The Longest Night of Rain

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Doctor, Doctor Give Me the News

I was back at the mansion before Alma. I didn’t want to sit in the living room by myself, so I left the book on the coffee table and went to the kitchen by the back door, sitting down with Gerald. “Would you like something to drink, sir?” he asked me.

“Gerald, quit with the ‘Sir’ and call me Rick. Is there anything back here that I can make a sandwich out of?” Breakfast had worn off a while ago, and I was hungry.

“I’ll make you something, s . . .Rick.”

“No, you won’t. I’m perfectly capable. Just point me in the right direction.”

Gerald might have worn a disgruntled look, but he did as I asked and pointed at the refrigerator. I opened it up and found the leftover prime rib. “Do you want to keep the prime rib or can I use that?” I asked my new friend.

“You can use it. The bread is out here in the breadbox.”

I grabbed the horseradish and the prime rib and proceeded to the breadbox. “Do you want one?”

“That would be very nice,” Gerald answered me with a smile. So I made us each a sandwich and went looking for something to drink.

“Ooh, Diet Coke. And you would like?”

“I’ll take a Diet Coke, also, thank you.”

I brought the Cokes over to the table and sat down. Gerald and I ate happily, as equals, then we began to chat. “How long have you worked for Mrs. Cortez?” I wondered.

“Oh, it must be ten or twelve years now. Before Mr. Cortez passed on.”

“And what was Mr. Cortez like?” I’d already heard more than enough about Mateo Cortez. That he was crude and belligerent, that he respected no man or woman and that he was hellish in business.

“Mr. Mateo was a fair man. He always treated me with respect.”

“Has Mrs. Cortez had many suitors since her husband died?”

“Oh, no, she made it plain from the outset there would be no other man to take Mr. Mateo’s place.” He said it with all seriousness.

“Don’t you think that’s a bit, ah, unusual?”

“Perhaps. But that’s the way she wanted it, so that’s the way it was.”

“I would imagine that caused less trouble with the kids.”

Gerald laughed a little. “They didn’t care. They’d just as soon she would have seen other men.”

Neither of us said anything for a while, and when I finished my sandwich I stood up. “Gerald, it’s been enlightening. And remember, no more sirs. It’s Rick.”

I picked up what was left of my Coke and took it with me. I was just walking through the dining room and into the vestibule when Alma came through the front door. “Well, I like Gerald, but you’re certainly an improvement.”

“Thank you,” I said, trying not to let the warmth I felt in my neck creep up any further. “How was your meeting?”

“Particularly contentious, but we got everything done. Have you been here long?” Alma asked me.

“Long enough to enjoy a sandwich with Gerald.”

“Really? Gerald actually sat down after he made you a sandwich?”

I shook my head. “I made lunch for both of us. My idea, not his.”

“Stubbornly independent, aren’t you?” She had a smile on her face.

“Yes, ma’am, that’s me.”

“What did you find out at the library?” She set her purse down on the dining room table.

“Something mildly interesting. And maybe something more.” Alma walked into the living room, and I followed her. I waited until she’d gotten seated, then pulled out the piece of paper I’d written Navarro seniors date of death on. I handed it to her and gave her a chance to read it. She was a bright lady; it didn’t take her long to figure out its significance.

“Really? Senior was only thirty-four when he died? What else?” she questioned me eagerly.

“He died before junior was born.” I let that sink in a minute before I continued. “And I found a book that will give us more information.” I picked up the volume from the coffee table and showed it to her.

The Birth and Death of Bootlegging,” she read. “Now what?”

“Turn to page 73.”

I’m sure she did just what I had done – read the page over several times. Then she let out a breath. “Oh my.”

“Turn to the front flap and look at the date it was last checked out.”

She did as instructed, then looked back at me. “February 2, 2019. Right before . . . “

“Right before Diego was killed. Know who checked it out?” Another look in my direction – but she said nothing. “It was checked out by Delores Navarro. Ramon Navarro’s daughter.”

“Are you sure?”

I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out another birth certificate – Delores Navarro’s. “As sure as I can be.”

“This explains a lot, doesn’t it?”

“A whole lot.”

“What’s your next move?” Alma wanted to know.

“I go to another Poly Sci class with Lonnie.” As if he’d heard me mention his name, Lonnie came charging down the stairs, book in hand. I concluded he never walked downstairs.

“Ready?” he questioned.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

XXXXXXXX

The only thing interesting about Poly Sci was the change in Lonnie’s attitude. He sat somewhere convenient for both of us and didn’t try to ditch me in the hall. And when he stopped to talk to a girl while we were still inside the building, he introduced me. As his friend.

We drove straight back to the mansion, and I had him let me out by my car. “Tell your mother I’ve gone to the office to check on some things. I’ll get dinner someplace before I come back.”

I waited by the Mustang to make sure he got inside safely, then I got in the car and drove to my neglected office. Robin was already gone by the time I got there, and I stopped at her desk to pick up messages and leave her a note. I’ll be in tomorrow, I wrote. I miss your smiling face. I hope she knew I really meant it.

