Chapter Three, Part One

The Bonami Fiasco
    As Lupé Renard walked out the patio’s back gate, Reggie’s cell phone played R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon.”
    “Reginald LaKino” he said. “Oh, hello, Ms. Bonami,” he listened for a moment, then rolled his eyes. “Yes I can appreciate how draining this must be for you. You’re on your way to the last shop now?” He arched both eyebrows and made his eyes wide in an exaggerated attempt to communicate his exasperation to me. “You want me to meet you there. Fine. I’ll be right there. Okay. Alright. Okay. I’ll be able to leave as soon as you hang up. Right. I understand. Yep. I know time is important. I’m just waiting for you to let me off the phone. Yep. Yep. Okay. See you soon. I’m hanging up now. Good bye.” He clicked the phone shut. “Hey, uh, Sam. Wanna give me another ride?”
    We grabbed two more coffees to go, and walked to my Jag.
    “Oh, hey, you got the floor mats cleaned!”
    “Yes, well,” I said, “a car like this, you need to take care of it.”
    “Yep, I know I’d want to,” Reggie said. “If this had been my car, I wouldn’t have let someone in with muddy feet. I really appreciate how laid back you are, Sam. I envy your serenitude.”
    “So where are we going?” I asked.
    “Pete’s Pawn n’ Prawns,” he said. “It’s this neat little seafood restaurant and pawn shop on the east side.”
    “Seriously? Pawn n’ Prawns?”
    “Yep, it’s unique. So far as I know. I hope it is.”
    “Hey!” I said as a thought occurred to me. “How did you even know about the pawn shops in the area? I didn’t see you check a phone book.”
    “Oh, I didn’t mention?” Reggie shrugged. “I grew up around here.”
    “Yep. Born in Los Lunas.”
    “You got any family around here?”
    “My mother used to live in Agua Fria. But she died about a year ago.”
    “I’m so sorry,” I said.
    “You don’t have to be,” he said, picking at his sleeve.
    “No, I am. That must be very hard for you.”
    “It’s not.”
    “However you feel about it,” I said, “I’m sure she’s in a better place.”
    “There’s no such thing.”
    “No such— what?”
    “There’s no ‘better place’ after death, Sam,” Reggie insisted.
    “That’s a pretty cynical viewpoint,” I said.
    “Cynical, skeptical, whatever. It keeps me focused. My mother’s gone.”
    We passed the next fifteen minutes of the drive in awkward silence, and arrived at Pete’s Pawn n’ Prawns just before noon. I went to the front window to order a popcorn shrimp basket while Reggie went around through the side door, into the shop. On approaching, I had gotten it into my head that this dingy looking little place on the edge of a strip mall was the kind of shady operation where I could trust the fry cook only as much as I trusted the pawn broker. I was pleased to discover that my initial impression of the place was wrong. It turned out that the popcorn shrimp, in addition to being just the kind of late morning snack I needed, tasted fresh, and came with a green chile dipping sauce that danced on my tongue and cleared out my sinuses. They had shaded outdoor seating where I could eat and keep my eye on the car at the same time. After realizing I wasn’t quite full, I decided to try their jumbo shrimp and cheese burrito. I’d taken a number and sat down again when Reggie came back.
    “We’re leaving,” he barked.
    “Give me a second, I just ordered a burrito.”
    “You’ll have to come back another time, we have to go.”
    “I already paid!”
    “Then we’re even for the shades,” Reggie snapped. “We don’t have time for the culinary tour, come on.”
    As we left the strip mall, two police cars pulled in the other exit, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Cops jumped out of both of them, dashing straight for Pete’s.
    “Now are you going to tell me what this is about?” I asked. My grip on the steering wheel was turning my knuckles the color of eggshells. I thought my fingers might crack and fall off.
    “It’s no big deal,” Reggie said, looking over his shoulder.
    “We just ran from a pawn shop because the cops were on their way,” I pointed out. “You cost me $6.75 and a burrito. And that black SUV has been behind us since we left the coffeehouse.”
    “Oh,” Reggie said, “you noticed that?”
