In the Wash: The Rona Shively Stories

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Chapter Nine

Once I reached my office, I put in a call to Norman Dent. I wanted to check on him since he had referred Delvecchio to me in the first place. He picked up on the first ring.

“Yeeello,” he said in an almost perky tone.

“Hey Norm, it’s Rona,” I said, “I need to ask you something.” “How’s it going, did you talk to Gil?” he asked.

“Yeah, actually, that’s what I was calling about,” I said, “I talked with him last night and I’m going to be working with him on some things.” I was careful not to say that I was working for him. I didn’t know if the lines were secure and I didn’t want to find out by hearing that Norm had been killed by that psycho later on.

“Great, glad I could connect you two,” he said. Norm was a car dealer. He sold new cars to tourists who got lucky at the craps tables. He made a killing. He sent people to me when it seemed appropriate and he didn’t get involved. Hopefully, no one would figure out that he had been the one who sent Delvecchio to me for

help.

“Yeah, I just wanted to say thanks for the hook-up,” I said, “Can I buy you dinner?”

“Hey, you know me,” he said, chuckling, “I never turn down a free meal or a roll in the hay.”

“Let’s just stick to the meal,” I said, “I’ll pick you up at six.”

“Works for me,” he said, “I’ll be waiting.”

By now, it was about three o’clock and I was trying to keep my mind off of Kimball. I still had some errands to run, so I locked up the office and headed for the Hall of Public Records. I could do a little research on Gofski before checking with anyone else. I wanted to know if Bubbles & Steam was listed in Janetti’s name or Gofski’s. I also needed to see what kind of property records turned up for Janetti and for Lucy Deardon. Maybe he had another residence somewhere under his old name.

Without asking the clerk, I went to the computer and punched in

Gofki’s name. I looked for Janus or Rita and found nothing out of the ordinary. Under Janetti’s name, I found the listing for Bubbles & Steam. The business had been incorporated nearly seven years ago.

That answered one question.

I still needed to get a line on where Janetti might be so I searched until I found a listing under the name of Deardon. It was in Wausau County, two counties away from this one. It would take a couple of hours to reach the address listed. I took note of the address, phone number and the name on the deed, Clement Deardon. This must be

Lucy’s father. I didn’t really know enough about her to look anywhere else, so I packed up my notebook and headed out.

My watch read 5:45 p.m. by the time I got to the car and drove off. Norman would be waiting for me. I was going to try and get some more information from him. I hoped that I could do this without telling him about Kimball. He often claims that he doesn’t know anything about the people he refers to me, but I have a suspicion that he knows more about some of them than he is willing to admit. I don’t want to find that out by identifying his body at the morgue. When I arrived at his store, Norman was standing out in front. He was wearing one of those classic car salesman outfits. It looked like a brown leisure suit with a cowboy design on the jacket. He always wore red cowboy boots. It didn’t matter if they matched; it was some kind of crazy superstition that he had. He didn’t have his cowboy hat this time. He must have decided not to try and turn on the charm for me. In a way, he was kind of cute. I tend to stay away from his type, though. He always tried to convince me that I was in love with him, but he was a gentleman and he never pressed the

issue past the initial ask. As I approached him, he waved to the car to signal that he saw me. I waved back. He turned to lock the door to his showroom and then walked over to where I was parking.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he said, grinning.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Can’t complain, I just sold four cars while I was waiting for you to get here,” he said. He opened the door to my shitty sedan and pulled himself inside. After considerable difficulty with putting the seat back, he finally had it adjusted so that his knees weren’t touching the windshield. He was so damned tall; it was hard for him to ride in cars like this one. He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. He always did this, so I didn’t bother to ask him what he was doing.

“Cool, anything good?” I asked. I figured making small talk was the best tactic for getting information. Blurting out that one of my friends had been murdered and I was worried for his safety just didn’t seem like a cool way to approach the subject.

“Just a couple of convertibles, an old Taurus and a minivan,” he said, blowing on his fingernails and brushing them up and down on the front of his jacket to show that this was nothing spectacular. “You wouldn’t have any affordable Jeeps on hand, would you?” I asked.

“Well, not right at the moment, but I could look out for one if you need one,” he said.

“I’m thinking that I might need something a little more comfortable than this piece of shit,” I said, “An older Jeep, nothing flashy, would work.”

“I’ll check around,” he said.

We talked about where we wanted to eat. We were both in the mood for Mexican, so we headed over to The Chipper Chimi. The specialty of the house was a chimi-fried fajita smothered with peppers, onions, and sour cream. We both ordered Margaritas, his was frozen, mine on the rocks. While we fought over the nachos, we talked about the Jeep thing some more. He agreed to find something for me and promised that he would knock off an extra grand if I would go with him to his high school reunion.

