Chapter 22

Oh boy…just my luck…

“Bobby! It’s been a long time man. How’s it going?”

I stood frozen, hoping my jaw wasn’t really hanging open. You know the saying “its’ a small world?” I watched Bobby Giancarlo stride up the driveway. All 6′ 2″.  3  years later, he was still gorgeous, still giving me those butterfly feelings in the pit of my stomach. Just a little, but damn! they were there just the same. Only now, my ex lover is here, at Jenn’s house, on official business. Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that would or could ever happen.

Roger already had his hand extended – guys don’t hug – and was shaking Bobby’s hand.

“Roger. Been good. Can’t complain. You know, same ole same ole.”

“Janice”. He said my name. Not as a question, as a statement. Almost curtly. And definitely not in the way I was once used to him saying my name. In his soft baritone. In his “after sex” voice – commanding and gentle, playful and affectionate all at the same time. In the afterglow, when the both of us would  lay there thinking “let’s just lie here tangled up in a world that’s all good”….No, no afterglow happening here.

“Hi Bobby”.

Bobby turned to the other detectives and gave them instructions to go through the house room by room. I couldn’t ignore the sudden flash of arousal. Damn bad timing, shake it off! This is serious shit. And no doubt going to get worse before it gets better. I resisted the urge to hit speedial on my phone. Resisted the urge to call my attorney to come rescue me. Besides, I knew Delia was in LA. No help there.

“So who wants to go first?” Roger and I looked at each other. I could see lingering surprise in his face after he realized that I also knew Bobby. And I’m pretty sure he could tell that it hadn’t been in a casual kind of way. You didn’t need to be a private detective to figure that one out.

“Janice is missing Bobby. I hired Roger to help me find her.”

“Why didn’t you call the police if you thought she was missing?” So Bobby. Get right to the point Bobby. Don’t beat around the bush Bobby. And why not. He was just doing his job.

Go figure – one of those well avoided moments of truth, had pulled up to 735 Leona Dr. and stepped out of a black Crown Vic (thanks a lot Karma, thanks a lot). Now my PI was most likely going to hear a tale that on face value is a little on the, shall we say, dramatic side. The Spenster is no doubt going to get an earful. He’ll hear a story and think “uh, oh. DQ”. Which is so not me. Was never me until I met Bobby. Let her rip Karma. Let her rip.

Shifting my feet as much as my eyes, I realized a part of me was hoping not to scare away my newly acquired, and now, not so Private Investigator. I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t want Roger to leave with a bad taste in his mouth. Not before he heard the whole story. My story. A story he was now apparently waiting for me to begin. Except the part I know he’s waiting for is the part of the story that will come out after we find Jenn. The part that really matters. The part that will come “later”. If there is a “later”. Right now I had to recount everything that happened up until and since I realized my sister had gone missing.

“Is that everything Janice? You haven’t left anything out? Do you have any idea why someone would trash Jenn’s house? Why someone would steal her car? Do you know if she was into anything illegal? Did she piss someone off? Did she hook up with the wrong guy? A criminal? There. There it was. I could hear it in Bobby’s voice. The accusation, the distrust. They call it “transference” in shrinkspeak. When you unconsciously, almost accusingly, attribute qualities of one person to someone else. Without cause or justification, without being based on fact. Bobby was surely “transferring” a whole lot of shit right now and only I knew where it was coming from.

This is going to be one long-assed day.



Brief Intermission…

Just a quick break in the story to deliver some sad news….

Johnny Winter passed away yesterday while touring in Europe.

Johnny’s first album for Columbia Records in 1969 still sits in my car’s cd changer. Has been in my regular rotation one way or another for 45 years.

I spent much time in my youth trying to figure out how Johnny did what he did. ( Spoiler alert; thumbpick, no flatpick ) Those lightning- fast blues runs that weren’t all sloppy and disorganized, the way everyone else’s were. Clean and articulate, but with just enough drive and grit to …well…totally re-direct the evolvement of blues guitar.

That’s what he did. And sang like holy hell, too.

A few years back, I added a resonator guitar to my toybox, pushed everything else to one side, and for two years concentrated on learning to play slide. Spent about a year working on Johnny’s ” Dallas.” Got closer, learned a lot, but ultimately had to admit that even a well- meaning moderately talented guy like me can always look in the limo windows, tap on the glass and wave, but those doors ain’t ever going to open up. I just don’t have that…thing…that magical energy, the drive, the soul. I can feel it, coming from a guy like Johnny, and that gives some people the illusion that they could get there too.

Not in this lifetime, Sparky. Just accept it and move on. I can break down and analyze every note Johnny ever played, but that is actually a different subject altogether.

Johnny had that exemplary quality. Has it still. And most people don’t.

But they can listen, and feel it too, through a guy like Johnny Winter. That’s really what he was here for.

