Chapter Two, Part Two

    The man who entered was six and a half feet of muscle and bone, with a look in his eye like he hadn’t been to the Wizard yet to get his brains. He had closely cropped sandy blond hair, and nearly all his teeth. He eyed me with suspicion for a moment, and I hid behind my paper, delving deep into the “Arts & Leisure” section. Under normal circumstances, the article on the new exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art would have fascinated me.
    The man finally sat down and began talking to Reggie, whom he addressed as “Mr. LaKino.” He called himself Lester Moore, a pseudonym, I assumed. He said he needed help tracking down his wife. He suspected she had been unfaithful. Apparently his friends had seen her downtown on several occasions, and when confronted with this, she denied it and said she’d been home all day. He’d noticed strange phone numbers on her cell phone bill, money missing from her bank account, and that she had developed a habit of clearing the browser history on her laptop. When he had come home from work Friday night, she’d been gone, leaving half her clothes, and no explanation.
    “Well, Mr. Moore,” Reggie said, “I think it’s pretty easy to see what’s going on here.”
    “Oh really?” Lester replied, “‘Cause I don’t think—”
    “ You don’t need a detective, Mr. Moore, you need a lawyer,” Reggie said. “By the end of the day Monday you’re going to be served with a divorce petition.”
    “Bullshit, man, she’s sleeping around.”
    “That’s entirely possible, but once those papers are filed, which I’m guessing they already have been, then that’s really not your business anymore, and I’m not going to do your stalking for you.” Reggie cocked his head to the left. I could see hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.
    “What the hell are you saying? You trying to say something?” Lester stood up and towered over Reggie, who calmly sipped his coffee.
    “I’m saying she’s had enough of you asking friends to keep tabs on her, checking her cell phone records, and poking your nose into her business. Your first reaction with me when I told you something you didn’t want to hear was to stand up and threaten me,  so I’m saying she’s sick of your temper, too. I’m saying the scabs on your knuckles aren’t from your work, and that she’s probably got some bruises to match. Or maybe the walls of your home have a few holes in them? Or both? I’d be surprised if you don’t find yourself kicked out of the house via restraining order, too. Otherwise, she’d have taken all her stuff, not just half. I’m sorry, Mr. Moore, I can’t take your case. Please have a nice day.”
    Reggie sat serenely drinking his coffee, cool as a Frigidaire, and picked up a magazine I hadn’t noticed before. Lester remained standing over him, grinding the fist of one hand into the palm of the other.
    “Why you little piece of—”
    He took a step forward and I stood up out of my seat. I didn’t know what I planned on doing. This man was a six foot six inch tower of brute strength, whereas I was twenty years older, and hadn’t been to a gym since before Y2K.
    “It’s okay, Psycho,” Reggie said, not even looking at me, but waving me down with an open hand. “Mr. Moore was just leaving, weren’t you?”
    Lester Moore looked at me. I don’t think that I cut too imposing a figure. I’m six feet tall, but on the high end of average weight, with no muscle mass to speak of, and slightly less hair than I’d like. What hair I do have is a mixture of light brown and grey, with a few white ones gathering in colonies around my temples, and nearly as many sprouting from my nose and ears. But I’d worn torn jeans and a baggy sweat shirt that day, so perhaps my bulging gut and lack of physique weren’t too obvious. The Blues Brothers style sunglasses probably concealed the quaking fear in my eyes, and it’s possible my shaking fists could have been mistaken for a sign of rage rather than terror. It may have helped that Reggie looked perfectly calm and confident, and it certainly helped that he’d called me Psycho. Whatever the cause, without a word or further move on my part, Lester took two steps backward, then turned and left. We waited until his footsteps had faded away, and I collapsed back into my chair, while Reggie had a laughing fit.
    His laughter was short and sharp, like the barking of a dog or a hyena.
    “Oh, good job,” Reggie gasped. “Thank you. I would have had it if you hadn’t been here, Sam.”
    “I thought you were going to get it anyway! I’m an old man, you’re lucky I kept control of my bowels! What were you thinking, talking like that to a monster like him? He could have cut you down with one punch!”
    “It was the truth, wasn’t it?”    
    “Maybe, but you could have phrased it—”
    “I know,” Reggie said, “but that would have wasted his time, and mine. Better he leave in a huff than leave thinking there was some glimmer of hope that I’d do something for him.”
    “You judged him pretty quick.”
    “When a man’s first reaction to the slightest provocation is to get angry, I’d say it’s a safe bet his wife is leaving him for a reason. Combine that with the bloody knuckles and his own admitted obsessive behavior. The man’s got a control streak a mile wide, and it’s no leap to say he gets violent. At the very least he wanted me to stalk her for him. At worst, he wanted me to track her down so he could ‘knock some sense’ into her. Not happening.”
    “I’m not disagreeing with your take on the situation,” I said. “I just think—”
    “Hey, Sam,” Reggie cut me off. “I apologize. That’s twice now I’ve implied you’re a psycho to others.”
    “I’m not sure implied is the right word,” I said, but Reggie kept talking.
    “I know you’re not a psycho. What’s important to me is that other people don’t. Sometimes I just do the first thing that comes into my mind.”
    “It’s fine,” I muttered. “Now—”
    The patio gate creaked open once more, and we found ourselves looking at Reggie’s last appointment of the morning.
