For the next while the Friday Fillip will be a chapter in a serialized crime novel, interrupted occasionally by a reference you might like to follow up. Both this chapter of the book and the whole story up to this point can be had as PDF files.
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Binds and Bands
Pushed too hard and too fast, the French press flooded the counter with a slurry of grounds and good coffee. Rangel swore, flapped at the mess with a rag, and then with a strangled shout flung the rag into the sink and stomped off to get showered.
She fiddled with the showerhead until she got it to pump out a hard pulse, then she drove the hammering hot water into the back of her neck.
Head down like a penitent as the water beat on her nape, she tried to put things in some sort of order, to think productively. Sander’s appeal and his challenge to her competence were at the top of her list. She tried recall what role, if any, she’d be expected to play in the proceedings. In a way she was now beside the point. What was done was done. Would she be allowed to intervene in any way? That would all be seen as special pleading, wouldn’t it? And would her participation be a wise course, even if she were given some standing in that aspect of Sanders’ appeal?
Something — soap in her eye, perhaps — made her realize suddenly that she had to call the errors and omissions insurance providers. There could be a civil suit by Sanders on top of his appellate slur.
The fact she’d taken on Gladys Tremaine as a client was next on her list of woes. Wally was right, of course: the money likely wasn’t there to justify the kind of effort needed to put the woman’s mind at ease. And she had to admit that when it came to playing the detective she was out of her depth. So it had been something of a mistake. And, yes, her lost brother Larry had inclined her to sympathize too much with Gladys about her lost nephew. No point in regrets. Figure out a plan. Three things here: she would set aside an hour to make sure she had a lock on the legal situation; she would ask Wally to get the court records of the declaration of Jared’s death; and she would speak to Ronnie Dabord down at the police station to see what, if anything, the missing persons report had turned up all those years ago. Perhaps she could tie it up in a bow, even a clumsy one, by the end of the day.
Clients. Without new paying clients she could last for a little while longer, eating through the sum of money she’d put aside against bad times, and these times certainly qualified. It would be sad — more than sad — if she had to close her practice and find a job working for someone else. Perhaps she’d find an NGO that needed her skills, whatever they might actually be. But she loved being her own boss and having her own practice, however modest — and however unprosperous.
And then there was the fire that destroyed her office. That thought made her lift her head and suddenly need action. She got out of the shower and dried herself hurriedly, turbaning her hair on top of her head in a fresh towel. She would call her brother Mitch about the wiring. It was probably too late now to get the Fire Marshall involved. The evidence was gone or tampered with. But she needed to know. If someone was out to do her harm, she needed to know. The thought chilled her.
With wet hands she found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote:
Talk to Ronnie
Research life est. p.a.v.
?Consult counsel re Sanders ($$?)
?Speak to bank
Clean up mess in kitchen
Sitting at the small table in her bedroom, staring into the mirror without seeing herself, she realized that she was thinking of Larry. And of being children together. Children. She didn’t have children. She didn’t want children. Did she? How could she be uncertain about something so . . . so primal? Were children like acquisitions, where you totted up the pros and the cons and saw which side was longer. Because the cons would always outweigh the pros of raising children, making that notion nonsense. It was meant to be something you just did. Wasn’t it? There was time. Not a lot, though. And who? The gallant firefighter of the other night? She didn’t even know his name. Did he think? Could he think? Perhaps that didn’t matter. Or the judge in Elmdale, who, she seemed to recall, had been transferred to the city. She had thought there was something there. One thing was for sure, Backton was a shallow pool for this sort of fishing. If she was serious about children it was past time to search more broadly for the right . . . set of complementary genes.
And now what was needed was some morale boosting. Time for some good shoes. Enough of the comfortable sneakers. Enough of the homely flats. It was time for something kicky, something that showed off her true majestic height. Which meant, of course, the new pair of black and gold Cydwoq heels she’d ordered from Gravity Pope. Calamity, they were called. What could be better? And that in turn meant a decent pair of trousers, the silk and wool, and perhaps the white top with the lace front. No, the red top with the gold thread. And a jacket . . .
Gravity Pope sounded like the name of a band, she thought, as she slipped on the shoes, admiring them yet again. A jamming together of random words, the way bands picked outré names, silly combinations, to get attention and maybe have people remember them. Gravity Pope would do heavy liturgical metal, lugubrious stuff from a full-throated pipe organ. Or the name was like one of those declarations in English you’d see on some Japanese T-shirts, where words-as-objects got banged together in a blithe frustration of meaning. Bands, music. It was here on her phone somewhere. She was never without it and never — almost never — played it. But now not only would she play it, she’d blast it loud through speakers and, goddammit, she’d do what they did, she and Larry. She’d stomp march around the room as if she were ten again, and she’d sing the naughty lyrics and all would be right, all would be as it once was, as it should be . . .
The Colonel Bogey march, the version from the Bridge on the River Kwai with the whistling, filled the bedroom, and Rangel, naked except for her turban and Calamitys, strode in a tight circle like a tin soldier, hollering that though Hitler only had one ball Goebbels had no balls at all.
“HEADED FOR THE CITY?” RONNIE Dabord looked her up and down and then waved her into the seat opposite his desk. He took a drink from a big plastic coffee cup and after swallowing thought to ask: “Coffee?” Dabord was a big man, stocky, with a red face and red hands. His dark grey hair was buzz cut. His grey eyes gave the impression of both intelligence and distance.
Rangel shook her head. “I’m helping Gladys Tremaine with some estate matters,” she said. Dabord nodded, waiting. “As I’m sure you know, her nephew Jared Tremaine went missing back in 2003. I’d be grateful to get a look at the missing persons report and any paperwork follow-up from back then.”
Dabord frowned. “I’m not sure where that would be,” he said after a moment. “We had that —” he waggled his hand “ —switcheroo in 2007, and some of the paperwork went to the capital and some of that never came back.” Backton was something of an anomaly, because it had its own police force when most of the rest of the province’s towns relied on the provincial police. The provincial government in power in 2007 had brought all local policing under the control of the provincial police, but when that government fell a mere nine months later, things in Backton at least returned to the way they had been so far as policing was concerned. It had had something to do with the fact that the local MPP, a former cop, owed and was owed a favour.
“Would it be hard to find out?” Rangel asked.
Dabord thought. “No, I guess not. Nancy’s off sick and Leroy is working on a bunch of thefts from garages. I could ask Jeannie to take a look.” Jeannie Pastor was the receptionist and all round force for efficiency at the station. “Might take a couple of days.”
“Thanks, Ronnie,” Rangel said, getting up and extending her hand for him to shake. As she headed to the door, she stopped, turned and said, “You know, I’m not convinced the fire at my office was accidental.”
Dabord, still standing, lifted his eyebrows. “Oh, G.R., I’d hate to think that,” he said.
Rangel shook her head a little. “I don’t have any evidence. But I also don’t think it was faulty wiring. And you know how the town feels about me because of Sanders.”
“Yes, but surely no one’s fool enough to do something like that.”
Rangel sighed. “I just wanted you to know. In case . . .” She shrugged. “In case you hear anything,” she finished.
Dabord nodded, sat down, thoughtful. He smiled with his eyes. “Nice shoes,” he said.
Rangel smiled back at him. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, they are.”
© Simon Fodden