Chapter Four, Part Two

    We dressed quickly, and dropped some more change into Packey’s cup as we walked to the car. By the time we were back in the Jag, Reggie’s hair was back to ‘normal.’ As we drove, I continued to press Reggie about what, exactly, he was.
    “So,” I began, slowly easing myself into this weird new existence where people could change into animals, “any other interesting powers?”
    “I heal lighting quick,” he said, “and I can hear and smell better than most people I know, even when I’m not a coyote.”
    “What about strength?”
    “At full moon my adrenal gland kicks into overdrive. I feel less pain and fatigue, so it’s a little like being stronger. And when I change, all my muscles have to get denser to fit into the smaller, canine frame. Increased muscle density brings increased strength. So I’m really strong as a coyote, for a coyote, or even for a person because my muscles are so dense. But as a person, most of the month, my fitness depends on going to the gym, just like yours would, if you went.”
    “Very funny.”
    “Sorry,” he said, biting his lower lip. “Anyway, I did a sort of half-transformation yesterday to carry you down from Bonami’s place. I didn’t really have help. I wanted to tell you the truth, but—”
    I nodded. For once I actually believed I understood what he was saying.
    “Anything else I should know?” I asked.
    “Don’t set the fine silver on the table when I’m here,” he said. “What I told that old lady about the silver reaction wasn’t a blind. I’m deathly allergic. Don’t get it near me.”
    “Okay,” I nodded. “I think I can handle that. I gave most of my good silver away before I moved. Other than that, with your fast healing, y’all must live a pretty long life.”
    “Not really,” he said. “Between the wear and tear from monthly transformations, and the numerous people who want to go ‘monster hunting,’ my life expectancy’s about 50 years.”
    “Really? That’s awful!”
    “Yep,” he nodded.
    “What about your friends from the little club? Will I be seeing them on my doorstep, now that I know too much?”    
    “They think they have what they want,” he said. “It’ll be a while before they realize that they don’t.”
    “What was it?” I asked.
    “A notebook of mine. The one they have is a fake. The info in it’s no good.”
    “How long will it take them to figure that out?”
    “Anywhere from twenty four hours to five years. I don’t know. But we should be good for today.”
    “Where’s the real book?”
    “Sam, I don’t want to lie to you.”
    “I appreciate that.” We sat in silence, my brain still fuzzy. Eventually, I realized he hadn’t answered my question. “Well?” I asked.
    “Anything I told you would be a lie.”
    “But you just said—”
    “I said I don’t want to lie to you. So I’m not telling you at all.”
    The Renard residence was half an hour outside of Santa Fe. It was situated on the side of a two lane highway, and to get there we had to turn off onto a dirt road, filling the wheel wells of the car with gravel and spraying mud all over the paint job. If I had not been nervous about taking my baby, my beloved Jag, on this primitive byway, I might have noticed that the Renards lived in some truly beautiful country. The road paralleled a stream that was not large enough to be a river, but which looked deep enough to wade into up to the waist in places. Around us the otherwise harsh desert landscape was suddenly green. Not the deep, lush green I was used to back home, perhaps, but green enough that it shocked me. Mesquite, cottonwood, and juniper grew in this valley beneath an unforgiving blue sky. Here and there massive white sycamores sprang up along the stream.
    Due to the muddiness of the terrain, I parked the Jag about a quarter of a mile from the Renards’ trailer. We got out and walked. The home was nestled at a place where the stream split in two, throwing out wide arms and creating an island before reconverging several miles to the south. Off to the East, across one fork of the stream, I could see low-lying ranch buildings in the distance. I couldn’t make out the details. Nor could I make out the details of some taller but more distant structures on the other side of the other fork, to the West. What I could see clearly, though, was that while the Renard’s land was surrounded by beauty on all sides, the home itself required an “eye-of-the-beholder” approach.
    It was a double-wide trailer with its own septic tank, solar panels, three small wind turbines. Water was apparently drawn from the stream, but also collected in barrels around the home. Two rusted out cars could be seen on one side of the yard, as well as a good crop of corn, squash, beans, and other plants growing from several raised garden beds, numerous pots, and a pair of old bathtubs. The home itself was at least four different colors, not counting the bare aluminum that could be seen under the peeling paint on the roof, or the rust stains near the foundation. Lupé Renard’s vehicle, a 20 year old Volvo station wagon, was parked in the driveway next to a green pickup full of tools, junk, and landscaping equipment that I assumed was Jack Renard’s. A white Chevy Impala was parked nearby.
