Deck had gotten used to that 5 o'clock call from Kim Li every day. It had always come, just like clockwork, right on the dot. And every day it had been the same shit: "Mr. Coffield, do you still have possession of the book?" And every day, Deck had told him some version of this: "Yeah. And, uh, . . . how about that other $500, my main man. This is turning into more work than I figured." Kim’s answer was always, “No.”

He put the pedal down on the Nova and tossed his used Lucky out the open window. He thought of Seedy Petey Wilson, out in the bushes at Babs’ house, trying like hell to get the pit bull’s jaws unclamped from his ass. He was still trying to figure out the Ute Lemper connection as he drove his piece of shit car to the address he had secretly been wanting to investigate since day one.

I mean, how much more background work could he do? He'd spent all of the minutes from the phone card he’d stolen at the airport from some dumb fuck, and he'd still not gotten through to Ute Lemper at the German spa where his malignant brother, Frieborg, told him she was known to hang out.

The fat Nazi bitches at that place kept telling Deck, "Täg! Täg! Yah, ve vill fetch der Ute vröm der föokenställen," or some such bullshit. But the phone line would just go dead before he could get any further.

Deck felt more sure than ever that the key to this whole thing was some twisted relationship between Kim Li and Ute Lemper. It sure wasn't going to hurt her career any, so it must be something that was an embarrassment to Kim.

Deck filled up the plastic cup between his legs with some warm JTS Brown. "Damn," he thought as he pulled up to the corner of 59th and Grant and watched a hairlipped hooker pull her mini-skirt up to her navel, showing him a trooper-trimmed triangle, "this whisky could use some ice."

Then it hit him like a sock full of marbles. "That was it!" he yelled to himself. Kim Li was someone who was way more important than he let on. "Yeah," thought Deck, "this is what we oughta be looking into! It's not the girls; it's the kid! He must be the one with the bucks and something to lose!"

But, in his heart, he felt something might be terribly amiss. Not getting that phone call today felt like a buttplug without the jelly.

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