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Private Detective Chaz Bernos was heading out of his office when the manager called.
“Hey man, I know you have a heavy workload, but we have this lady who wants to hire us for a little surveillance job.”
Chaz nodded and said, “Sure man, just add it to my files.”
“Well, see, she’s in the conference room right now and she already has been to the other two P.I.s and didn’t like ‘the look’ of them. She has a ten thousand dollar retainer.”
“Oh. I see. Where is she?”
“Room 2”
“I’m on it.”
Chaz had been to the shrink three times since Jesi’s shooting. After the NOPD had taken his statement he had driven down to the levee on Tchapitoulous Street, climbed over the levee, and prayed. Once again he had been in a position to make a difference and did nothing. The girl had his car towed, punched him in the mouth, and still listened to his story. She had hung on his every word about the whole sordid affair. She didn’t judge him. She didn’t blame him for Zahava’s death. She just listened. She didn’t say it, but she showed it; she believed him. Or did she? She might have been giving him a chance to be friends.
Friends. What a word. She was Max’s friend. The boy talked of little else. All those people at her funeral? Friends.
She had asked, “Do you want to walk up the stairs with me?” and if he had gone up there and saw that piece of crap shooting up at the table, he could have thrown him out. That might have cemented their friendship.
Friends. There’s that word again.
Instead, she got high, too, and died. And what did he do?
He pulled the nine-millimeter from his holster. “In over twenty years of law enforcement I’ve never once fired my weapon, but I killed her boyfriend. The first person to have wanted to be my friend since I had lost my wife, Max’s Mom.” He prayed aloud. “I lost. I lost my wife, Zahava, my mind, my way. I killed him. God, if you’re listening…” he paused to collect himself, “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t help me either. I don’t deserve it.”
He stood up and slung the pistol, intending to deposit in the passing Mississippi River. However, the pitch, though powerful, was too high, causing the pistol to hit a beam from the levee awning and a bullet fired back towards the detective. He dove for cover. The gun banked off the awning and landed in his lap.
“What the Hell, God? Was that a sign?”
The man stood up and noticed a small hole in the chest of his suit coat. He flung off his coat like it was on fire and rubbed his palms into his forehead. He lifted the coat and poked a finger through the hole where his heart was and noticed it had gone through the back as well, leaving a second hole. He touched his chest to make sure he was alive.
“How is this possible?”
Tears ran down his eyes and he said, “I guess I get another chance.”
When he walked through the door of conference room number 2 he met Mrs. Esther Buckley. Mrs. Buckley was in her early sixties. She stood with a bearing that if she were in a room with a bunch of Generals, people would still assume she was in charge. She wore a full face of liberally applied Mary Kay. She was the type of old fashioned matriarch who woke up an hour before her husband and fixed her hair and makeup. In forty-three years of marriage to her husband, Ernest had never seen her au naturale. Her poise was power.
“Hello. I’m John Bernos, but people call me Chaz.” He held out his hand for her to shake.
“Please excuse me if I don’t shake hands. I find it simian. My name is Esther Buckley, but you can call me Mrs. Buckley.”
John felt like he had just been rebuked by his grade school teacher as he said, “Well, how may I help you, Mrs. Buckley?”
“It is about my daughter. My husband and I have flown down from our home in Rock Island, Illinois to visit her.”
“Rock Island? I’m from Chicago.”
“Oh, I’m not Yankee. I was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, but I won’t hold that against you. It’s not your fault. May I continue?”
“Yes, please.”
“Thank you. Well, my daughter has always been a little odd. While at college she married this poetry-spouting lout, Geoffrey Miller. He even spells it with a G like some lowbrow mick. Anyhow, I know the nematode ne’er do well married her because he thought he’d get some of our money. But he doesn’t know my little girl. Money is the furthest thing from her mind. She’d trade the Hope Diamond for a library card. She is the easiest going, easiest to please thing in the world. Now, don’t get me wrong, if she called and needed a limo, my husband would write a check and ask if she needed a stretch or the regular kind. But she is happy with an old El Camino. I told you she was odd.”
“So what seems to be the problem?”
“I’m sorry, am I boring you?”
“No Ma’am, please continue.”
“So, she has called me six times a day her entire life. She will also call to tell me about a book she has read. She will tell me about some deplorable tattoo or some ring through her unmentionables. She may be an odd girl, but she was always MY odd girl.
“About three months ago she stops calling. I call her and she becomes distant. We fly down to visit. We had to jump through hoops to spend a minute out of this neanderthal’s sight. Finally, when I ask her about a bruise, she tells me she taking kickboxing classes. My daughter would never kickbox. She is a Zen Buddhist or something. If she gets mad, she meditates.”
“What would you like me to do?”
“I want to know if this creep is abusing my little girl.”
“Ma’am, if so, legally, the only thing we can do to prevent it is to notify you and the police.”
“Prevent it?” I just want you to prove it, sonny. My husband owns loading docks in ten states and over 300 semi-trucks. He has worked with the Teamsters for 40 years. He and Jimmy Hoffa took their Mason Yorkright together. Plus, she has six brothers, all as big as you. Prevent it? Yeah, by putting this cro-magnon in the trunk of a car under a newly paved freeway!”
She was obviously flustered. She pulled a picture from her purse. “This is her. April Buckley. Now April Miller. She lives here on Felicity Street. Here is a ten thousand dollar cashier’s check. When you prove what I already know, I’ll send another.” She put down the check and walked out.
The detective stared at the ceiling and asked, “What’s going on here, God?”
Then he remembered the last time and said, “Wait, no more signs. I’ll just wing it.”
His boss came in the room and picked up the check. “Sometimes you’re a hammer and sometimes the nail. Today we are the hammer.” He smiled and continued, “It’s been a good Thor’s day.”
“Pardon? What did you say?”
“Thursday is named after the God Thor. Thorsday becomes Thursday. Get it?”
The detective sneaked another peek at the ceiling. “Ok.”