Homer Price had speared the meatball while Blow was talking, and now he held it above his plate, face slack, watching sauce drip onto the steaming mound of spaghetti. He took a deep breath and let it out as he lowered the meatball to the plate. He cut it in half with his fork.
“I didn’t know that,” he said quietly.
They were in the room Luigi’s reserved for large groups. Blow preferred its privacy when lunching with clients. He’d called ahead to make sure it would be available for a brunch with Homer. Yet his unease persisted. Separation from the trickle of early lunchers on the other side of the open doorway couldn’t shield him from his own misgivings. He had dropped Moriarty off at a strip mall she’d seemed to have chosen spontaneously, and watched her stroll to a discount fashion store. She turned, smiling, and blew him a kiss before disappearing inside. For future contact she had given him a disposable cell phone to use only for texting. Identification both ways was BooBoo, case sensitive. He’d put it on vibrate and slipped it in a side pocket of his jacket. Now at Luigi’s he resisted several times an urge to check the device for messages.
“Where did you hear this?” Price said, after forking food into his mouth, chewing and swallowing. He sipped some beer and dabbed his mouth with a paper napkin.
“Fellow calls himself Jay Mundaign. Lives in the little house by the pier. Alone.”
“Calls himself? Know his real name?”
“I guess that is his real name, now, Homer. He’s one of Moriarty’s people.”
“Oh, shit, Blow. You’re gonna give me indigestion. What the fuck are you telling me?”
Blow explained. He left out the no-need-to-know parts, which meant he had to confide in Price his lawyer-client relationship with Moriarty and her contractual relationship with Jay Mundaign. Only one other person, Blow’s sister, Joan, knew Moriarty had retained him, and this had strained to the breaking point their close sibling affection. A Secret Service agent guarding an ex-president, Joan was the longtime number one squeeze of a senior FBI official whose purview included supervising the team charged with bringing to justice the woman who called herself Jamie Moriarty. Family gatherings at the Stone House from the instant Blow confided this with Joan had taken on for them a slippery layer of subliminal drama. He stared across the table at Price now, wondering at the toll this “Moriarty Curse” might take on the friendship of his most enduring childhood chum.
“She came to me out of the blue, Homer, needing a lawyer. We don’t always get model citizens as clients, you know.”
“But Jeezuz, man! She tried to run you and your sister down with a goddam bulldozer!”
Blow shrugged. “That was then, my friend. Water under the bridge.”
Price stabbed a meatball half and twisted his fork to wind several spaghetti strands around it. He dipped the result in a pool of cheese-sprinkled sauce at the base of the mound. But instead of raising the fork to his mouth he seemed to freeze, as if losing interest temporarily but not enough to let go. He looked up, grinning.
“What did you order, anyway? What’s taking them so long?”
“Just this salad, Homer. I’m not very hungry. You got some sauce on your mustache, Bubba.”
Price shook his head and swiped his napkin across the bush that rode along his upper lip. He studied his napkin, still shaking his head. “Did I get it all?”
“Can you find out if Teach turned in a pistol? Same caliber, I assume, as my client’s.”
“I’ll see what I can find out. So this dude’s been through the wringer. You think he’s holding onto something?”
“Hard to know for sure, Homer. His story’s plausible, and I can see why someone would hound him, too, just for the hell of it.”
“The fuck-you face?”
“Yeah, it’s the strangest thing. He made perfect sense. He was cordial, cooperative, answered all my questions, but I kept getting this bad vibe, like he was smirking at me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, either, but it was there.”
“He have any family?”
“He was vague about it. A son in the Special Forces, daughter somewhere. They don’t keep in touch. He said his face bothers them, too.”
“Dead, he said. I forgot to ask him how he managed to find a woman who could put up with him, with that fuck-you air he gives off.”
“Ha, that’s easy, Counselor. Women like that type, that arrogance. Some guys do, too.” He winked.
“I’ll take your word for that last part, Homer. Hey, if you find the pistol, get hold of me right away. Okay? And don’t tell a soul!”
“Cost you another lunch. Hell, make it dinner.”