Alva and McSweeney both like cash.
Benny let McSweeney out of the taxi at Alva’s Café. Another fare hailed Benny at the corner so McSweeney walked into the café alone this time. Raoul and Alva were talking at the counter
Lonnie stood at the door for a minute before Alva saw him.
“You lookin’ nervous as one of them cats out back,” Raoul said to her.
“Yeah. I got me some bizness with this gentleman just came in,” Alva said.
“You in trouble of some kind?” Raoul asked.
“Naw, you don’t need to worry none about me,” Alva smiled at him. “I’ll just go over and talk to the man.”
“You want me to walk over there, too?” Raoul asked.
“Iss OK. Really,” Alva said and patted his arm. “You gone on.” She left his side and walked slowly to where McSweeney still stood waiting. They sat in the same far booth as before. Alva fiddled with a spoon, turning it around in a circle over and over.
“So you want to go ahead?” McSweeney asked, his voice quiet and calm.
“Yes,” Alva answered. She put the spoon aside and folded her hands on the table, her elbows out to the sides.
McSweeney reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope.
“I got the contract here for you to sign. It’s all filled out. You can read it now or read it later and mail it to me. It’s $500 to start and then my hourly fee is … ” and he stopped talking for a minute as he sensed someone. He looked around. Raoul had come to a nearby table. “You mind if he hears?” McSweeney asked Alva.
“He thinks I’m in trouble. He’s very protective,” Alva told him. “I’m OK, Honey,” she called out to Raoul. “You got no cause for all that worryin’.” She turned back to Lonnie, nodding for him to go on.
“My hourly fee – well, for this I’m going to lower it because mostly I do marital infidelity work and that involves a lot of waiting and watching, you know. So the fee for this is $125 an hour plus expenses to cover if there’s travel and like that. The five hundred comes off the first five hours.” He leaned back in the booth as if all this talking was difficult for him.
Alva took a deep breath. She reached out and took the contract. She opened the envelope and spread out the papers. She signed where he had put an X. She dated it and handed it back to him. Then she reached into her big purse and pulled out a leather pouch. This she opened and began counting hundreds. When she got to five, she handed them over.
“I like cash,” she said.
“Yeah, me too,” McSweeney agreed. “And what did you want me to do for this?”
“No matter what?” McSweeney asked.
“What else can you tell me about him?” McSweeney asked.
Alva pulled out the ragged, yellowed newspaper clipping. “Thass all I got,” she said. Tears pricked at her eyes at the thought of that day.