    “Yes. So this is what you call no big deal?”
    “Yup, pretty much same old same old. Wanna go grab a beer?”
    “Why am I being followed by the cops, Reggie?”
    “I may have picked up a reputation a few years ago,” he said. He took a big drink of his coffee, which had been getting cold in the cup holders since we’d left the Brew Hound. “They’ve never caught me at anything. And it’s been years since I actually did anything wrong. But every time I move, someone from one jurisdiction forwards my rap sheet to the next one. It’s a real pain in the ass.”
    “Yes, well, I guess now I feel your pain,” I said.
    “Hey, like I said, they don’t have anything they can hold me for.”
    “What would they have if they did?” I asked.
    “You just told me you have a rap sheet impressive enough to forward around. What’s on it?”
    “Oh, you too, now?” Reggie said, hurt.
    “Hey, Sherlock, apparently we’re in this together.”
    “Yeah, okay,” he said. “You’re right, it’s like this— shit!” A combination of a turn on my part and a hand gesture on Reggie’s had resulted in an eruption of latté from his cup. The frothy brown liquid ran all over his shirt, his pants, and, of course, my leather passenger seat.
    “Are you okay?” I asked.
    “Yeah, it wasn’t too hot,” Reggie said. “But crap! This was a nice suit. Shit, I’m sorry Sam. All over your car.”
    “Want me to take you to a dry cleaners?” I asked.
    “What am I going to change into?”
    “I’ve got some clothes,” I suggested. “I can pretty much guarantee they won’t be too small for you.”
    As we walked back from dropping Reggie’s suit off at the dry cleaners, and my car off at the detailers for the second time in two days, we strolled past the same panhandler I’d given a buck to the day before. He and Reggie looked curiously similar: both were dressed in baggy jeans with ripped knees, and wrinkled, oversized tee shirts. I tossed a few more coins in the young man’s cup. Reggie sat and talked with him for a moment.
    From the slowness of his speech, it was clear the kid had some kind of mental handicap. He spoke haltingly, difficultly, and often in non-sequiturs. He introduced himself as “Packey.” He was young, about twenty, and told us he usually lived at the shelter on Cerillos Road. I asked him about his family, and in return received only a blank stare and silence. I asked him how he ate, and he shrugged.
    Packey’s presence downtown was a an oddity. Most people asking for cash on or near the Plaza were performers. Over the last couple weeks I had become used to the sounds of guitars, saxophones, and even the odd electric keyboard. I was accustomed to dodging around the creepy mutant mimes who spray painted their bodies and clothes, standing like statues until a tourist got too close. I’d bought newspapers from people standing in the middle of the street. But Packey was the only genuine beggar I’d noticed.  
    Eventually we got back to my gallery, and Reggie slumped into the armchair by the door. I stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a pair of beers. For a lazy morning it had been a rough one.
    “So,” Reggie said, as I walked back in, popped the caps, and offered him a bottle, “You got any finished pieces I can see?”
    “Sure,” I said, pulling up another chair so that I could sit facing him. “I’ve got two or three upstairs. Ready to bring down. You just tell me about your little rap sheet, first.”
    Reggie glared at me, his lip drew back in a snarl, and for a moment I once again caught a glimpse of something animal in his appearance, something that I thought I’d seen for a moment the first evening I’d picked him up. I felt guilty about insisting on quid pro quo, despite having been manipulated by Reggie in much more dramatic fashions. Eventually, though, he laughed, his smile softened again, and he started talking.
    “I used to run with crooks, Sam,” he said. “I hope you understand that sometimes a man can change. I never knew my father, and–” I gave him a look, and he backed off of playing the sympathy card. He shifted his weight in his chair, and stared at his beer bottle for a moment without finishing the sentence.
