“Well I expect that inside this office you and Sam can hold off anyone till the cops get here. The police station is only three blocks away. So, I guess I would do better interviewing the people at the welfare hotel, and then the street friends of Ansel. Maybe I can at least get a lead on him,” Royce suggested.
“Sounds good to me,” I agreed, “but I want you to record every interview. I know it sounds like I don’t trust you, but I don’t trust you.” I did smile when I said it.
“Ms. Avery, if you want me to wear pink shirts to work, I will wear pink shirts to work. I plan to go along with whatever you want, and to do whatever you need. I do not want to go back inside period.”
“Yeah, that might be inconvenient,” I agreed.
“You have no idea how inconvenient,” he said looking very unhappy. I had a feeling my father might have something to do with that dread as much as his actual loss of freedom.
“I want you to call be between interviews so that we can discuss our next move. I might not be in the car, but I plan to be involved in the interviews as much as possible. You do understand?” I asked.
“I got it,” he said unemotionally. He honestly didn’t seem to care. That was fine with me, just as long as he did what I said.
“Well I think I will hit the motel first. If that doesn’t work out I will give some of the street people, who knew them both, a try. I expect that I still know a couple of them,” Royce informed me.
“Jane and I will wait for you hear, so don’t forget you are our taxi,” I informed him.
“Right, I’ll give you a call and you can decide, when I call it a day,” he suggested.
I talked to clients, potential clients and people who knew potential clients for the rest of the afternoon. Between those calls I spoke with Royce twice. The Welfare hotel knew the girl named Sarah, but she was gone. Also, the cops were running the same trail according to Royce.
“That’s not good for Cheech, he has nothing new to bring to the table,” I suggested.
“So do I stop looking?” Royce asked.
“Who were you planning to see next?” I asked.
“My plan was to head over to the construction site on Terrell street. I am told one of Sarah’s friends had a pimp I knew from back in the day,” Royce said.
“Do I need to tell you to just say no?” I asked.
“Geeze that is so cornie, but thanks,” he suggested. “So do I come back now or go on to the construction site where the girls are working?”
“Go on over to the site, but stay out of trouble,” I demanded.
“How much trouble can I get into, I’m unarmed,” he said.
“My dad says the only unarmed man it the on who has had them amputated. It you have your arms, there are always weapons available,” I suggested.
“Yeah so I have heard from him,” he said.
He called again after the interview all out of breath. “I’m on my way back to the office and I think we are going to be getting a visit from the cops. I want to get your car back to you just in case. Plus of course it would be better to be with my lawyer, when they come to interview me,” Royce said.
“What did you do now?” I asked.
“Hold on for ten minutes and I’ll be there to fill you in,” he informed me.
I was nervous, so I went to stand in the office occupied by Sam and the shotgun. I had no idea that I would need it, but I did like the idea of being close to it while I waited for Royce.
Royce entered the outside door and Sam buzzed him in. He looked agitated, but not terrified. “Judging from you calm, I would expect that you have not killed anyone?” I made it a question.
“He wasn’t dead when I left,” he said.
“So what happened,” Sam asked all excited.
“Lavern’s pimp didn’t like the idea of her talking to me without being paid. He threatened her and I suggested that he back off, so he threatened me. Honest I had to put him down.”
“Oh my god, how did you do it?” Sam asked all excited.
“Sam stop fawning, it does not look good on you,” I suggested. “However if I am going to have cops running through the door any minute, I need to know what you did.
“He drew back like he was going to bitch slap me like one of his whores, so I jabbed him in the throat. He fell and it was pretty much over,” Royce said.
“Royce honey, it’s that ‘pretty much’ that bothers me. What else is he going to tell the cops, if he decides to talk to them?” I asked.
“He might tell them I kicked him in the ribs, while I asked him if he knew where Ansel was hiding out,” Royce suggested.
“And what did this pimp tell you? Yes, I am assuming he talked to you,” I said.
“He told me that he didn’t know, but he knew where I could find Sarah. Sarah has moved to Tryon to ply her trade for an on line dating service,” Royce said.
“And did he tell you how to contact her?” I asked.
“Of course he did. When you get a pimp talking, you can’t shut him up,” Royce said.
“Is he going to call a cop?” I asked.
“I have no idea, but since they aren’t here yet that is a good sign. I called my sister and she hasn’t hear from, or seen any cops around, but its only been a few minutes,” Royce said.
