Deb had grown up. I think of her as a kid with braces back when my Grandma Nell was alive. I first met Deb when I came over to mow Gram’s lawn. I was nineteen and skinny. She was thirteen, long legs and braces. Now, she was grown. Very grown by the curves beneath her t-shirt.
She threw a stick at me and said, “I hate that name!” She was, however smiling when she said it.
“Good afternoon Deborah.”
“Screw you Jake.”
“Yep, you have definitely grown up.”
“Never mind, I was wondering if you could help me with Moira for the evening?”
“For you, No. For her and Tonka absolutely.”
“I didn’t say anything about Tonka.”
“Tonka, do you want to stay with Grumpy or me?” as she looked at the dog.
Turncoat. The stupid dog rolled over in front of her so she’d rub his belly.
“Okay, whatever. He can stay too.”
“I swear Jake, you love this dog more than most people love their spouses.”
“He’s better looking and better behaved than most spouses.”
The smell of one of Tonka’s farts slowly caught both of us by surprise.
“My Lord dog, you must have eaten road kill again” as I stumbled backwards.
Deb rolled back and laughed herself to tears. Tonka rolled her way but had the decency to look back to me with a guilty look. Stupid dog.
After she had stopped laughing I said, “Deb, I’m serious. I need time tonight to figure out something for Moira. I just got word her Mother has been murdered.”
“Oh my God Jake, I am so sorry.” She sat up with a shocked look on her face.
I hung my head for a second, and then looked back up at her. “Yeah, it sucks. I don’t know, well …” I kicked the dirt and paused a moment.
“I am very worried how this will affect Moira. And, and …” I tried finding the right way to say something that had been tugging at me.
“And, while I hated what she did to Moira, and yeah, to me, I didn’t really want her to …” I looked down and toed some leaves.
“I did not want this.”
She looked straight into my eyes, shook her head slowly and then got up.
“Sure Jake, I’ll watch them tonight. I’ll keep them overnight so you can have some space. If you need anything …”
I waved her off. “No, I’ll be fine. I need to think. I need to figure this out for Moira.” When I looked back at her she looked hurt.
“I’m sorry Deb, I did not mean to sound harsh.” Sighing, “I have to work on this myself.” She bit her lip and nodded.
“Right, well I am going back to my trailer now. Moira should be home in a few minutes. I’ll pack her things for an overnight if you would meet her on the bus.”
I turned to walk back to my trailer. After a few steps, I turned back around. “Deb” she turned back towards me. “Deb, thanks.”
“You are welcome Jake. You are very welcome.”
I sat in the trailer looking at the pill bottle: Hydrocodone, known as Vicodin - four a day as needed. Yeah. Well, I had figured how to manage the scripts and pharmacies so I could take two, three times that amount. I poured three into my hand and swallowed them. My liver must look like an old oil filter.
Damn thing is I don’t get a buzz from Vicodin anymore. It doesn’t keep me from hurting. It only keeps the edge off. It takes forty-two minutes before I can feel the pain blurring and receding. Many a day I lie on the bed hanging on for that first sign of relief. If you have Fibro you learn these things.
We had a small fridge in the trailer. It died about a year ago. Now I kept a cooler with ice for leftovers. Poking around in the slosh of ice and water I found a tub of beef stew. I smelled it, it wasn’t green with mold so I plopped it on a plate and nuked it in the microwave. When it beeped I grabbed it with an oven mitt and sat down to it with some wonder bread and some Scotch.
I ate poor, dressed poor, lived poor but drank well. The MacCallan is the best single malt Scotch to my taste. I poured a finger into a jelly jar with the Flintstones on it. The plate was still too hot so I sniffed the jelly jar, and then slurred some scotch into my throat. I felt the amber flow into my soul and relax me. The second drink was never as good as the first but I poured one anyway.
I could not keep the thoughts of Susan’s murder from thoughts. My mind wondered about the details. Was she shot, stabbed, strangled or beat? I had thought many times of exacting revenge on her for what she had done. But I knew I’d never do anything. I could not orphan Moira, and the murderous thoughts were a poison that had to be bled. Nowadays, I did not think on it or her – until today.
I’d found a peace in subsistence. The repetition of getting Moira dressed for school, letting the dog out and in, and the daily chores of laundry and food helped distract me from thinking and remembering.
Headlights played over the blinds over the sink. Gravel crunched beneath tires, then a car door opened and closed. Footsteps, and then a knock on the door “Mr. MacGregor, are you home?”
“No, I am not at home, but I am in this damn trailer.”
I got up and opened the door “Who are you?”
I sized up the man standing down on the concrete pad. He was average height, well dressed and had an open expression. He was one of the darkest black men I had ever seen - very cool.
“You must be the big cheese from Fish Fin.”
“Ron Walters.” As he opened his badge holder and held it where I could review it.”
I looked at it carefully, and then opened the door wider. “Come in.”
