Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter Nineteen

Jake took off before mid morning.  He had left her detailed notes, maps and instructions.  She felt overwhelmed, yet after feeding Moira breakfast, was able to begin her preparations.
It took days, after he told her what had happened, to take it all in.  His patience, calm manner and reassuring voice had persuaded her to help.  Still.  Still, I've never felt so over my head in my life.
When he put on that old record she thought he had finally noticed how much she cared for him. He does care. But, oh my God, when he explained who had taken Moira, what they wanted from him, and what all was happening it was so … so, unbelievable.
She was a surgeon. She had seen things in emergency rooms no one would believe. The ER is no place for the weak.  And none of that shook me, but this did.   
Jake had explained how his ex-wife’s new husband had swindled him when he sold the man his business.  Who would even think of bribing regulatory officials to conjure up fake charges?  Worse, who would do so to get out of actually having to pay for a business they'd just bought?
Moira’s little voice called to Deb from the living room and she walked in to check on her.  She wanted the Garfield movie again.  Moira sprawled on the sofa atop Tonka, slurping juice from her sippy-cup while Swede snoozed in his chair. 
God, I love this little girl.
Rubbermaid containers of supplies stared back at her.  I have no idea how I'm going to fit this all in my car.  I'm not.  I am going to need a different car.
Jake had left her a small metal box and told her, if she needed money, to open it and use what was inside.
So she looked.  Inside were rolls of coins, different passports and laminated cards.  She spied a note written in Jake’s hand.  "Use the coins if you need money. Take them to Ed Spiers at this address."  She lifted a paper-wrapped roll that said $10 half dollars.  When she peered into the open end, though, she gasped. The coins were gold and had an unfamiliar face in profile.  The date on the first coin was 1904.  Holy crap!
Deb looked at another roll and saw faded handwriting.  It said, "I don’t trust Roosevelt.  Never trust any politician.  Nellie"
A quick count yielded 10 rolls.  Deb gently opened one of the rolls and counted the coins – twenty.  Two hundred old gold coins.  I have no idea what these are worth, but it must be a fortune!
Deb sat down, her head spinning.  She stared out the window at the last leaves that hung on stubbornly in the cold wind.  Clear your head!  She stood up, fetched the pad Jake had left and began to make notes.  She wrote in the margins, then added page after page.  Finishing her notes, she checked on her father, then went into the living room where Moira still perched atop Tonka.
“Sweetie, do you want to go get a burger?”
Moira slid off quickly and jumped up and down.  “YEAH!”
Deb grabbed their coats and helped Moira into hers.  She called a neighbor to come sit to watch her dad, then slipped into her own coat.  She grabbed her messenger bag, which now contained Jake's mysterious box. Tonka lifted his head as if to ask, "Me too?"
"Yeah, you can come too."  The big dog leaped from the sofa in a huge bound and danced by the door, nearly knocking Deb and Moira over.
“Cool your jets, dog!” Deb laughed as she snapped his leash on.  She never actually held his leash; Tonka liked to carry it in his own mouth. But at least wearing it complied with the stupid leash laws – and no one ever challenged her on it after taking one look at his size.
Deb led Moira by hand to her car and buckled her into her booster seat in the back.  Tonka waited patiently – until she opened her door, when he flew past her and landed in the front passenger seat. 
She waited until the neighbor she'd called, Mrs. Truillo, waved and went up the steps into Deb’s trailer. The old woman carried a covered dish for Swede in a hand-knit cozy.  Such a sweet old lady. 
Deb’s elderly Toyota had automatic seat belts that whirred inward to grab passengers the moment the key was engaged. She laughed as one slid over Tonka, who was clearly miffed to be assaulted by mere hardware.
Deb first drove to the closest McDonald’s – Moira and Tonka’s favorite.  She ordered a Hamburger Happy Meal, catchup only, for Moira, and four quarter-pounders for Tonka.  Deb was more health-conscious and got a parfait.  Moira always squealed with laughter when Deb ordered that because parfait played such a part in one of her favorite movies – Shrek.
Deb drove away with Moira playing with her new toy and Tonka’s big head buried in a bag with his four burgers.  She hadn't driven half a mile before Tonka’s head emerged and he let out a loud Urrpppp.  Moira laughed even louder, and so did Deb.
After driving about 40 minutes they reached the small strip mall off Route 7 near the intersection with Route 15.  A Lexus cut her off just as she found a good parking spot.  Deb glared at the Lexus driver for a minute before shrugging and moving onto another spot.  At least my hair color doesn’t come from a bottle, bitch!
Deb exited the car, followed by Tonka who lumbered out and sat dutifully beside her. Passersby ogled at him, amazed at his size.  She bent over Moira’s seat to release the buckle and helped her out.  Then, taking the little girl's hand, she walked, with Tonka beside them carrying his leash in his mouth, over to the store.
