Page 14

"Jay," I said, "I appreciate the extent to which you’re fucking up this investigation. That takes real talent. I’m also impressed with the way you follow me around. Whoever’s paying you for that should give you a bonus."

Rivas held up one finger, like a warning. “Your dad was way smarter than you, Navarre, and he had more connections. Still--look where it got him. You should think about that."

I drank my beer. I smiled in a friendly way.

“You’re a piece of shit, Jay. My father scraped you off his boots twenty years ago and you’re still shit."

He started walking toward me.

I glanced behind him and said: "If you’ve got a reason to arrest me, Detective, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise leave me the fuck alone."

"Sounds reasonable to me," said Larry Drapiewski. Whatever Rivas was going to do, he stopped himself. He looked around at Drapiewski, who was leaning in the doorway. Drapiewski was so big I wasn’t too worried about the AC escaping. His left palm was resting casually on his nightstick. In his other hand was the largest benuelo I’d ever seen. It looked like a half—eaten Frisbee.

“Lieutenant," said Rivas, forcing out the word. "Can I help you with something?"

Drapiewski grinned. There was a coating of sugar around his mouth.

"Just a social call, Detective. Don’t let me interrupt anything. I always like to see you city pros at work."

Rivas snorted. He looked at me, then back at the door.

"Maybe another time," he said. "But, Tres, you want to talk about your father, how he played around with people’s lives, screwed their careers to hell, I’d be happy to have that conversation. You’ve got a lot to be proud of."

Then he started toward the door.

“And, Jay," I said.

He turned.

"Pick up the goddamn sword."

It was worth it just to see his face. He didn’t pick it up. He wanted to say something. I wanted him to say it.

Then Drapiewski said: “Good-bye, Detective," and moved his bulk out of the doorway.

Rivas took the out.

When the door closed, Drapiewski just looked at me, his bushy red eyebrows raised. Cautiously, Robert Johnson came out of the bathroom, lured by the shower of sugar and crumbs that was falling from the deputy’s berzuelo, then tried to climb Drapiewski’s pants. I don’t think Drapiewski even noticed.

Larry took a thick bundle of police reports from under his arm and dropped it on the coffee table.

"Want to tell me about it?"


By the time I’d told Larry Drapiewski my tale of woe he had relieved me of my leftover lemon chicken, four Shiner Bocks, a couple of beef fajitas, and half a box of the former tenant’s Captain Crunch, dry. Robert Johnson sat on his lap, sniffing the food, but was careful to stay away from the big man’s mouth.

"Holy hell," Drapiewski said. He put his boots up on the coffee table and the room suddenly seemed smaller. “Lillian Cambridge? As in Zeke Cambridge’s daughter? I guar-un-tee you, if this goes down as a kidnapping, this town will be boiling by tomorrow morning. That’s some large dollars moving, son."

I’ll give him this, the deputy got my mind off my problems. Now I was thinking about my empty refrigerator and my empty wallet. I was hoping to God that Larry didn’t want something else to eat.

"If it goes down as kidnapping?" I said.

Drapiewski shrugged. "Just seems strange I haven’t heard about it over the telex yet."

"Some kind of waiting period?"

He laughed, sprinkling Captain Crunch across Robert Johnson’s fur. Robert Johnson vaporized from his lap and reappeared on the kitchen counter, looking indignant.

“That’s a damn myth, son. The network treats it just like an APB, puts it all over South Texas. You wait twenty-four hours to report something like that, usually the missing person is dead."

Then he realized who we were talking about.

“Sorry," he said.

I swallowed. "What about Guy White?"

Larry kept looking at me. “It was a damn stupid thing to do, pushing yourself in his face. You don’t do that to somebody who’s had as many people killed as Mr. White has. But if you’re talking about your lady friend disappearing on Sunday, and you didn’t see White until Monday afternoon—"

“I know. The timing’s wrong."

I must not have looked too convinced.

Larry leaned forward, lacing his thick fingers around his beer bottle. "You know how many true abductions San Antonio has had in the last decade, son? I remember exactly two—both kids, neither had anything to do with the mob. If there was any suspicion of kidnapping, ransom demands, anything like that, the Feds would become lead agency immediately. So I can only assume there’s reasonable evidence to let Rivas keep this in-house, to stick with the idea that Lillian disappeared of her own free will."

"Bullshit," I said.

Larry looked at me. “You sure?"

It irritated me that I couldn’t answer. “So why is Rivas on the case? And into everything else I touch?"

Drapiewski raised his eyebrows. "There’s some fine, decent people at SAPD. Honest cops."

"And Rivas is not among them," I suggested.

Drapiewski smiled.

"So," I said, “either he’s screwing with me for personal reasons or because somebody’s pulled his strings—but either way he’s screwing with me."

