I have this trick I use sometimes when I think the world is getting too damned logical. I do illogical stuff. If someone was to see or hear me, they'd think I was losing it, but the world is just too damned absurd when it runs along for several days on end just being so-called normal. One night, when I was at college, and I couldn't sleep, I went to a coffee shop and sat in a back booth and drank coffee all night and wrote in a journal. Just for the hell of it, I wrote down the names of all the people I personally knew who had passed away. I was only nineteen years old and I already knew the names 103 people right off the top of my head who were no longer living in my world. We all live in an infinite universe and don't seem to understand what it even means, hell, most of us act like we don't even know it.
This morning, when I got out of bed, before all this shit happened, I was passing by the big, round, gold framed mirror by the door in our bedroom. Just being dumb, I asked it, "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the biggest dumbass of them all?" Then I pretended I heard it answer, "You are, you dumb sumbitch." Then I pretended like I was shocked but grateful for the news. Jesse walked in before I was done, carrying some folded clothes.
"What did I hear you ask that mirror?"
"I asked it who was the dumbest of them all."
"In this house, or the whole town?"
She smiled and said, "That shouldn't even be a question."
It's a good way to start a morning, making the woman you love smile. I guarantee you it's a damn sight better way of starting a day, then walking in house after not delivering on the one thing you promised her you'd do.
It was just like I said, the moment I walked in the door and told her that I couldn't find Dealie, she sensed that something didn't ring true. It didn't help my ability to focus under the onslaught of questions that followed because she'd been drinking coffee out by the pool and came in wearing a pair of short blue jean cut-offs and and a neon purple bikini top that made her violet eyes just pop out of her head.
"I'm going to ask you one more time, and I want you to tell me the truth, Lee, where's my damn brother!" She didn't yell it or nothing, but when she talked all low and serious like a prosecutor in a courtroom, it scared me worse than when she was screaming.
"Jesse, truth is I don't exactly know where Dealie is right now. All I know is someone said he was going out of town to talk to somebody about something."
"Who said it?"
"I can't tell you that."
"I made a promise."
She stepped back and looked at me funny. The way her mouth was all screwed up and twisted, told me she was measuring what I told her out in her head. The woman knew me almost as well as I knew myself. I was the world renown expert on her moods too. She was smart enough to know that sometimes, especially when you are dealing with matters such as these, that the less you know the better. She was trying figure if this was one of those cases. I guess she came to the conclusion that it was because after a while, the tenseness went out of her shoulders, and I knew I could relax a bit.
"You better not let them shoot my brother. You want lunch?"
I whipped us both up a couple of BLTs and we chatted about her plans were for the day and what the kids were going to do when they got back from a swim party next door. I told her I needed to go into town and stop by the shop. I had a problem I wanted to deal with concerning Clem Matthews, my top employee, but before I did that, I wanted to stop and talk with one of my friends, a guy who happened to be one of the town's favorite sons because of the six-year stint he did in the NFL playing for the New York Giants. Concord was situated right in the middle of Forty-niner, Raider, and Ram country, but most nearly all the football fans here about followed the New York Giants too because of Troy Austin. Shortly, after a knee injury ended his career, Troy came back from the Big Apple and opened up an insurance business on Main Street. Troy's office was about a block away from my place of business.
When I walked in, there was pretty young black girl sitting behind a desk filing her nails. She put down her file and came around her desk to give me a big hug. It was Troy's youngest daughter Oleta, who was working for her daddy while she was on a short hiatus before she started Med school. She was named after her mother, who, in my opinion, was the only woman in the town who could give Jesse a run for her money as far as looks were concerned. It was a good thing that they were good friends, so close, in fact, that if you messed with one, you messed with the other.
"Lee, how have you been? I was just asking Daddy about you?"
"Nothing bad, I hope."
"Nothing like that. I usually see you go into work, but you haven't been there the last few days."
"Nothing really, I just been busy with other things. What you been up to, Ole? You still seeing that dude who plays for Stanford?"
She went back and sat down and resumed her filing, "No, that was three months ago. I'm giving the romance thing a break while I get ready for school. It's going to be a long haul, and I don't need the distraction."
