Chapter 26…

The Patron did just the trick. Hopefully, she was picturing herself on a tropical beach somewhere, hopefully with a guy who didn’t make her look like she actually ate a tennis ball. She was relaxed.

Good. Gives me some time to think. Really really need that. Time to assess what we’ve got so far.

a) Jenn supposedly missing, sister Janice goes looking for a private detective…not the police.

b) Sister not exactly forthcoming with information. And yet hired me. Why hedge stuff from the guy who’s on your side?

c) In a world where even little kids have phones, no one in this thing has called anyone else in this thing. That’s Jenn, her sister, her daughter, her ex- husband, several ex- boyfriends….and not to omit good old Bobby. Who used to be involved with Jenn. And apparently Janice too. Hence all the tennis ball references. Great… a family tree with no freaking branches on it.

d) Did Janice know about Jenn, et cetera? Talk about motive. Everybody in this thing has a motive. Going to have to look at all of them.

e) So that means that the cop at the top of the stairs is the probable bad guy, so far. If that’s true, then he’s likely ruining evidence as he goes along. And the prophetic writing on the wall… left by the hoodie guy who just ran out?… the one who the investigating detective seems totally disinterested in? Or maybe someone who was here much earlier…Janice? Ex-husband? Good Old Bobby? Maybe even Jenn, for all I know. Maybe even daughter Kendra, before she went to school this morning. What the hell is really going on here?

I have the sinking feeling that I’m being used as a cover by someone. Probably Janice. But why?

Time to think outside the box a little. Time to climb out of the box altogether.

Time to make something unexpected happen. Poke around a little.

I called Jenn’s old cell number, still in my list from years ago. Maybe we can find Jenn by just asking her where the hell she is.

And just then…wouldn’t you know? Another phone started ringing. It was coming from Janice’s little black patent-leather handbag.

Really?

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Chapter 25

Like the sound of a fog horn in the distance, I could hear Bobby barking orders to his men – “dammit O’Malley! don’t be movin’ the furniture until DiMartini’s taken all his pictures!” And just like the swell of sea fog spreading over deserted beach, his voice receded as I realized I was being gently led downstairs.

“If memory serves me correctly young lady, your sister has a fairly decent stash of hooch somewhere in…bingo!”

Still lingering and lost in a haze of shock and disbelief at the scene upstairs, I watched PI Guy reach into a cabinet in the corner of Jenn’s dining room and pull out a silver bottle. I found my way to the couch in the living room, sat down. Feeling the oversized cushions reaching for my back, I suddenly felt really tired. The kind of tired you feel after driving an 800 mile marathon road trip with only one stop. No. No resistance. I gave in to the comfort of those cushions and let my body ease back into their soft embrace, eyes closing.

“This will do quite nicely.” Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. Roger was standing over me, silver bottle in one hand, shot glass in the other. “Nothing like a good shot of tequila to clear the cobwebs, right? Am I right?”

Was he doing his best to lighten the mood? Distract me? Prisoner to the moment, I semi-smiled and said “Sure”.

Noticing the bottle he was holding and watching him expertly fill the glass, my smile grew a little bigger. Jenn’s parties were legendary. Everything top shelf, liquor not withstanding. It was all or nothing with my sister. “Live for today!” she’d say. “It’s all that matters!”

This day was getting way too surreal. I hadn’t even noticed Roger was still talking. “…and did you know Patrón has nine different lines of tequila? They’ve even got a tequila-chocolate-coffee blend, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa. Wild, isn’t it?” I shook my head slowly, side to side, up and down, as if I’d already had a few shots under my belt.

“Hm….think I’ve heard something about it….”

The first one went down without protest. A little surprising considering it was early afternoon and the “any time is a good time” days are long time residents in the “memory motel” of my youth. Who in God’s name invited Mr. Dali to this party….

Roger’s voice was a buzzing in the background. What was really keeping my attention was the rumble and commotion upstairs. Of policmen looking for clues and tagging evidence. As much as I tried, I couldn’t pretend it was the sound of pre-teen girls practicing the latest dance moves. In spite of impending and certain inebriation, hell, maybe because of it, my brain went to my niece Kendra’s 13th birthday party.

My niece had begged her mom to let her do something big.  “You only turn 13 once Mom!”, she’d say. Jenn had feigned serious contemplation over her daughter’s request for weeks. In the end? Kendra invited 20 of her “closest friends” to a weekend long slumber/dance party. Damn. I never had a party even come close to that. Hell, never even had a 13th birthday party.

(this is some kinda smooth tequila) My private revery continued…I’d been working in London the 3 months prior to Kendra’s birthday. Business being business, it became pretty clear it wouldn’t be concluded before the big day. Contracts and negotiations don’t recognize milestone life events. Publicity appearances don’t wait for a more convenient time. But I didn’t want to, nor would I, miss my niece celebrate her official first day as a teenager. I took the red eye out of London, surprised the crap out of everyone and had the best time I can remember with Jenn, Kendra and 20 of Kendra’s “closest friends”.

