Epilogue

 

Using the rope that had been used to restrain Cody, they tied the ankles of each body, threw the rope over the overhanging beam and between the two of them, managed to haul them up the stairs.  Occasionally their arms would get tired and they’d have to let somebody drop, causing them to hit their head, but nobody complained.  Cody suggested that they save Hardin for last, since he was the heaviest and they didn’t want to tire themselves out before disposing of the others.  

When they were done, both sank to the floor, panting.  

“Whew!” Cody gasped.  “Those guys were more trouble than they were worth.”  

Joanna used the hem of her shirt to wipe her damp forehead. “I could really use a cold drink right now.”  

Chains clinking on the rafter and a steady hiss of acid were the only sounds in the warehouse.  It seemed almost deafeningly quiet.  They turned to leave when they heard the faint whisper of sound behind them.  Both of them jumped when Buck, who had lain unnoticed on the far side of the vats, stiffly got to his feet, gave them a frightened look, and hurried off as quickly as his stubby legs could carry him, wailing, “Boss?  Rogers? Eggy?  Babette!  Where are you? Don’t leave me here alone with them!”  

Neither Joanna nor Cody tried to stop him.  

“Let him go,” Joanna said wearily.  “My hands hurt too much to dip another one.”  

The vixen snorted.  “And he wasn’t exactly the brains of the outfit.”  

Joanna swayed a little from exhaustion.  The thrill of their life-threatening encounter was beginning to wear off, and she just wanted to curl up and go to sleep.  Cody slumped against the wall, looking as bad as Joanna felt.

“You okay?” Cody asked.

“I will be.”  

Pushing away from the wall, the vixen said, “Well, Diz, I’m outta here.” She paused. “You coming?” 

“Lead the way.”  

* * *  

They made a slight detour to the now deserted Stepford Manor.  “Don’t touch anything,” Joanna warned, earning a dirty look. They slipped past the yellow crime tape, Joanna quickly retrieved her things, avoiding looking at the chalk outline in the foyer on the way.  A quick exploration of the rooms told them, to their mixed relief, that there had been only one casualty of their encounter with Hardin’s boys.  With a sinking heart, Joanna knew who it was.  

Aloud, she said, “I wish that Eggsucker bastard was alive.”  

“Are you nuts?  Why?”  

Joanna’s voice was low and poisonous. “So I can kill him again.”  

“At least the rest of them are okay.”  

“Huh. What do you know? Oh well, at least that’s off my conscience.”  

The trip back to the bar was silent; as they neared the big gray building, Joanna’s eyes darted nervously around, spotting the alley, though she knew that it wasn’t likely anyone would bother her now.  She started to go knock on the front door, but Cody stopped her.

“He never answers the front door until he opens at four,” she told her.  “If he’s here, he’ll probably be in the back.”  

“And if he’s not?”  

Cody grinned.  “I can pick a lock.”  

Joanna chuckled.  “That’s my department. You couldn’t pick anything but your nose.”  

“Oh yeah?  We’ll see, won’t we?”  

They made their way to the back, and Cody rapped solidly on the door.  After a moment, they heard someone moving around and the door swung open.  When Jons saw who it was, his disgruntled expression transformed to one of intense relief. 

"Cody!  I thought..." He hugged her hard and she returned the embrace, burying her face in his shirt for a brief moment before remembering her new friend.  Hastily, she pulled away and took a few limping steps back.  She glanced at Joanna, somewhat embarrassed by the display, yet too happy to really mind.  

“Where have you been?” he demanded.  He noticed Joanna standing a little apart from them.  “Are ya’ll all right?”  

“Fine.”  

Much to Joanna’s amusement, he cupped the vixen’s chin in his hand and tilted her head upwards.  

“That’s some shiner you got there.”  

Flushing, Cody took a few limping steps back and studied him.  Her lips thinned as she noticed the scabs on his neck.  

“How about you?” she asked. “Are you okay?”  

Jons shrugged.  “I will be.  I think that goon pulled a muscle when he twisted my arm.  Been trying to clean up the bar, but…”  

“Well, do you need help?”  Cody looked at him quizzically.  “Can we hole up here for a few days?”  

“Sure, Cody.”  He moved aside and let them into his apartment.  “Are either of you hungry?”  

Though it had been a long time since breakfast at the diner, they shook their heads as they stepped into his small, scrupulously clean kitchen.   

“All I want is a bath and to sleep for a hundred years,” Joanna said.  

