He got. He got into his car and sat watching the boat for a few minutes. She watched him from the deck for a minute and then went inside. Everybody had a gun. It was starting to look like Dodge City. In the past two days he'd seen more hardware than he cared for, and Loomis was a person who liked guns. That is to say, target shooting and bowling were his only recreational activities. He sometimes had to carry his gun in the course of his job, but he was no more comfortable with it than he would be packing his bowling ball. He was an expert marksman with a handgun, but that counted for little in a job where guns started showing up in the hands of amateurs. He'd rather be a bad shot with the only gun.
As far as the boat was concerned he found he wasn't all that surprised that Arlene was holding the papers. It made sense that the Cap'n would try to hide his major asset if he was preparing for a messy divorce. Things had come to a head so suddenly and with such violence that, as Arlene had pointed out, nobody was thinking like themselves. It probably seemed like a good idea to the Cap'n at the time and, if he had lived, it might possibly have worked. Under the circumstances, though, Arlene was crazy if she thought she was going to keep the boat. If Mozarsky was any good at all she wasn't going to walk away with a bait bucket. The Cap'n was getting bad advice and following it, but Loomis himself was evidence that divorce makes you stupid. Mrs. Fishbein was going to have to know about this, if just to prevent Arlene from sailing the thing away, but he thought it would be a good idea to have a talk with Zelbo first.
What struck him as most interesting was the lit fuse on Arlene. She was popping and crackling all over the place. Maybe she was distraught over the death of her lover, but why pull a gun, even a disabled gun on him? Especially since he announced his presence so carefully.
He started the Chevy and it died. It died three times before it caught. He'd have to take it in soon for winterizing. He'd see what Jackie could do with two or three hundred. The rest could wait a week or so until he found Keever. He suddenly realized that, for some reason, he was utterly confident that he was going to find Keever. He smiled. He'd never earned anywhere close to $6,000 for a job before.
He found a pay phone outside a Cumberland Farms Dairy and dialed his office. There was a message from Marty saying he needed at least a hundred of what was owed him by tomorrow. He decided to pay Marty off in full tomorrow, pay off Goz out of the next check and pay off Gallagher when he felt like it. There were two messages from Zelbo. The first said he had no information that would be helpful and he had no time available whatever. It was peevish and stammering, like a kid defending the indefensible. The second was suave and warm and said he would make himself available for Loomis at 10 a.m. Mozarsky was right. He was a nut case.
He dialed his house. There were no messages so he left one for Martha.
"Hey, Sugar. Its 4:35. I got one more stop I want to make and then I'm coming home. Be there between six and seven. Let's go to a movie or something. Good news."
He hung up and thought of one other stop he should make, but he didn't think it would change the schedule. When the engine was warm he pulled out and followed the same route he had taken tailing Keever and pulled into the Tomahawk at five o'clock.
Loomis had been in the Tomahawk a few times when he had been dating a pharmacist who lived across Route 88 in Point Pleasant Manor. It was not a dive, but it was not what he would call a happy place. It was a large florescent-lit room with a circular bar in the middle. The room was all to your right as you entered and along the wall to your left was the packaged goods counter. There were four televisions placed so that one was always in view. The space between the bar and the front of the room was used for video games, shuffle bowls and the latest addition, a foul shooting game. Each one made a god awful racket. There was music piped in just above the level of the television sound and, though the lights were dim, they were getting a jump on the Christmas season so that what lights there were twinkled and spun.
For some reason it was known as a pick-up joint so there was always an aggressive, clammy heartiness in the air. When you came in the door you belonged to the room, unless the room decided you were a loser, in which case you were nowhere. Hard to gauge the appeal of a place like that, but it had been there forever and was packed on the weekends.
People were just beginning to drop in after work. There were only six people scattered around the bar and a couple of guys shuffle bowling. Loomis sat next to the bar maid's station and ordered a Miller. The bartender had a very wide neck and a very hip haircut, long in the back and spiked in the front. Loomis took his picture of Keever and stood it on the bar so the bartender could see it. The bartender looked at it and at Loomis.
"Have you seen this guy in here?"
"I'm a private investigator."
Loomis showed him his ticket, which impressed him just as much as the picture had.
"I'm looking for this guy because he's accused of murder and my client doesn't think he did it."
"My client? I can't say that. My client wants to get to him before the police do. You seen him?"
He picked up the photo and scrutinized it closely.
"Nah. I don't think so," he said. The liar.
"When's your shift over?"
He looked at Loomis with feral blankness for a moment and then smiled. He put the picture in his shirt pocket.
"That's an idea. I'll just call the night guy and see what he says." He started to pick up the phone.
Loomis stretched out his hand.
"Why don't you give it back to me and I can just come back later and talk to him?"
The guy stood there for a second to see if Loomis was actually going to reach into his pocket to get the picture back, which he most definitely was not going to do, and then stepped back.
"Nah. I'm curious now. I'll have him here in a few minutes."