“Come on, Rona,” he pleaded, “It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t do parties,” I said.

“I need a hot girl on my arm when I go back around those jerks,” he said, “I wanna show those assholes that I really came up in the world.”

“What the hell do you care about a bunch of fuck-ups from high school,” I asked him. God knows I sure didn’t give a shit about that.

“I was a big geek back then,” he was saying. I wondered when he thought he had made the big transition out of geekdom. He kept talking, “…just be good to go in there with everything going for me.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said as the waitress put down two, steaming plates piled high with the deep-fried fajichaladas. She unloaded her tray, putting sour cream, guacamole, and another dish of salsa down before asking if we needed refills on our Margaritas. We both nodded and began tearing into our food. I was in love with this place. The food here was better than sex by a mile. Fortunately, I have easier access to sex than to the money it would take to afford eating here more than a couple times a month. Otherwise, my ass would be two ax-handles wide.

I tuned back into what Norm was saying. I thought the food had shut him up, but I had no such luck.

“So, how’s it going with Delvecchio?” he asked.

“Good question,” I said, “I’m not really sure what’s happening with

that.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I’m supposed to be looking for this guy, Janetti,” I said, watching his face for any trace of recognition, “He worked for

Gofski and he’s disappeared.”

“Janetti, I’ve heard that name somewhere,” he said.

“Oh, yeah?” I said, incredulous, “Where’d you hear it.”

“Well, uh, I think there’s a Janetti out in Casper,” he said, “I just sold a van to a guy from out there.”

I perked up, “What did he look like?”

“Nothing special, just an old, white-haired guy wi…”

“Was he tall?” I interrupted him, “About six feet tall and heavy-set?” He scratched his temple and said, “Well, yeah, he was pretty big, but he was a real nice guy.”

“I don’t suppose you could get me his address?” I asked, hoping he didn’t catch on to the fact that I had no other leads.

“I could probably get that for you,” he said, still forking the rice and beans in as he spoke.

“That’d be cool,” I said, “How soon can you get me the information?”

“Well, we could go back to the lot after dinner if you want,” he said, “and maybe, uh, we could talk about our obvious attraction to each other…”

I laughed uncomfortably and said, “Whoa, now, we’ve already had that discussion. Really, can you get it for me tonight?” At least I would be with him for a while longer and might be able to tell if anyone was watching him.

He gave me a look and then said, “Yeah, yeah, I was just testing you.”

We laughed and finished our food. I pulled some cash from my billfold and left it on the table to cover the check and the tip. We walked to the car and got in. The fifteen-minute drive to the lot seemed to be taking forever. I was feeling uneasy about driving around with Norman. I didn’t know why, but I was sure someone was following us. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw two sets of headlights behind us; one was a white car and the other red. The red car turned at the traffic light, but the white one stayed behind us. I couldn’t make out whether the driver was a man or woman. I kept my speed at 45 mph and didn’t slow down for the yellow lights.

Norman must have picked up on the fact that I was nervous, he said,

“Is something wrong, Rona?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, “This car has been behind us since we left the restaurant.”

“Maybe they live in the condos out along the highway,” he said. “I guess it’s possible,” I said, “I just don’t have a good feeling about it. I’m going to make some turns and see what happens.”

I started to speed up a little and then made a quick right. The white car dropped back a length and I thought they were going ahead straight, but then the driver made an abrupt turn falling in line behind me. The car wasn’t speeding up, but it also wasn’t dropping back any. I took another turn to the right and the car began to close in on me. I put the pedal to the floor and took off. “Hold on, Norm,” I nearly yelled.

We sped down the road with the white car following close. I got to another corner and jerked the wheel to the left. The white car sped up and brushed my bumper as it turned the corner right behind me. My car bucked to the left and nearly went into the other lane with the impact.

“What the hell!” I said, “Who the hell is this?”

Norman turned around in his seat, he turned back to me and said,

“You’d better floor it Rona, this son of a bitch is serious.” “I’m heading over by the state patrol office, maybe that will deter him.”

I followed the road out to the highway and took the exit ramp onto Route 42. The state patrol office was just two miles out. As I got onto the highway, I noticed that the white car had fallen back. He didn’t seem to be trying to catch me now, but I was going to play it safe. We pulled into the state patrol parking lot and waited. About five minutes later, the white car passed the lot and went on down the highway. I still couldn’t see the driver.

“What the hell was that about?” Norman asked, “I nearly shit my pants.”

“It’s a long story,” I said, “I’ve never seen that car before.” My heart was pounding as I tried to calm myself down.

“Is there some other car that’s been following you?” he asked, still breathing heavily as he tried to regain his composure.

“Not exactly,” I said, “Please, I can’t go into it right now, I promise I’ll tell you everything, but right now, I’ve got to get you somewhere safe.”

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