“I’m sorry.”  Jons realized that he didn’t even know the name of Cody’s companion.  “I didn’t quite catch your name, miss…”  

Cody glanced at the bear with interest, wondering if she felt safe enough to give out her name to Jons.  

The woman hesitated for a moment. Then she said, “Joanna.”  

From her hesitation, both Jons and Cody wondered if it was indeed her real name but let it go. “Nice to meet you… Joanna.”  

They shook hands and he felt her roughened skin and involuntarily let out a mild oath. “What the hell happened to your hands?”  

The women exchanged guilty looks and Joanna said sheepishly, “Dishpan hands.”  

Liar, Jons thought, but said, “Looks like you both need patching up.”  

“I just want a bed.”  

“If you don’t mind sleeping on the couch, you’re more than welcome to it. And the bathroom’s the last door on the right at the end of the hall.”  

“Thanks. After the last few days, I could sleep on a bed of nails if I had to.”  

She stumbled down the hall and Cody and Jons looked at each other.  

“Where am I supposed to sleep?” she asked.  

“Not with me.  You snore.”  

“So you’re going to let me have your bed?”  

“Not a chance.  If I slept on the floor, my back would kill me.  You’re young.  You can take it.”  

Rolling her eyes, she limped away. Hastily, he filled a compress with ice and followed her into the living room.

“You never did answer my question.” Jons watched as she sank onto a plush armchair with a groan.  

“What question was that?”  She frowned as he sat on the arm of the chair.  “Get up!  You’re going to break it if you keep sitting on it like that.”

Actually, the wiry ferret wouldn’t have and they both knew it.

“Don’t try to distract me.” Undaunted, Jons leaned over and tried to place the compress over her eye.  She dodged him.  “Will you hold still?  If you don’t put some ice on it, it’s going to swell up like a balloon.”

“Leave me alone.  I’m fine.”  She continued to lean away from him until he lost his balance and fell onto her lap.  

He took advantage of her momentary surprise to slap the compress on her eye.  Then, he realized that her elbow was in dangerous proximity to his groin and he hastily slid off her lap and sat on the couch across from her, eyeing her gravely.  

“So?”  

She tilted her head back, one hand holding the compress.  “So what?” 

“Where have ya’ll been?  I was worried sick about you.”  

“I’ve been around.  Didn’t Tony tell you I’d called?”  With a yawn, she closed her eyes.  “No, he probably didn’t.  Anyway, I did try to get in touch with you.” She yawned again and willed herself to stay awake.  She had to take a bath, too, but she was so tired and Jons’s old armchair felt like heaven after sleeping on a concrete floor.  

“Well, you’ve given me some new gray hairs.  Not a word for three days and then you just show up on my doorstep…”

Her head lolled to one side and she started to fall out of her seat.  He quickly caught her before she could topple and lowered her onto the chair.  With a start, he noticed her hands were even more raw-looking than Joanna’s.  

Rope burns? Yeah, right.  

“When you’re cleaned up and rested,” he said to Cody, “we’re going to have a little talk.”  

Going to the linen closet, he pulled out a couple of blankets and pillows and took them back to the living room.  He laid a pillow and blanket on the couch for Joanna.  Then he grabbed an ottoman and propped Cody’s feet up, slapping another compress on one of her ankles when he noticed it was beginning to swell.  The chair was large enough for two people---plenty big enough for one tiny vixen to use as a bed, so he didn’t feel bad for not letting her have his.  Carefully, he eased the other pillow behind her head and draped the blanket over her.  She didn't stir.  

Hurricane Cody strikes again, leaving disaster in her wake, he thought.  

The last few days before Joanna went home were uneventful, but that was just fine with them.  They helped Jons and his employees to clean up the broken glass, right overturned tables and chairs, and sweep up spilled peanuts.  Tony and Trixie came over the day after Joanna and Cody’s arrival to check on Jons.  

“You must be Cody’s friend,” Tony said, spotting her behind the bar.  

“Must be,” she said, eyeing him warily.  “How’d you know?”  

“Boss Man mentioned you.  Said you and the little lady were on the run.” He looked her over, leering slightly until Trixie swatted him.  

“Ow!  What’d you do that for, baby?”  He rubbed the back of his head.  “When I see something nice, I can’t help but show my appreciation.”  

“Don’t be rude.  She’s been through something awful and the last thing she wants is some old lech leering at her.”  The feline turned to her and smiled.  “He’s harmless, really.  I’m Trixie, by the way, and the pervert is Tony.”  

“Hey!” Tony was indignant.