So,  in closing, I would just like to register a formal thank you.

To Johnny Winter, for living a hard life that also drew out that incredible depth of soul. And made American blues all the better for it.

And for all of us.

 Special thanks to Denise (aka Janice DiFranco) from Girlieontheedge for posting two excellent Johnny cuts in the comments below. Check them out, and you’ll be a fan, too.

Rest in Peace, John.




Chapter 21…

In this kind of work, it sometimes becomes difficult to keep a professional perspective and a personal one at a proper distance. Because once they become entwined, you’ve lost your necessary control.

Terrific, Sherlock. Too late for that now. That’s what happens when a fool rushes in. Spenser and Hawk would have snagged that guy before he even cleared the bottom of the stairs, Jenn would have been home inside an hour. Susan would have met them for brunch on Boylston Street,  and they’d be walking the dog around the Clamshell.

But because I knew Jenn, I thought I could cut through some of those always- necessary qualifying steps. And because I was approached by her sister, I presumed that she was being straightforward.

And now, stood in a huge mess and could safely presume that I was being played by someone. But not sure by who, or why, where, what, when, or how.

Nice . Glad to be of help. I should have stayed in contract security, where I could be taking a nap in the corner of a public library somewhere.

Well, anyway… back to the problem at hand.


Tuesday night, she said. So now we have a time-frame to work from- the ” when.”  And very shortly, all the others would fall into place. Because I’m sure that the plainclothes guy would get to all that rather quickly.

Like I should have.

We could have covered all this in my office over a nice cup of Eight O’Clock and a cruller. That’s why one has  an office to begin with…provided that one doesn’t rush ahead and lose all semblance of order.

She wanted me to trust her. She had that deer- in -the- headlights look about her that meant she really needed time. If I had set this up right, she would have had it.

I decided to go with it. If she was playing me, then I could fill in a few blanks just by watching how she responded to the plainclothes guy. But I would back her up if I could. After all, she hadn’t done anything wrong, and neither had I.

We were just trying to find Jenn.

The door opened…and I knew that I had seen this guy somewhere. And he looked like he was thinking the same.

He said hello to Janice, as if he knew her too. The uniforms went upstairs.

Such a small town, Rhode Island…

This guy had come to take Jenn out to lunch once, back in the day. Old friends, she had said.

And what the hell did that mean? Would that factor in to this, too?

When one has lost control, one needs to retrieve it. And the best thing to do right now would be to shut the hell up and let this thing unfold a little bit.

I nodded…and waited.




Chapter 20

Shit! He called the North Smithfield cops already? What private eye goes and calls the cops that fast?! I’m not prepared for that. I’m not prepared for anything right now. I need time. To think. I just need a little more time to put some things together. Sort…things out.

A half turn, I looked up. “Roger?” His eyes were fixed on mine with a look that was…new. A look that said “Honey, I want to believe you but – I’m having second thoughts”. I knew at that moment, could tell just by looking at him, that I was now standing in the shadow of doubt. Doubt cast by a man who, only a few short hours ago, was making me laugh extolling the virtues and raison d’etre of Allie’s donuts.

“Have you seen The Maltese Falcon?”, I asked suddenly.

Without the blink of an eye, he answered, “What decent private eye hasn’t? It’s a classic. I know all the classics”. Strangely, I believed him. Believed he did. Know the classics. It’s not often I quote lines from movies but at that exact moment I was feeling every bit an anguished Brigid O’Shaughnessy. It’s not as if I set out to memorize lines from movies but sometimes words just stick. Stick to your brain like fuzz on velcro. Like a songbite you can’t stop humming.

As his gaze became more intent, I heard my own voice, Brigid’s voice say, “The lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said.”

Wtf! I don’t know why I said that. It’s not as if we were on the set of The Maltese Falcon Redux. For sure, the man looking at me now like suspect numero uno, is no Sam Spade. In spite of that? I half expected him to reply“There’s not time for that school girl act…both of us sitting under the gallows…why did you…if you get a good break you’ll be out of the Tehachapi in 20 years and you can come back to me then”. This tall, private detective, looking all Colombo, acting Spenser for Hire, was waiting for me to cough up some answers.

Through a thickening fog of puzzlement, I heard him say “You’ll have to face the cops alone Janice. Tell them your story. Unless you talk to me. Give me something.”

I needed to make a decision. And quickly. I looked into brown eyes. I knew, from the moment I walked through the door of Spade, Spenser and Coyne, I could trust this guy. The question is, can I make him feel the same way about me?

“There are things I haven’t told you. Will you trust me Roger? Will you cover for me when the police get here?” The moment of truth. Will the PI “send me over” or will he trust his gut?

“Well?”, he asked.

“I talked to Jenn on Tuesday night.”