"Well, you know what they say about all play and no work."
She laughed, "Didn't say that, Lee. I'm just not going to get romantically involved."
"Uh oh!" I laughed with her. "Your daddy in?"
She nodded in the direction of the hallway. "He's pretending he's working, but he's really working on his short game."
I knocked and Troy told me enter, and when I did, I saw that Oleta was right. There was glass in the middle of a green carpet with about ten golf balls scattered around it.
"Goddamn Lee I was just to getting hang of this here putting shit and you came in and broke my concentration."
He put down his putter in one of the two comfortable looking red leather chairs in front of a large, dark oak desk. "Troy, you could be a great golfer if you didn't putt like a twelve year-old-boy hiding a hard-on."
He went over to a small bar and poured us two short Scotches putting a little water in mine. He handed me one and went and sat down behind his desk while I sat in the other red leather chair. "What's this shit I hear about Dealie shooting Jake Barlow?" he asked.
I just shrugged, "You know well as I do that Dealie ain't no dang killer. I'm trying to figure out who did it though. Jesse's real worried about one of these Keystone Cops round here might end up shooting him."
"I'm not going to ask where he is, because I don't want to know, but he's aware of the danger he's in, isn't he?"
"I saw him this morning, and he don't seem to be too worried. He's focused on that other situation we were in together. Went off to talk to somebody. I got the impression that he thinks the two events, that trial and Barlow getting shot are somehow connected."
There was moment of silence as we were both thinking about things. Then I remembered why I was there. "Troy, you remember that day I saw you and Belinda Barlow out behind the Library at school?"
"You going to have to be a little more specific, Lee. We went back there a lot that year. It was kind of our meeting spot, you know what I mean. Let me remind you also, Belinda was pretty good looking back in the day. Nothing like she looks now."
I nodded, "I remember. Her and that yellow Camaro she drove. You guys were arguing, and she was crying and screaming about something."
He held up his glass and pointed, "Oh yeah! That must have been the day I broke up with her. Home girl went crazy. I didn't really want to do it that way, but her daddy was threatening to screw up my scholarship. Besides, I wasn't all that in love with her to begin with; I still have a scar on my left forearm where she dug her fingernail in me."
"It was your business, so I never got involved, or said nothing, but did you know her daddy was looking out of the second floor window in Mr. Luna's classroom watching you guys? I just happen to look up and seen him and the principal standing there."
Troy was shocked when I said that, "I didn't know that. He even offered me money to stay away from her. I liked her, like I said, but not in the way that she liked me. Told him to shove that money up his butt. Still, I feel bad about how she turned out. I blamed myself but wasn't much I could do about it."
"Wasn't your fault. Remember she totaled that Camaro out two months after that. I heard she was drinking hard that night. I wonder if she ever knew about her Daddy telling you to keep away from her?"
"Tell you the truth, Lee. I've always suspected he told her hisself."
"Probably so. Let me ask you one more question before I leave. Why the hell did you come back here after you retired? I've always wondered, you were a big star, Man."
"You know I got the job at Corporate headquarters? Had me a big tenth floor office in downtown Manhattan with door to ceiling windows. But the job was symbolic; back then they weren't going to let no black man do anything important. They just wanted to trot me out for the tourists. You know, kind of like they were doing to Joe Louis in Vegas. Hell, but should know, man. Ain't every skinny assed white boy from Concord gets into Princeton, dude. Small town famous, that's what we are."
"Yeah. Thought I was going to conquer the world back then. I missed Jesse too much though. She didn't want to leave her Mama." I put my glass down on the small table between the two red chairs and got up to leave, "Thanks for the Scotch, Troy. You coming on Friday?"
"And miss hearing you get drunk and getting all worked up talking about Gravity's Rainbow. I wouldn't miss that for the world."
"I don't know, Man. I think I might give Thomas Pynchon a break. I'm thinking about asking the group to help me figure out this mess that Dealie's in."
I stepped out into bright sunshine and looked down the street toward my office. I sure needed to talk to Clem Mathews. He was way too valuable to my business operations to mess around and lose. But I was tired and figured it could wait another day.