Joanna liked her. “It’s okay.  Nice to meet you.  I’m Diz… er, Joanna.”  

“Dizzy!  You got the cleaning junk?  The bathrooms are horrible.” Cody limped into the bar.  

“Hey, kiddo.” Tony whistled as he got a good look at her face. “Wow!  How’s the other guy?”  

“Dead,” she said cheerfully.  

“Who smacked you?”  

“How’d you like me to smack you?”

The bulldog looked plaintively at Trixie, who covered a smile with her hand.  “What is this --- ‘Be Mean to Tony Day’?”  

“Yep,” said Jons, coming into the bar just in time to hear his friend's last comment.  “Want the day off?” 

"I just came over here to see how you were doing, Boss Man.  Call off your girl.  She's being mean to dumb animals again." 

Jons laughed.  "At least nobody can call you conceited, Tony."  

The two stayed for dinner and, to Joanna’s surprise, she found herself more relaxed than she’d been in a while.  She responded to Tony’s overt flirting with cutting sarcasm, much to the entertainment of the other three.  

Despite her various aches, having to sleep on a couch, and working hard to clean the bar, she was actually enjoying the last few days of her vacation.  They limped around the bar, clearing away the debris, but had to take frequent breaks, at Jons’s insistence.  After their work was done, Jons would mix their favorite drinks and they’d sit at one of the corner tables and talk.  Cody, of course, had her usual piña colada while Joanna sipped iced tea. 

“What’ll you have?” he asked Joanna, sliding Cody's drink to her. 

“Well…” Joanna hedged, thinking. “I never did get to drink the first one you made me, so…” 

“Wait, don’t tell me --- let me guess.” Jons’s southern accent became broader, less refined. “Why, Ah bet you’d jest love a nice tall glass of iced tea. With li’l ol’ twist of lime?”   

She blinked. “You remember that?” 

“’Course I do.  That southern accent of yours was lousy, girl.” 

“Don’t knock it, Jons,” Cody advised, “That lousy accent saved my life.”

Joanna smiled at her.  

“Never heard of lime in iced tea,” Jons mused. “Is that some kind of Yankee thing?”  

“Nope.  Just made it up.  Makes it nice and citrusy.”  

Both Jons and Cody echoed, “Citrusy?”  

“As in ‘citrus’ --- you know --- oranges, lemons, grapefruit?”  

“Oh.”  

“I make up other stuff too.  Have you ever tried peanut butter and syrup on pancakes?”  

Jons wrinkled his nose. “No, can’t say that I have.”  

She said seriously, “It’s the best.”  

Cody snorted.  "What planet are you from?  Everybody knows you don't put peanut butter on pancakes." 

"Oh, yeah?  And just what are you supposed to put on them, smarty?  Boring old syrup?" 

"Everybody knows you put chocolate and whipped cream and those little candy sprinkles on pancakes." 

"Nuts." Jons expertly twisted a lime rind around a straw and slid Joanna's drink to her.   

The women exchanged glances.  "Huh?" 

"Nuts.  Pecans toasted with cinnamon and sugar.  That's what you put on pancakes." The bartender winked, grabbed his rifle, and military-marched into his apartment.  

Joanna darted a glance at Cody, her expression clearly askance.  

"Yeah, well, you spend as much time around alcohol as he does, you're bound to be a little off."  

They sipped their drinks. Joanna told the vixen about the Freddy incident that had prompted her to take a vacation and started the whole thing.  

You said something about that when we were on the run.  You really locked that guy in a safe?  Wish I could’ve seen it.”  

“Funny how we bumped into him the night that nightclub burned down.  Never thought I’d see him again. What are the odds?”  

“Small world.”  

Joanna glanced at Cody’s feet, which dangled from the barstool, but smiled and said nothing.  

“I gotta know.” Cody took a long sip of her drink and regarded her. “That old witch’s joint—it doesn’t seem like your kind of place.  How did you end up there, anyway?”

“Helen.” Joanna snorted.  At the vixen’s blank look, she added, “She’s my boss.  I didn’t know anything about Land’s End, so she did some checking around for me and found Miss Martha’s hotel.”

“Hell of a travel agent.”

“Yeah.”  The taller woman stirred the ice with her straw.  “Helen means well but sometimes her good intentions, well, get me in trouble.”  

“Oh, sure.  Blame her.”  

Joanna decided to change the subject.  “Say… did you know Miss Martha made her own watercolor paint from dew?”  

The vixen wrinkled her nose. “Do?  As in poop?”  