    “I used to run a few scams,” he continued. “I did a bit of petty theft. That sort of thing. I was good at it, because, well, people trusted me. When I got too big for New Mexico I moved to Texas, California, Massachusetts, New York, Canada, Mexico, England, France, then back to the states. I spent the last few years in Mississippi, believe it or not.” He chuckled, then took a drink.
    “I’ve stolen, conned, or otherwise misappropriated close to a million dollars in my lifetime, and of course I’ve got nothing to show for it, except that, before she died, my mother’s medical bills were paid off. And her funeral. Anyway. I’ve been straight for five years.” He finally looked up at me, with a hopeful smile. “And now I’m on the other side. Helping people. Solving problems. I kinda like it.”
    “Why the sudden change?” I asked.
    “It’s complicated,” he said.
    “Sure,” I nodded.
    I started to ask him what I should tell Detectives Summers and Harris of the Santa Fe Police, but at that moment, they knocked at the door. I’d left it locked, since the gallery was not yet open for business. The big bay windows in the adobe façade were boarded up from the previous owners. I looked out my peephole and saw our two detective friends standing at the door, but they couldn’t see in. Before I opened it I turned to Reggie, uncertain whether to signal him. He’d dumped a lot on me, and I didn’t know how much of any story he told to believe, or whether to turn him in to the authorities. It didn’t matter, though. In the moment it had taken me to cross to the door and check the peephole, he had vanished. I heard my back door click shut. I shook my head, and opened the front door.
    “Afternoon detectives,” I said. “I was just about to fix lunch. Would you like any?”
    “Didn’t get enough at the Pawn n’ Prawns, eh, Brown?” Harris laughed at me.
    “That was kinda like a snack, really,” I said, trying to act unconcerned. They had probably been the ones in the SUV that had been following us.
    “That,” Lt. Summers said, looking at me over the wire rims of his glasses, “was roughly 800 calories worth of breading, shrimp, and grease. Oh, and you forgot your burrito.” He held out a bag he’d been holding.
    My mouth dropped open for a moment, and I am sad to admit that a small amount of drool escaped my lips.
    “Alright, Twiggy,” Det. Harris said, removing his aviators, “where’s LaKino?”
    “Sorry, Detective, I honestly have no idea.”
    “Then you won’t mind if we take a look around for him?” Summers asked.
    “Actually,” I said, “I used to be an attorney. So I do mind, on principle. But if it’ll get you to leave me alone, then fine, take a look.”
    “Oh really?” Harris laughed at his own razor sharp comeback like a third string high school football player taunting the captain of the Chess Team. “You don’t want to stall for time?”
    “He’s not here.” I shook my head, and crossed my arms. “Now’s the perfect time.”
    “Huh,” Harris scratched his head, and looked at his partner. “I really thought you’d try and stop us.”
    “I guess we’ll see you later,” Summers said.
    “Really?” I was amazed that had worked.
    “Have a nice day.”
    Thirty seconds after they left, my cell phone rang. It was, of course, Reggie.
    “Hey Sam. Sorry about bailing. My suit’s done, and I promised Mrs. Renard I’d come out to her place. I need a ride.”
    I reheated my burrito, walked to my car, and then went to pick up Reggie at the dry cleaner’s. The burrito was pretty damn good.

4 Responses to Chapter Three, Part One

  1. Pingback: Chapter Three | Green Bandit Press

  2. Anika A. says:

    “Serenitude” may be my new favorite word.

  3. Owen says:

    .its a really amiznag story u got there love the way its all been put together .the characters, the backdrop, the story telling n attention to details bt still not completely revealing it its all to amiznag .i’m just another ordinary reader bt still gotta admit its really really amiznag . keep up ve good work is all i can say to conclude with . \(^_^)/XD -already a fan, Shantanu

    • Greenbandit says:

      Sorry I am just getting around to reviewing comments now. It looks like this was originally marked as spam. If you’re real, I’m glad to have you as a fan!

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