Home > The Bourbon Thief(8)

The Bourbon Thief(8)
Tiffany Reisz

“You’re funny. And you’re handsome.” She tossed the compliment at him like a dollar bill at a stripper’s feet. “If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t have to fake anything with you. If I hadn’t wanted to sleep with you, I wouldn’t have. It was convenient that you were attractive. Otherwise, I might have simply hired someone to break into the house while you were away. Does that help?”

“I feel so much better now,” he said. “While we’re being honest...is it true? You’re widowed?”

“I am. Widowed at thirty-four.”

“Awfully young to lose a husband.”

“Not my husband, although he died too young for my liking. He was twenty-eight years older than I am.”

McQueen nearly choked on his Pappy’s. The youngest woman he ever slept with was eighteen years his junior and that relationship had lasted about as long as a bad movie.

“Twenty-eight. I guess that’s what they call a May/December romance.”

She smiled and it was a debt collector’s smile, and something told him she had come to make him pay up. “Twenty-eight years? That’s a January/December romance in a leap year.”

McQueen chuckled and raised his glass to her.

“What?” she asked.

“You get enough bourbon in you and you sound like a real Kentucky girl.”

“I am a real Kentucky girl. Born in Frankfort a stone’s throw from the Kentucky River. That’s not an exaggeration. With a good arm, you could hit the river from our porch.”

“That’s not a good neighborhood.”

“It was the only neighborhood we had. If you have a roof over your head and food in the fridge and nobody breaking down your door, it’s a good neighborhood.”

McQueen tried to take another drink of his bourbon and found his shot glass empty. He set it down again on his knee.

“So you slept with me and stole a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. You must really want that bottle.”

“I don’t want it, no. But I need it.” For the second time that night he saw a glimpse of the real woman behind the mask of the femme fatale, the woman in red. A determined woman.

“For what?”

“To finish something someone else started.” She glanced down at the bourbon in the glass she’d balanced on her knee. “You know what a bourbon thief is, Mr. McQueen?”

“It’s a sampling tube,” McQueen said. “You stick it in the bunghole of a bourbon barrel and extract the contents for tasting.”

“Isn’t that one hell of a visual metaphor?” Paris asked.

McQueen laughed big and long and loud.

“What’s your point?”

“Do I look like a bourbon thief to you?”

“You look like a woman who’s never stolen anything in her life.”

“I haven’t. That bottle belongs to my family. You will return it one way or another.”

“Apparently I’m going to give it to you by morning in exchange for a story. That’s quite a feat.”

“It’s quite a story.”

“Go on, then.”

McQueen looked at her as she crossed her long legs, pulled her hair over her shoulder and met his eyes without a hint of fear even though she was on the hook for a million-dollar heist. It made him nervous, what she was about to tell him, but he wanted to know. Knowledge was power and power was money, and no man ever got rich buying stock in ignorance.

“On December 10, 1978, two very important events in the history of Red Thread occurred—the Kentucky River broke its banks and crested at a record forty-eight feet, and the granddaughter of George J. Maddox, the owner of Red Thread Bourbon Distillery, turned sixteen years old. That was the beginning of the end of Red Thread.”

“What was? The river flooding?”

Paris gave him a smile, a smile that made him momentarily rethink his decision to not call the police.

“Tamara Maddox.”

3

Veritas
1978

Tamara Maddox wanted to ride her horse the morning of her sixteenth birthday.

And whatever Tamara Maddox wanted to do, Tamara Maddox did.

In all fairness to the girl, spoiled as she was and she knew it, anyone would have wanted to get out of that house and any excuse would do. They’d been fighting again, Granddaddy and Momma. If only they yelled, that would have been one thing, something Tamara could roll her eyes at, laugh at, ignore by turning the volume up on her radio. But no, they whispered their fights behind closed doors, hissing at each other like snakes. Neither of them had the courtesy to tell her what they were fighting about, so Tamara assumed they were fighting about her.

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