"Medina Lake," I repeated. "Avalon County."

"That's what it says here. I'm sceptical about the place in Denton but I'm pretty sure he's still got the lake property."


"I went by Parks and Wildlife. Les has a freshwater sailboat registered."

I whistled. "You're pushing for a bonus, now."

A lot of paperchasers overlook Parks and Wildlife. I normally wouldn't have tried it myself so early in the process. Usually you start with the obvious and work your way toward the obscure. Fortunately in this case, Kelly worked differently. Her procedure was dictated more by where all the government offices in Austin fell on her bus line.

"It isn't a big boat," she told me. "A twentyfive footer. He didn't need to get it registered but it looks like he did anyway."

I thought about Les' bedroom, about the labelled shoe boxes that filled his closet, even his illegal drugs and his scams on women all neatly categorized and filed away. Maybe the bastard had been a little too organized.

"Go on."

"He bought the boat at Plum Cove, Medina Lake. I made some calls, got an address for the drydock space he's been renting."

I found a pen wedged in the crack behind the ironing board/phone alcove and wrote down the information. "Good stuff."

"Yeah. At least nobody else has asked about the boat."

My pen froze above the paper. "What do you mean?"

"When I was at DMV, the clerk recognized the name Les SaintPierre from a few weeks ago. It's an unusual name. He commented that Les must be in a lot of trouble."

"Why's that?"

"Seems I was the second person from the State Attorney that month looking through his records."


My mother was squatting in her neighbours’ back J£\ yard, painting faux wisteria vines on a pine fence. ^^ To get to her I had to step carefully in my dress shoes through a minefield of pie tins filled with various colours.

She was wearing purple overalls and a fuchsia Night in Old San Antonio Tshirt, both speckled with acrylic. The air was warm and stagnate with fumes and Mother was sweating almost as much as the open Pecan Street Ale bottle on the steppingstone next to her.

She greeted me without looking up. She swirled her brush to form a cluster of pale purple petals. There was a fingerprint the exact same colour on the side of her nose.

"You know they sell plants now," I said. "You can just buy them in stores."

Mother suppressed a giggle. I think that was my first indication maybe she'd been sitting in the heat and the paint fumes too long.

"It's trompe l'oeil, Jackson." Then she lowered her voice. "The Endemens are paying me."

I looked back at the Endemens' house. Mr. Endemen, a scruffy retired newspaperman, was sitting at his typewriter at the diningroom table. He was trying hard to look busy, but he kept sneaking sideways glances at us through the picture window. He was frowning, like the view hadn't improved since I'd arrived.

"I won't tell," I promised.

Mother finished her petals and looked up at me. She did a double take.

"Well ..." She raised her eyebrows. "I'm sorry, I thought you were my son."


"No, you look wonderful dear. What happened to your chin?"

"It's a bruise."

She hesitated. She had noticed something else too— that pheromonal afterglow that only mothers and girlfriends can detect, that aura which told her I had been Up To Something the night before.

Whatever conclusions she came to she kept to herself. She looked down at my ensemble while she stirred her brush through a pie tin. "I don't know if I'd've chosen the brown tie, but it's nice. I suppose conservative is best for an interview."

"A woman in purple overalls is giving me fashion tips."

She smiled. "I'm very proud of you. Would you like to take a medicine pouch for luck?"

"Actually I was hoping to borrow the Audi."

Mother tightened her lips.

She reached past me for her beer bottle. I stepped back so she wouldn't get paint on my black slacks. After she took a sip of Pecan Street Ale she looked up and down the fence at her work so far.

"Mr. Endemen wants grape vines along the top," she mused. "I think that's too much with the wisteria, don't you?"

I thought about it. "You get paid per plant?"

She sighed. "Artistic question. I shouldn't have asked you. I hope you want the Audi just to drive to UTSA?"

I gave her my best innocent look. "No ... I have some work to do afterward. It would be better if I didn't use my own car for it."

"Some work," she repeated. "Dear, the last time you borrowed my car for some work..."

"I know. I'll pay you back for any repairs."

"That's not really the point, Jackson."

"Can I trade cars with you or not, Mother?"

She put down her paintbrush, then wiped her hands on a rag. She pulled her key chain out of her bib pocket with two fingers. "My hands are sticky."

I took the key off the chain. "Thanks."

Mother leaned in close to the fence and traced out a new curl in her vine. Mr. Endemen kept typing in the dining room, looking out the window from time to time to see if I'd gone away yet.

"So," Mother said, "are you nervous?"

I refocused on her. "About the interview?"

She nodded.

"No sweat," I said. "Sitting around with a bunch of professors won't be the worst thing that's happened to me this week."

Mother smiled knowingly. "Don't worry. You'll do fine."

