"you could have left me by the side of the road," said belinda, as country girl turned into the parking lot of the racetrack.
"i have to turn around anyway. and i have to wake leslie up."
"thank you for the ride."
"no problem. good luck with the flowers." country girl looked up at the sky. "it's getting a little late. will you get there on time?"
"i guess i'll have to try." belinda got out of the van, and after a brief glance at the entrance to the track, headed down to the highway.
country girl watched her go, then got out herself. she looked around at the track and the almost empty lot, with papers still blowing around it.
"what a dump." she said aloud, then went around to the back of the van and banged on it.
"how are they all going to get there?" barras asked bates. "we can't fit them all in the limo."
"not a problem," said major mudd. i have a pickup, my crew can all fit in and i'll just follow you. plenty of room sir, no problem in that regard."
"i suppose he can come with us." barras looked at captain dave deadman.
"no," said bates. "dave, you go with them. jojo will come with us. he can ride up front with jerry."
"where are we? i was having a nice dream."
leslie eased herself out if the back of the van after country girl had shaken her awake.
"at the racetrack. we have to get moving. do you want to drive?"
"not really." leslie rubbed her eyes. "maybe later. where's the girl?"
"i let her go. giselle said she didn't care. i guess she's just walking down the highway."
leslie looked around. "this is bleak."
"yes, but check that out." country girl pointed to the limo that bates and barras had come in, parked at the far end. jerry was sleeping behind the wheel.
"nice." leslie agreed. "it must belong to bank robbers or something."
"there's no more bank robbers. because there's no more banks. the bankers all got sent to jupiter with the lawyers."
"if you say so. i don't keep track of that stuff."
"let's get going. you sure you don't want to drive?"
"you know, officer leslie, if i didn't know any better i might think you were taking advantage of my good nature."
"oh here it comes now, i thought you were going to be a good sib but i guess you're going to be just another boss."
country girl laughed.
"we don't have time for this." she started toward the front of the van, then stopped. "oh by the way, giselle called in. after we go to the waterfront we have to go out to the 252nd."
"what was that?" barras asked as he and bates and jojo headed for the parking lot.
"it sounded like somebody screaming."
bates looked at jojo. "is this one of your tricks?"
they came out of the gate. they could see leslie waving her arms at country girl on the far side of the lot. country girl was pointing to the front of the van.
"just a couple of sweepers," said barras. "i didn't see them inside, did you?"
"by the lord harry," said bates, "those are a couple of pretty sloppy looking troops."
"what do you care? you were never even in the troops."
"i think i'll just have a word with them," said bates. "if anybody asks, we can say we were out in the field inspecting."
"we can say that anyway."
"come on, charlie," said jojo, "i already know how important you are."
"i'll be brief." bates headed for the two girls, with barras and jojo shaking their heads behind him.
leslie stopped gesticulating. 'uh oh."
"these guys must be the bank robbers. and they're headed right for us. "
country girl turned. "i think we wish they were bank robbers."
bates was more than halfway to them.
"doesn't look too afraid of us, does he?" asked leslie.
"no, he doesn't. let me do the talking."
is there a problem here, officers?" bates asked.
"no sir," said country girl. "no problem at all."
"we thought we heard some screams. nobody was being murdered?"
"no, sir. we are a little out of our way here, and we were having a discussion about how to proceed."
"there's a lot of wind here," country girl said. "sound might carry strangely."
"come on, sib," said barras. "we're keeping our invited guests waiting. and i'm hungry."
bates looked at the van, then back at the gate. "you weren't attending the races?"
"no, sir,we just pulled in. we weren't inside at all."
'but you were," said leslie. "what kind of nitwit spends his time at a racetrack anyway?"
"shut up, leslie."
"who are these characters? do you have any i d?" leslie asked bates. barras and jojo started laughing.
"i said shut up, officer leslie. that's an order. no need for i d, sir." country girl smiled at bates.
"we don't have a discipline problem here, do we, corporal?"
"no sir, everything is under control."
"i'm hungry, charlie." said jojo. "let's get to the restaurant before it closes."
bates turned around. "oh. then i guess we better get going." he started off, then turned to face leslie. "one thing, officer."
"what did you shine your boots with this morning, your grandmothers recipe for fudge?"
major mudd and captain dave deadman were watching from the cab of the major's pickup truck, which he had pulled up beside the front gate.
'fellow's a little full of himself, isn't he?" said captain dave, as they watched bates head for the limo. "who does he think he is, alexander the great? captain jenks of the horse marines? a mighty commanding air for an old race track tout."
"he's treating you to a free meal, sir."
"doesn't mean he owns me."
"i'll leave you to be the judge of that, sir."
"ordering me about like his butler. you'll go here, he'll go there."
"do you want the free meal?'
"time was when the deadmans were somebody."
"nobody's much of anything any more, sir. deal with it."
barras lingered behind as bates and jojo got in the limo. he took his hat off and bowed slightly to country girl and leslie.
"you officers do a fine job, under trying conditions. you are truly the backbone, the linchpin, of society and the universe."
"thank you, sir." said country girl.
"you'll have to excuse my colleague." barras smiled. "he's been under a bit of stress.
you see, despite his present - um - position that some might consider enviable, he has a problem dating back to his earlier days."
"and what might that be?" asked country girl.
"he doesn't like the police." barras put his hat back on and winked at them.
the limo glided down to the highway with the major's truck clattering behind it.
"whew!" said country girl. "i just hope they're not going the same direction we are."
"but they are." said leslie. "look. they're headed for the waterfront too."
darkness was falling quickly on the waterfront. larry opened the passenger side door for sally when they got back to the parked car.
"do you want to go back to the office tonight?"
"tonight? i don't want to go back to the office at all. what are you talking about?" sally got in the car.
larry went around and got behind the wheel. he didn't start the car. "you are going to have to come in, especially with this new note. tonight, tomorrow, or the next day."
"fine." he started the car and they rolled down to the street.
'we spend the whole day doing nothing, just wandering around talking about saints and sunsets and stuff."
"i was giving us both a rest. but you are going to have to come in."
"will charlotte the idiot be there?"
"probably. she's almost always there. but you probably won't see her. or jeanne either.'
"that's the best i can tell you. it will likely be just tania, me and you." they had reached a wide main road and the car picked up speed. "tania might be a little aggressive in her questions,"
"right. she's the mean girl and you're my big sib. do you think i'm stupid?"
"nobody's stupid. it's just the way it is."