Nikki stopped somewhere in Nebraska to eat. Ravenous hunger always came, after she’d borrowed time. There was a delay, but twelve or fifteen hours later, she had to eat eat eat. In the past Taiisha had forced handfuls of multivitamins on her afterward, and now Nikki knew why. It hit hard, hunger pains and shaky hands showing up within minutes of one another. Nikki had stopped at the first restaurant she had found (a little place called Hendrick’s Family Fare) and ordered to her heart’s content. She had already eaten a basket of cheese sticks, two chicken sandwiches and all of the attendant condiments and side dishes, and a big slice of pie, and she was working on a third sandwich. She wanted more cheese sticks, too, depending on how the waitress looked at her when she returned. They were already looking at her a little strangely. She ate as slowly as she could, but it was hard to pace herself. Must feed the machine, she thought, suppressing a grin.
She had never in her life owned a cell phone so when the one Eddie had given her rang, it scared the shit out of her. She dropped the sandwich, looking wildly about to locate the trilling sound that was so close to her, then remembered the phone and dug it out of her bag. “Hello?” she said, brushing hair away from her ear and trying to swallow at the same time.
“Lunch break?” Eddie asked. She expected him to sound far away and scratchy, but the reception was perfect.
“Um. Sorry.” She washed her mouthful down. “Okay. What do you want?”
“I had a good day yesterday. How ’bout you?”
“Could have been better,” she replied.
Some of the cheerfulness went out of Eddie’s voice. She couldn’t tell if he was concerned for her, or about what she might have messed up. Probably the latter. “What happened?”
Losing her cool about it was probably not the best response, but she couldn’t help herself. “It was bullshit, that’s what happened! There was no job, Eddie. It was a setup. They wanted to know what you knew about that Ile du Soleil shit.” Nikki didn’t want to lie to him. She hated lying, and hoped he wouldn’t ask exactly what had happened.
“Mitch Mabry was there? He was in on it?”
She could answer that. “Yes. To both.”
There was a long moment of silence. “Are you okay?” He sounded concerned, and this time she didn’t doubt it was for her.
A small smile touched Nikki’s lips; it was nice that he worried about her, even though she was more investment than friend.
“Break any noses?”
“Shut up,” she said, not liking the reference to the kid she had beaten up in San Francisco. “Where are you?”
“Chicago. Got lots of stuff to show you, and our next job, too.”
“What is it?”
“Tell you when you get here this evening, Poppet.” She hung up without saying goodbye or asking if he wanted anything else. Served him right for calling her Poppet.