Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
I hate Mondays – I always have. Probably if weekends were Wednesday and Thursday it would be Friday that I hate, but it's Monday. Tuesday isn't much better. You'd think I'd get over my dislike for the first and second days of the workweek, since I'm self-employed – and only work because I want to – but it hasn't happened yet.
I got up and made myself a cup of Earl Grey. I drank it in my jeans, with my shirt hanging untucked. I sat at the counter, on one of the stools on the dining room side, and looked out the window over the stove. It was cloudy again, and in what little I could see from my seat I thought it looked like snow. Albuquerque has quirky snow – sometimes it'll go the whole winter without any snow to speak of, and then when it looks like spring is underway along will come a big snowfall. That had happened this year and last year too, and I wondered if the coming March would see a recurrence.
Even the mountains, which have a ski resort on the eastern slope, don't always get a lot of snow. The eastern side of the Sandias is much less precipitous than the western face, and gets a lot more rain and snow, but it's still somewhat chancy. New Mexico isn't entirely desert – the eastern portion of the state is a continuation of the plains of Texas and Oklahoma, and we've got mountains even higher than the Sandias – but it's mostly dry country, and around Albuquerque snow isn't something you can count on.
Still, I was glad I had the Blazer. I know how to drive on slick roads – you can't live in Texas and Oklahoma without dealing with ice storms – but if I've got to drive among people who don't know how, I want something big and solid, and four wheel drive doesn't hurt. I rarely use it, even out in Lanfair Valley where the track to our desert place is pretty rough, but knowing it's there is more of a comfort than I ever thought it would be.
When I finished my tea I went into our bathroom to brush my teeth and comb my hair. I'd shaved in the shower the night before; I've had this big mustache for so long, since I graduated from high school, that I can shave around it by feel. I closed the door so as not to wake up Cecelia. She'd be up in a bit to get Darlia ready for school, and take her there, but my desire to get moving on the investigation had gotten me up ahead of her for once. When I was done with the comb and toothbrush I tucked in my shirt, turned out the light, and emerged into the bedroom. I got a pair of socks from the dresser and went back to the living room. I put on my socks and my boots, and was just about ready.
I went into my study and turned on the computer. When it had finished booting up I went online and got my personal e-mail; I'd check the business mail at the office. There wasn't anything terribly important, though I replied to a couple of messages real quick before I closed the program. I turned that light back off, and went to put on my coat and hat. Given the way the weather looked I put on my thick winter gloves too. By the time I got to the office the heater would be blowing warm air, but I didn't want my hands to become blocks of ice while I waited.
I went out and locked the door behind me. The Blazer was at the curb, its accumulation of dirt showing that it was mine; Cecelia keeps her little red Mazda clean. In many ways we're proof of the adage that opposites attract.
I got in, fired it up, and drove off.
At the office I turned the heat up, and checked the answering machine, and picked the mail up off the floor. It was mostly junk, but there was one envelope that seemed like it might be worth looking at, so I tossed it on Marla's desk. When she came in she'd find out what it was. I never have been able to keep track of her school schedule, but she generally gets in three days a week. I pay her part time, and that's how she works – and I hired her with the understanding that she could pick the days she worked just so long as she did her job. She's done it well for the past couple of years, and I'll be sorry when she graduates from UNM and finds full-time employment somewhere. She's planning to apply to the Albuquerque Police Department when she graduates, and if they'll take her I'm sure she'll make a good cop. Of course she'll have to get used to a less lenient boss then...
I went on into my office and put my hat, upside down, on the little typewriter table that I keep in the corner for just that purpose. I put my coat on top of the refrigerator, and got a Coke out of the fridge. I love my hot tea in the winter, but no matter how cold it is I drink more Coke than anything else.
After my first swallow of Coke I dialed APD. The guy I was looking for was in. "Hey, Jeremy, this is Darvin Carpenter."
"Hey, Darvin, what's happenin'?"
I leaned back in my chair. "You remember how you told me you owe me one?"
"And you remember how I've not collected?"
"Well," I said, "it's time for me to collect. If we could meet somewhere for lunch I'll explain."
"I'm real busy – I've got several things going on. Do you mind fast food?"
I grinned. "Jeremy, me an' fast food are old friends. Name it."
"Okay, let's meet at the McDonalds on Lomas and Broadway, over by St. Joseph's Hospital – you know the one I mean?"
I did – and I also noted that he referred to the hospital by its old name just as I do. Several years ago a Tennessee company had bought out St. Joseph's, and now the downtown hospital is the Albuquerque Regional Medical Center. But it had been St. Joseph's when I came to Albuquerque, and it probably always would be in my mind. After decades I still thought of a house at the foot of the Vontrigger Hills, out in California, as John Fraze's place, and he'd moved to Goffs back in the 70s ... and probably was dead, now that I thought of it. "Yeah," I said, "when you wanna meet?"
"Oh, lordy, I don't know," he said. "Let's call it noon; that should be as easy a time to get away as any."
"Okay – noon it is."
We hung up. I'm more abrupt about ending phone conversations than most people – I hate talking on the things – and anyone who knows me at all well is used to that and accommodates himself to it.
Well, that was one task set in motion. I looked at my watch. It was just after eight, now. Another four hours and I could put the arm on Jeremy, and get what I really had no right to. I thought about that for a moment. Normally such things trouble me – I dislike it when I have to resort to deceit to get information, even when the information can literally mean the difference between life and death. But usually my clients aren't close to me; they're paying me money and I'm performing a service, and that's it. This time I had no client, and the guy on whose behalf I was acting wasn't going to pay me a thing, but I was committed as I hadn't been committed in a very long time. This time it didn't bother me – not the use of the favor, and not the access to stuff that I had no legal right to see.
Maybe later on it would bother me. If it did, I'd work it out then. But right now I knew one thing very clearly. Someone had murdered my friend, and I was going to find out who. And if I had to break a few eggs to do it, well, I'd clean up the shells when I was done.
I'm not normally that cynical, and probably when it was all over it would shock me that I'd gotten that way. A fear that I'd get cynical was, in fact, one of the reasons I left off being a cop way back when. I don't want to be that way. But here I was, rationalizing things. I'd probably have to talk it over with Cecelia, and maybe with one of the elders too.
I took a big drink of Coke; while I'd been on the phone, and while I'd been thinking, it had warmed up some. Until I got Jeremy to fork over what I needed, I was stuck. Kim would be able to get to work immediately, though at first she had the harder job. She'd have to interview all sorts of people – those who lived next door, those who lived nearby, anyone she came across who might have been around when someone might have visited Larry ... now that was a real pile of ifs. But that's the detective business. Even a good detective finds himself much of the time floundering around trying to collect little pieces of information, not one of which seems significant at the time or by itself. It's only when you've accumulated a lot of stuff that you can begin putting pieces together, and then you find that 90% of what you learned is, in fact, irrelevant. But you had no way of knowing that until you started trying to put the puzzle together.