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aShawn gazed in Taryn’s direction as she talked, trying to keep his face composed in what he guessed might be a posture of listening. He nodded slowly and steadily, like a fucking Emmitt Smith bobblehead, and held his mouth slightly open and relaxed, and stared with wide eyes at her pretty little white face, all juiced up like fucking Hillary Clinton or something, but much much hotter. And DaShawn kept listening, like he was fucking Obama with the TV cameras turned on.

She had big plans, this little girl. Was talking about starting a crank factory, but major league, not some little one-pot meth kitchen where you save up your piss to reclaim the one molecule that might be left that could make somebody high.

No, she was talking a proper fucking plant, like Tyson’s, so efficient they take you from egg to KFC in 18 days. She’d recruit workers, runners; she’d buy land, a farm, camouflage everything beneath bona fide crops; she’d keep horses as a cover, even race them.

Not she. We.

“What do you want me in this deal for?” DaShawn asked.

She smiled, sweet as when she was asking for another hundred dollar advance.

“Why, DaShawn,” she said. “Because you’re the only man never tried to fuck me.”

He looked away at that, the memory of what he’d done that night on the houseboat pressing down on him. More than once over the past weeks, he’d thought of that incident and wondered whether that was the cause of everything going wrong. It wasn’t like him to dwell, but he found himself waking up out of the deepest sleep and reliving that moment when he’d slipped his finger inside her, worrying it over and over in a way he didn’t replay Tiff’s murder or the cops shutting him down, moments that by all rights should have worried him more.

But he had not been responsible for those other events, he told himself. And what had happened with Taryn, that he’d done.

“What would my part be?” he asked her.

“We’d work that out as we go along,” she told him. “Security. Personnel. Community relations. Whatever I need you for, I guess.”

He’d never worked for anybody before, never mind a bitch. And now was she saying he’d be the bitch’s bitch?

“I dunno,” he mumbled. “I’m under surveillance, since Tiff. You can see, cops shut me down. They’re watching my every move.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Taryn said. “That rickety little police force, they can’t keep an eye on their own dicks. So you’re shut down. What are they gonna do, watch you sitting here with your finger up your ass? Is that what you plan to do for the rest of your life?”

“I’ll be back in business any day now,” DaShawn said, though the truth was he felt none too sure about that. They weren’t even close to figuring out who’d offed Tiff, from what he could see, and until they caught the perp, and went to trial, and officially cleared his name and the name of the Exquisite A Go Go, he might be stuck spending his days and nights the way he’d been spending them: sitting in the unlit bar with Llewellyn, drinking warm Coke and talking Razorbacks.

“And what are you going to do until then?” Taryn said. “Run hos? Or maybe, I heard they were hiring down at Walmart.”

Bitch. But DaShawn had to hand it to her: She had definitely gotten her shit together since he’d left her at her husband’s that night. She seemed truly clean, but more than that, strong somehow, tough in some way she hadn’t been before.

“What the doc say about your business plans?” he asked her.

“Who, George? You don’t hear anything anymore, D. George and I broke up.”

“What, again? How long for this time?”

“This is it, baby, and I mean it this time. What he did to me I can’t recover from.”

What Father Theresa, as some of the girls called George, did to Goldilocks? That was a new twist.

“What’d he do?” DaShawn asked, laughing. “Put too much cream in your coffee? Too many bubbles in your goddamn lady bath?”

But Taryn didn’t laugh back. “He cut me loose, DaShawn. Set my whole life adrift. Thinks I’m just going to drown because of it.”

He nodded, back to the bobblehead, as if he understood.

She leaned across the bar, close enough that her Juicy Fruit breath filled his nostrils like perfume. “But I’m going to show him, DaShawn. I’m going to show everybody. Going to be a fucking billionaire, meth supplier to the world, bigger than Oprah, baby, most powerful woman in the world. Are you with me?”

Bobble bobble bobble. Except the really scary thing was, he was starting to believe her. He’d seen her pull herself up from the streets to become a doctor’s wife, then slide away from that. He’d seen her dance, for Christ’s sake, and that was an awe-inspiring sight. Bitch could do anything she set her mind to, and while she might not be aware of it, at least consciously, he owed her. Just like she owed him.

“I’m with you,” he said.

Read DaShawn’s side of the story.

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