Brent was furious at Leo. He knew that his case was closed, but having this insurance investigator proving how dumb he was made him mad. Cliff had told him that Leo was interested in the GPS data, but that he had given him the cold shoulder. Brent called in Ivory.
“Did you give any data on the case to Leo?” Brent asked Ivory.
“You mean other than the entire file you asked me to copy and give to him?” Ivory sarcastically asked back.
“Cliff said that Leo wanted the pigeon GPS data. Did you share that with him?”
“I might have told him Dick Greyson had it,” she said, lowering her voice with every syllable.
“That is exactly what Leo was working on last night,” Ivory said out loud.
“Come again? What do you mean, last night?”
“Ivory, you are blushing! Are you seeing former detective Leo Stephens?”
“Where did you see these papers?”
“Oh, I didn’t, but when he got the e-mail, he and I parted ways. He was itching to analyze it.”
Brent raised a finger, shushing Ivory. He pushed a line on his phone and spoke.
“Get me Dick Greyson, ASAP.”
Almost instantly, Dick entered the office.
“Dick, did you send the GPS data file to Leo?” Brent asked.
“Yes,” Dick answered.
“OK. Did you analyze it first?”
“Well, I sent him a copy. I still have the information. It was an e-mail.”
“I know how e-mail works. My question is, did you analyze the information first?”
“We saw where the pigeon started and where it ended. It was on the GPS.”
“You realize that I know exactly where the pigeon started and exactly where it ended. I was at both places. Physically.”
“I don’t need that file for that information, and neither does Leo Stephens. There is something in that data that he was looking for, and you idiots need to find it as well. So go into your cubicle and analyze the data. I want to find whatever Leo was looking for. Dick and Ivory, get on it together and report to me every hour on the hour.”
“I thought you said the case was closed,” Dick said.
“I just gave you a direct order. Go!”
They left the office and walked straight to Dick’s cubicle to sit and stare at numbers. After a good thirty minutes of not knowing what to do, Dick pleaded.
“Just call him. He can cut this process short. Don’t tell him we are looking into it, though,” Dick said.
“OK.” Ivory was bored and happy to get an excuse to dial Leo’s phone.
Brent knew Leo was on to something, and he didn’t have the resources to follow every step he would take, but this one came from his office, so he wasn’t going to let it go. He called Dick.
“Anything?” Brent asked.
“Nothing.” Dick answered as he saw Ivory hanging up and turning her head in a no motion.
Leo was crossing into Mexico and there was no cell service in the border area. Dick and Ivory would have to think this one through on their own.
Meanwhile, Leo was already on his way to the coordinates he’d deciphered earlier that marked the beginning of the change in pattern. Leo arrived at the bridge where Juan had dropped the GPS to the moving truck. He then drove through the neighborhood of poor homes, constantly on the lookout for pigeon aviaries. He couldn’t see any. He backtracked from the edge of the ravine to the main street, where Juan’s home stood empty. He walked up and down the street until an old black 1980 Dodge Aspen rolled up to him. Two large and rough-looking Mexican men got out and went up to Leo. He did not budge.
“What do you want? Gringo,” Buitre’s assistant said.
“I am looking for a pigeon aviary around here,” Leo said.
The men’s faces showed a total lack of emotion. Leo was hoping for a glint or a telling sign that he was on to something.
“What the hell. You think we are stupid?” Buitre’s assistant Pinguino asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Leo replied.
“Get in your car and go back to the States.”
“And if I don’t?”
“You will regret coming here, asking questions.”
Leo had rubbed these thugs the wrong way. They could smell his cop stench. He decided to cut the expedition short. Sometimes survival was the better outcome.
“I was just leaving. No pigeons around here,” Leo said.
“Nice of you to come, gringo pendejo,” Pinguino said.
