She brushed aside the interruption, storming on, her anger spilling out like lava. "Am I such an easy target? Does being alone or Puerto Rican qualify me for all the abuses of this world? Do you not care who you use, or how? Take me home What kind of pendejada is this anyway?"
"Hold it!" Wainwright said; the reaction had astonished him. "What's pendejada?"
"Idiocy! Pendejada that you would throw a man's life away for your selfish credit cards. Pendejada that Miles would agree to do it." "He came to me asking for help. I didn't go to him." "You call that help?"
"He'll be paid for what he does. He wanted that, too. And it was he who suggested you."
"Then what is wrong with him that he cannot ask me himself? Has Miles lost his tongue? Or is he ashamed, and hiding behind your skirts?"
"Okay, okay," Wainwright protested. "I get the message. I'll take you home." An off ramp was close ahead; he turned onto it, crossed an overpass and headed back toward the city. Juanita sat fuming.
At first, she had tried to consider calmly what Wainwright was suggesting. But while he had talked, and she had listened, doubts and questions besieged her, then afterward, as she considered each, her anger and emotion grew, and finally exploded. Coupled with her outburst was a fresh hate and disgust for the man beside her. All the old painful feelings of her earlier experience with him now returned and were augmented. And she was angry, not only for herself, but about the use which Wainwright and the bank proposed to make of Miles.
At the same time Juanita was incensed at Miles. Why had he not approached her himself, directly? Was he not man enough? She remembered that less than three weeks ago she had admired his courage in coming to her, facing her penitently, and asking forgiveness. But his actions now, the method of working on her through someone else, seemed more in keeping with his earlier deceit when he had blamed her for his own malfeasance. Suddenly her thinking veered. Was she being harsh, unjust? Looking inside herself, Juanita asked: Wasn't part of her frustration at this moment a disappointment that Miles had not returned after the encounter in her apartment? And wasn't there exacerbating that disappointment here and now a resentment that Miles, whom she liked despite everything, was being represented to her by Nolan Wainwright, whom she didn't?
Her anger, never long sustained, diminished. Uncertainty replaced it. She asked Wainwright, "So what will you do now?" "Whatever I decide, I'm certainly not likely to confide in you." His tone was curt, the attempt at friendliness i gone.
With sudden alarm, Juanita wondered if she had been needlessly belligerent. She could have turned down the request without the insults. Would Wainwright find some way to retaliate within the bank? Had she put her job in jeopardy? the job she depended on to support Estela. Juanita's anxiety increased. She had a sense, after all, of being trapped.
And something else, she thought: If she were honest which she tried to be she regretted that because of her decision she would see no more of Miles.
The car had slowed. They were near the turnoff which would take them back across the river bridge.
Surprising herself, Juanita said in a flat, small voice, "Very well, I will do it." "You'll what?" "I will be whatever it was an…"
"Intermediary." Wainwright glanced sideways at her. "You're sure?" "Si, estoy segura. I am sure."
Por the second time tonight he sighed. "You're a strange one." "I am a woman."
"Yes," he said, and some of the friendliness was back "I'd noticed."
A block and a half from Forum East, Wainwright stopped the car, leaving the motor running. He removed two envelopes from an inside jacket pocket one fat, the other smaller and handed the first to Juanita. "That's money for Eastin. Keep it until he gets in touch with you." The envelope, Wainwright explained, contained four hundred and fifty dollars in cash the agreed monthly payment, less a fifty-dollar advance which Wainwright had given Miles last week.
"Later this week," he added, "Eastin win phone me and I'll announce a code word we've already arranged. Your name win not be mentioned. But he'll know that he's to contact you, which he'll do soon after."
Juanita nodded, concentrating, storing the information away.
"After that phone call, Eastin and I won't contact each other directly again. Our messages, both ways, will go through you. It would be best if you didn't write them down, but carry them in your head. I happen to know your memory is good."
Wainwright smiled as he said it, and abruptly Juanita laughed. How ironic that her remarkable memory, which was once a cause of her troubles with the bank and Nolan Wainwright, should be relied on by him nowl
"By the way," he said, "I'D need to know your home phone number. I couldn't find it listed."
"That is because I do not have a telephone. It costs too much."
"Just the same, you'll need one. Eastin may want to call you; so might I. If you'll have a phone installed immediately, I'll see that the bank reimburses you."
"I will try. But I have heard from others that phones are slow to be put in at Forum East."
'When let me arrange it. I’ll call the phone company tomorrow. I guarantee fast action." "Very well."
Now Wainwright opened the second, smaller envelope. "When you give Eastin the money, also give him this."
"This" was a Keycharge bank credit card, made out in the name of H. E. LINCOLP. On the rear of the card a space for signature was blank.
"Have Eastin sign the card, in that name, in his normal handwriting. Tell him the name is a fake, though if he looks at the initials and the last letter, he'll see they spell H-E-L-P. That's what the card is for."
The bank security chief said that the Keycharge computer had been programmed so that if this card was presented anywhere, a purchase of up to a hundred dollars would be approved, but simultaneously an automatic alert would be raised within the bank. This would notify Wainwright that Eastin needed help, and where he was.
"He can use the card if he's on to something hot and wants support, or if he knows he's in danger. Depending on what's happened up to then, I'll decide what to do. Tell him to buy something worth more than fifty dollars; that way the store will be certain to phone in for confirmation. After that phone call, he should dawdle as much as he can, to give me time to move."
Wainwright added, "He may never need the card. But if he does, it's a signal no one else will know about."
At Wainwright's request, Juanita repeated his instructions almost word for word. He looked at her admiringly. "You're pretty bright." "`De que me vale, muerta?" "What does that mean?"
She hesitated, then translated, "What good will it do me if I'm dead?"
"Stop worrying!" Reaching across the car he gently touched her folded hands. "I promise it'll all work out."
At that moment his confidence was infectious. But later, back in her apartment with Estela sleeping, Juanita's instinct about impending trouble persistently returned. .
The Double-Seven Health Club smelled of boiler steam, stale urine, body odor, and booze. After a while, though, to anyone inside, the various effluvia merged into a single pungency, curiously acceptable, so that fresh air which occasionally blew in seemed alien.
The club was a boxlike, four-story brown brick building in a decaying, dead-end street on the fringes of downtown. Its facade was scarred by a half century of wear, neglect, and more recently graffiti. At the building's peak was an unadorned stub of flagpole which no one remembered seeing whole. The main entrance consisted of a single, solid, unmarked door abutting directly on a sidewalk notable for cracks, overturned garbage cans, and innumerable dog turds. A paint-flaking lobby just inside was supposed to be guarded by a punch-drunk bruiser who let members in and churlishly kept strangers out, but he was sometimes missing, which was why Miles Eastin wandered in unchallenged.
It was shortly before noon, midweek, and a dissonance of raised voices drifted back from somewhere in the rear. Miles walked toward the sound, down a main-floor corridor, none too clean and hung with yellowed prizefight pictures. At the end was an open door to a semi-darkened bar from where the voices came. Miles went in.
At first he could scarcely see in the dimriess and moved uncertainly so that a hurrying waiter with a tray of drinks caromed into him. The waiter swore, somehow managed to keep the glasses upright, and moved on. Two men perched on barstools turned their heads. One said, "This is a private club, buster. If you aina member out!"