“Rise and shine, party boy.”
Gina? I rolled over, squinted at the sun coming through the open door. The fuzzy girl standing between me and the sun wasn’t Moreno.
“Sorry, mister sir, she say you stoled her truck and was gonna call police I doan let her in.”
“What the hell happened to you?” Gina yanked the bedspread I must have wrapped up in. “We had to bring the spare key to pick up the freakin’ truck this morning.”
“CIA…propo… porpo…” Her hair was more like hair now, and less like a Mad Max extra. “What happened to fresh fucked?”
“Please, honey. C I Ay? C U this.” She touched her lip. “He gave me this. Roger. Fucker. I’ve never had a fever blister in my life. Spend a weekend on that moldy, stinky piece of shit with vinyl mattresses he calls a boat and I get this.”
“Don’t poke on it. It looks more like a zit. Or a bite, or an ingrown hair. Fever blisters are crusty. That’s just a red bump.”
“Zit? Ingrown hair? I’m too old to break out and I pay good money to wax…” She walked over to the mirror, pushed her lip around with her finger. “I squeezed it earlier, like you do, you know? And it hurt like hell but…You think not, babe? I had a brow and facial yesterday…Seriously. You think maybe not on the fever blister?”
“I think seriously maybe probably not.” I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. No shit halo effect. “Do I have gas?”
“I don’t know, honey. Not pullin’ your finger to find out. Get dressed, I’ll run you back to the field.”
“I need a burn phone. And a pay phone. And an iPhone charger.”
“Baby, you tried to find a pay phone lately?”
“No.” I pulled my clean cargos on over the new underwear, picked up my sock stuffed boots.
“Well, they’re gone. Pimps and dope dealers and other undesirables were making nuisances of themselves using them. They’ve been ordinanced and legislated out of almost everywhere.”
“So now the undesirables can buy burn phones and won’t be visible doing their pimping or dealing standing outside 7-11, or tied to a location? But still be nuisances to the general population?”
“Your tax dollars at work for you. Why do you need a burner, babe? This bank robber hottie of yours got a man? You got a girl doesn’t need to know about her?”
“Do I look fresh fucked to you?”
“Nope. Fresh fucked up, yes.” She laughed, handed me a brush out of her purse, handed the housekeeping girl a ten on her way out the door. I handed the same girl a Wal Mart bag with a twenty dollar burn phone and a prepaid timecard inside because I knew Secret Agent Man had run it before I came to.
Houskeeper checked the bag’s contents. “Are you two married. Or sum-ting?”
“No.” I raised my voice enough for Gina to hear me. “That’s my mother.”
“In your dreams, baby. And you can whistle through your butt for that trip to Wally World now. Will you get the freakin’ lead out? I need to go apologize to somebody about a zit with a mistaken identity and you’re draggin’ ass.”
I wanted to make another anchor joke, but like a lot of things this morning it just wasn’t there.
I broke the drug funk with an Egg McMuffin and two cups of Gina’s coffee, which I drank while she ran off in heels, spandex and a long-tailed, cleaners-crisp white shirt to square things with moldy vinyl mattress man. I figured unless he was dumber than a box of rocks, he’d accept her apology without making her work for it. Because that shit would blow up in his face. Like I knew the zit that wasn’t a fever blister had.
I used the computer in the business services closet to run a search on Cavanaugh Moreno while I waited for the coffee to kick in. I found a lot of hyphenated Cavanaugh-Morenos. Several articles about an ex Mrs. Francisco “Frank” Cavanaugh-Moreno and their big divorce settlement and a year later when she became Mrs. Cavanaugh-Wycliffe and moved into a sub-division with a Spanish name that meant Taste of the Sea, in an ‘affluent San Diego suburb’. Sounded more like a trendy restaurant or canned tuna than an affluent suburb to me, but I don’t have affluent suburb money so what did I know? Frank Moreno was an international banker and looked like an over the hill Latin Gigolo in an expensive suit and spent a lot of time shaking hands with blank-look-on-their-faces foreigners. The other Frank Moreno, misspelled from Morino, was a 70s guitarist who claimed to channel the ghost of Jimi Hendrix. Right. The 70s.
By page five I was tired of Morenos Morinos and Cavanaughs that had nothing to do with what I was looking for when my phone that rarely went off scared the shit out of me. Literally. On my way to the men’s “lounge” I checked the text.
Reminder that your RX is ready for pickup at Walgreens.
Call 832-555-3344 with questions.
Reply HELP for assistance, CANCEL to cancel.
I didn’t have any prescriptions ready for pickup. Or at all. After Secret Agent Man’s short trip to nowhere with a lingering twelve-hour hangover I sure as hell wasn’t going to go in blind somewhere to pick one up, either. Reverse lookup on the number took me to a me-too cell company, not a pharmacy, and the goddam door to the men’s “lounge” was locked. I knocked on the door next to it. No answer. In I went. Sorry, ladies.
“But Paro –”
“NO. Drop the car at Hobby, I’ll come get you. Throw the phone away.”
“Google is your friend. Then toss the phone.”
“I need this phone, Paro. Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Throw it away, Cav. I know my phone is on the big screen in the sky and you just sent your number to it.”
I hung up, looked at my second twenty-dollar burn phone in eighteen hours. I’d throw it out the window on the way to pick up Moreno at Hobby Airport. Because she had to turn her current rental in somewhere it looked like she could catch a flight out. So more people I hadn’t met yet could drug me, threaten me, ask me where the hell she was. She could buy us both new burners on the way back to Sugarland.
