I tried not to show that I had been taken completely off-guard with this one. I caught my jaw before it hit the table. I put my hand to my chin and rested my face there for a moment. I smiled sheepishly and said, “You’re joking, right.” This had to be the work of my supremely gay neighbor. He was getting back at me for that jab earlier tonight.
Pain fell over Delvecchio’s face and he put his head down as he said, “I’m afraid not.” I regained my composure and cleared my throat before asking, “Come on, did Charlie put you up to this?”
“Who’s the hell is Charlie?” he asked, puzzled.
I considered the possibility that this guy’s claim was legitimate. After remembering that Charlie, however nosy he might be was not smart enough to put together a ruse this quickly, I asked him, “How is that possible?”
He looked up at me and said, “He’s not a he, he’s a she.” He explained that Luther had not always been a man. Several years ago,
Luther had been Lucy Deardon. She was tall, thin and beautiful.
Delvecchio had met her in Las Vegas during an accountant’s convention. She had been working as a hostess in the Blue Bottom Diner. He stopped in one evening on his way out of town and they started talking. At that time, he had been surprised to hear her say that she was from the same town in Ohio as he had been. The had immediately hit it off and ended up getting married two weeks later in one of those drive-thru wedding chapels.
“Are you following me on this?” he asked. I nodded and he continued with the story.
“Lucy was, as I said before, beautiful. She had these blue eyes that…well, I don’t want to bore you with that kind of crap,” he said. He continued to say that they had been married for about six months when she told him that she was having some real problems. She had been very depressed before they met and had been sure, on some level, that she was not meant to be a woman. She packed all of her things one night and disappeared. Delvecchio heard from her about a year later…after she had some minor surgery and became Luther Janetti.
“Wait a minute,” I said, “How is it that Gofski is her uncle and he doesn’t know this?”
“Gofski is Luther’s uncle,” he said, “by marriage. After she had the operation, she met and married Rita Gofski, Janus’s favorite niece.” He went on to say that the two had been happily married for about six years and that Luther was operating the Bubbles and Steam Dry Cleaning business for Gofski. Something funky went down with the business and now Gofski has a hit out on Luther. Delvecchio had kept in touch with Lucy…er…Luther over the years and became worried when he didn’t hear from him at their regularly scheduled time.
“I know it sounds crazy,” he said, “I mean, after all, not many men would feel okay about communicating with their ex-wife let alone staying in touch when she decided she wanted to be a man.” I nodded, having nothing insightful to add. The blank look on my face must have worried Delvecchio because he started talking again.
“I mean, that don’t make me gay or nothing,” he said shakily, “it’s not like we had that kind of relationship after I found out.”
“Of course not,” I said, hoping to sound reassuring. He looked again at the man by the door and immediately remembered that he was nervous. “Shit, I don’t know,” he said, “I can’t just let them catch him. He’s a good person and I know he didn’t do anything wrong.”
“If he’s so great, why did he split?” I asked. “What made it necessary for him to disappear this time?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I was hoping you could find him before they do so I can help him figure out a game plan.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want to be found,” I said, “Not to burst your bubble or anything, but maybe he did do something wrong. He does seem to have a pattern of disappearing.”
Delvecchio screwed up his face into a smirk and said, “Very funny, but that doesn’t apply here. She needed to take care of herself when she left me. She wasn’t happy and I have forgiven her for that. You don’t know her well enough to judge her.”
“You’re right, you’re right,” I said, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair.” “So, will you help me?” he asked, “I really need to find him, and I don’t have a lot of options.”
I looked down at my hands and pretended to be considering the prospect. I already knew I would take the case, but I didn’t want to give the impression that I was happy about it. Especially if the two guys in the bar were watching their exchange. Maybe I could make it look like I was hiring him for something. The two guys didn’t seem to be that interested in our conversation, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
“Here’s how we’re going to work this,” I said, “If anyone asks, you’re working on my books. You’re an accountant so that isn’t a
He nodded in agreement.
“If you get any calls, stick to that point, I don’t want people trying to rough me up because you have a shitty poker face,” I said.
“I got it,” he said coolly. “No problem. I’m a great liar.”
The statement didn’t sit well with me, but I let it pass. This case was too damned strange not to take. I looked him in the eye and said,
“Don’t give me a reason to involve the police and we’ll do fine.”
“I swear, I won’t make trouble for you Ms. Shively,” he said, showing her just a sliver of respect.
“You can call me Rona,” I said.