Meyers pulled the viewing room doors closed, motioned for Huntley and Rifat to follow. After several wrong turns Meyers found the kitchen, grabbed a neatly folded towel off the counter and opened the under-sink cabinet. He pulled out a pair of yellow latex dishwashing gloves, put them on. He tossed the towel to Huntley, who eyed it suspiciously.
“Now I reload their guns, empty them into the muddy corral and put them back where I found them.”
“Be easier to bring the guns inside.”
“Are you volunteering to clean them?”
“Shit…” It came out mostly as air when Huntley sighed and draped the towel over his shoulder. “You’ll want these, then.” He reached in his pocket, pulled out the two rounds wrapped in Wichtikl’s silk pocket square. He caught Meyer’s look. “Seriously? Like anybody believed they were gonna make it to the stable?”
“Glad you told me before I fucked around out there looking for them. Use the towel,” he turned his head, taking in the room. “Open every drawer, every cabinet until you find some more gloves. Put ‘em on and keep opening.”
“What are we lookin’ for?”
“Anything that looks like it doesn’t belong. Pull it, put it on the counter.”
“And then?” Huntley checked in with Rifat.
“I’ll be back before you’re done in here.” Meyers flexed the fit of his gloves, kicked off his shoes and stuck his feet in a pair of black, knee-high rain boots he’d collected from inside a mud bench by the back door. “There were files in the safe with initials that weren’t mine and more money than the forty-seven large Cavelli got when he rolled me. Wichtikl was a fucking Nixon. We need to find his hardware.”
“What,” Rifat leaned up and away from the counter, “is a ‘fucking Nixon’?”
“Some President,” Huntley closed another drawer. “The only reason I know is I was at a Taco Bell one night, they had a framed newspaper article on the wall, and the headline was ‘President Loves Tacos’ or some shit like that, and there was a picture of this ugly goofball at a Taco Bell in Yorba Linda. Or maybe Clemente.”
“We’re looking for tacos?”
“Maybe. Knowing Meyers, though, there’s more to it than tacos. I’ll ask and then he’ll say ‘Didn’t they teach you any history in school?’”
“You’ve heard this before?”
“Yeah, about other things when I come up short, and I always tell him I was busy checking out Melinda Gonzales’ bra that day. ‘Cause she wore sleeveless tank tops with arm holes big as a Schwarzenegger workout wife beater and looking at her bras beat the hell outta whatever the teachers were grindin’ out.”
“I had to leave the room last night when Sunny, uh, Miss Sutton, was explaining bras to my mother.”
“Okay… Sunny. That’s your girlfriend?”
“Explaining bras to your mother?”
“It is a long story. Aha!” Rifat turned from the pantry, a can of Hormel tamales in his cotton gloved hand. “Do you think this is important?”
“Only if we need to prove that rich don’t mean smart.”
Meyers squatted beside the bodies, rain dripped from the hood of his borrowed raincoat, the tip of his nose. Wichtikl and Archie weren’t hamburger, but they were torn up. He flashed to bagging land mine victims’ parts. Not the same. These were crushed, perforated, broken. Pieces ripped out and carried off by an animal with steel teeth. The mine victims… They were parts. A nose here, a finger there… He found Wichtikl’s gun inside his suit coat, Archie’s where his intestines oozed out around it like fresh rope sausage.
He loaded their guns while he walked to the stable where he picked up a saddle blanket, held it over his hand and emptied the clip of Wichtikl’s 25 and the cylinder of Archie’s 357 into the quagmire of the corral, the muffled shots lost in the wind and thunder.
“A ‘fucking Nixon’ is someone who bugs themselves. Nixon bugged his own office when he was President, recorded everything,” Meyers said, feeling the walls inside a closet in the receiving room.
“Fascinating,” Huntley rolled his eyes for Rifat.
“Wick, as a ‘fucking Nixon’, had to have this room wired. Like Nixon’s office. We need to find the capture hardware.”
“You mean this?” Huntley spun the coat and umbrella rack just inside the big receiving room doors, exposing a cabinet stacked full of what looked like ancient broadcast tape cart machines. Instead of tape cartridges, they’d been modified to hold gray epoxy blocks the approximate size of the original carts.
“That explains what I found in the safe.” Meyers brought the trash bag he’d loaded with the safe’s contents. “Bag all the carts, then take the boots and your raincoat I left outside the viewing room and go get your car. Use the paved roads to come back. Stop before you get on the gravel drive and honk.”
“What are you gonna do besides stay dry?”
“Dry mop the floors, erase any sign of us being here. And look for his real hardware stash. That was too easy.”
Huntley rolled into Rifat’s garage, killed the Rover’s engine. Rifat stretched out of the cramped backseat, pipe wrench in hand. Meyers got out holding the collected manila envelopes from Wichtikl’s safe, dumped their contents on Rifat’s work bench. He stacked the money by denomination, mostly hundreds, and from that he counted out forty-seven thousand dollars, pushed the pile toward Rifat, who stared at it. Sunny stuck her head out the back door of his mother’s shop, hobbled out a few feet on crutches. She stopped, arms bent at the elbows, palms up mirroring the question mark on her face.
“Mr. Meyers,” Rifat stammered, “I… I’m… confused. This money,” his face and body language a casserole of torments, “this money has been nothing but trouble. Innocent people have died over this money. My brother is dead because of this money. You could have been dead trying to find it. If not for you, today, we could all be dead. What good can come of it?”
“If you’re asking me what I think,” Meyers tilted his head slightly in Sunny’s direction, “it’s your job to make something good come of it.” He eye locked Rifat. “Everything, everyone involved in this mess wouldn’t have taken such a hard road to end up with you if you didn’t look like hope.” He glanced back at Sunny, scooped the leftover denomination piles into different envelopes, climbed in the Rover. Huntley cranked the starter, backed out into the rain. They waited for the tall door to close.
“Where to now?”
“The Catalina Flyer.”
“You gotta be shittin’ me,” Huntley pushed the clutch back in, rain sheeting the windshield against the useless wipers. “You wanna go to Catalina in this weather?”
“No. But you do.” He put Marcia DeMilnes 25 automatic in the glove box. “About halfway to Catalina, step out and drop that pistol over the side.”
“That big house is a puzzle nobody’ll put together, Mr. Meyers. What’s one more gun?”
“One more gun, one more person they start looking for. Dead man’s wife is where they’d start.”
“Why you didn’t shoot anybody with your gun.” Huntley thought his way through it. “If your gun wasn’t there, neither were you?”
“You’re catching on.” Meyers peeled off twenty one-hundred-dollar bills, reached over, stuffed them in Huntley’s shirt pocket. “Eat something right at Bluewater or the Trap. Try to stay dry.”
“Holy shit…” Huntley’s eyes dropped to his pocket before returning to the street. “That’s two grand. Man, I’d have done today for two hundred.”
“You could have gotten shot today, Huntley. Starting with the landscapers.”
“Mexicans are usually slow to kill their own outside of a gang thing. And hell,” he broke a big I-know-a-Hollywood-dentist smile, “I build possibly gettin’ shot into your rate.”