Ambrose Lutterworth didn't have to go hunting for Blaze Duvall. She showed up on his doorstep at 7:10 P.M., dressed not in the tailored look he preferred for their encounters and not in the sexy sailboat- casual she'd affected for her cuppie appearances. Blaze was wearing a green, hip- belted leather miniskirt, a shortsleeved, black turtleneck and low-heeled Gucci boots.
For once she was dressed the way she
wanted to dress rather than being costumed for men who, in one way or another, were all just clients.
Ambrose pecked her on the cheek and said, "My, you look...different."
"Not your style, I know. But I felt like wearing it."
"No! I mean, you look beautiful. You always look beautiful."
"I'll wear a longer skirt for our dinner date," Blaze reassured him.
"No, you look wonderful. Really."
"Do you have the drug?"
"Yes, let's sit down for a minute."
Ambrose led the way into the living room, where he and Blaze sat side by side on the old sofa. Two bundles wrapped in notebook paper were on the coffee table. He opened one of them carefully and showed her the powder.
"It took me a while to mash the tablets," he said. "If you empty one of these into his drink...By the way, what does he drink?"
"Beer. What else would those guys drink?"
"Okay, one of these will do it. You said he's a very big man?"
"I've done some discreet checking with my pharmacist and my late mother's doctor. I think a gram of this will guarantee that even a big man won't be ready to run machinery the next day."
"What is it?"
"We don't wanna kill him."
"It won't kill him, but he'll have the mother of all hangovers."
"But he'll be okay, right?"
"Do I look like a murderer?"
Blaze hesitated, then said, "No, you don't look anything at all like any murderer I've seen lately."
"Actually it's a little more than a gram," Ambrose said. "I crushed eleven of the hundred-milligram tablets."
"What's in the other paper?"
"Same thing. Just in case something goes wrong with the first one. But, for God's sake, don't give him both!"
"And you have no fears about Simon Cooke?"
"None at all. I owe him."
"You didn't have to...do
anything with him, did you?"
"Don't be silly, Ambrose. Can you imagine me in bed with someone like that?"
"No, of course not."
"Okay, I guess I'm ready."
"I'll have the money tomorrow afternoon. Twenty- five thousand. You know, I'm surprised Simon didn't make a demand of good faith. Didn't he ever ask for some money up front to prove our reliability?"
"I wouldn't have given him any front money. I don't trust him that
much. But don't worry. I told you, I own him."
"You could own a lot of men, Blaze," Ambrose said.
"Wait up tonight, darling," Blaze said. "I'll phone you with a detailed report as soon as I get back to my hotel."
"Oh, didn't I tell you? Termites. Thirteen hundred bucks a month and I have to cope with termites. We've all had to move out for two days while they fumigate."
"Which hotel are you in?"
"That darling little place on Shelter Island. I selected it so I could be close to the sailor hangouts." Then she added, "And close to you. I like being close to you, Ambrose."
He was touched. He smiled and kissed her lightly, not wanting to smudge her lipstick. But he couldn't resist just touching her lips with the tip of his tongue. Blaze Duvall even tasted
Excerpted from Floaters by Joseph Wambaugh. . Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.