“Well you have been out one day and are already in the middle of a shit storm,” I suggested.
“Yeah working for you might be fun, but it’s like walking on a razors edge,” he said grinning.
“You can spend the night with Jane and me. If the cops look for you, at least we should be able to get a heads up so that we can figure something out,” I said.
“Okay, but whose bed do I sleep in,” he asked.
“Not mine for sure,” I admitted.
“I got a man,” Jane said.
“So it looks like the floor for you. Probably ever less comfortable than the prison cot.”
“Well if this becomes habit, I know where I can buy a really nice foam pad,” he informed me,
“Sam we will see you in the morning. I guess I need to hide Royce. Any as for you Royce, if you are going to sleep with me for god’s sake call me Lucy,” I said,
“Right,” Royce replied.
“So Lucy do I bring donuts tomorrow or do you get biscuits?” Sam asked.
“If all goes well, we will all be here for donuts, if not you can save our share for about twenty years,” I suggested to Sam.
We spent a quiet evening at home. I was on the computer most of the night. Since Royce had a brand new laptop, I gave him my wireless access code. Yes when he moved out he would be able to sit in our parking lot and use the web free. How bad could that be, I thought,
I sat on the bed inside my tiny bedroom behind a locked door, while Royce sat at the equally tiny dining table on his new laptop. “So where did you get the money for the laptop?” I asked as I pass through the space between the bedroom and the bathroom. That space also opened into the studio part of the apartment.
“Well I didn’t steal it and it wasn’t from any other criminal enterprise,” he admitted.
“Your sister was looking for money, so I know she didn’t give it to you,” I said. I had a feeling I should probably be concerned and stay on top of Royce for a while.
“I went to a pawn shop and made a purchase based on my new job with you. I will pay it off within 90 days same as cash. It is about the only way I can keep in touch with people inside,” he said.
“Yeah, my dad emails me now and then. I’m not sure what the rules are, but he somehow gets access to a computer.” I admitted.
“Lucy your daddy’s power comes from the fact that he has a huge amount of money out on the street working. He is the only one who knows where it all is and how to make the various parts work together. In his case knowledge really is worth millions.”
“I still don’t know how it works,” I suggested.
“If anyone really knew how it all worked, your dad would most likely get shanked within the next hour. He isn’t loved or feared, he can just make your life better or worse by throwing the power of his money around.”
“Okay, I will have to just accept that you know what you are talking about,” I suggested.
“I’m supposed to show you something,” he said as he turned the computer to me.
I looked at the monitor with four smaller screens displayed at once. “What am I looking at?” I asked.
“The top left is the hallway outside your condo. The top right is the lobby downstairs, the lower left is the parking lot and the lower right is the front door of you office,” he informed me.
“What the hell is that all about?” I asked.
“That’s about a small addition to your security contract that I arranged for your father. You and I both know that if the pros come for you, a few seconds warning could be the difference between life and death. If nothing else, they will know who to go talk to afterward,” he said it while grinning at me.
“There are six units on this floor, do I get some kind of warning when all those people come and go?” I asked.
“If you are apprehensive you turn on the beeper. It alerts you when the elevator door or the fire door opens. If that happens, you can look to be sure they are friends, if not you can have your own surprise ready for them,” he said.
“Tell me the truth Royce, how much shit have I stirred up?” I asked.
“Your dad says that the cops run a very lucrative protection racket. If you bust it, the bad ones stand to lose a lot of money, as well as go to jail. If it weren’t for you, it might all just go away. So there is a big incentive for you and Jane to disappear. Yes I included you in that. If anything happens to her, you are going after the people responsible,” he said it as if he knew it as a fact. Yes, it was true, but there was no way he could know.
“Like I said earlier my dad never does anything that doesn’t benefit him directly. So what’s in this for him?” I ask.
“For your dad it is a chance to impress you, and it is also good for business. That is all I’m going to say about that. Except, I am not involved in his business. What you have in our relationship, is what you get. I work for you first and foremost. I will have to answer to your dad. if I can’t take care of you. That’s as far as it goes between your dad and me,” he explained.
“I have no idea whether I believe you or not,” I replied.
“I never expected you to trust me coming out of the gate. But whether you do or not, my task is to protect both of you. If I don’t, I might as well put your little .38 in my mouth and pull the trigger,” he said.
“Is it that serious really?” I asked.
“It is,” he said softly.