    When we arrived Mrs. Renard was speaking with two women in suits. My keen powers of deduction told me that they were detectives. Their body language, their notebooks, their attire, all of it screamed “cop.” All that, and of course, they were wearing badges. One wore hers on her belt, the other on a lanyard around her neck. Just before we drew within earshot, Reggie whispered to me.
    “Something I should probably mention,” he said.
    “The whole Renard family are werefoxes. You probably want to keep that info to yourself.”
    Before I could react Reggie raised his voice to hail the detectives standing outside the trailer.
    “Morning, ladies,” Reggie said, smiling, as we approached them.
    “Can we help you?” asked the first detective, a stern looking blond about twenty years younger than me with short fingernails and a grey suit. She arched her eyebrow, and turned another page in her notebook.
    The other detective’s eyes grew wide at our arrival. Or maybe they just always looked like that. She was about my age, with dark hair beginning to fade into salt and pepper. Her greying mop would have made her look authoritative had she not chosen to gather it into a ponytail that spouted straight out from the left side of her head. Her thick, bristly locks didn’t taper off, either, but rather were chopped like the end of a broom. Her bangs cut straight across her forehead and hung quivering. All that, together with her bugged eyes, gave her a less than imposing appearance.
    “That’s very kind of you, yes, perhaps you can,” Reggie said, extending his right hand, but the blonde detective refused to shake. Reggie feigned hurt, but with his other hand he offered his business card to the second detective.
    “I’m Reginald LaKino, Private Investigator and Consulting Detective. This is my associate, Mr. Brown. Mrs. Renard here is my client.”
    “I guess we’re in the same business,” the first detective said. “I’m Detective Street, this is my partner Detective Banks. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Bureau.”
    “Oh, good! You’re here looking for Noah Renard, of course.”
    “Who?” Det. Banks asked earnestly, her bug-eyes fixed on Reggie.
    “Mrs. Renard has been trying to get the Sheriff to look into her son’s disappearance for most of this week,” Reggie stated. “Obviously that’s why you’re here.” This flustered Detective Banks.
    “Well, obviously, we—” Banks began.
    “It’s a matter we’re looking into,” Det. Street cut in, “but today we’re focused on Melvin White’s disappearance.”
    “Right, because the first few hours of a missing-person case are the most important,” Reggie chimed in.
    “Precisely,” Banks said, glad to be back on her feet.
    “Which is why you’ve already given up hope on Noah Renard,” Reggie added.
    “I’m sorry,” Street said, “I didn’t get a good look at your PI license.”
    “Oh, here you go,” Reggie replied, taking a folded and creased piece of laminated paper out of his back pocket and handing it over. “Anyway, I’ll be expecting full cooperation from the Sheriff’s Department as I investigate young Renard’s disappearance. I’m already behind—”
    “This is a business license from Mississippi,” Det. Street said.
    “I know, I’m awaiting a transfer from Mississippi to New Mexico. It’s already been approved, I just haven’t gotten my provisional license in the mail yet. Anyhow, as I was say—”
    “I don’t think that’s how it works, Mr. LaKino,” Det. Street insisted.
    “Oh it is, Detective Street. There’s reciprocity and all that.” He cocked his head to one side like a dog listening to a phonograph. “Now, you could haul me down to the station for investigating without a license just because I don’t have the right piece of paper with me, but that would be a waste of your time. And mine. And the County’s. And Mrs. Renard’s, Mr. White’s, and both of the children, I might add. Or, we could compare notes, and assist each other in this investigation. What do you say?”
    “I’m keeping this,” was what Det. Street said, pocketing the license. “And if you interfere in our investigation in any way, I am going to look very, very closely at your credentials. But for now, I don’t think another hound on the scent could be a problem.”
    “Understood,” Reggie said. “We’ll cooperate as much as possible on both investigations.”
    “Good,” Banks said, smiling.
    “Royal! It’s agreed,” Reggie grinned. “Mrs. Renard, I think we can all be friends now. May we—”
    “Friends?” Mrs. Renard shouted. “How on earth can we be friends? These are the women who arrested my husband!”
    “They did?” Reggie feigned surprise, but I am sure he remembered as clearly as I did the way Mrs. Renard’s eyes had swelled with tears when she had told us that. He turned to Det. Banks. “On what charge?”
    “Why don’t you ask him?” Street said. “He was released yesterday.”

2 Responses to Chapter Four, Part Two

  1. karen sartain says:

    Wow…great stuff ! 🙂 I can’t wait until next Friday!

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