The fur coat in mirror above the register caught his attention as he placed the fifty on the counter, looking up at the cashier, waiting for his change. It lazily hung on the large black man as he strolled up behind Charles. His body instantly grew rigid as he recognized the man from the bar.
He saw the man fidgeting inside the long coat as he made his way down the hallway into the gas station. Hurry up man, he thought as the young kid counted back the change, more than likely the only time he had ever done so properly. Counting with the change first, “fifty-six cents makes forty-four, one makes forty-five and five makes fifty. Thank you come again.” Charles just nodded but before the boy had gotten to ‘one makes’ the black man was on his back and Charles felt something hard and round poking him in the back.
“Lets have a chat outside,” the man whispered over Charles’ shoulder and into his ear. He didn’t think he had much choice so he nodded.
“Can I help you with something sir,” the young boy asked the black man.
“Just spotted my friend from the dining area, that’s all.” He nodded at the boy. “Tell Cletus the biscuits are great.”
“There is no Cletus sir,” the boy responded to their backs for they had already started to exit.
The black man pushed Charles into the rusty van from the passenger side and followed him in. They both took their seats at the same time. Charles driving and the black man in the passenger seat. “Drive.” the black man announced.
“Where, there is a lot of places to go,” Charles began. He thought if he tried to stall maybe the cashier would call the police, surely he saw what Charles had saw. Standing at the counter Charles could see the barrel of a silver revolver stuck into his back, if the boy hadn’t seen that maybe he saw the man pushing him through the door of the van. But as Charles looked passed the black man in the passenger seat and into the station all he saw was the young boy flirting with a blonde in a short skirt and a low cut top. He was looking down at her and into her blouse. Charles knew that the boy had no desires to do anything except what was right before him.
“Just drive, I don’t care where.”
“Fine,” Charles started the van and pulled out onto the highway. “I don’t think your going to get much for me.”
“What are you talking about?” The black man asked.
“Ransom, isn’t that what this is about. Your kidnapping me thinking someone will pay top dollar for me? Well I have no family and my ‘friends’ don’t exactly have a lot of money.”
“This isn’t about ransom.”
“Then are you some crazy stalker? Because I can assure you that I have a lot of ‘friends’ that will find you and- well lets just say you wouldn’t like what happens to you.”
“I could care less about you or your so called fame that you think you have. You’re a nobody.”
“I beg to differ. Everyone knows me.”
“Ha, ha, ha.” the black man bellowed a laugh that filled the van. “This has nothing to do with you except for the fact that you and that ‘house nigger’ lied to me last night and I don’t appreciate being lied to.”
Charles’ head reeled. He really didn’t know what this guy was talking about. But as he looked into the black eyes of the man that sat in his passenger seat he knew he had to think of something soon or he wouldn’t make it to his next gig. “I really don’t even remember what it was you were looking for.” Charles admits.
Sudden realization. Charles remembered that he was looking for a ‘friend’ from St. Louis. “UH, yes you were looking for a ‘friend’ you called him.”
“Yes he is a friend of mine.”
“Well like I said last night I don’t know anyone by that name. And as for whether Blue does, well- I couldn’t say. Blue knows a lot of people, but most of them are from around here.”
“Are you sure, because I would hate to have to kill you. I hear you have a great talent.”
“I’ve been told.”
“Well sing something for me.”
“I’m really not in the mood at the moment, Mister.”
The black man pulled the hammer back on the silver revolver and sat it on his lap pointed across the van at Charles. He began to sweat and the his stomach turned flip-flops.
“Now would be a good time for me Mr. Luther.”
Charles cleared his throat. “My mirror held your goodbye, in it I saw every time you cried, Tears flowing, arms folded, in a hurry, I’m sorry-” Charles never saw the man swinging but he felt the barrel of the gun slam into his throat, right on the Adam’s apple. His esophagus collapsed and he began coughing violently. He couldn’t help but jerk the steering wheel back and forth until he got the van pulled over onto the side of the highway. Cars flew by blaring their horns as Charles sat coughing and clutching his neck.
“I will ask you one more time. Do you know Jacob Mallory, he is about 5’11″ one hundred seventy five pounds, short dark hair and bright green eyes.”
Charles felt his eyes light up, he knew the man that he was talking about, but he wasn’t Jacob Mallory. He was Nathan Collins.
“Bright green eyes? From St. Louis?”
“Yes, you know him don’t you?”
Charles had a feeling last night at the bar that he knew the man wanted Nathan, but he wasn’t sure. He also wasn’t a rat. But today was a different day, and he had his music to think about. “The man you are looking for is in town, I don’t know where he is staying but I know where he will be. He is going by the name Nathan Collins and he will be at the Bakers Funeral home on Maple Street. Haley’s wake is tonight.”
