Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
I'd told Kim I'd tackle Larry's contacts. That was a lot easier to say than to do. Though the apartment was no longer a crime scene, with the police having closed the case as a suicide, I didn't have any legal right to look at his address book, or to dig through his computer, or to search the place. I could wait to see if there was a will, and if so whether he'd left me anything, and if so whether it would be helpful – by which time the trail would be nice and cold, even if the breaks all went my way, which wasn't something I'd want to depend on. I could break and enter, but aside from the fact that doing so would be criminal, I shrink from such things unless there's just no other choice. Other PIs find deceit and skirting – if not actually breaking – the law to be less wearing on the conscience; I can't brush such things aside so easily. That's one reason I don't work as much as I could; if I went at this business whole hog I'd have to either compromise my principles or settle for failing to solve some of my cases.
Instead of waiting, or breaking the law, I could call in a marker. An important part of being a PI – as with most jobs – is personal interaction. Without being corrupt, without doing or requesting favors that are immoral or illegal, one can do better in just about anything if he is on friendly terms with people. You don't need to have your nose up someone's bottom to treat him with respect and, therefore, have grounds for asking him to do something for you – and of course the reverse is true. I've done that sort of thing for two decades.
But actually calling in markers ... that's something I'd never done, at least not until now. I've got people who owe me here and there, not just here in ABQ but in Texas and Oklahoma too ... and, come to think of it, there are a couple of guys on the Lahtkwa rez in Washington who owe me, though I'll never call in those markers; as far as I'm concerned I was helping out family, even though my raising was white and my culture is white.
And there was a guy in APD's Homicide division who owed me. I never thought it was anything much – I just happened to show up, without knowing anything was going on, in time to keep him from having to either shoot or get shot. But he always told me if I ever needed anything – and he emphasized anything – I should call, and he'd do it. I'd make that call, and get the access I needed. It would be highly irregular, but I'd get it.
I didn't have the number in my head, nor in my cell phone; it's not one I use much. I'd have to go back to the office and get it off the computer, and though Kim had rushed us through the combined lunch and interview so she could get busy on her pending cases, it was still a bit after two when I stepped out her door. Kim was gone by then; once we were done she'd stood up, checked to see that her gun was in place on her hip, and left as though she had to catch the next train to Shambala. I'd spent some time talking to Sara, though not as much as I might have otherwise; my mind was resistant to pleasant conversation.
While we'd been in the conference room the weather had turned chilly, with thin wispy clouds dragging across the sun. It doesn't take much to chill the air in the winter, especially at altitude – and Albuquerque is as far above sea level as Denver, though not as far north. Of course to me a mile of altitude is nothing; I grew up at that elevation ... and in worse winter cold too, though anyplace but Lanfair Valley the cold, no matter how mild, seems worse.
I pulled my jacket around me and fastened the snaps. Normally when I'm on a case and I find myself with a choice between a long drive back to the office or going home, I go home. Of course if I'm working on something urgent, or the trail is hot, I keep on the job, but most of the cases I take don't get urgent and the trails generally don't get exceptionally warm. But today I had conflicting impulses. I go home to my family whenever I can not only out of habit, but out of love; they are my life. But Larry had been my friend, and I was bleeding; the only bandage I knew of to stop the flow was to work on the case.
I turned to the Blazer, unlocked it, and climbed in. I slammed the door harder than I normally do, and started the engine. I pulled out onto San Mateo, heading north, toward my office.
As it turned out I might as well have settled down to a day-long game of fizzbin. I called APD's Homicide number, but the guy I wanted to talk to was out on a case. All cops have pounds of paperwork to deal with, and detectives have to roll on cases as well. They don't patrol, but if they're on call it doesn't matter what they're doing or what time it is – they go. Police work is not a 9-5 job, especially not for the detectives.
I had nothing else going. Marla wasn't in, though it looked like she'd been in earlier – at least her answering machine light wasn't blinking and the stuff on her desk looked like she'd been moving it around. It was cold out and the thin clouds looked like they were thickening. It was a real mess of a day.
I didn't know what to do, or what I wanted to do. I'd steered away from home because I wanted to get moving on this case – if I could call it a case, when I was my own client ... and Kim's client too, for that matter. And now I was stuck, probably until tomorrow, for I didn't expect I'd be able to get hold of my acquaintance till then. I wanted to kick something, but everything in there was mine, except for whatever personal stuff Marla might have in her desk, and that was hers and off limits.
This was turning into a year which I wouldn't look back on with pure pleasure. Our first vacation had turned into a case despite my best efforts, and now as Christmas approached I was dealing with a dead friend, who I was convinced was the victim of murder, and I had stalled out almost immediately in my efforts to find whoever did it. I felt like I was batting my head against a wall.
I looked at the clock. It was nearly time for Darlia to get out of school. At least she didn't have to deal with all this fuss and bother. When you're a kid you've got troubles, yeah, but they're not the same magnitude – though they might seem so. Darlia's concerns were what was for supper and whether Cecelia would let her have extra dessert and when she could have Gacela over for the night and what she was going to get for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas...
I hadn't yet gotten Cecelia her main present. We get each other presents, but without talking about it or trying to we've gotten into the habit of buying each other one Christmas present which is memorable, at least to the recipient. And I hadn't yet decided what to get her. Darlia's was in the bag – I'd bought her a pink velvet headband, in a shade that would match her current pink dress. She likes doing her hair different ways, the only requirement being that they work with long, thick, heavy hair; she's never had a haircut, save for the occasional trim, since she was born. She combs it straight back, and will braid it in different ways, or let it fall free; once Cecelia piled it all on top of her head when we took her to a restaurant for her birthday. She'd like the headband.
But what to get for Cecelia? It wasn't that she has everything, for she doesn't. It's that if there's something she really wants she can just go buy it, for as I'd told Kim, Cecelia's got plenty of money. So I had to think of something that she would like, but that it hadn't occurred to her to buy. I'm not terribly good at it, though I've been practicing since 1995, and Cecelia sets me a very good example; she never fails to get me Christmas and birthday and anniversary gifts which I love but which had never occurred to me.
And then it hit me, out of the blue. We both like opal. But neither of us owned any opal jewelry. We neither of us care much for rings, but when someone we love gives us a ring, we'll wear it – I've got my wedding ring and a birthday ring that Darlia got me last year. Cecelia has a diamond engagement ring, and her wedding ring, and though it's not a ring her necklace – the one I put on her just before she proposed – is in the nature of one. I didn't know her ring size, but she hasn't gained any weight at all since I met her, and my jeweler would have the size on file.