“No, no, no --- dew!  As in morning dew.”  

Cody laughed.  “Seriously?  Aw, man!”

Encouraged, Joanna described the elegant, yet cloying dinner and the girls’ ideas of ‘fun’.  “And,” she finished with a theatrical shudder, “the bathmats are made of hair they collect from the drain!”

“They actually weave hair from the drain?  Ugh!”  

“Yeah.  It took forever to get it untangled from my toes.”  

“And here I thought unclogging the toilet when somebody flushes too much toilet tissue down it was disgusting.”  

“Now you know better.”

“Okay, next time it gets clogged up, I’ll call you and let you fix it.”  

“You’d do it on purpose.”  

The vixen gave her an arch look.  “Be a great joke, wouldn’t it?”  

“Only if I’m playing it.”  

“Play it?  You couldn’t even think of it!”  

“You’re right,” Joanna said haughtily.  “I could think of much worse.”  

“Uh-huh.”  

Their conversation turned into a contest on who could think of the grossest joke, which only ended when Jons, who had returned to the bar to check inventory on a newly arrived shipment, made them get back to work.

* * *


Jons’s Place (daytime)
A few days later

“I really appreciate you letting me stay here until I healed up.” Joanna said to Jons.  “Helen --- my boss --- would have a cow if she’d seen me a few days ago.”  

He shrugged and winced at the small stab of pain from the bruised muscles in his back.  “Ow. Some vacation.  You’ve been helping my girl here mind the store and cleaning up all the spilled drinks and broken teeth.”  

“Yeah, that was some rough bunch last night.”  Actually, she really didn’t mind. It took her mind off the events of the previous week.  

“Drunks,” Cody said, shaking her head as she dried the last of the beer mugs and put it back on the shelf.  

Joanna asked Jons, “How’s your back?”   

“I’ll live.  You sure you’re all right to travel?”  

“Yeah.  As long as the bus doesn’t jostle me too much, I’ll be fine. Helen only gave me a week and if I’m not back by tomorrow, she’ll send out a posse.  I wish I could pay you for the room and board, but…”  

“Forget it.  You girls have given me peace of mind. I won’t have to worry about Hardin’s boys coming back.  That alone is worth much more than the price of a lumpy sofa and a few meals.”  

She gave him an impish grin. “I wish every hotel was as reasonable as you are, Jons.”  

He chuckled a little.  “Oh, I think you more than earned your keep.”  

“True.” Joanna looked around the bar.  “You know, I think I’m going to miss this place.”  

Jons smiled.  “Come back any time.”  

“Maybe.”  But she knew she wouldn’t.  As much as she liked excitement, she also craved safety.  She still couldn’t step out into the alley where Eggsucker had nearly… She shook her head.  Besides, she had already spent too many years sleeping with one eye open.  

The ferret watched her expression for a moment, then he said, “You could do me one last favor, though.  Cody, leave those mugs for now and get on over here.”

The vixen shrugged and ambled over.  “What’s up?”  

He reached behind the bar and produced a camera.  “For posterity.”  

“For cryin’ out loud, Jons!”  

“Oh no, I don’t like having my picture taken…” Joanna began. You never knew who might see it.  

“Nonsense, you’re both gorgeous.  Come on.”

She made a face. “Fine, but on one condition.”  

They each borrowed a hat from the Lost and Found. Cody wore a dark gray fedora, while Joanna’s was brown --- not that anyone would be able to tell the difference.  They had also carefully tucked their hair inside, tilting the brim over one eye.  They posed on the bar stools, each raising a heavy mug of beer in a mock-toast.  

“It’s a shame they don’t make colored film,” Jons commented.  “Y’all look great.”  

“Shoot it, already,” Cody complained.  “My arm’s falling asleep.”  

“Say ‘cheese’.”

The bartender snapped the picture and the women lowered the mugs with sighs of relief.  Cody eyed her mug, then downed half the beer in a couple of gulps.   

When Jons frowned at her, she said, “Well, no use having it go to waste.”  Making a face, she added, “Man.  This stuff’s…raunchy.”

Not to be outdone, Joanna drained her mug and set it down.  Wiping her mouth on her sleeve, she let out an unladylike burp.  “Excuse me.”

Cody dramatically cleared her throat and belched even louder.   

Joanna raised her hands in mock surrender.  “You win.”  

The bartender blinked.  “Y’all ever consider goin’ to finishing school?”  

“I did,” Joanna replied, “but I never finished.”

The ferret changed the subject. “I’m gonna take this film and get it developed.  Y’all need anything while I’m out?”  

