8

Exertion, combined with the glaring sun, squeezed sweat from him. The stitches in his right side, the tenderness of his wound, required him to carry one bag in his left hand, the other wedged under his left arm. Exhaust fumes from passing cars aggravated his headache and made him nauseous.

At least the taxi was waiting as promised. When the driver saw that Buchanan was having trouble with the bags, he got out. “Here, let me help, suh.”

“Thanks.” Buchanan gave him ten dollars, then turned his attention toward Holly and someone else sitting in the backseat.

He frowned.

While the driver carried the bags toward the trunk, Buchanan got in the backseat, next to a square-faced man who was built like a college football player gone to seed. “Well, Ted, long time no see.”

From the opposite side, Holly leaned forward. “I figured he might as well travel with us instead of keep following in another taxi. We picked him up while you were gone.”

“Ted, I appreciate the help with the bags.”

“What help?”

“My point exactly.”

“You should have asked.”

“I shouldn’t have needed to.”

“Just like you didn’t feel you needed to ask my permission to go into my room. I don’t like the idea of someone rummaging through my stuff. And that’s my jacket you’re wearing.”

“Very observant. So what do you think, Ted? Doesn’t fit me too bad, huh? Here’s your key back.”

Holly tried to distract them. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Right away. Ted isn’t very good at this.”

“Hey,” Ted said.

“All right, I can understand why you’re angry,” Holly said. “When I saw you coming, I should have helped with the bags. I knew you’d just been released from the hospital. I’d have gotten out to help a friend.”

“Well, this guy isn’t a friend,” Ted said.

“Ted,” Holly said in warning. She turned to Buchanan. “Look, I’m sorry. Remember, it was your idea to check me out of that hotel. If you want to go in for melodramatic gestures to try to scare me, you can’t expect me to cooperate in the tactic.”

“Then maybe we ought to go back so I could introduce you to the fellow waiting for you in the lobby.”

Holly’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a joke, right?”

“He didn’t look like he had a sense of humor.”

“This is all bullshit,” Ted said.

“Right, Ted. Bullshit,” Buchanan said. “I don’t care what happens to you, but until Holly and I get some issues settled, I’d just as soon she stayed in good health.”

“Quit trying to scare me,” Holly said.

“Where to, suh?” The driver had gotten back into the taxi and was waiting.

“That errand wore me out.” Buchanan rubbed his sweaty forehead. “I came here to enjoy the sights. I think a river cruise would relax me. Why don’t you take us over to Toulouse Street Wharf? It’s almost two-thirty. Maybe we’ve still got time to get on the Natchez.

As the taxi pulled into traffic, Holly said. “For a man who claims he was never in New Orleans before, you certainly know a lot about the tourist attractions.”

“I studied them in a guidebook.”

“Right. When was that? When you were unconscious?”

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