Gina handed off my iPhone that I’d intentionally left on and charging behind her desk at Sugarland, kept her eyes on Moreno pacing the FOB lounge. Cav was talking fast and quiet on her old burn phone she’d refused to toss. Gina leaned into me from the side and whispered “If I was a man? I’d rob as many freakin’ banks for her as she wanted.”
“Yeah. That’s the problem.”
“You callin’ what she’s got goin’ on a problem, babe? I should have her problems.”
“She’s a magnet for all the wrong people.”
“Better put yourself in that suitcase with the rest of them, honey. You’re gassed and good to go. Flight plan?” She waited. “Thought not.”
I’d gotten a quick hug in front of several Budget security cameras and since then Cav had said exactly five words. “Thank you,” and after climbing back in Gina’s truck from a Target stop on the way back to Sugarland “Here’s your phone.” I’d shut off my phone and glass instrumentation, checked my backup analog gauges. Airspeed, compass, altimeter, a tach and fuel gauge, all in a small flip-up cluster and was flyin’ a la crop-duster. A blip in the sky. The tower told me there was a decent southwesterly breeze full of moisture, no weather until Kansas. Gina had the tower insert me in front of a pair of Gulfstreams to “get the puddle jumper out of the way” and we were off.
Cav and I were still on that five-word-count for conversation when we crossed Interstate 35 between Temple and Waco. Averaging 96 MPH to keep the engine load down, that was over an hour of her periodically wringing her hands while staring out the window.
“Went looking for you on the internet.”
“No, you called. Saved me the trouble.”
She squeezed my shoulder from the rear seat. “Sorry. Who’d you find?”
I told her about the ex Mrs. and the banker and the church music director, kid rapper, Irish fisherman. Left out Jimi’s ghost guitarist.
“The ex. That’s Mamá.”
“Tu Padre Frank?”
She snorted. “Si. My father is Francisco.”
“So who are you?”
“I was christened Siobhan Maria Cavanaugh-Moreno. With my confirmation Patron Saint it’s…un bocado grande. By third grade I was tired of correcting Shovahn from See-o-ban.”
“Sounds like a deodorant.”
She laughed out loud. “I love you, Paro. Nothing is sacred. Someday I will tell you my thoughts on a world without need of another dark-haired Irish senorita with a Coppertone tan named Maria.”
“You just did.”
“I tell you everything, even when I try not to. I became Cavanaugh Moreno, no hyphens. I told my teachers, my parents, everyone.”
“But you never changed it, legally?”
“No. My mother said I needed all the guardian angels that would have me. I couldn’t risk pissing off St. Valentine or my Grandmothers by denying them further, could I?” She squeezed my shoulder again. “Paro, can you take me to Dallas?”
A destination at last. “No. Addison?”
“North Dallas. Restaurants, condos, an airport. You have to tell me why, Cav. The government guys drugged me last night. Everybody’s looking for you. And what the hell is the connection with the convicts? One of them is –”
“Dead. Si. I know.”
“Were you there?”
“No. I was in Houston. I got a call.”
“Okay.” I’d give her that one. “How the hell did you know your car needed to be stolen in San Antonio?”
“What are you saying?”
“Your Fiat, Moreno. You reported it stolen from San Antonio on the way to my trailer.”
“I never. I, they told me not to worry about going back for it, it was ‘handled’.”
“‘Handled’ along with my trailer and truck. Nothing but ashes, Cav. Talk to me.”
She swore on her grandmothers and her patron saint that she hadn’t reported the car stolen, didn’t know it had been torched along with my trailer and truck. She’d ridden all the way to Houston from San Antonio in that fucked up van with Muller. Who’d dumped her at an Embassy Suites to get her away from me and off everyone’s radar until the bank job was solid and I ‘understood how it was.’ Said he’d given her a grand in cash, taken her phone, told her no credit cards. A rule she’d broken to rent another car. “I don’t like being told what I can or can’t do.” Really?
She’d texted me as Walgreens from the burn phone Muller left with her hoping I’d get curious and call. So she could ask me to come get her when she’d gotten her marching orders to Dallas. And claimed to have no idea I was so close.
I didn’t like it either, being told what to do. But one of the convicts was meeting her in Dallas to take her “within range” of the Kerrigan job. Probably the dump motel Secret Agent Man knew about. The convict told her to fly Southwest and instead she’d called Comparo Airlines. Like I was going to land between the big boys in their 737s without telling anyone I was on the way.
“How do I tell them, how will they not know I was with you if I’m in this other place?”
I told her she could shuttle or Uber to Love Field, stand outside bag claim with her stewardess size bag and call whoever was meeting her. It was such a cluster they’d never know the difference.
“Okay. Where will you go?”
“I’ll tell you that when you tell me about the bank job. Until then? I’ll be ‘in range’.” I held up my latest dispoza phone. “Got the number?”
“Leave it on, por favor?” For the first time since a fleeting moment in Columbia she sounded like she’d rather be anywhere but in the middle of what she had started. That was all she said until I killed the engine in Addison, climbed out to help her down where she got inches from my face.
“Me amas o no?”
Did I love her or not? What the hell? “Yes.”
“Yes yes, or yes no?”
“Yes is yes.” Jesus. Why now? She tried a smile but it got lost on the way out. I didn’t think I’d ever seen anyone look quite so alone.
“Say a prayer for me, Paro.” I got a quick peck on the cheek. I caught her hand when she walked away. She turned. “Say another one, por favor. For us.”
Anonymole has decided on a whiff of an idea from me that September is scene month. Not every day, but often, we should offer a short scene that stands alone and when you walk away you have a decent idea of what’s going on and might want to turn the page. This is number 8 or 9 of “Hukt awn seens werks fur mee!”