A KNOCK AT THE DOOR ON ASHBY AVE. in that curt way you know it's a heavy. Cut through my Wheaties like a wet blackjack, the dull thud echoing in my cranium. I look out the living room curtain and sure enough there's the giveaway felt hat. Could pretend I'm not home, but that's behavior unbecoming of the man of the house.
"Mr. Hunter, the word on the street is that you haven't been around much." S'right. It's because I haven't been up. "Investigations bear out that you're currently out of school, unemployed, and inactive with selective service. What have you been doing with all that time on your hands."
"Thinking." That just slips out. Makes me think. . . . That's a good word for what I've been doing.
"Think about this, Mr. Hunter: Alcatraz. Tiburon. Alameda County."
"What are you getting at, Mr. Flatfoot?"
"Mr. Hunter, I'm just a private investigator. There are no aspersions being cast on your character, much less accusations on your person. I'm only trying to awaken you to the fact that anyone aiding or abetting an underage runaway is considered an accessory."
"I haven't seen Carol in two months."
"Ah! I see we're familiar with the subject! Have you heard from her?"
It's like being sent to the principal's office in my own kitchen, bowlful of cereal getting soggy from neglect. I'm mute and guilty looking in my shorts and black T-shirt. A flashback to gym, a cigarette, the hall monitor. When will this private dick leave my house, filling it with the smell of cheap cigarettes? Momma due back from the supermarket in about an hour.
All-my-trials-Lord-soon-be-o-over never made so much sense. It's more thank I planned to handle--this hairy heartache hardly over and all of a sudden The Man comes down on my ass as some kind of accessory. Too much! Reminds me of the story of Lot. Almost broke my mind.
He says he'll be back. And if I know what's good for me I'll use some of the free time on my hands to find out if anyone's seen her--otherwise I'll remain a prime suspect in her disappearance. Prime my ass. He bagged me like a chicken because he got caught dozing: lost her somewhere and with no leads. Good ol' Carol gave him the major slip. Thick-headed motherfucker.
Miss her, still. But I'm not a zombie any more. Never again. The last thing she told me was she was that I better forget about her, because she was going to disappear. The Man, a bumbling, chain-smoking investigator, revealing more than he finds out, says she died her hair. My bet it's red.