    “Hello,” she said. “I am Lupé Renard, which one is Mr. LaKino?”
    My late wife, Carla Sole Brown, was the most intelligent, beautiful, wonderful woman I had ever known. Her face could have rerouted all thousand ships that Helen’s had launched. But Reggie had never met Carla, and he looked pretty interested in Lupé Renard.
    “Have a seat, Ms. Renard. I’m Reginald LaKino. You can call me Reggie.” He extended his hand and she clasped it briefly. He sucked his lips into his mouth for a moment to moisten them before sitting down. “This is my associate, Mr. Brown. He has kindly agreed to join us today.”
    I went ahead and pulled a chair from my own table over to Reggie’s, and sat down with my coffee. Ms. Renard sat down tentatively, the way a feral dog might hesitate before approaching humans for the first time. Her natural shyness was not the only thing about her that brought to mind a creature unused to contact with people. Her raven, shoulder length hair looked windblown, and one or two streaks of gray accented it. Her full, calico skirt, which brushed the tops of her sandals was wrinkled and torn in places, as was the cream colored, ruffled blouse she wore. Her skin was dark, her lips full, her deep eyes looked violet for a moment, and were as dark as espresso. Her eyebrows and cheekbones were high, and her chin was delicate. I did not like trying to guess people’s ethnicities, but it was often hard for me not to. Lupé Renard looked as though she had ancestry spread across at least three continents, from Africa, up to Spain, and West to the Americas. Perhaps a hint of Roma.
    “Thank you, both of you,” she began. “My husband is a very proud man. A very quiet man. He never asks for help. He would not have come to you for help. But now, he could not if he wanted to.” She paused, and looked a long way off. She inhaled deeply, and her eyes glanced from Reggie, to me, then back to Reggie. “I feel I can trust you Mr. LaKino. Reggie.” She smiled as she said his name, but then furrowed her brow once more. She looked at her hands. “So much has gone wrong recently. Our life has never been easy. I have so much to talk to you about and now I find I cannot decide where to start.”
    Decades of dealing with other people’s problems professionally had taught me that when someone says they can’t decide where to start, two things will happen. First, they’ll find a place soon enough, and second, they’ll start a great deal further back than they really need to. Lupé Renard told us about how she and her husband Jack had married in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and had moved for a time to her mother’s ancestral home in Delacroix, where she had born him two children: a daughter Sophia, and a son, Noah. They had moved to New Mexico in late 1994, after their home had been destroyed by a hurricane, and had begun living on a lot on the outskirts of town.
    She explained that Noah, the younger of the two, had always looked up to his father, had always been a good boy. He tried very hard to contribute to the family, dropping out of school to help with his father’s landscaping business. Sophia, on the other hand, had always been off in a dreamland, always wanting and looking for things she never could obtain. Always stretching for something constantly out of reach.
    Eventually, Mrs. Renard arrived at her point. It’s amazing how long it takes some people to say ‘my son’s gone missing, and now my husband’s in jail on suspicion of kidnapping the boy next door, and the police are ignoring my son’s case.’ But that was what Mrs. Renard was leading up to. Last Tuesday, Noah, the good kid, had apparently snuck out of their trailer and disappeared. Her husband had tried to tell her that boys will eventually be boys, and that he was safe. She knew for a fact that in spite of his assurances, Jack had gone out every night searching for Noah. As a result, Mr. Renard was spotted on the neighbor’s property two nights ago, which just happened to be the night that Melvin White, the son of their next door neighbor Patrick White, had disappeared, as well.
    “I read about that in the paper this morning!” I interjected. “Your husband’s picture is in the paper next to Melvin’s! There was nothing about your son, though.”
    “No,” Mrs. Renard shook her head, gritting her teeth, “there was not. I reported Noah missing the first day, even though Jack had not wanted me to. They told me he had not been gone long enough to worry! I tried again each day for the rest of the week, and eventually they filed a report, but I do not think anyone cares. The two detectives who arrested my husband Tuesday morning were the same ones who were supposed to be looking for Noah. I told them that if they had been doing their jobs he would not have been anywhere near the Whites’ property. So why is it that when my son goes missing, I must wait days to file a report, but when Mr. White’s son disappears, detectives are at my door the next day arresting my husband!”
    “It does sound like an unevenly enforced policy, Mrs. Renard,” Reggie said. “And you say your husband has been all over, uh,” he shot me a sideways glance, then looked back at Mrs. Renard, “searching for your son?”
    “Yes, and since he’s been gone, I have been,” she paused, and also looked at me, and back to Reggie, “searching, too! We can’t find a trace!”
    “That’s very odd. I’d like to come out myself, this afternoon if you have the time.”
    Lupé Renard sighed. “Time, it seems, is all my daughter and I have, anymore.” She scribbled a small map on a piece of paper, and handed it to Reggie. “Please, Reggie. Please get me my boys back.”
    “I’ll do everything in my power, Mrs. Renard. I will bring them back. I promise you.”

2 Responses to Chapter Two, Part Two

  1. Frank Allen says:

    Well worth the wait, as I’m sure the next chapter will be too.

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