They shook their heads, so he turned to go.  Joanna was in the process of rinsing out her mug when she remembered that she’d promised to bring Helen back something nice.  

“Wait!” She hurriedly set the mug in the sink.  “I need to do a little shopping before I leave.  Could you tell me where I could get a nice teapot or something like that?”  

Jons scratched his head.  “There are a couple of antique stores in town.  Or you could go to W.H. Macy’s.  They’d probably have something you’d like.”  

Joanna grimaced.  “I’ve had enough of department stores for now, thanks.  Could you tell me where the antique stores are?”  

“Sure.  There’s one on the way to the photo-developing place.  If your bus doesn’t leave for a while, you can walk with me.  That way, I can give you a copy of the picture, if you want it.”  

She considered for a moment.  Then, she nodded. “All right.”  

Jons turned to Cody.  “You want to come, too?”  

Wrinkling her nose, the vixen shook her head.  “Thanks, but I’ll stay here.”  

A couple of hours later, they returned. Joanna showed the vixen the teapot she’d picked up at a little antique store a couple of blocks from Jons’s bar.  It was a deep blue, with gold trim --- much better than the old one, in her opinion.  

“For Helen,” Joanna grinned. “Isn’t it cute?”  

Cody shrugged. “It’s a teapot.”  

“Well, I like it.” Joanna glanced at the clock.  “I guess I’d better hurry.”  

Gathering up her few belongings, she stowed the teapot between the clothes in the duffel bag so it wouldn’t get broken.  The newly developed picture she carefully slid into a side pocket in the bag.  She shook hands with Jons and thanked him again for his hospitality. 

“Say goodbye to Trixie and the rest of them for me.”

“I will, honey.  Have a safe trip.”  

“Thanks.”  Then she turned to Cody, unsure of what to say.  

Unexpectedly, the vixen said, “You want me to walk with you?”  

“I'd like that.”

Soon they passed the ill-fated Mel’s Diner, which was now boarded up.  A wooden sign was nailed on the door:  

Alice’s Restaurant
Coming Soon

Joanna said quietly, “Poor guy.  I’m really sorry we went into that diner.”  

“Spilled milk, Diz.”  

“Yeah… I know.”

Cody said hesitantly, “Hey… thanks for coming back for me.”  

Joanna smiled.  “Oh, you’d do the same thing for me.”  

“I did.  At Jons, remember?”  

“Oh. Yeah.”  She didn’t like to remember being helpless.  Carnival life had softened her muscles, dulled her instincts.  She would have to practice her old skills, get back in fighting condition.   Get her edge.  Her experience with Eggsucker was an unpleasant reminder that she couldn’t afford to be civilized completely.  

“So… I guess you’re off to wherever you came from. Where is that, by the way?” Cody looked at her curiously.  

“No place,” Joanna replied. “I work at a carnival. We travel.”  

Cody gave a hoot of laughter. “You work in a circus? With a freak show, the whole nine yards? Why aren’t I surprised?”  

Joanna sighed, exasperated.  Carnival.  There’s a world of difference.”  

“Whatever. What do you do, anyway?”  

“I play in their stupid band.  Piano.  We have to wear costumes too.”  

“So why stay, if you don’t like it?”  

She thought, remembering how just a few days ago Helen had taken care of her when she was sick, bringing her broth and telling her stories until she fell asleep.  She even thought Helen had said something to her just as she drifted off.  

Night, luv.  Be good.  

Joanna grimaced, then shrugged.  “It’s a living.”  Which was easier than explaining that she liked being mothered.   She had a feeling that the tough little vixen wouldn’t understand anyway.   

Half seriously, she said, “Why don’t you come with me?  You could be billed as the world’s shortest mercenary.  Can you juggle?”

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”  

“Too bad.  It’d be nice to have someone to talk to about real stuff for a change.  Like how to get dead goon stains out of your clothes.”  

“Oh, now don’t worry your empty little head about it, Diz.  With your personality, you’ll make lots of friends.  Until they get to know you, that is.”  

“Hey, that’s further than you get.  I’ve got some advice for you --- try to remember to take a bath once in a while and doll yourself up sometimes.  You’re not completely hideous.”  

“Gee, thanks.”  

“And something else… what you told me that first night…they’re not all like that creep, you know.  I’ve met a few good guys --- not during the last few days, of course --- but they’re out there.”  

The vixen smirked.  “Yes, O Wise One.”  

“Really. They can be fun.”  

“If that’s your idea of fun, you can keep it.”  

