We arrived at IHOP about 10 minutes late. Martin Vihn had not yet arrived. I took a seat at a booth against the back wall and sat down facing the entrance. Joe slipped into the seat opposite me. A window was on my left through which I watched a man assemble a sidewalk stand. The waitress brought the menus. Joe got right down to studying it. I watched the man struggle with some pipes that held up an awning over his stand while I thought about my upcoming meeting with Vihn. My usual bouts with fear and uncertainty slithered through my mind like minks in heat. The worst part was wondering about what people, like Mavis or Fat Al would say if I was wrong and died. I imagined something like, “What on earth possessed him to take such a risk.” Last night I thought I had good and compelling reasons, but now I realized they were mere rationalizations for whatever was so deeply imbedded in my psyche that impelled me to act as I did.
Nothing new in that, I have become convinced most of the reasons we tell ourselves that we need to do something have little to do with why we do whatever it is we end up doing. They are merely a handy thing, whenever we are successful, to tell ourselves and others. You know, “I knew what I was doing all along.”
Joe brought me out of my musings. “I’m having the Belgian waffles. What about you?”
“I’ll probably have the blueberry short stack and fried eggs. For some reason I always get the same thing when I come here.”
Martin Vihn entered the restaurant followed by two of the young men I had seen before. One was dressed like Joe in tee-shirt and windbreaker. The other had on a dark hoodie. Martin had on a dark blue jacket over a white button down shirt and jeans. He came over to our table.
“Sorry I’m late. Traffic and parking”
Joe slid out from his seat. Said, “I’ll sit with Vinnie and Chang.” He walked over to the table where the other two young men who accompanied Vihn sat. Vu’s arrival prompted a lot of laughing and fist bumping. Martin nodded to him and sat in the seat Joe vacated. The waitress arrived and we ordered. She then went over to the table where Joe and the others sat.
“Any word from the police on the cause of Clarence’s death?”, he asked.
“The autopsy scheduled for later this morning. The cops are being close-mouthed.”
“How do you think he died?”
“I’m not paid to guess.”
Martin rarely raises his voice but his anger blazed out of his eyes like campfire embers poked with a stick. “I’m paying you and if it is your opinion I want than then it is your opinion I’ll get.”
“He could have been walking along the shore reciting poetry tripped and fallen into the bay and drowned. I doubt whether it makes much or a difference to anyone how he died, even to the murderer, if he was murdered.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I can’t see you shipping drugs or anything else illegal this way. By reputation, you’ve been able to bring thing like that into the States with no problems in the past. There’s too many better ways. Dropping packages into the water offshore at night, trans-shipping through Alaska. Even if you were to do something like this, certainly not through the Port of Oakland. There are other less watched small ports like Eureka and Redwood City. So, I can’t figure you for something like a dope deal in this case. So, I ask myself, although he is such a prick I am sure a lot of people would like him dead, why would anyone involved in this case kill Clarence? Then there is the hiring of me. It can’t be all that important to hire a second-rate shamus like me.” I stopped there and stared at him.
Martin’s silence lasted a long time as he stared at me. Our orders arrived before he answered and we began eating. After swallowing his first bite, Martin sat back and said:
“Look, whatever you think I may also be mixed up in, I am also a legitimate business man. I invested in a business to import into America furniture made in South-east Asia. Now the man who talked me into the investment and was supposed to manage the business is gone along with he merchandise.”
“But even so, two containers of furniture could not have been valuable enough for all your interest, not to mention knocking off Reilly if in fact he was killed.”
“You figured it out already. You’re cheap. I only spent $1000 dollars so far.”
“What about Joe?”
Vihn looked down at the table for a while. “He’s my brother’s son. I care about him. He refuses to go to college and is too interested in the wrong part of the family business. I thought following you around a while would help to get him interested in something else. That was a spur of the moment thing, I’m afraid.
“So you hired me as a babysitter?”
“A thousand dollars a month is pretty cheap for baby sitting these days,” he said with a smile.
We ate our breakfasts in silence. Over coffee I assured him, I will try to find out how Reilly died and what happened to the furniture.
I then asked, “What’s Lilly’s role in this?”
“She’s my lawyer.”
“It’s none of your business.”
I smiled, got up, collected Joe and left Vihn to pay the check.
On the way back to the car, I called Mavis. Told her that I would come by that afternoon and that we were going to attend Reilly’s wake.
For some reason the thought of Mavis, death and my current role got me ruminating about God and humor, God’s humor to be precise.
Humans are a fascinating species. I am convinced God created us because he or she (I refuse to take sides on the issue of God’s gender — although the Good Humor Man of my youth was always male) found presiding over the rest of the universe dreadfully dull and craved some amusement. While growing up I always thought that God was the Good Humor man. Every afternoon the Good Humor man rang his bells in front of my house. The sound of those bells filled me with hope. Would your God do as much for you?
I was pulled from my reveries by Joe shouting “Boss, boss!’
I stared at him as the world around me came into focus.
“Is there something wrong? You were talking on the phone and then you just stopped staring off at nothing. Are you OK? You thinking about the case? “
“Yeah. I’m OK. Rule whatever number… in private investigations there are no cases only assignments. And your current assignment is to find us some ice cream and drive me to Crissy Field.”
- This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 6 Shadow 0002 (June 26,2013) (josephpetrillo.wordpress.com)
- This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 Joey 0002 (April 17, 2013) (josephpetrillo.wordpress.com)
- This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 21 Joey 0002 (April 9, 2013) (josephpetrillo.wordpress.com)
- This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 23 Jo Jo 0002 (June 8, 2013) (josephpetrillo.wordpress.com)