Chico let out a short bark of a laugh and
turned away from the window. 'No shit? Either that or it was a damn good guess.
A random mugger's three million dollar lucky break. Somehow I don't think so.'
'Who else knew about
'Alvarez and his guys of
'What? You think they
did the deal, lots of big smiles and back slaps all round, then followed them
and stole the money back again.'
Chico waved that away. 'Who knows?
Somebody's got it.'
Chico gave him a pained look.
'If I knew all the
answers, I'd have the money back by now,' he said in the quiet, measured voice
of a disappointed parent.
'I suppose so.'
'I need you to find out
what happened,' Chico said.
'I thought you already
sent a couple of men.'
'Men!' Chico snorted.
'You see any men around here; you point them out to me. I might as well have
sent my mother-in-law. They caught up with her but she got away from them.'
'You still don't know
it's anything to do with her,' Dixie said again.
'So where is she? Why
did she run?' Chico said crossing his arms and sticking his thumbs in his
'You have . . . a
reputation. I'd probably run.'
Chico crossed the room and sat on the
corner of his desk and smiled for the first time that morning. He shook his
head. 'Not you. Cojones the size of a bull.'
Dixie smiled at the compliment.
'She's probably scared.
Even if she hasn't got the money herself, she's the one who lost it. Maybe she
hasn't heard about Chico's legendary leniency. Just because you
wear a dog collar doesn't mean you forgive people.'
Chico actually laughed out loud at that. Dixie started laughing too.
'Why can't you teach
Ricardo to be more like you?' Chico said, the laughter fading, a rueful smile
taking its place. 'Kick him into shape like he's your kid brother.'
Dixie studied his shoes for a moment;
they could do with a shine and he rubbed the toe of the left one against his
right calf. It didn't make a lot of difference so he didn't bother doing the
other one. He really didn't want to get into all this now. Sure, he'd like to
kick Ricardo, but not into shape. He knew Chico and his son had their
problems. Ricardo's resentment of his own relationship with Chico was one of
them; the only one as far as Ricardo was concerned. For Chico it was more to do
with the fact that his son was an idiot. He got his brains from his mother,
according to Chico.
Dixie stretched his arms above his head,
then laced his fingers behind his head. 'What do you want me to do?' he said,
getting the conversation back on track.
'Go and talk to Alvarez
first. See what he has to say. Then find her. One of them's got it.'
'Or somebody else
'Or somebody else altogether,'
Chico agreed without much conviction.
Dixie nodded. 'At least you're prepared
to consider other possibilities. That's a move in the right direction.'
Chico considered him carefully, his eyes
clear and cold. Dixie shifted in his chair. Sometimes he saw his grave in those
eyes, heard the shovels in the dirt.
'I don't know why you're
so keen to put the blame on somebody else—you're not sticking it to her, are
Dixie forced a laugh so
that Chico understood what a ridiculous notion that was and shook his head,
although he didn't exactly straight out deny it.
'Leave it with me. I'll
make a start tomorrow.'
The talk of kid brothers
and kicking them into shape brought back some memories that Dixie didn't want
to think about right now. About the day his own kid brother killed himself. But
he couldn't blame Chico, he wasn't to know about that. He'd been working
ridiculous hours—nothing new there—and hadn't been back to his apartment for a
couple of days, just grabbing a few hours sleep wherever and whenever he could.
And when he'd finally got back home there were two messages waiting for him on
the answering machine.
Hey, it's Remy. I
need to talk to you. Want to get some breakfast this morning?
And then, the voice a
little more strained:
Me again. I guess
you're really busy. How about a beer later? Call me.
But Dixie never got to
make the call, because by then he already knew his brother was dead. If only
he'd called him on his cell? Why call the house for Christ's sake?
All Remy had wanted was
a quiet drink with his brother; maybe ask his advice on something that was
bothering him, who knows, but his brother was busy—nothing new there. What are
you gonna do? You can't find anybody to talk to about your problems, you might
as well make them go away for a while—so he'd had a drink with Charlie instead,
because Charlie was always there for you.
The medical examiner
said there was no evidence of long-term abuse—it was just one of those things.
Apparently you didn't need a history to choke to death on your own vomit. Like
that made it easier to accept.
He still saw Remy from
time to time. He'd be sitting up at the bar and see a movement out of the
corner of his eye. He'd turn to look and there would be Remy turning away,
disappearing into the crowd. The first times it happened he'd jump up and chase
after him, but he'd be gone, of course. He'd push his way through a crowd of
people and then stand there in the middle of the floor, head frantically
turning, everybody staring at him, their faces softening as he changed from a
rude drunk into an object of pity.
It didn't happen so
often now and he never tried to catch him up anymore, but every now and again
he'd sense movement . . .
Evan pushed open the
door to Kelly's Tavern and stepped inside. He'd spent a lot of time in
different bars over the years and, like anyone else who's a regular bar-goer,
it didn't take any longer than that for him to get the feel of the place.
There's a difference between a tough, blue-collar bar and a white-trash dive
and although he'd never been in the place before, Evan knew he was in the
latter. Maybe it was the clientele—men with too much time on their hands and
too little money in their pockets who came in to try to forget about what
they've lost or never had in the first place. Men who feel comfortable in the
knowledge that they're unlikely to come across reminders of all the good things
they've been missing, all the things they can never have. Or maybe it was that
indefinable smell—a subtle mix of strong beer, sweat and stale cigarettes with
an aftertaste of vomit. Whatever it was, you couldn't miss the fact that the
place was a dump.
The bartender looked up
briefly as Evan came in and went back to watching the TV. They probably got a
lot of people come in, take a quick look around and head straight back out
again. Evan would normally have been one of them. Coming in from the bright
sunlight outside, it took his eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness. It was
still early and the place was almost empty. There were three inbred-looking
guys at the end of the bar drinking beer, talking and laughing loudly, another
two shooting pool in the back and a couple more sitting at a table who somehow
didn't look quite so much like losers as the rest of them. Maybe they weren't
The inbreds stopped
talking and laughing and watched Evan as he walked up to the bar. Evan would
have liked a few more people in the place, perhaps some loud music to drown out
his questions. As it was the whole bar would be able to hear every word he
said. Somehow he didn't get the impression that more pairs of ears meant more
chance of somebody being able to help him. One thing was for sure—he knew why
Ellie hadn't wanted to come to the place herself. Why she wanted to find somebody
who chose to come here on a regular basis was a different matter.
The bartender turned his
back to get a better look at the TV as Evan sat down on a stool at the bar.
Evan was surprised by his sudden interest in world affairs—he looked like the
kind of guy who's normal attitude to anything going on in the outside world was
who gives a shit? He was heavyset with a crew cut and even though he was
in his fifties you could see he still thought he had it in him. Maybe he did.