I didn’t move. The trip switch on my temper had been kicked over and I stared into her eyes. They were zipping from side to side with bolts of anger. I said, “No, Ange, you back the fuck up, and take your pop psychology degree and your sentiments about my father with you. And maybe I won’t try and analyze your relationship with that Husband of the Year who treats you so well.”
The phone rang.
Neither of us moved. Neither of us looked at it. Neither of us softened or backed up.
Two more rings.
“That’s probably George.”
I felt my jaw unclench a bit, and I turned and picked up the phone. “Patrick Kenzie.”
“Hi, Patrick. It’s George.”
“Georgie,” I said, working some false excitement through my vocal cords.
“Do you have a pencil?”
“Detectives always have pencils, George.”
“Ha. Of course. Jenna Angeline’s car is a nineteen seventy-nine Chevy Malibu. Light blue. License number DRW-four seven nine. There’s a boot order in effect on it as of June third.”
I felt the rush building from the pit of my stomach, the blood pounding into my heart from open valves. “A boot order?”
“Yes,” George said. “The Denver boot. Ms. Angeline didn’t like paying her parking tickets it seems.”
The Denver boot. The yellow, immovable tire lock. The blue Malibu Jerome’s friends had been sitting on when I went to Jenna’s place. Parked in front of the house. Not going anywhere anytime soon.
I said, “George, you are the greatest. Swear to God.”
“Damn right you helped.”
“Hey, how about having a beer together sometime soon?”
I looked at Angie. She was peering at something on her lap, her hair covering her face, but the anger hung in the room like exhaust fumes. I said, “I’d really like that, George. Give me a call at the end of next week? I should have wrapped this up by then.” Or died trying.
“You got it,” he said. “You got it.”
“Take care, George.”
I hung up and looked at my partner. She was doing the pencil against her tooth thing again, looking at me, her eyes flat and impersonal. Her voice was pretty much the same. “I was out of line.”
“Maybe not. Maybe I’m just not ready to probe that part of my psyche yet.”
“Maybe you’ll never be.”
“Maybe,” I said. “What about you?”
“And the Asshole, as you so kindly refer to him?”
“That guy, yeah.”
“Things are coming,” she said. “They’re coming.”
“What do you want to do about the case?”
She shrugged. “You know what I want to do. But, then, I’m not the one who had to watch Jenna die, so I’ll let you call it. Just remember, you owe me one.”
I nodded. I held out my hand. “Pals?” She grimaced and reached across and slapped my palm. “When weren’t we?”
“About five minutes ago.” I laughed.
She chuckled. “Oh, yeah.”
We parked at the top of the hill, looking down on Jenna’s three-decker and the blue Malibu parked out front. The yellow boot was apparent even in the fading light. Bostonians get parking tickets and traffic citations with a consistency most pro sports teams would envy. They also tend to wait until their driver’s licenses are about to be renewed before paying attention to them. City officials realized this after a while, took a look at their dwindling coffers, wondered where the graft necessary to put their children through college and their asses on the Vineyard was going to come from, and brought in the Denver boot. It comes, obviously, from Denver, and it clamps around your tire, and that car ain’t going anywhere until all those parking fines are paid in full. Tampering with one is a serious offense, punishable by prison and/or a stiff fine. This doesn’t deter anyone half as much as the fact that the damn things are almost as hard to remove as an old chastity belt. A friend of mine did it once, with a ballpeen hammer, a chisel, and a whack in just the right place. But the boot must have been defective, because he could never repeat the feat. Depressed the hell out of him too; he could have been set for life boot destroyer for hire. Making more money than Michael Jackson.
If Jenna had hidden something in that car, it would make a perverse bit of sense. Sure, a car sitting untended in Boston for more than four or five minutes usually loses its stereo and speakers, and more often than not, the rest of it as well. But the chopping block market for fifteen-year-old Chevies ain’t what it used to be, and no self-respecting car thief is going to waste precious time screwing around with the boot. So, unless she hid it in her stereo, there was a good chance it was still there. If she’d hidden anything there in the first place. Big if.
We sat and watched the car, waiting for darkness to fall. The sun had set but the sky still held its warmth, a canvas of beige streaked with wisps of orange. Somewhere behind or in front of us in a tree, on a roof, in a bush, at one with the natural urban world Bubba lurked in wait, his eyes as constant and emotionless as T. J. Eckleburg’s.
We had no music going, because the Vobeast has no radio, and it was damn near killing me. God only knows how people kept their sanity before rock and roll. I considered what Angie had said about my motives, about my father, about taking my anger out on Mulkern and his cronies, anger at a world that had settled the score with my father before I had a chance to. If she was wrong, we’d find out when we finally got our hands on the evidence and I turned it over for another signed check, including the bonus. If she was right, we’d find out about that too. Either way, I didn’t like thinking about it.
There was, come to think about it, way too much happening lately that required pauses for introspection. I’ve never made any bones about it I love investigating things, as long as I’m not one of them. But suddenly, there were all these hot-blooded confrontations with people in my life Richie, Mulkern, Angie. All of a sudden I was being asked to reevaluate myself in terms of racism, politics, and the Hero. My three least favorite subjects. Much more introspection and I’d end up growing a long white beard, maybe wearing a white smock, sipping a glass of hemlock while I read The Crito. Maybe I’d move to Tibet, climb a mountain with the Dalai Lama or head to Paris and wear nothing but black, grow myself a keen goatee and talk about jazz all the time.