There were eighteen feet of cord on the telephone and the bartender used them all. He spoke for a few seconds and then brought the phone back and bought Loomis another beer.
"He'll be in in a few minutes. You really a private dick? That's what they call you, isn't it? A dick? A private dick?"
"Yeah, I'm really a dick."
"All right," said the bartender, mildly, and he started mopping down the other end of the bar.
After fifteen minutes Loomis had been hit on twice, which for him was a record. One was a soggy lady in her fifties who wanted to take him on a boat ride, the other was a thick, angry looking teenager named Bergeen. She spelled it for him. She looked like she was going to start breaking things if she wasn't getting laid by nine o'clock. The noise level was rising steadily and the bar was rapidly filling. Two brutal looking boys who went to the same barber as the bartender came in, drank a beer and left. At five thirty Loomis threw a little money on the bar and stood up. The bartender scooped the money off the table and sneered at him.
"I guess he got held up in traffic."
"Yeah. I wonder when they're going to widen 88?"
"It's a bitch in the summer."
"Yeah. Can I have my picture back?"
"Oh, fuck. I must have lost it. Sorry, Mister."
"No problem. I can get another one. Tell your friend I'll be back later."
"I sure will."
Directly to the right outside the door was the corner of the building. Loomis opened the door and held it for a second and then walked quickly to the left. It was dark. The parking lot was unlit except for a street lamp on 88 about twenty yards away. He was four cars from the Chevy and was just starting to think he was being paranoid when he passed in front of a stepvan and felt a very large hand close on his arm. It drew him into the narrow space between the van and a pickup. He started to twist away but the hand gave one squeeze that sent stars shooting at his eyes, gave him a fast frisk and then continued simply to hold him. The way in front of him was totally blocked by his abductor. The side door to the van opened behind him and when he looked back that way was blocked by a larger figure. Whoever it was, if they wanted him, they had him.
A car pulled into the parking lot and briefly threw enough light on them for Loomis to recognize the one holding his arm as one of the ugly boys he had seen a few minutes earlier in the bar. The three of them stood in that narrow space while the new car parked and its occupants walked across the parking lot into the bar. They seemed to be waiting to see if Loomis would cry out. As frightened as he was he had no intention of yelling for help. First of all, there was a less than even chance that calling out would bring help. They had been tipped by the bartender; it was their bar and, most likely, their friends were all over. Second of all, he was so completely overmatched physically that they would be able to do whatever they intended to do before anything else could happen anyway. He was expecting to get smacked around, but he had a feeling there would be some talk first. He hoped there would be some talk first.
"Good. Smart." said the one with his arm. Ugly Boy 1.
Ugly Boy 2 lit a Zippo lighter about four inches from Loomis' nose and then brought up the picture of Keever beside it.
"Oh, gee, yeah, thanks."
UB 2 tucked the photo back into Loomis' shirt pocket.
"Who you work for?"
He would have liked to have had a moment or two to think over his answer to that one. He had no problem giving up Mrs. Fishbein's name to save himself a beating as long as it didn't create more problems than it solved. That was the hard part. If it put Mrs. Fishbein in danger, then it would be up to him to protect her. But against who? Against what? If he gave up his client without knowing anything about the consequences or what he might have to be dealing with down the road he was asking for trouble. And if he couldn't protect his clients he might as well go to work for Martha handing out Skee-ball tickets. All this he knew. While he was stalling he was trying to figure where these baby thugs might fit in. He got as far as putting them high on the list for whoever was marking up the people in the case when UB 1 gave him a little shake and almost dislocated his shoulder.
"Talk to the man," he said, in an aggrieved tone, as if embarrassed at Loomis' rudeness. UB 2 shook his head briefly and snapped off the lighter.
"Let's go get some coffee. Whataya say?"
Loomis agreed and the three of them walked single file towards the road and then executed a file left towards the 7-11 all the while Loomis' right arm being lightly held in the inexorable grip of UB 1.
The traffic was almost all moving west but the bright, gaping face of the 7-11 lit them as they approached and gave Loomis his first good look at the two men.
On his right, UB 1 was several inches shorter than Loomis, no more than five ten, but he was thick, wide and hard. A weight lifter. He might have been anywhere between eighteen and twenty-two. He was dressed entirely in black, including a suit-style leather jacket. He was blond and had a babyish, knuckly face.
A glance to his left told Loomis that UB 2 probably stood for Ugly Brother 2. This one was a little taller than Loomis, maybe six two, and not as bulky as his partner. He looked about twenty-five, but held himself with a lot of confidence and self-possession, making him seem older. He had the same fine hair and light, rosy complexion as UB 1 and the same bunched features, but his eyes were darker and steadier. He was the dangerous one.
In the 7-11 there was a woman staring into the milk chest and two kids, one leafing through a Guns & Ammo magazine, the other killing aliens in the video corner. Every ten or fifteen seconds he would scream 'hyper-space.' UB 2 ordered three coffees, regular, picked up the bag and turned to Loomis and UB 1.
