What we think we know.
Peter wasn’t feeling well and his journal entry indicated a hope to walk to the water tower.
John, who managed Pete’s rental properties, saw him shortly before his last walk and said he looked fine. Pete was his boss but also his friend, not his best friend, that’d be Smoky his dog. John lives nearby and describes their neighborhood as dangerous – lots of crime fueled by heroin and meth addictions. Sam, Pete’s neighbor, saw my mysterious white rental car and called Mike instead of the police. No John to call and the cops would’ve been barking at me to come off Pete’s roof where I’d perched for a view of the ‘hood.
“Come down right now.”
“I’m Ken’s friend.”
“Okay, you don’t have to yell.”
“Look, as you can see there is no ladder. I cobbled together parts of Pete’s life, an exercise machine, a piece of plywood, a short homemade ladder, to climb up here. Unless you want me to jump it’ll be a while.”
John’s depressing view of Pahrumpians resonates. I’ll include people passing through.
I eat breakfast with folks who look just like you and me except for their jet black holstered sidearms. I tried to engage a guy, who looked like a mix of Wally Cox and my seventh grade science teacher, in a conversation about guns. “You’re here for firearms training? Tell me about that.” However, my smiley inquisitiveness, which serves me so well at Sweet Bites, put him in the en garde position. “What fascist militia do you represent,” I did not ask. I changed the subject, tried to find a common thread to alter his posture, but it wasn’t to be. I, of all people, nervously left the table. “Time to watch the sunrise,” or some such alibi or is it alilie?. I add this because I find myself curiously derisive about what people are afraid of so when John called me I was still in my, “Don’t be silly mood.” That cheese pizza will kill you before the black, red, yellow, government – you pick ’em – hordes descend upon you.
Every time John tried to tell me how things really were in this city, I’d laugh, forcing him to find more crackheads, more beak ins, a kidnapping even, to get me to pay proper attention. Okay, Toto I’m not in Acton. I went to sleep last night having lost my usual “mankind is all good” self. I awoke feeling the same until I met Lou, the retired juvenile probation officer from Connecticut, at Anytime Fitness. I walked in the door hunting for an employee while looking away from the sweaty bodies, and heard him say to the built-like-a-linebacker instructor, “The Patriots suck.”
This was my introduction to Lou. When he walked away from the only other guy in the room with bigger muscles, I said, “What do you mean the Patriots suck?” I know, for those of you who heard my Chillicothe “The Steelers suck” story, you’re thinking I’m dining on my just desserts. But Lou was not malevolent he was just … cheerfully vacant. Good thing, huh? His mood helped momentarily reset my own.
Back to what we know.
I talked to Tom, the detective assigned to the case, this morning. He started out all official, but after a while I made him chuckle. I understood his no nonsense attitude birthed from respect for Pete’s family and the need to appear he’s done absolutely all he could. I also know he’s suspicious of me and my judgments.
“Any air search?” I asked
“No money, no airfield, but we used horses and ATV’s. He may be out in the desert but we’ve not found a trace.”
“No fabric, no hat, no clothes blowing around.”
“No, and In this climate that stuff stays for awhile.”
“Interesting that you say that. I walked for six hours yesterday hoping to see something kept from its travels by prickly sage brush. I found one TV, a broken bottle or two, and mylar party balloons, the ones that say don’t release. There seems to be such respect for the environment. People on ATV’s don’t toss their garbage.”
“Not there they don’t but go to the south side of town and you’ll see what looks like a homeless encampment. People drive their cars and boats into the desert and then set them afire.”
There is it again. I try to say something nice and I get something bad back. Even from the local cops who’d rather vent than keep up the Chamber of Commerce move-to-my-lovely-town facade. My mood was set early on when I got ripped off by a car-rental-cutie in Las Vegas who showed me her vitamin B-12 drops while she inflated my rental fee. Now the angry faces that won’t return my wave, the emphsyematous store clerks struggling to breathe and smile, the weathered tattoos on sagging bodies, the glaring neon signs for sex and slots, John’s stories, Tom’s stories, the chain link electrified fences, the cars in front of me without plates, and the omnipresence of one family name pinned on motels, restaurants, and construction equipment, makes this one city I’ll be happy to leave.
Click to enlarge. Red pin is Pete’s house and blue one is the water tower.