The insult of the profanity was enough to make Leo go berserk. He was going to leave, but now he would do so after leaving a mark. He turned to go, giving Pinguino and Buitre’s other assistant his back. He took one step forward and as the Mexican thugs smiled, assured they had accomplished their goal, Leo turned with precision, speed, and strength, and hit Pinguino directly in the throat; the man went down instantly and posed no more threat than a newborn as he hit the unpaved neighborhood sidewalk. Then Leo ducked the other man’s blow and hit him with a left-hand uppercut to the ribs. The rib snapped with a cracking sound, and Leo gave the second man a right-hand punch to the jaw that disabled him.
Leo walked away and got in his car, leaving the area immediately. He knew he had only a few minutes, and he would need them to create enough distance between him and the thugs. These men would not forget him, and if he came back, he would be in real danger. After the beating he’d given them, their next meeting would end with a bullet in his head from a drive-by. Yet the thought of a pigeon aviary somewhere near there was still niggling at him.
If the pigeons had landed there, it would be possible to dismantle the aviary and leave no trace. A criminal would do this. Leo needed, at a minimum, to find neighbors who had seen the birds. The homes were mostly single story with few exceptions. Most looked awful. He left the area of inner roads and went back to the main road to return to the States. An idea struck him as he noticed a crowded bus stop. He parked nearby and walked to the stop. A woman in her thirties sat, waiting, and he sat down next to her.
“¿Disculpe?” (Excuse me?) Leo said with a heavy American accent.
“Digame” (Tell me), the woman said.
“¿Usted vive en esa colonia?” (Do you live in that neighborhood?) Leo asked, pointing at the low-income housing he’d just left.
“¿No sabe si había una casa de pájaros? ¿No vio pájaros que vivían ahi?” (Do you know if there was a birdhouse? Did you happen to see birds living there?) Leo asked.
The lady looked confused. She didn’t respond. She looked at Leo like he was from outer space.
“Pigeons. Many pigeons.” Leo said in English with a Spanish accent and moved his hands about like birds.
The lady looked even more confused and pointed to the birds on the wire.
“¿Pájaros? ¿Como esos?” (Birds? Like those?) the lady asked.
“Sí. ¡Pigeons!” Leo said.
“Sí, sí, pichónes. ¿Tu viste?” (Yes, yes, pigeons. Did you see any?)
Dead-ended again. Everyone in the bus stop was looking curiously. Then a young man came up to Leo. He was fourteen at most and looked like a typical young Mexican teenager. Basically a Mexican in American clothing—jeans, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and a baseball hat.
“Are you looking for a pigeon home? Like on the roof of a house?” The kid said in a perfect American English with absolutely no accent.
“Yes. You speak English?” Leo asked.
“Well, I am American,” the kid said.
“You know of a pigeon hutch in your neighborhood?” Leo said.
“There are a few. You see.” The kid pointed to a flock of small birds circling in the horizon.
“Yeah, I see those. But I am looking for one near the bridge that crosses the freeway. Back there in that direction.” Leo pointed in the direction of Juan’s home.
“There might be one over there; I don’t know.”
“I looked in that section and couldn’t find one.”
“That whole section is owned by Buitre. He knows everything that happens in that section.”
“That is his name. If he has a real name I have no idea, but he is the landlord.”
“Do you have any idea where I can find this Buitre?”
“He is always around. If not him personally, then his goons. They collect the rent and keep people in line. Like security, but the kind that can hurt you.”
“I see. You have been incredibly helpful. Here.”
Leo handed the kid a twenty-dollar bill.
“Thank you. Oh, one thing,” the kid said.
“Yes?” Leo asked.
“I don’t think Buitre speaks English. You are better off finding a Mexican to go with you. Or maybe two.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Leo left the bus stop area, went to his car, and drove back across to the States. He knew the two men he had beaten up were Buitre’s men, and talking to this guy would not get him anywhere that day. He would send a local insurance adjuster to speak to Buitre and get to the truth on who kept the birds there.