We were still sitting there on the couch some half hour later, Ziggy telling a long involved story about where he got the idea for “Cross to Bear,” most of which I was pretty sure was fiction, when there was a thumping knock on the door. Carynne must have left the room entirely since she didn’t answer it. I got up and opened it.
“Hey, kiddo!” Digger stood there with the strap to a rolling Samsonite suitcase in one hand and a briefcase in the other. I pulled the door wide and he rolled in. He was overdressed in a three piece suit, dangerously shined shoes, and an overcoat. His tie was askew. “How’s it hangin’?”
“A little to the left,” I said, which had been Remo’s customary answer to that question, once upon a time in my childhood. (An answer which I hadn’t really understood until I was a bit older.) “Uh, we’re…” I jerked my head toward the journalistic assemblage.
He dropped the briefcase on the king-sized bed and held up both hands. “Don’t let me interrupt.”
Susan Walsh stood up then and looked at her wristwatch, an incongruously large and bulky-seeming thing on her thin wrist. “Oh, god. I’ve got to be somewhere else in fifteen minutes.”
Ziggy turned off the tape recorder and handed it to her. “Then let’s go down and get you a cab.”
It was only after they were gone that it sank in–smooth move. Outside the windows the sky held the nighttime glow of city-reflected light in low clouds. The long drive and anxiety about arriving were still circulating in my system as if I had trouble realizing that we were really here and that, hey, I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything for twelve or more hours. I sat down in the stuffed armchair by the window and stared.
Digger came up and sat on the arm. “So, how was the trip.”
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Anything other than what I’d guess?”
“Nope. The usual. You?”
He was chewing gum and the sound of it squishing around in his partly open mouth was languidly rhythmic. “You been in touch with Mills?”
“We’ve got you added to a few early Fall festivals, and dates are lining up in bigger venues, pending partly on a big single hitting this summer.”
He shrugged, and I couldn’t tell if it was because he didn’t know what song BNC would pick or because he didn’t know which one I meant. “You eat?”
“Couple of hours ago,” I said.
“Not really.” At that moment all I really wanted was to be alone, to have some quiet. Even so, I was being more curt than usual. But so was he.
“Remo’s coming in tomorrow at noon,” he said.
“You talked to him?”
“What are you, surprised?”
I knew if I answered that things would escalate. “Who’s picking him up?”
“He can take a cab. He ain’t poor.”
“Why don’t you get yourself something to eat, get settled in.” I looked out the window hoping my expression was sleepy and not sullen. I went to the bed and lay down on top of the bedspread, my shoes on, and rubbed my eyes with both hands. “I’m bushed.”
“Sure thing. See you in the morning.” He picked up his bags and left, the door shutting with a heavy, hotel-grade click.
I lay there a few moments, wondering why I felt so downright cross. Just a bundle of contradictions, that’s me. I resented him for not being closer to me, but when he got buddy-buddy I couldn’t stand it.
To get my mind off Digger I wondered where Bart had gone off to, and that led me into worrying about Carynne and Ziggy and whether she was doing alright. Anxiety crept up my throat and I sat up suddenly to dispel it.
Hey, this was San Francisco.
I swapped my sneakers for boots, put on a plain black T-shirt and my leather jacket. Then I took the jacket off to shave in the sink, running hot water and steaming the mirror. I brushed my hair and teeth. I brushed my hair again and put it into a ponytail, then took the ponytail out and left it down. I put the jacket back on, then decided to rinse my face one more time and got the cuffs of my sleeves damp.
I didn’t see anyone in the elevator on my way out.