Monday, February 02, 2009


Chapter 5

Chapter 5

After Mrs. Carlisle left I realized I hadn’t eaten in about a day. I headed for one of my favorite diners, which just happened to be next to the airport. Outside I bought the morning paper, went inside and sat at the counter.

The waitress, Cecilia, came over, smiling as always. “Heard you were at the Come and Get It last night.” “So were a lot of other people Cee.” Who was the dead guy?” “Nobody knows for sure, just a great big guy from California.” “Yeah, yeah I seen him,” said somebody down the counter.

It was Big Jimmy. Jimmy was in his early 20’s, not retarded, but close, who worked as the janitor/odd jobs guy at the airport. He was self-sufficient and had no family anybody knew about. Jimmy wasn’t big, less than six feet tall and slight of build, but that was the name he picked for himself so that is what everyone called him.

Jimmy was very friendly and easily chatted up strangers. That was one of the things he liked about working at the airport, he got to meet lots of people, plus he was fascinated by airplanes. He couldn’t multiply seven and seven, but he knew every plane that landed at the airport, and never forgot a face.

“What was that Big Jimmy?” “I seen him the other day,” he said. “What day?” “Two, yeah two days ago.” “At the airport?” “Yeah.” “Did he fly in?” “Yeah.” “Was he alone?” “Yeah.” “Did he take a cab?” “Yeah.” “Do you know where to?” “No.” “Did you talk to him?” “”Yeah. I said he was bigger than anyone I had ever seen. He said his little sister was bigger than him.” “Is that all Jimmy?” “Well, I asked if he wanted help with his bags and he said ‘sure.’ He gave me ten bucks too.” Jimmy wasn’t too dumb, he spotted a well dressed guy and made a quick ten bucks. The kid is probably as rich as the Queen of England.

“What you askin’ about him for Vance?” “Somebody shot him last night, Jimmy.” “Is he ok?” “No.” “If he’s hurt he might want his other bag.” “What other bag?” “The one in the locker.” “Do you remember which locker it was Jimmy?” “Yeah, I think so.” “Could you show Vance?” “Yeah.” “Good, after Vance eats, ok?” “Ok.”

Cecilia looked at me a little wide eyed, I looked back. “What’ll it be Vance?” “Turkey club, 86 the mayo, substitute steamed vegetables for the fries, and peach yogurt for desert.” “Turkey club? I didn’t know bread and bacon were on your diet.” “Vance’s cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI are all low, and his you-know-what is very high,” I said with a sly smile. “You’re just afraid if you put on weight nobody will sleep with you.” “You’re jealous because Vance prefers women who fake their orgasams.” “Dream on honey,” she said laughing as she walked away. Cecilia has a nice enough face but her body looks like a couple of bobcats tied in a gunny sack clawing to get out. I nailed her sister once though.

I read the paper, not a word about the murder, either one. Not too surprising considering this rag. This murder was interesting, but there were a lot of gaps to fill. Where did this guy fly in from and where did he spend that first night? Why would he leave a bag in an airport locker? Finally, what was he doing in this town?

I finished my meal and talked to Cecilia for a while before Jimmy and I went next door to the airport.

When we got to the airport, Jimmy and I stopped at the ticket counter for Death Valley Air before going to the locker. Sue was working.

“Hi Sue.” “Howdy Vance,” she replied in her sultry Texas drawl. “Can you check something for Vance, Sue?” “Sure honey, whaddya need?” “Vance wants to know what flight a guy came in on.” “Sure, where did he come from?” “Probably Reno on Tuesday.” “We’ve got three flights a day from Reno. One at seven AM, one PM and eight PM, which one?” “Vance isn’t even sure this is the right airline. Big Jimmy, what time of day was it when you saw this guy?” “Well, I dunno.” “Was it early morning, afternoon, or at night?” “I think it was afternoon.” “Try one o’clock Sue.” She tapped at her keyboard. “Ok, what’s his name” “M-a-t-h-i-s-u T-o-n-o-n-g-o.” I spelled. She raised her eyebrows as she stared at the screen. “Yep, here he is, one o’clock flight, got on at Reno. Had another seat reserved, but the second ticket wasn’t used.” “Anything else you can tell Vance?” “The reservation was made through just six days ago.” Shatner! The pool of suspects was growing. “You’re a doll, Sue.” “Any time sugar.” “Bye Sue,” peeped Jimmy. “Bye sweetie,” smiled Sue. Jimmy stared.

“Ok Jimmy, show Vance that locker.” As we walked down the terminal, I pondered what might be in the bag, but couldn’t think of anything likely. I only hoped the locker wasn’t empty. Most places empty the lockers every few days or at least have dogs sniff them for drugs or explosives. Thankfully, nobody around here really worries about that stuff, so it is rarely ever done. I was still thinking when Jimmy spoke. “Hey Vance, can I go with you to take this man his bag? He was awful nice and I want to say ‘hi’” “Sorry Jimmy, he’s dead.” “Dead.” “That’s right.” “Why would somebody kill him Vance?” Jimmy asked. “Vance doesn’t know why Jimmy.” “Are you gonna catch ‘em?” “That’s detective Watts’ job, not Vance’s”

“Oh, here it is, I think anyway,” Jimmy said. “Now how do we get it open?” I thought aloud. “I can do it,” Jimmy said as he pulled something from his pocket and stuck it quickly into the lock. The door came open almost instantly. “Where did you learn that?” “I can’t tell. I promised I wouldn’t.” I looked at Jimmy cautiously as he reached in the locker and pulled out a bag.

It was a large well-made gym bag of real leather. It had no brand name, initials or other identification. I opened it. It contained nothing resembling a clue. There was a small book of poems, very contemporary, abstract stuff. A pair of size 16 Italian wingtips, two pair of socks, a pair of huge khaki shorts, a very nice Hawaiian shirt, a pair of thongs and a brown paper sack containing a collection of cheap souvenirs from Nevada – key chains, shot glasses and post cards. There was also a large object – wrapped in tissue paper. I removed the tissue paper to find a wooden, hand carved and painted marlin, about a foot long. Jimmy gasped, “wow Vance, how cool.” “You sure got a way with words Jimmy.” “I never seen anything so neat before. Can I have it?” “It’s yours,” I said. And why not, there was nothing in this bag that meant a hoot to the case, the cops didn’t know about it and the owner was dead. “But you can’t tell anyone about the locker, the bag or the fish. Got it?” I warned. “Sure Vance, thanks Vance. I’ll never tell anyone.” Jimmy turned and walked off not taking his eyes off the fish. “Thanks for your help Big Jimmy, you take care.” “Yeah,” Jimmy replied, not really paying attention.

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