“Take me back to my car. If he isn’t at this funeral tonight. I will come and find you, and make sure you will never sing again. You understand?”
Charles just nodded and drove the black man in the fur coat to his car. And he got back on the highway. He had some business to take care of.
The red haired clerk sat behind her bulletproof partition counting the four hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills. Her elegantly manicured hands sped through the twenty bills like she had done it a million times. Her green eyes were bright and Jacob found this combination of red hair and green eyes as intriguing and odd, but beautiful. Her small frame sat with authority behind the desk which was another combination that he found odd yet intriguing. This room looked nothing like the first room that Jacob had seen when he visited with sheriff. She quickly left the desk through the door behind her. She was gone for what seemed like twenty minutes but after staring at the clock he realized that it had only been three.
A door to the left of the partition opened up with a buzz and the woman stepped through with Jerry in toe. He carried his belongings in his hands. His barely worn work boots, a blue t-shirt and a faded pair of designer jeans. His hair had that slept in look and the issued orange scrubs where wrinkled and appeared that he had not taken them off since he had put them on a day and a half ago.
“I can’t thank you enough for what you have done Mr. Collins.”
“Please,” Jacob stopped himself short. He placed his hand on the small of Jerry’s back and nudged him to the door.
“Make sure the scrubs are returned by tomorrow,” the red headed clerk said as Jacob escorted Jerry from the building and to the Prius. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to keep them.
Inside the car Jacob turned the radio down and turned to Jerry. “I need to ask you something, Jerry.”
“Shoot.” he said as he pulled the t-shirt on over his already bare torso.
Jacob described the man at his hotel room to Jerry.
“I hate to admit it but I think I know who he is.”
“Who is it?”
“Tony Preston. He makes meth for Rainbow.”
“How do you know this?”
“Everyone in town ‘knows’ who the meth makers and dealers are, it’s just hard to prove, or they don’t want too, I don’t know. What does this have to do with anything?”
Jacob reached into the tiny backseat and pulled up the two hundred or so photocopied pages that made up what was left of his daughters journal and laid it in his lap.
“I have a feeling this is what he was looking for when he trashed my room.”
“Jerry, is it possible that your daughter was selling drugs for Rainbow?”
He seemed utterly shocked. His face scrunched into a tight ball and his fists became clenched until his knuckles turned white and his face turned red. “I don’t know why she would or how she would have come to know the man.”
“Isn’t he Charles’ brother, the singer
that was giving your daughter music lessons?” He asked the question more as a statement but Jerry responded anyway.
“Yes, I suppose that is true, but why?”
“Well I know that you were hard on her about the money, wouldn’t let her spend it as she would like,” he began. “Her closet was full of two hundred dollar jeans with the tags and the receipts still in the bag, receipts from days before she disappeared. Yet you wouldn’t give her money for expensive clothes, which you told me yourself. I had originally thought that maybe Seth had bought them for her until I discovered that they were no longer dating.”
He could tell that Jerry wondered where all this was going, his hands were no longer white knuckled and his face not so red.
“There was a lot of traffic in and out of your house while you weren’t home. A neighbors pool boy told me as much. Even after her and Seth, who I know is using drugs, broke up he was there quite often. Your daughters band mate, Graham, who I also know is using was also there a lot. Charles, who I think is somehow mixed up in the dealing and-” he trailed off, not knowing if the last name on his list was one to discuss at this moment.
“Who else?” his knuckles once again growing white.
“Professor Dean.” Jacob wanted a reaction from Jerry, wanted to know what he thought of the man that was her stepfather. He knew from experience that a fathers gut feeling is usually correct.
“Wade Dean? My ex-wife’s husband?”
“Why was he there? They never even spoke, did they?”
“It’s in the journal. I have made another copy, since I haven’t yet finished with this,” Jacob said the words without even thinking, in fact he planned on being finished. He was ready to head out of this town and find a place to settle. The longer he stayed here the greater his chances of being caught. Kelsey was already a serial number away of putting the pieces together and arresting him. But something, a feeling that had been with him longer than he cared to admit wouldn’t let him leave until he saw this through. Plus he couldn’t leave until he found Andre or Andre found him. Either way wouldn’t be pleasant.
“If you wouldn’t mind I would like to take a shower and go to the wake of my daughter.”
“I planned on attending, if that is okay with you?”
“Of course it is. You are an angel Mr. Collins. I am glad my daughter has someone like you on her side.”
Jacob wondered if Jerry knew the truth about him if he would think that.