Finally, I decided to go replace my sunglasses. I was in a store on the other side of the Plaza, paying for a high end pair of aviators when I heard Reggie’s voice behind me.
“Hey there, Psycho!”
He’d shaved off the overgrown hedge on his face. He wore tight black jeans, that looked new, and he’d donned a maroon blazer over a white tee-shirt that featured an image of Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes), pants around his ankles, urinating on a smaller image of Calvin, urinating on a smaller image of Calvin, ad infinitum. His unruly jagged and shaggy hair still appeared un-gelled but was now jet black. He smiled, and moistened his lips.
“Hey, Sherlock,” I said, “what’s up?”
“Not a ton,” Reggie smiled broadly. “Walking my dog.”
I looked at his hands. He was holding a leash and a collar, with no dog attached. I looked back up at his face, quizzically, while I absentmindedly signed the receipt for my new sunglasses and put them in my shirt’s front pocket.
“Okay,” he admitted, “so I’m looking for a dog to walk. And it’s not mine, actually. A friend of mine lost her dog. I’m helping.” We walked out the door of the shop together. “You see a Schnauzer around here?”
“No,” I said. “Sorry.”
“How about a Dachshund?” he asked.
“No.” I replied.
“No, ah, how many dogs does this girl have?”
“Oh, just a pug, which is back at my place, but I figured I could draw this out for a while. Maybe get her to take me for dinner.”
“You kidnapped her dog to get a date?” I was beside myself. I knew the kid was off, but this was unacceptable.
“No, I found her dog, just like she asked me to. I just haven’t told her yet.”
“Oh,” I said, then added, “what?”
“Yeah, I guess I should get back to her. Hey, can I call you later?”
“Sure. I just got these printed up!” I handed him my gallery card, dropping the rest as I tried to put them back in my wallet. I bent over to pick them up, while Reggie kept talking.
“‘Samson Brown, Artist/ Owner.’ Nice! This your cell number?”
“Yes it is,” I confirmed, finally getting all my cards back in my wallet and straightening up. We started walking down the block again.
“Great. We’ll do coffee. Oh, watch your feet.”
“Oh, God,” I said, looking down at my brand new aviators, crushed under my own feet. They’d slipped out when I’d bent over. “Not again.”
“There’s no such thing,” Reggie said.
“Crud, those cost me two hundred bucks!”
“Oh, that shitty!” Reggie said. “Prescription?”
“No, I wear contacts.”
“There are only two reasons to buy two hundred dollar shades,” the kid’s tongue circled his lips as he counseled me. “Either you can afford to spend two hundred more when they break, or you’re trying to look like the kind of guy who can, so you can impress someone. Since you’re not trying to impress anyone—”
“What makes you think that?” I asked.
“Well, you’ve still got your wedding band on. And you’ve already scored gallery space. Besides, investors prefer the starving artist look out here, so—”
“Alright, alright, I got it.”
“Here, Sam. These were ten bucks.” He handed me some plastic Ray-Ban knock offs. “You seem like you need ‘em more than me right now.”
“Thanks,” I sighed. “I owe you.”
“I’ll hold you to it.” He checked the time on his phone. “Whoops, gotta go! We’ll do coffee!”
He turned and disappeared into the crowd. I turned the other way, smiling at nothing in particular. Suddenly, I was nearly run over by a uniformed police officer bolting after someone I could not see. I thought nothing of it until I arrived back at my abode. I was giving some cash to a homeless man on the corner near my place when I noticed two men in suits leaving my front door.
“Can I help you gentlemen,” I called up after them.
“You Brown?” The older, slimmer one asked.
“Yes, I’m Sam Brown.”
“I’m Lieutenant Summers, and this is my partner, Detective Harris. Do you know this man?”
My heart plunged. The photograph they showed me was of Reggie. He was younger, his hair was shorter, and he was wearing a prisoner’s jumpsuit, but the smile was unmistakable. It was him. It felt like watching someone take the last freshly made pie from the baker’s window.
“Yes, Lieutenant,” I stammered. “I’ve seen him before. Is he in some kind of trouble?”
Harris chuckled menacingly.
“You could say that,” Summers said, smiling. “How do you know LaKino?”
“I just know him as Reggie,” I said. “Anyway, I met him a few days ago. I was driving here in a moving van, and he was on the side of the road, looked like he needed a ride.”
“Hitching?” Summers asked.
“His thumb wasn’t out,” I responded, shaking my head.
“You pick young men up off the side of the road often, Brown?” Harris asked.
“What? No. He was in the middle of the desert, out of water.” I shrugged. “I thought maybe he needed help. So I gave him a ride to a hotel here in town.”
“Which hotel?” Summers asked.
“Ah… the El Rey, out on the highway. First one we came to.”