She looked at my face again. For a minute I thought she might bring out a Kleenex, dab it on her tongue, and wipe my cheeks like she used to do when I was five. "I hope we'll see you tomorrow."

"You having your traditional costume party?"

I thought, after all these years, that I could keep the resentment out of my voice. I'm not sure I managed.

She nodded. "It doesn't mean we can't make it a double celebration, Jackson."

"I'll do my best."

"You'll come," she insisted.

When I left she was still deliberating whether or not to go with the grape vines.

The neighbourhood private security guy cruised past the front yard as I was opening my mother's white Audi sedan. He saw my dress clothes and for the first time in two years he didn't slow down or look at me suspiciously.

There was an Indian medicine pouch waiting for me on Mother's dashboard.


"I think that went just fine," David Mitchell told me. "Come in, come in."

WJ His office was on the third floor of the Humanities &c Social Sciences Building, just down the hall from the interview room. On the office door was a Peanuts cartoon of Lucy in the psychiatrist's booth with the little DOCTOR is IN sign. Professor Mitchell, a man on the cutting edge of humour.

His work space was messy but cozy, filled with crammed bookshelves and dented filing cabinets and dying potted plants. There was a Macintosh computer setup as big as a Hyundai against the back wall. A poster for the Houston Renaissance Festival above that. More Lucy and Linus cartoons were Scotchtaped around the room like hastily applied BandAids.

Mitchell offered me a seat and a Diet Pepsi from his private stash. I accepted the seat.

"Well," he said. "Now that we've grilled you, perhaps you have some questions of your own."

He nodded his head encouragingly. He'd done that all the way through the formal interview while his three colleagues—two elderly Anglo men and one Latino— stared at me and frowned and asked me over and over again what exactly I'd been doing since my postgraduate work. When they'd shaken my hand at the end of the hour they'd all looked worried, like they should've worn surgical gloves. Maybe Mother was right. Maybe the brown tie had been a bad choice.

I asked Mitchell some questions. Mitchell nodded his head a lot. He had silver hair and silver sideburns that were trimmed into the shape of fins from a 1950s automobile. His features were pinched and angular and his eyes were beady like a weasel's. A nice weasel. A good ole weasel.

Mitchell gave me some background on the teaching position that had opened up in the department.

Apparently old Dr. Haimer, who as far as anyone could remember had been teaching medieval literature since it was titled "Contemporary Authors," was finally retiring, midterm. Last week, in fact. His two teaching assistants had resigned in protest, leaving Haimer's classes in the hands of other T.A.s and a few American Lit professors who probably thought Marie de France was some kind of bicycle race.

"Medieval just isn't a very popular field," Mitchell told me. "Usually we'd have plenty of lecturers waiting to fill the position in an emergency, but—"

"Why did Haimer leave?"

Mitchell shook his head. "He opposed the establishment of more separate ethnic studies programs. Said it was fragmenting, that the curriculum should have one inclusive canon."


Mitchell looked grave. "He had good intentions. The fact is he said what was on a lot of our minds. But his vote was the only open dissent in the faculty senate. Word got out to the students. Boycotts started, protests on the Patillo, signs that read RACIST. Not the sort of public relations the provost wanted."

"So why me? You don't need another white guy."

Mitchell stared at me like I'd just made an inside joke. "Of course. The committee would prefer someone— 'of diverse gender and ethnicity,' I think is the going term."


He shook his head, letting a little more distaste show. "I'll have to speak with Dr.

Gutierrez about that in the committee meeting, I'm sure, but let's talk about qualifi

cations, son. We need someone who knows the field, someone with a good background who can relate to the students. Someone young, a teacher more than a publisher. Technically it would only be for the rest of the year—a visiting assistant professor's position—until a more extensive hiring search can be conducted. But still, once you're in, once you make connections on the faculty—"

He nodded more encouragement, letting me get the picture. I got it.

We talked a little more about the interview process, about when I might come back to teach a demo class if the committee decided to go the next step. I wasn't holding my breath for that, but I said I could stay available. Mitchell nodded, content.

He opened the folder I'd given him and ran down my credentials and training from Berkeley. He started shaking his head and smiling.

"You're bilingual."

"Spanish and English. Middle English. Some classical Spanish and Latin, enough AngloNorman to get the dirty jokes in the fabliaux."

He whistled silently and closed the folder. "You completed a fiveyear program in three years. These letters of recommendation are extremely strong. How is it after all that you got into ..."

He looked for a polite word.

"Thug work?" I offered.

He chuckled. "Let's go with 'investigations.' "

"Just luck. And the fact that the only job I could get with my Ph.D. at the time was tending a bar on Telegraph Avenue. And the fact that a friend of mine introduced me to someone, a criminal lawyer who sort of—took me in."