“Thanks” as he walked up and in and scanned the trailer.
“Airstream 34? What, an ’89 or ’90?” he asked as he took a seat on the sofa that I had waved to.
“Yeah, triple axle ’90. My Grandmother bought it new and wanted to take us out west with it. It never left this lot.” I sat down and looked at him as he settled back. “You like airstreams?”
“Yeah, … yeah I do. I’ve never been in one but always liked them when I saw them on the road. Maybe, when I retire.” He stared into space at that thought.
His suit jacket bloused and revealed his carry piece. He saw me looking at it, but like the jab at his outfit’s name, he ignored it.
“I did not drive out here in rush hour to talk about trailers though” he said, as he looked me in the eye. He was measuring my reactions.
“No you did not. You came here to talk about Susan.” I looked back and waited for him to speak.
He waited, and then nodded his head a bit. “Yeah, tough news. Sorry about the rookie we sent out. He was out of line.”
“It’s okay. It was a break in my routine.”
He chuckled “That’s not what his partner called it. Said your dog made him piss himself.” He looked around to see if there was a dog here. He raised his eyebrows asking where the dog was.
“Tonka bowls on Thursdays.”
Walters about blew a snot bubble, then caught himself.
“Tonka is at a friends with my daughter. I needed some time to digest this.”
“Yeah” Was all he said at first. We sat there in silence as he looked out the window across from the sofa. “Yeah, that is probably a good thing. How old is your little girl?”
“She is seven, turns eight first part of May.”
He smiled and got lost in his thoughts for a bit. Then he looked up at me and said, “Look, I came here to apologize for the rookie, answer your questions and then ask you one.”
He waited for me to say more, realized I wasn’t going to then started “We have been following your ex-wife’s husband for the past three months or so. We suspected he was laundering money but we did not know how he was doing it. We were worried he was a flight risk so we had a twenty-four seven watch on him. Our guys were watching from the farm next to …” he saw my look “next to your old farm.“
I nodded so he continued, “They heard shots and saw fire pouring from the house. They called it into the Sheriff’s office and scrambled over the fence. When they got to the house it was engulfed. The fire department arrived about a half hour later and had the blaze out by Six AM. They recovered two bodies and are still working the scene to determine the source of the fire.”
“How do you know it’s my Ex?”
“Isn’t that kind of fast. I mean, doesn’t this stuff take days if not weeks?”
“It usually does. We helped expedite it.”
I looked at the wall above his head. All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. I got up, opened the MacCallan and poured another. I looked at him but he nodded no.
“Drugs?” I asked.
“No” with a chuckle.
“We think he was using your advisory business, and we don’t why … yet.”
“Do you know who was behind this?” I asked as I sat back down.
“Why not have the Sheriff’s office call me instead of you all coming out here. That would be the usual way wouldn’t it?”
“Yes.” Nothing else.
“Who was the other person?”
“We don’t know yet.”
“It wasn’t her …”
“No, not him. We don’t know where he is.”
“So you drove out here after your rookie piddled himself to tell me nothing else that the Sheriff’s office should have called about. There must be something else to this.”
Walters crossed his leg over the other, straightened his jacket and cleared his throat. He looked straight at me “There is.”
“There always is.” I drank the rest of my scotch and set it down.
“The laundering has been flowing through one of your accounts.”
“They kept your escrow account in your name. We have watched three billion plus flow through it in just these three months. That is why we watched them, and you. It did not make sense. Our surveillance showed us that you …” he looked around the trailer then back to me.
“Yeah, it’s not the Plaza.”
“Yeah, well, you don’t appear to have benefited or known about that much dough.”
“I have been thinking about hiring a decorator. White trash is cliché.”
He looked down to hide a smirk, and then looked back up and continued, “I wouldn’t be so cute about this that fast. You are not out of the woods.”
“Oh goody, is this part where you tell me a story about the woods?”
“Don't be an Asshole.”
“I get that a lot.”
“That is why we, why I came here. I needed to look you in the eye to see if you had anything to with this.”
“What do you see?”
“A man who drinks too much, who lives poor and whose life centers on his daughter.”
“Does that mean I’m in the clear?”
“No, it means I don’t think you had anything to do with this. But if you want to keep the shitstorm from blowing you away we have to find out who did this.”
“We? That is what you are really here for, you want me to help you?”
“I gave at the office.”
“Don’t be a smartass, you don’t have much choice!”
“Mister, about all I have left is choice. My choice is No.”
“Your ass.” He said as he got up.
“I didn’t know you had noticed, I do go to the gym.”
He wrinkled his brow at me, then got it and snorted as he walked out the door.
I stood in the door and half-yelled in my Jed Clampet voice “Ya’ll go screw yourselves ya hear?”
He backed the Crown Vic up quickly then spun a little gravel as he left.
I closed the door and sat back down at the table and looked at the scotch. It seemed my peace was over.