The detectives glanced at each other, looking over a little notepad that Harris was holding, and I got a chance to evaluate them. Summers had buzz-cut hair the color of stainless steel that gleamed in the sunlight like a knife blade. Under the wire rimmed glasses perched precariously on the tip of his long nose, his eyes were nearly the same color as his hair. He wore the kind of blue suit that makes any man look like he’s running for President. Harris was stockier, with high and tight black hair, a beer bottle brown suit, and a puffy, round nose the color and shape of a new potato. His eyes were obscured by the reflective surfaces of his aviator sunglasses that made me think painfully of the cheap plastic pair on my own face.
“Yeah,” Harris said, “that checks out. That the last time you saw LaKino?”
“Ah, no, actually. He was downtown about half an hour ago, I ran into him.”
“What a coincidence,” Harris chuckled again. “What’d you two talk about?”
“Dogs,” I said, shrugging. “Women. Sunglasses. What’s all this about?”
“Women?” Harris laughed.
“Could you tell us where to find him now?” Summers asked, ignoring my question.
“No, I don’t have his number,” I said. “I gave him mine.”
“Of course.” Summers pushed the glasses up his nose. “Listen. If he contacts you, give us a call. And be careful. LaKino’s not a man to be trusted.”
He handed me his card, and I stuffed it in my back pocket, next to my wallet.
“Alright, Lieutenant,” I said.
“You have a great day,” Harris said, and gave me a big smile, showing his coffee and nicotine stained teeth.
I unlocked my studio, slumped down in a leather armchair just inside the front door, and was attempting to digest what had just happened — was Reggie some kind of crook? Had I done something wrong? — when my phone buzzed. It was Reggie.
“Sam, I’m in trouble,” he said.
“Really, Reggie?” I responded. “I wouldn’t have guessed! I had to talk to two detectives about you just now! Why are there detectives knocking on my door showing me pictures of you, Reggie? What in hell’s going on?”
“Oh, shit, they were at your place? Look, I’ll explain everything, I will, if you’ll just come pick me up.”
If I didn’t get an explanation, if the kid just disappeared, it would itch like a chigger bite forever.
“Alright,” I sighed. “Where are you?”
“Police station, downtown. Released on my own reconnaissance.”
“Whatever. See you in a few?”
“You’d better have a good explanation, Reggie.”
“I do. Well, it’s okay. It’s not great. See you in a few?”
“Yes, sure. See you in a few.”
Fifteen minutes later, I picked Reggie up at the station. My car was one material possession I could not let go. In preparation for my trip cross-country I had rid myself of over two thirds of my library, nearly my entire wardrobe, and all but a few choice pieces of furniture like the leather armchair I had collapsed into earlier. The car, though, I simply could not part with. Of all the cars I had ever owned, it was my second favorite.
When I was five, I’d seen a Jaguar for the first time. A neighbor of ours down the street had just purchased it, and I knew I wanted one, even then. The sleek, sensual curves, the low, rumbling purr of the motor, the grace and beauty of that beast of luxury nearly caused me to enter puberty right then.
I’d been in private practice for over ten years before it occurred to me that I could actually afford such a sensual machine. At the time, I had two kids and a wife, and it did not seem prudent to spend the money on a fancy car, when what we really needed was something that could be safely placed into the hands of a teenager. About a year after Carla and our daughter Robin died, though, the thought of the car crossed my mind again. Our surviving son and my retirement account were fully mature. I could afford not to be. So I went out and purchased a brand spanking new Jaguar XKR, which instantly became my second favorite car, ever.
It was a convertible. It had a 420 horsepower 4.2 liter V8 engine with 413 ft-lbs of torque. It had a magical 6-speed engine that was both “shiftable” and “automatic.” And it was supercharged. I didn’t really know what “supercharged” meant, other than “goes very fast,” but I liked it. I loved it. I’d owned it for barely 3 months before I had it flown out to Santa Fe to meet me, and its seats had that new leather smell. They were firm and taut. They embraced and caressed my body like a lover. That weekend I was planning a drive in the country just to see how fast I could get it going.
So, in this gorgeous silver beast, I picked Reggie up at the police station.
“Cool car,” he said, setting two of the muddiest feet I’d ever seen onto the passenger side floor.
“What happened to your feet?” I asked, trying very hard not to seem too concerned about the mud all over my car. Rubber mats, I thought. Must remember to buy rubber mats.
“Oh, the bulls chased me through a field,” Reggie said.
“There were bulls?” I asked.
“You know, police?”
“Oh, you mean pigs.”
“Well that’s not a nice thing to call Santa Fe’s finest!” He flashed a rakish grin at me, and I laughed.
“Where am I taking you?” I asked.
“Know any good coffee spots where we can talk?” He responded.
“Well there’s a place down the street from mine that I’ve been thinking of trying.”
“That sounds Royal— crap. The pug! I have to go back to my place!”
“Oh, right!” I said. “The dog. Okay, where do you live?”
“I’ve got an apartment on Calle Lorca, off the 466.”
“That’s not too bad a drive,” I said.
I had dropped him off, had the Jag’s interior cleaned at a detailer, driven home, and sat down in my chair again before I realized he had never explained anything to me. Or given me his phone number.