“Listen, son, Zeke Cambridge will get the police to do a damn good job, Rivas or not. Eventually they’ll have to bring the Feds in on this and things will happen."

“Like they did with my father?" I said.

Larry looked at me the way people do to somebody who grew up while they weren’t looking. He laughed again. "Holy hell, Tres, I don’t believe you. That face you just made—that’s your dad’s ‘shit list’ expression, plain and simple."

There was such honest pleasure in his voice I had to smile. For a second it didn’t matter that Lillian was missing, or that my father’s murder was coming back like the worst acid flashback. You heard Drapiewski laugh and you knew there had to be a nice clean joke in there somewhere. But it only lasted a second.

“Karnau and Sheff? " I asked.

He didn’t smile at that. He looked back down at the two photos I’d shown him—the ones with human figures cut out.

“I don’t know," he said. "I’ll look into it, but I doubt there’s much to find. Either way, there’s nothing you can do except sit tight."

“I can’t stay out of this, Larry. "

He did me a favor and acted like he hadn’t heard that. Instead he got up and appropriated the last Shiner Bock from the refrigerator. Then he found my tequila and brought that back to the table too. We sat there listening to the cicadas and passing the bottle. Finally Larry leaned back, stared at the bubbled molding on the ceiling, and started laughing under his breath.

“Your father—you ever hear that story about the one-balled flyboy?"

“Yes," I said.

“It was my first goddamn time in the field," he went on. "Found myself out behind an old ranch house with this screaming son-of-a-bitch Navy pilot wearing nothing but his justin shitkickers and a 12 gauge."

Drapiewski laughed, scratching his acne.

“He’d come home from Kingsville early, I reckon, snuck into the sack naked to surprise his lady, and laid a big kiss on something that hadn’t shaved in a week.

By the time I got there he was dragging his girl across the back forty and hollering. He’d chased that Mexican salesman all the way to the property line before he shot him in the leg. The Mexican was just on the other side of the barbed wire with most of his thigh gone, bleeding all to hell, and this old flyboy couldn’t decide who to shoot next, me, the Mexican, the wife, or himself. I thought right there—‘This is it, first and last day on the job.’

“Then your father comes huffing up behind us like a Hereford bull, two more deputies behind him. And he just starts cussing out the flyboy like there’s no tomorrow, saying ‘Goddamn fool, why’d you go and let that Mexican get across the line ’fore you shot him?’ "That naked pilot just looks at him confused and your father tells him: ‘You shoot him off your property, that’s attempted murder, you idiot. You shoot him on your property, Texas law says that’s trespassing. Then the sheriff pulls out his notebook and says: ‘I’m starting to write this up, boy. You best get that Mexican back over that fence before I get to my incident description.’ And you should’ve seen how fast that flyboy ran. But soon as he started, your father had his .38 in his hand. I never seen anything come as fast as that—first shot blew the 12 gauge right out of the old boy’s hand. Second one went straight between his legs and took his left ball clean off. "

Drapiewski swore in admiration and downed a few more ounces of my Herradura.

“So the old boy jumps about six feet up like a shot jackrabbit and falls over. And your father comes up to him and says: ‘That first shot was for waving a 12 gauge at my deputy. The second was for being so god-damn stupid.’ After we got that Mexican fixed up he sent your daddy a case of champagne every Christmas for fifteen years. That was your daddy, Tres."

The story had evolved a lot since I’d last heard it, years ago, but I didn’t bother pointing that out. I just took the bottle from Larry and finished it off.

There didn’t seem to be much to say after that, so Drapiewski turned on the afternoon talk shows and waited while I read through the police files.

Paper-clipped to the coroner’s report were three black and white pictures of something that had once been my father’s body. The corpse looked massive on the metal table, washed out and unreal in the harsh fluorescents, like a stag caught in headlights. The exit wounds, two surprisingly small holes in his chest and forehead, were circled in black Marksalot. It took me a few minutes to focus on the words of the report after putting down the photos, but once I read them there were no surprises about the cause of death.

The other files traced a series of dead-end leads in the case. The Pontiac used in the drive—by was found among the burned-out shells of stolen cars that littered the West Side each week, then traced to .a retired Buttercrust baker who had actually watched it get stolen from in front of his house. The baker told the police bitterly ‘he’d just assumed it was another creditor repo and hadn’t even bothered to report it. Things looked up briefly for the investigation when the old man tentatively IDed the thief as Randall Halcomb, the ex-deputy who’d been arrested by my father for manslaughter, then been paroled a week before my father’s murder.

That line of questioning ended two months later in a deer blind outside Blanco, where Halcomb was found in a bloody fetal position with a .22 hole between his eyes. His body was badly decomposed by the time a local rancher stumbled across it, but the coroner estimated the time of death to be no more than a week after my father’s.


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com