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Jonathan M. Sweet








Sam Perkins eyed his visitor carefully, a mixture of apprehension and confusion decorating his face. “Beg your pardon?”

“I said I’d like to see your daughter Delilah,” answered the stranger in a quiet voice, his hands folded behind his back. “Could you send her out here, please?”

“There is no Delilah here.”

“So you’ve said,” replied the young man. “But I don’t b’lieve you.”

“What you do and what you don’t believe don’t matter a whit. There is no ‘Delilah’ living here. I don’t have a daughter, mister, just two boys—”

“She gi’ me this number, Mr. Perkins. And it turned up on my caller I.D. a year ago when she called me last, so I know at least one’a them calls come from this house, if not ever’ one. I’m presuming you lived here at least since last September, so it was your little girl—”

“I don’t have a little gir—”

“—who called my house.” The man on the porch’s color was high beneath a bronzeish complexion; whether from the sun or by his nationality Perkins couldn’t ascertain. He wore a pair of camouflage jeans and a parka the color of tree bark. His head was shaved and his mustache and goatee were trimmed close to the skin. Sam thought he looked a bit like that actor who played Slater on Saved By the Bell. His voice, previously soft, had risen angrily along with his hectic flush; realizing that, he resumed a civil tone. “She made some promises that it come high time she kept. I just want what’s rightfully mine, sir.”

“Mister—” Sam fumbled for the name, which he knew his guest had repeatedly given him during their several phone conversations, but his memory failed him. “I told you numerable times, I don’t have a daughter, only sons, and I don’t know no Delilah.”

“Mitcheson. Antonio Mitcheson,” supplied the young man. His wet, pink lips worked nervously as his hands stole from behind his back—they looked very large—and slid into his coat. “Nothing makes sense any more. I been fed so many lies I don’t know what I ought’a b’lieve.”

“Well, I can’t help what this Delilah girl done to you, son,” said Sam, who was looking nervously at Antonio and hoping desperately to see the ass of him headed off his doorstep, “ ’cause I never met her. But I’m sure it’s for the best you don’t find her. I’m betting she makes her own mama and daddy cry a smart of tears with her beha—”

“Shut up,” snarled Antonio, a .32 suddenly appearing in one meaty fist. “B’fore you end up the one crying ‘a smart’a tears’.”

Sam was strangely more bothered by Antonio’s ugly mimicking of his turn of phrase than the gun in his face. “You don’t want to do this.”

“You’re right; I don’t. You made me have to, by trying to turn me away with a pat on the head and an empty hand, you patronizing sumbitch. Delilah!” he bawled up the stairs. “Delilah! Got-damn it, girl, this is Antonio! Get your ass down them stairs! I come for that weekend you promised me four years ago!”

“Won’t do you no good,” said Sam matter-of-factly.

“She ain’t home? I can wait f’ her.”

“She ain’t home ’cause she don’t live here,” Sam replied tersely. The front door stood wide open behind him, and he could have easily escaped. He didn’t, partly because it didn’t come to him until too late, and more importantly, Drew and Milt were home. He didn’t want to leave them at the mercy of this bellowing, possibly homicidal fool. “I told you that what seems like a thousand times, and you don’t listen.”

“You’re lying!” roared Antonio. Taking note of the open door, he kicked it shut with one heavy boot hard enough to jar a picture off the wall, as if to say Try escaping now. “You ain’t telling the truth, and liars go straight to hell—along with whores!” He hollered Delilah’s name up the stairs again. Sam though maybe it was lucky for this girl that Antonio Mitcheson had come to the wrong house, because she would likely wind up at a bad end if he had found her and spirited her off someplace. All the while the .32 remained trained, unwaveringly, on Sam. “Call her down here, Mr. Perkins. Maybe she’ll listen to Daddy.”

“I can’t give you what I ain’t got,” answered Sam, “and you’ll want to put that gun down. My oldest son is a state trooper with the Alamo PD—”

“I don’t give a shit if he’s Christ the King come back for the Rapture—”

“—and he’s got a license to carry. If you just calm down—”

“—and go peaceable right into the back of a police car,” said Antonio sourly, “or a paddywagon, is what you mean. I ain’t crazy. I just want my girl!” Gun or no, he looked like a baby denied a sweet and about to pitch a major hissy-fit. “I want what rightfully belongs to me! I want my world to make sense!” The gun dropped to his side, and the bald, distraught youth charged up several stairs, his heavy jackboots thudding on the landing. “De-li-laaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” he shrieked in an unconscious imitation of Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. All but the shirt-ripping, mused Sam. Under other circumstances, it’d be pants-crapping funny.

“Dad?” a sleep-slurred voice muttered from the dim light at the top of the stairs.

“What’s all the hollering about? That one of Drew’s friends making all that ruckus?”

Sam’s blood felt as thick as cold tar.

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