had taken his time making up his mind. But at least it was done.
"Keep an eye on the other one," she said to Hector, although the truck following behind had yet to show.
This trucker opened his door slightly, a sign that he'd been through a traffic stop before – in other words, that he was a professional. This was a slight comfort to Det. Kilburn, but she did not relax an inch. She approached stiffly, as if her knees suddenly didn't work right. The truck was tall, with a twelve-foot clearance. The black paint was blotchy, from a spray can. She pulled the truck door open the rest of the way with trepidation.
The mess inside seemed to be at eye level. The lip of the door, which had not been sprayed black, was rusty. The muddy rubber floor mats were right by her head. The steering column was reinforced with villainous squirts of plastic goop. The driver, his T-shirt, and his Carhartts were similarly rusty, hairy, muddy, seamed. He did not bother to turn to face her. Instead he looked down at her with his left eye, as if through a crack in a wall.
It was one large step up to the foothold in the cab, while Det. Kilburn was five feet and not very many inches. But it would be safe to jump back out without looking at the ground, should she want to do so. She steeled herself, then grabbed the handhold, made the step up, and held on precariously while the driver handed over a license that was only two years out of date, astonishingly current for south Florida. His name and face matched. Det. Kilburn handed it back and dropped back to the ground.
"Just checking on your safety, sir," said Det. Kilburn, purposely pitching her voice low. "I'd like to see the back, please."
He left the truck running while he scrambled out. Whether this was a sign of confidence or idiocy, she didn't know. Maybe he realized he couldn't restart it. It had definitely seen some recent flooding. Parts of the corroded undercarriage looked like they were about to fall off.
The driver said nothing as he lifted the gate in back. The lights inside the box didn't turn on automatically, probably shorted out. Ofc. George lingered for a peek as the second truck slowed down behind them.
Det. Kilburn's flashlight picked out a centrifuge, not the kind used for making bombs, the kind used in the refining of sugar. A much larger piece of equipment sprawled out behind it like a huge metal preying mantis. It was called a chopper and was used in the field to harvest the cane. Several more pieces of hardware were stuck here and there. The box of the truck had been packed hastily. The equipment badly needed cleaning and oiling. The salt was going to ruin it if something wasn't done.
"Looks good," she said.
Ofc. George was the one who boarded the second truck. The back turned out to hold more equipment and also a sad stack of boxed sugar that had evidently escaped unscathed. The cardboard was soiled, but miraculously dry, and showed no signs that it had ever been wet. It was not much of a haul.
"We'll make sure you get safely out of town," said Det. Kilburn.
When the police returned to their car, Ofc. George exhaled with noisy relief. Eureka couldn't agree more. Her tension did not slacken right away. But she was surprised at the familiarity of the dashboard, the seat, the handbreak.
"They're right to move," she said. "Sugar is over. It will love the rise in temperature but it will be poisoned by the salt in the fields."
"Sokrates must be moving north," said Hector.
"And Lulu made sure you were taken care of before she left."
"But…." He trailed off.
"Yeah, I know. How?"
"Maybe she just asked him. She can be very persuasive."
"Could be," said Det. Kilburn, though she didn't think it likely. Blackmail was a better bet. But then Sokrates wouldn't have bought the police drinks. That sounded more like a business strategy.
The trucks had started up. She pulled over to let them pass, still with light flashing. She fell into line behind them.
"What quality would Lulu have seen in Sokrates that she could turn against him?" asked Eureka.
"Greed, definitely greed. But you couldn't trick a guy like that with some fake deal. Some strange accent."
"Greed is more than just a specific appetite. It's more a whole way of looking at the world. A greedy man thinks everybody's greedy. He'd think we were greedy."
"What a joke," said Hector without humor. "But I get you. She told him she was paying us off."
"She must have come up with the idea last night. It was perfect. You might have turned down the money. I wasn't going to. She must have realized Sokrates wouldn't approve of her giving it as a gift. But as a cost of doing business, it was fine."
The trucks ahead started to slow down.
"Lulu did ask me a few traffic questions," said Hector. "Traffic! I should have known something was up."
"She must have told him he had to pay for safe passage through town. She knew we weren't going to harass them. She expected the trucks to sail through. But then I got curious and so what did I tell the truckers? I was giving them a safe passage through town – exactly what she paid for."
The two trucks ahead of them came to a full stop at the turnoff to the abandoned airport. Out from the shadows opposite the lead truck came two dark figures, one inflated-looking, with powerful shoulders, the other small and slender. The moonlight picked out gleaming white shirts on both. The inflated one wore a gaping jacket.
Hector looked a question at her. Det. Kilburn shook her head. They watched the smaller figure pause, turn, reach out, then clamber into the cab of the lead truck. The bigger figure followed.
Det. Kilburn didn't know if the choice she'd just made was right – or even if it was helpful in the long run. Lulu probably figured her boyfriend owed her. Still, she was ripping him off, and Eureka was letting her get away with it. Her reputation as a detective would take a hit, she supposed. A number of people had seen her take the money. But somehow she couldn't bring herself to care. Maybe it was the influence of the Moon Bar.
The trucks started up again and headed north, past the turnoff to the airport. Eureka stayed put.
"What are you going to do with the money?" asked Hector, his eyes fixed on the backs of the trucks disappearing into the darkness ahead of them.
"It's not mine," said Eureka. "It's yours. Keep it at the station where it will be safe. You'll know what to do with it when the time comes."
Hector let his head drop back his against the seat. He turned it a tired thirty degrees. "I thought I saw her wave."
Eureka nodded. "Me, too," she said.