The room phone rang.
Diana flinched at the sudden jangling, but the client ignored it. At least, he had started out as a client. Now she wasn’t sure what to call him.
“What’s the weirdest thing a guy ever asked for?”
“That’s a hard one,” she said. “After ten years of this, what’s weird?”
They hadn’t gotten as far as undressing or turning the bedclothes down. The cheap spread felt scratchy even through her khaki pants.
“You know you’re not really talking about sex. There isn’t really much variety.”
He used his gun hand to gesture for more. She clutched her bag against her abdomen as if it would stop a bullet.
“Maybe you could stop waving that around,” she said. “I’m not about to forget you have it.”
She nodded at the door and the parking lot beyond it.
“Neither are they.”
He rested the gun on his knee. She relaxed, but not much. She couldn’t afford to miss her chance to get around him. It wouldn’t be easy, because he had positioned his chair between her and the door.
“Scenarios,” she said. “Nurse. Hot teacher. Some guys even write dialog for me.”
He didn’t look impressed, and her mind threatened to go blank. She looked down, and the sight of her own feet stirred a memory.
“One guy wanted to watch me working on his car.”
“In nothing but work boots.”
He grinned and leaned forward.
“He even taught me some basic auto mechanics. When I had enough grease and old oil on me, he jumped me on this filthy mat on the floor of the garage.”
“That’s more like it.”
“I should have charged him more, though. It took me a week to get the grime out. I had to tell my other clients how I got so dirty, and then some of them wanted me to do it for them.”
“I made it too expensive.”
He laughed out loud.
“We’re assholes, aren’t we? Guys, I mean.”
But his laughter died, and the room seemed to darken.
“Fuck it,” he said. “It’s time.”
He stood and loomed over her. In a moment she would have to make some kind of move. She could try to grab the gun, but she didn’t like her chances.
Instead, he pulled his wallet out and dumped its contents onto the chair.
“Here. You earned it.”
He turned and took the three steps to the door. Diana slid onto the floor and flattened herself on the grubby carpet, as he pulled the door open and raised his gun hand.
“Police! Drop it!” came an amplified voice from the parking lot.
He fired once, twice, three times.
Gunshots on top of gunshots answered. Diana covered her head with her hands and tried to sink through the floor.
Silence returned, and with it the first law of hooking.
Get the money.
It wasn’t as if she could help him now. She crawled past the shredded body and swept the bills off the chair into her bag.
• • •
“Sorry,” Diana said. “I’m not hearing too well.”
She was sitting on a gurney near an ambulance and wearing a blood pressure cuff. Her own voice seemed to come from the bottom of a swimming pool.
“You should carry earplugs,” said the detective.
“Next time I plan to get taken hostage.”
She didn’t know him, but he was treating her as a witness. To some cops she was always a suspect.
“Wish we could have grabbed him before he grabbed you. So what went on in there?”
“That was his bucket list? Not the meaning of life, or what do women really want?”
“A lot of us hate that question, about the weirdest thing. It’s like telling us we make our living exploiting creeps and losers.”
“He said if I told him something good, he’d leave me behind.”
“I guess being a human shield wasn’t on your bucket list.”
“Good thing he liked my naked mechanic career. ”
“That’s pretty weird,” he said. “You ever thought of doing something normal?”
“Hell, what does a cop know about normal?”
“What does anybody?”