I locked the front door and went to my desk. I needed some computer time, now that I had further information on Navarro senior. I spent almost an hour there, and I found a few things I didn’t already know. Like what senior’s financial situation was at the time of his death. And if junior was still alive and had fathered any more children. I printed out everything I found and then went back to Robin’s desk to amend the note I’d left. Below what I’d written before, I added: Please research Ramon Luis Navarro, born October 6, 1970. Find out everything you can about him. Love and kisses, Rick.

I gathered up my papers and left the office, locking the door behind me. I needed to go back to the mansion and piece everything together. Then I remembered I’d told Lonnie I’d get something to eat before I came back, so I headed for the nearest Del Taco. Tacos were my go-to meal. I ordered three tacos and a Coke at the drive-thru, paid for them and picked them up. As I started to leave the drive-thru some damn fool that wasn’t watching where he was going came racing in the Del Taco lot and hit me broadside. I hadn’t refastened my seat belt and was thrown forward into the steering wheel. My last thought was my poor car!

XXXXXXXX

I heard voices murmuring, but I had no idea who they were or what they were saying. I must have slipped back into wherever I’d gone before because I finally woke up for good some time later. I wasn’t in my car, and I tried to reach down and feel something familiar. All I could feel was sheet, and I slowly opened my eyes. Just what I was afraid of, I was in the hospital. I tried to sit up and I felt a hand push me back down, followed by Alma’s voice. “You stay right where you are, Richard.”

“And where is that?” I mumbled.

“Good Samaritan’s Hospital. Your car was broadsided by a teenager.”

“Where is she?” I asked.

“It was a he, and he wasn’t injured.”

“Not the driver, my Mustang.” My eyes, along with my head, were clearing, and I could see Alma standing at the bedside looking concerned.

“The police took it. They said it was totaled.”

“No. I want her back. I’ll get her fixed.” I was adamant. Nobody was going to arbitrarily decide my car was totaled. I struggled to sit up again and my head throbbed.

“If you’ll promise to lay there and not try to get up I’ll have Walton track the car down.”

“Walton?”

“My attorney,” she answered.

“Now, please, before they try to make scrap metal out of her.”

Alma sat down and pulled out her cellphone. I could hear her giving orders. “Yes, I know they totaled it, but the owner wants it back. Just make sure they don’t destroy it and have it towed to, wait, hold on.” She came back to the bed. “Where do you want to have the car taken?”

“Yancy’s Garage. It’s on East Colorado Street in Glendale.” That was where Jamie worked, and he’d take care of her properly.

She went back to the phone. “Yancy’s Garage in Glendale. Just do it, Walton.” Alma hung up and came back to the bed, again. “There, all taken care of. Just remember your promise.”

“Where’s the doctor?” I asked her.

“Lonnie, go get the doctor.” That’s when I saw junior, standing in the corner of the room. He took off immediately.

“How did you get junior to come with you?”

“He wanted to come. Told me he wanted to make sure you were alright.” Well, I wouldn’t have expected it of him. Will wonders never cease.

Lonnie returned in a few minutes, and sometime after that the doctor wandered in, looking lost. “Mr. Simon, you’re awake!”

“Give me a rundown on the injuries, Doc.”

“Now, now, we don’t need to do that right at this moment, Mr. Simon.” He sounded patronizing, as if I were three of four years old. Time for me to set him straight.

“Doctor, you can tell me what’s wrong right now or I can get up out of this bed and yank it out of you.”

“Is he always this hostile?” he asked, turning to Alma.

“Doc,” I said, snapping my fingers at him, “I’m over here. And you haven’t seen hostile yet.”

“Alright, alright. You have a concussion and a scalp wound that required seven stitches, a badly bruised chest and a sprained left wrist.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s enough, Mr. Simon.”

“Get my paperwork ready, I’m checking out of this motel.”

“Rick – “ Alma protested.

“Mr. Simon – “ the doctor protested.

“Get my paperwork or I’ll go AMA.” Robin and I sat for two days and nights at Eddie’s bedside, hoping and praying that he would pull through somehow. When he died, a part of me died with him. The last place I could stand to be right now was in a hospital.

Alma sighed. “Get his paperwork, doctor. I’m taking him home to my house.”

“Thank you,” I told her.

It was almost an hour later before I was released, but Alma walked alongside the wheelchair they took me out in, then helped take me the rest of the way to her car when the nurse left me off at the door. My head hurt like hell but I was out of the hospital, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Why were you so desperate to get out of there?” she asked once we were on our way.

“Robin and I sat in Eddie’s hospital room for two days and nights. I couldn’t stand to be in a hospital right now.” It must have made sense to her, because she nodded.

“Have you talked to Walton? Has he found my car yet?”

“No, I haven’t heard from him yet. But he’ll find your car. Unless he’d like to be an unemployed attorney.”

I had to suppress a giggle. Alma could be a hard ass when she wanted to be.

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