"Let's drink it outside," he suggested. No arguments. They steered him around the corner between the 7-11 and the Tomahawk to where a dumpster sat up against the bar. He found himself in the corner. UB 2 sat the bag on the dumpster and started handing out the coffee. Everyone was acting like this was a perfectly reasonable way to conduct a business meeting. The dumpster was closed, but it stank.
"By the way," said UB 2, "my name is John Ciscone. This is my brother Douglas."
Douglas and Loomis nodded to each other. Douglas released Loomis' arm, added another sugar to his coffee and stirred.
"I forget your name."
"I showed it to the bartender."
"He just said some guy. You don't mind, do you?"
"No. Loomis. You want me to call you John?"
"Of course. Look, Loomis, we understand you're a professional and you got things you got to do. It so happens we're interested in this guy your looking for. If at all possible, we'd like to find him before the cops do. You understand?"
Loomis nodded. The line was forming at Loomis.
"How much you getting paid for this?"
"A lot more."
John Ciscone's eyebrows went up.
"Actually, John, its a little more than that."
"John, I'm not looking for an auction, here. I'm just telling you why I can't say who it is."
John Ciscone nodded thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I can see that, Loomis. I can see that's probably a lot of money to you."
He continued staring at Loomis dreamily and nodding. Douglas Ciscone slurped.
"Okay," said John Ciscone, and he smiled. "Here's the deal. We don't want you to get hurt in this so you go ahead and do your stuff. If you find this guy before we do and before the cops do you give us a call. Before you call your client. You follow me? You get to collect your big fee, you get another thousand from us and you keep your health. This is a great deal."
"How do I find you?"
John jerked his head and Douglas opened the dumpster. They threw their cups in. John handed Douglas the bag and he balled it and tossed it in. John turned away and started back toward the Tomahawk.
"I'm in the book."
Douglas shut the dumpster and, as he started to turn back towards his brother, caught Loomis' face in his right hand as if it were a softball. He pulled Loomis up on his toes and then pushed him backward into the brick wall.
Loomis was out for only a few seconds, but when his head started to clear they were gone. He sat on the cold ground watching a curtain of dull lights falling in front of his eyes. The lady had made her milk selection and was getting into a red Escort in front of the 7-11. She turned her headlights directly on Loomis, crumpled in the corner between the wall and the dumpster like a wino. She pulled out and drove away.
The back of his head was only slightly damp and a little mushy. He shut his eyes and sat perfectly still for a minute, but the longer he sat the more it hurt. He stood up and sat down. He sat for about five minutes and when he stood again he was able to stay up. He went back to the 7-11, got a Doctor Pepper and took it back to his car. Highway 101 was on the radio and he left them on very low.
He knew he was concussed, and that it was not serious. Useful thoughts began slowly to drift by. No sense in calling the cops. The Ciscones were no doubt lifting longnecks in the Tomahawk and, if anyone asked, had been there for an hour. As the throbbing began to dull he started to feel somewhat pleased with himself. Not a bad day's work, he thought. He didn't know what any of it meant, but he had a feeling he was earning his dough. He sure seemed to be pushing some buttons.
The other item on his agenda for the evening was dropping by Elroy's trailer. He was pleased to pass on that for the evening since it was a longshot and would almost certainly include a confrontation with some species of the constabulatory. He thought about it for a minute and then decided he'd rather talk to Martha.
She wasn't in when he got back to Bradley Beach. He felt like being angry at her, but he congratulated himself on remaining coolly resentful. He got himself a can of beer and sat watching the end of the six o'clock news. When she got in half-way into Brokaw, not only did she not notice the pain which, for her sake, he was trying to conceal, but she kept yammering on about her day. Some guy, some real cool guy, some guy in this incredible suit, some guy a bunch of other stuff Loomis refused to listen to, made her an offer on the arcade. After that there was some stuff about soft markets and premium points. She was clearly jazzed about this offer and it would obviously have a significant impact on both their lives, but it was not what he wanted to deal with at the moment, so he confined himself to distant nods and vague sounds. Finally she noticed he wasn't completely with her and stopped in mid-phrase.
"What's wrong? she asked."
"I see," she said and went into the kitchen.
Well, Loomis could be as big a jackass as the next guy, but not on a consistent basis. At this point he became suddenly aware of just how badly he was behaving. Had he been riding an ass he would have been struck from it. And he would have sat in the dust thinking about all the other times he had been knocked off the same ass and been left in the same dust with the same problem: how to be readmitted to the human race. He might play up his injury, but that was better saved for later, for the recuperative phase. Abject abasement was indicated, but not foolproof. What he needed to do was assess the damage and then reevaluate. He went into the kitchen. She seemed very busy, but he couldn't quite tell what she was doing.
"I'm sorry, Martha."
"That's all right," she said and she went into the bathroom.
He briefly considered heading off to Elroy's trailer. Maybe the cops would really beat him up and she would have to feel sorry for him. Maybe she would have to wait all night at the hospital or even identify his body. At the moment he had no preference.