Detective Story Part Two
2.5.2004 by .
The traffic was awful that morning. I had forgotten, in the whirlwind of the past twenty-four hours, that the circus was in town. A civic sponsored parade clogged the arteries of the city like a clown-meat haggis in the heart of a cannibal Scotsman.
I made a quick right on to Mission Bay Ave and, with a bit of fancy maneuvering, cleared the parade route with relatively few casualties, mostly giraffes. I cruised past rows of bedraggled palm trees standing tall before a stretch of whitewashed adobe churches, reconstructions of the original missions from the time of Coronado. They gleamed like the sparkling crescent fresh perma-grin of God. Down another street I passed strip malls covered with crud and graffiti and there, next to Sister Maria’s Gun and Tackle Shop, was the Big Boy’s. I parked the car and turned the headlights off to avoid being seen. Unfortunately, it was broad daylight. And out into the daylight stepped the broad I was there to meet. She had been waiting for me behind a dumpster; I had hoped to spot her first but no dice.
“Right on time,” she said. This morning she wore blue, blue bright enough to shame the sky.
“Have you ever known me to be late?” I climbed out of my car and swung my jacket over my right shoulder.
“I don’t know,” she whispered demurely, eyes cast to the asphalt, “I only just met you yesterday.”
She was a live one, all right. I gazed at her lithe figure for what seemed to me like five seconds while she rooted through her purse. She produced from her handbag a round object wrapped in brown paper. It could have been anything, a precious trinket from the Orient that she planned to hoc for a hundred grand and a ticket out of town. Or maybe it contained a handkerchief just like the one her husband wore in his blazer that would enable me to identify him at a distance. Or worse, it contained an actual piece of her husband, an ear or a nose, testimony that Missus Rhodes had not been able to wait until morning to free herself from the loveless marriage, and maybe then she would come with me, away, somewhere where there’s a place for us, a time and place for us….
“I bought you a burger,” she said, extending the package towards me. “I thought you might be hungry.”
I pulled my glasses out of my breast pocket and slid them up the bridge of my nose. Thick and horn-rimmed, I was legally blind without them. I gently took the burger. Our eyes met and she smiled.
“Shall we?” I offered her my arm, which she took, burger and all, and stowed it in the trunk of a Chevy Camaro that drove up suddenly from behind the dumpster.
“I took the liberty,” she said, slamming the trunk shut, “of hiring a driver for the afternoon. His name is Roman, as in Holiday.”
“Katherine Hepburn movie,” I murmured under my breath, wondering all the while how I was going to murder her husband with my prosthetic arm making friends with the spare tire in the back. I glanced up at the driver. Roman was a beefy looking man with a spotted coat. I think they call them Holsteins.
“Hello Roman,” I managed to say. I was cowed by his formidable stature. I was afraid to move forward, lest the beast of a man ran would grow fierce and run me through with the horns protruding from temples. He gestured to the back seat, which I took as an invitation to hop in. I complied. Velma Rhodes slid in next to me.
“You know where to go,” she spoke to Roman’s neck. “Take us there.”
I opened my mouth to speak, to ask where we were going, what the game plan would be, anything, but she turned and slapped me across the face, hard. This operation was no longer in my hands, if it had ever been, so I sat tight. Velma Rhodes was the boss, indeed. Boss of my heart!