Joanna saw the bus approaching in the distance. “Oops, here’s my ride.”  

They looked at each other.   

“Well.  I guess this is it, then.” The vixen sounded a little disappointed.  

“Yeah.  I don’t think I’ll be coming this way again, even to see if you can survive without me.”  She grinned.  

Cody rolled her eyes.  “Don’t flatter yourself, Diz.  Nobody’s listening.”  

Joanna feigned sorrow. “That’s exactly why the world is so screwed up.”  

Cody held her ears and began to sing.  “La-la-la-la-la…”  

“Very mature.”  

They stuck their tongues out at each other and giggled.

The bus screeched to a stop, and the doors whooshed open with a clatter.  The driver, a weary-looking raccoon, waited patiently.  Eyeing Joanna’s blue duffle bag, he asked her, “Anything to put in the hold?”  

“No, I’ll keep it with me.”  

“Suit yourself.  Coming aboard?”  

“In a minute.”

“Well, so long, Shrimp.  Look me up… if you can find me.” She offered her hand.  After a moment’s hesitation, Cody took it and squeezed.  Hard. So Joanna squeezed back… harder.

Eyes twinkling, Cody squeezed even harder.  Joanna’s eyes widened slightly and she bit the inside of her cheeks to keep from yelping, but that was her only reaction.  No way was she going to admit that the petite vixen had won that little contest.  It was another unsettling reminder of how she’d changed from her old life.  

They stayed that way for a moment.  Then, Cody released her.  Joanna resisted the urge to massage some feeling back into her hand.  

Cody turned to go.  “Take care of yourself… Joanna.”  

“You, too… Cody.”  Bus ticket in hand, Joanna hurried up the bus steps.  It wasn’t crowded and she was able to find a seat by herself.  

She’d go back to the carnival and Helen would mercilessly mother her, ask her questions, worry about her and generally drive her crazy… but…at least she knew the old dear cared.   As annoying as being fussed over was, it would be kind of nice to be bullied into eating a hot meal and going to bed early.   Joanna would never admit it, but she was actually getting quite fond of her.  She hoped she liked the new teapot.   

She smiled to herself.  Of course Helen would like it.  

The driver called for everyone to find a seat.  As she got onboard, Joanna noticed that something was missing.  There was residue of scotch tape on the bare dashboard, each punctuating corners of squares faded in the sun as though someone had removed something from it --- photographs?  She remembered that that friendly driver --- Ralph Something-or-Other --- used to have pictures of those homely grandchildren of his.  She wondered if he had been fired or something.   

Oh well. Nothing to do with me, she decided.  

Joanna breathed a sigh of relief.  It was over.  Really over.  As Land’s End slipped away, she thought about her little misadventure. It had been thrilling in a way, thumbing her nose at death. She remembered the disgust of finding the body in the alley and frowned as something else shoved its way into her memory. Galloway’s shoes had had an odd half-moon heel. Almost unbidden, she recalled the bruise on the vixen’s chest that had made Joanna tell her to pull up the bodice of the pink dress. And Galloway had been stabbed. Well, Joanna had seen how good Cody was with a knife, and what was it she’d said?  

If you give ‘em the up close and personal, at least you’re sure they’re dead. 

Then, the image of the flat-chested vixen's sudden ample endowments in that costume came back to her and something Hardin had said--something about Galloway's assassin being paid ten thousand dollars made it click.  

… paid ten G’s

… to snuff Galloway.

The way the color had drained from Cody’s face when Hardin had mentioned the bounty he'd put on the assassin's head…

Her mouth fell open and she slapped her forehead. “Why that little---!”

The lemur across the aisle looked at her warily, but she ignored him and glanced out the window where the vixen stood, watching the bus. 

Cody waved to her.  Awkwardly, Joanna waved back.  Again, she remembered the vixen’s stuffed bodice and two words came to mind.  

Treasure chest.  

Then she began to laugh.  Completely unnerved, the lemur got up and hurried to the back of the bus.

Joanna shrugged and leaned back, still chuckling.  

What the hell.  

* * *  

Cody watched her go, shaking her head.  Then she reached into her back pocket and withdrew a thick wad of bills.  She counted them --- ten thousand shaboozies, plus the money she’d taken from the gangsters --- stacked it neatly and put it back.  It hadn’t been the easiest money she’d ever earned, but it was money.  

Think I’ll go back to Jons’s, she thought. The whole mess made her hungry and he’d made a cheesecake last night.

What the hell.  

 

The End  

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