Although this wasn't the sort of place patronized by classy folk, I felt filthy and suspected I looked like a fright, so I ordered a slice of pepperoni to go. It was just as well that I not have to tip or pay for a drink, since it was possible that the money in my purse was for a drug handoff and needed to be given to someone. Mouse, maybe? Arlo?
I sighed as I thought of Arlo, took my pizza box and my change. Then I headed back into the cold, pondering as I walked toward my apartment. It wasn't likely that Sella would've known Arlo before coming to Cold Harbor, and it was equally unlikely that our brief encounter on the street the day I took Sella to the docks would have resulted in a second meeting. But according to Eddie, she had business with him, and I tried to get my muddled brain to parse this piece of information.
By the time I reached my apartment building, I was no wiser. I was fumbling with my key when I heard footsteps on the stairs behind me. I turned and saw Father Cash on the landing, gazing stony-faced at me. "Hi," I offered.
"Are you okay? You've been gone for two days and you look terrible."
Two days? Things were worse than I realized, but I was in no mood to deal with Father Cash, of all people. "Nice to see you, too," I said. I unlocked my door, and he followed me inside.
"Where have you been?"
"What, are you checking up on me now? I thought we weren't friends any more." I dropped my coat on the floor and took my pizza into the kitchenette, defying him to follow.
"I'm not heartless, Judith. It's obvious that you haven't been yourself lately."
"Hm." I started to put the pizza on a plate, but then decided why bother? It would only mean I'd have to wash a dish later on. I grabbed the pizza out of the box and took a bite. It was cool from the chilly walk home, but it was greasy and salty, which was what my body craved.
Father Cash came into the doorway. "You're killing yourself, and I can't stand by and let that happen."
"Why not?" I gulped another bite. "I'm not your responsibility."
He sighed and his dark eyes took on a mournful cast. "We are all each others' keepers. I've been wrong to push you away over our little disagreement. You're entitled to your opinions." He looked away. "And perhaps you're right. I made excuses for Sella so I wouldn't have to see the truth, but I can't keep doing that with you."
I gnawed the crust of my pizza, wondering if I understood him correctly. "You may be more right about Sella than I gave you credit for," I told him.
He shook his head, not understanding.
"We thought she never went anywhere, but one of my contacts says he saw her talking to Arlo Pontoski - you know, the oxy distribution guy. Says it looked like a drug deal."
My mouth felt dry and the pizza crust was like glue. I fumbled in a cupboard for a glass, filled it with water from the tap, and took a few gulps before explaining. "He saw a girl who matched her description, including the coat and scarf, talking to Arlo. He says something changed hands." I took another sip of water, my body craving it after the salty pizza. "He assumed it was drugs, but he had no proof. I suppose it could've been anything."
Father Cash turned away, his brow furrowed in thought. "I would need more than hearsay to believe it, but I suppose if she had an addiction of some kind, it would explain a lot."
Now that I had a little food in my stomach, my head was starting to clear a little. With that came the realization that I was exhausted to the core. "Well, it's something to think about. If you don't mind, I want to get some sleep."
"Yes, you look like you need it, dear." Still frowning, he moved slowly toward the door. "I'd like to talk about this later - maybe you could try to get more information?"
The last thing I wanted to do was go near Crazy Eddie again, but explaining would have started a whole new conversation I wasn't willing to have. "Maybe," I said. "I need to rest now."
"Of course you do. And maybe you'll let me help you. Perhaps I could find you a little job or something. No strings."
I must have given him a skeptical look because he smiled sadly."You are one of God's children. Be good to yourself, dear." Then for the first time in weeks, he blessed me before going on his way.