As they passed the Lexus, Tonka took a whiz on its wheels.  The over-glammed driver, just walking back after what must have been a quick errand, exclaimed, “Well, I’ve never!”
Deb laughed. "I wouldn't try to stop him, M'am.” Then she strolled past the offended woman, not even trying to suppress her smirk.  Tonka caught up with them as they got to the store.  Deb re-checked the address on her pad per Jake’s instructions and went in beneath the sign "Spiers' Pawn."
A bell clanged as the door swung open.  Deb glanced around but didn't see anyone.  Guitars, amps, construction tools and all the usual miscellany of a pawnshop were arrayed neatly on industrial shelves.  Deb stepped to the counter.  Now she could hear a voice in a back room.  It was a beautiful rich baritone singing an old spiritual.  Deb waited for it to end, then called, "Excuse me?"  
An older black man rolled into the store in a wheelchair.  The warm smile on his face grew larger when he saw Moira and Tonka. 
"Now I’m guessing this has to be Moira?" His speaking voice was as deep and melodious as his song.  "And Tonka, old boy! C'mere, you rascal!" Tonka dashed around the counter to the man’s chair and laid his head in the man’s lap, greeting an old friend.  Moira clung behind Deb, peeking at the man.
“I'm sorry. I do not have the pleasure of knowing you, Mrs. ...?”
"Miss.  I’m Deborah Smythers. Deb. Are you Mr. Spiers?"
"The one and only, Miss Deborah!" he responded with a hearty laugh. "You must be a friend of Jake’s."
Deb walked around the counter to accept the proffered hand. Moira trailed behind, still peering around her leg.
"Its okay, young lady," he said to Moira. "Don't be afraid. See, this is my wheelchair. Do you want to ride in it?"
Moira looked up at Deb, who nodded. After a second's hesitation, Moira ran and jumped into his outstretched arms as Tonka scooted aside. 
"Wow, baby girl, now you are so sweet!" 
He smiled at Deb as Moira settled into his lap. Then, as he spun and did a wheelie to Moira’s delight, he explained,  “I had a sister with Down's Syndrome, Miss Deborah.  In those days folks were told to go home and just tell everyone the baby died.  But my Momma would have none of that.  My sister died last year, but she brightened everyone’s life she met."
He wheeled back and forth as Moira giggled and continued, this time to Moira, "And I see you brighten everyone’s life, too!"
Tonka playfully barked and jumped, and for a short while they all laughed as Spiers operated his wheelchair like a go-kart.  Then Spiers turned his attention back to Deb.
"So, Miss Deborah, what brings you to my little shop?"
She removed the metal box from her bag and handed it to him.  He examined the contents thoughtfully, then let out a soft, low whistle. "Great balls of duck dust Miss Deborah. Do you know what you have here?"
She hesitated. Jake trusted this man, but should she? Then she noticed a service ring on his finger – a Marine Corps ring. She took a breath, made a decision, and quietly began outlining what she needed to do. 
Spiers listened, read, then re-read Jake’s hand written note.  For a long time, he sat stroking his chin.  Moira had already hopped down and was roaming the store with Tonka. A bass fiddle in the corner fascinated her with its size and the thrumming sound it made when she touched its strings.
"Miss Deborah, I am sure glad Jake sent you my way.  These are troubled times we live in.  Fact is, I owe Jake the world and I’ll be glad to help out.  Tell me more what you had in mind. Wait, I need to get me my reading glasses and a notepad." He wheeled over and fetched them. 
He stopped, thought a second, and retrieved a black plastic box beneath his counter. "I think this might come in handy, too."
He handed her the box.  Deb felt its weight and examined its label: Springfield XD 45 ACP."
"A gun ...?"
"Do you know how to shoot, Miss Deborah?"
"Yes, I do. But ..."
"Well then. You are walking around with a fortune in this box.  I know my good friend Tonka would not let any harm come to you, but like I said, these are troubled times. You should have that." He nodded toward the box. "Keep it loaded and carry it with you always."
"I ... well, okay. I realize what Jake asked is dangerous. How much do you want for it?"
"You don't understand, Miss Deborah. I won't take your money or Jake's. I already owe Jake more than you'll ever know. You take this as a gift."
Deb still hesitated. It was a lot to accept. But Jake trusted this man.
Finally, she kissed him on top of his head and said, "Thank you very much Mr. Spiers.  I'm glad Jake asked me to come see you."
With that, she took out her notepad and started to show him what she had.  He listened as he rolled to the front door.  He turned the deadbolt, flipped the sign to "Closed," and rolled to the backroom, nodding as she spoke.
"Let's sit down, Miss Deborah, and make ourselves a plan shall we?"
Tonka knocked something over with a crash and Moira laughed as the adults went to the back room. 
Evening was falling.

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