“Hey, History Man. I love that you’re so knowledgable about what we’re drinking and all, but can you give me a minute? You know. To chill?”

I extended my arm. “Hit me again big man. Hit me again”.

 

 

Chapter 24

Finally, a return on all those BodyCombat classes I took at my Gold’s Gym. I’m not talking Shaun T here, just your regular old, mixed martial arts kinda workout. It’s what got me up the stairs twice as fast as my PI Guy. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

As I hung a quick left at the top of the stairs, barely dodging an ill placed laundry basket of humongous proportions (Sis is no Martha Stewart in the homekeeping department) I stopped dead in my tracks just outside of Jenn’s bedroom. Fuck. Yeah…no kidding we needed to see this. What sick ass motherfucker….?! Amazing what a little adrenalin will do for one’s vocabulary. As if on cue, Roger just as vehemently vocalized pretty much what I was thinking. Just as he finished…

“What the hell did I tell you! You two were supposed to stay downstairs. Not up here contaminating evidence, messing with my crime scene.”

“Excuse me Bobby?! Your crime scene? Jenn’s my sister and in case you forgot this is my private investigator. I have every right to be here. (I refrained from adding “you pompous ass”) In fact, we were here first. We’re the ones who called you!  Why don’t you take it down a notch and try not to get your panties in a bunch.”

“Don’t start with me Janice. Don’t start.”

“Yo! Bob. Don’t mean to interrupt your love fest, but we got some serious shit to deal with. Why don’t you and Janice save it for a late night dinner or something. Me, I want to find out who the hell did this. The sooner we do that, the sooner we find Jenn.”

The “this” was huge, red lettering scrawled at eye level across Jenn’s vanilla colored walls. It read:

WHORES AT HEART ARE HATEFUL BITCHES. SINS OF THE MOTHER ARE SINS OF THE DAUGHTER.

I looked at Bobby who was looking at me with his cop’s eye. Sad. He and I had a thing once. Close. Now? I wasn’t feeling the connection. The one that had always been there. Had he changed? Or maybe it was me. Maybe I had changed. Where did the trust go? Does all the good of the past eventually get eaten by the mediocrity of the day to day?

Suddenly, I was feeling it. The weight of the pressure. Of waking up to the day when my sister’s past became my present. It was almost unbearable. Almost. For all the outward Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club, on the inside I was Linda Hamilton in Terminator. Building her arsenal. There’s never been anyone I could truly lean on. Never been anyone to see, really see when I needed a shoulder. Fuck it. It is what it is.

“Um… Janice? What’s going on in there?”  Roger. My newly hired well meaning, self serving, funny, smartass private detective was now standing 2 inches from my face. “You good? Listen. I need you to take a closer look at this. Maybe you recognize the writing? Is there anyone you can think of capable of doing this? Anyone who might have a reason to do this? A jilted ex lover of Jenn’s with a few screws loose?  I really need you to think.”

“Yeah, and I need a drink.”

Thanks…

Good morning.

Finally…a September morning that genuinely feels like a September morning. The heat and humidity have left the premises, the sky is a perfect blue, and we can shut off the AC unit(s) that consume (s) most of my meager income. At least for now.

August here in New England was actually quite mild. No one’s complaining, but the Big Global Weather Pattern did circle back around for a last- minute reminder. I’m a Fall guy, not a Summer guy. The leaves are showing the first signs of turning.

I think I might acknowledge this weather shift  today with a drive out to River Bend Farm in Uxbridge, Mass. Miles and miles of hiking trails in and around the beautifully repurposed Blackstone River canal. A site once extensively used by the local re-enactment community, I’ve spent many a fall morning playing an elaborate military chess game in these woods. A great many fond memories.

I’d also like to take a moment to offer a few words of appreciation to the ( to date ) 41 subscribers to the Rag. I have never purposefully done anything to increase or garner additional readership, which means that all of you are here of your own accord. I tremendously honor and appeciate that, and would not have it any other way. Thank you for taking the time, especially in a world that offers so very many distractions.

The detective novel is going a bit slowly at the moment. I hope to have it revived and proceeding forward again shortly. At last look, a third active character had been introduced,  a police detective with possibly ulterior motives. If any of you 41 readers feel so inclined, you are invited to offer something of your own to the project. Just post your entry as a comment to the current chapter. If it works in the context, I’ll post it as is. If not, I’ll explain why it didn’t quite get there. It’s fun, in a uniquely terrifying way.

And special thanks also to Girlieontheedge for her excellent development of Janice. Hope there’s more to follow.

And once again, thanks for checking in.

I’m off to the hiking trails, hopefully.