Don't Look Down Read online

  "I'll show you how to use it," J.T. said to Pepper. "That way you can always find your way home."

  Okay, I'm yours, Lucy thought and tried to look uninterested.

  Across the table, Daisy was grinning at her.

  "Oh, almost forgot." He patted his pocket. "Major LaFavre sent you this." He tossed a package across the table and Pepper tore it open.

  "Oh, cool," she said and put on the mirrored aviator sunglasses, which made her look like a very patriotic little alien. "Do they go with the WonderWear?"

  "Yes," Lucy said.

  "Definitely," Gloom said.

  "You bet," J.T. said.

  "Oh, God," Daisy said, and Lucy looked across to see her smiling at Pepper with tears in her eyes. "You look wonderful, baby."

  J.T. leaned close to Lucy. "I like your hair loose like that."

  "Oh," Lucy said and gave up trying to look uninterested.

  "Cake?" Gloom said to J.T., and somebody knocked on the door of the camper.

  "I'll get that." Lucy got out of her chair to slide behind J.T., trying hard not to brush against him and failing. "Sorry," she said as he slid over into her chair.

  "This is so cool, J.T.," Pepper said and deserted Gloom to crawl into J.T.'s lap, much to his alarm. She turned the compass one way and the other, trying to find north, which was probably a lot harder through the sunglasses. "Do you know what Wonder Woman says when she's surprised'" Pepper looked up at him so that his reflection was mirrored in her sunglasses.

  "Uh…" J.T. looked at Lucy, helpless.

  Lucy smiled and opened the door.

  "I need to talk to you," Connor said, his voice harsh, and her smile evaporated.

  "I'll be right back," she told Pepper, not missing the grim look on J.T.'s face, and then she went down the steps into the darkness. "This is Pepper's party," she said to Connor. "Can't this wait until morning?"

  "What is he doing?" Connor said, looking into the camper, and Lucy turned and saw what he saw, J.T. with Pepper on his lap in LaFavre's sunglasses, Gloom handing him a bowl of cake and ice cream, Daisy laughing across the table at him.

  "Why is he in there?" Connor demanded.

  "Because Pepper invited him," Lucy said. "Because he saved her in the swamp last night when you were rehearsing, and because he brought her a compass today. Because he's a good guy and she likes him."

  Connor slammed the camper door shut, leaving them in darkness. "You get rid of him now. He's fucking up everything."

  "He is?" Lucy felt her temper rise. "He's saving everything. You're the one who's screwing up. You know damn well J.T. didn't sabotage that rope, but I'm pretty damn sure that you did. Which is why he's going to be the one in the helicopter tomorrow night, not you."

  Nash leaned closer. "That stunt is mine. Tomorrow is mine."

  "No." Lucy took a step toward the camper. "J.T.'s the only one I know for sure didn't sabotage that rope, so he-"

  Nash slapped his hand on the camper beside her head, close enough to make her ears ring. She froze as he glared at her, breathing heavily, no shock of apology in his eyes. "He's not going to take this away from me. He's not going to take you away from me. I have plans, Lucy."

  "I don't belong to you," Lucy said steadily. "I never did. Any thoughts I had of coming back to you were gone the moment I knew you put that look in Daisy's eyes." He flinched and she kept going. "She trusted you and you set her up, you're setting them all up, and I'm stopping it n-"

  He grabbed her arm and yanked her to him, and she said, "Ouch!" as the camper door opened. She wrenched away and saw J.T. standing there, tense and still.

  "You're ice cream's melting," he said to Lucy after a long moment, but his eyes were on Nash.

  "Can't have that," Lucy said, trying to keep her voice light.

  "I'm going to be there tomorrow," Nash said to Lucy. "We're not through with this."

  Lucy ignored him and walked back up the steps into the camper, J.T. moving back to let her in.

  "You're missing the cake, Aunt Lucy," Pepper said, then squinted at her. "What's wrong with your arm?"

  Lucy looked down to see the red splotches where Nash's fingers had bitten into her. "Nothing. Did my ice cream melt?"

  "Almost," Pepper said.

  "That chair," J.T. said, pointing to the one he'd just left, and Lucy sat down in it, putting her arms around Pepper as the little girl slid into her lap.

  J.T. took the chair by the door.

  I shouldn't like that but I do, she thought, and then she ate her ice cream, relaxing in the warmth of the camper filled with the people she loved, trying really hard to pretend that tomorrow was just another day.

  Wilder left the camper around ten, after Gloom but before Daisy and Pepper. It had been nice in there in an off-the-wall kind of way. He and Gloom had gotten into a discussion of the classic Western showdown in the street ("That never happened in real life," Wilder had told him, "the movies invented that, it's a really stupid way to fight."; Gloom had said, "I don't care, I like it.") and had agreed that High Noon was the greatest Western of all time, with Pepper chiming in that she thought so, too, although it appeared it was the only Western she'd ever seen. Daisy had told him that their expletive of choice was now "Sufferin' Sappho," and Pepper had told him that she was his egg, both of which confused the hell out of him. Then Pepper said she'd seen the ghost again, this time in a building, and he paid attention, but she didn't seem as sure as she had before, distracted by her Wonder Woman stuff, so he let it go. He could have her point out the building tomorrow, maybe take a trip over there, see if there was any evidence somebody had been there.

  But it was hard to concentrate on anything but Lucy, laughing and calling him "J.T.," and he realized that he didn't give a damn about much of anything if he could watch Lucy laugh, all the tension lines gone from her face, her eyes lit up and smiling at him, her dark hair fi-nally out of that braid, spilling over her shoulders onto that Wonder Woman WonderWear. Pretty damn good.

  But when Gloom left and he was the only one not wearing the underwear, he thanked Pepper for the party and left, feeling both relieved and disappointed when he was alone out in the dark again. It was simpler alone in the darkness, but Lucy wasn't there. He thought of her in his Jeep, in the passenger seat with her shirt open, that Wonder Woman thing underneath, her hair free and blowing as they drove down some two-lane road in the Southwest heading due south toward Mexico where there were no satphones with alerts for war or the CIA. The desert. No one around. The sun warm on their faces. Listening to Jimmy Buffet. Beaches, bars, booze, and just one woman. Just-

  His eyes adjusted to the light and he saw Nash over by the side of the lot, punching numbers into his cell phone, looking mad as hell. Good, Wilder thought, and settled in to wait until he left. He tried to decide if Nash approaching Lucy's trailer again was a killing offense. If he touched her, he was dead, but…

  Perhaps a warning. The man was on edge, so Wilder was prepared for the worst when Nash saw him.

  "What the fuck do you want?" Nash growled as Wilder approached.

  Wilder couldn't see his hands, so he kept his own close to his sides. He could hear Nash's breathing. Damn, the man was pissed about something. "Heard you did a stint or two working for Blue River."

  "Fuck you."

  "Excellent vocabulary."

  "Why are you here?"

  "Same as everybody else. Make some money. Get laid." Fuck you over.

  Nash took a step forward. "Leave."

  Wilder grinned. "Right. That'll do it."

  "You have no idea what you're messing with," Nash said.

  "Oh, I have an idea," Wilder said, his left hand sliding around and getting close to the butt of the Glock. But he did not touch it, there was the rule, and he knew that Nash knew the rule, too. It was good to deal with another professional. Bryce would have tried to hug him by now.

  Nash's hand was hovering near his quick-draw rig. And the Australian had a crooked grin on his face. "Your call," he said in a vo