Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

Archive for December, 2006

Grady’s pt. 1

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Who’s at the counter?”

What?”

Without being too obvi­ous about it, tell me who’s sit­ting at the counter this morn­ing. You didn’t think we just came for break­fast did you Adderley?”

Well-”

Charlie Oliveri smiled across the booth at his young intern. “Curse of the local news­pa­per reporter, Adderley: you’re always on the job.”

Adderley’s eyes lit up. Whatever bug it is that dri­ves per­fect­ly intel­li­gent indi­vid­u­als to work exces­sive­ly long hours try­ing to report true sto­ries back to an often unre­cep­tive pub­lic had infect­ed young Nathan Adderley so thor­ough­ly that he hadn’t yet learned to hide it in fash­ion­able jour­nal­is­tic cyn­i­cism. “Right.”

Open your menu and just glance up there once in a while, then tell me who you see. Start with the per­son near­est the reg­is­ter.”

Okay.”

And when Grady comes over to take our order, don’t be sur­prised if I’m talk­ing base­ball.”

Well, right off I see Mr. Langen.”

Oliveri nod­ded. He knew that one. Langen taught high school Civics and owned almond orchards and pas­ture to the east of town. He start­ed his days ear­ly at Grady’s. Oliveri spot­ted Langen’s white pick­up truck in the park­ing lot as they pulled in a few min­utes ago. Langen had nod­ded hel­lo to Oliveri when they came in and would come over for a word before he left. In old Europe, Langen would have served as a town Burgher, in the rusty towns back east he would have been an Alderman, down south, a good old boy, but here in Brenlee (incor­po­rat­ed as a city in the State of California in 1952) for the past 17 years he had con­sis­tent­ly won a seat on either the City Council or the School Board. This year and next he was on the City Council. He had an easy man­ner and remind­ed Oliveri of a grey­ing Gary Cooper. The fact that he sat near the reg­is­ter today raised ques­tions for Charlie. Did he arrive late? Was he watch­ing for some­one? Avoiding some­one? Anxious to eat and get going?

Next to him is Mr. Buedall.”

Another Council mem­ber.” And a Real Estate agent who had moved to Brenlee only ten years ago. Always wears a jack­et and tie; half the town thinks he’s a preach­er. He’s not usu­al­ly up or out this ear­ly.

Mr. Rocha.”

Which one?”

Nathan looked at him a bit anx­ious­ly. “The one on the City Council.”

Frank. One more and they have a quo­rum.” Frank Rocha was a Contractor and his broth­ers owned and oper­at­ed a large local dairy. He was a reg­u­lar break­fast nui­sance for Langen and Grady, with a habit of show­ing up not quite entire­ly sober on Friday morn­ings.

Nathan chuck­led and then looked seri­ous­ly into his menu.

What’s fun­ny?”

Rocha is talk­ing to Buedall and Buedall is talk­ing to Mr. Langen. And Mr. Langen just looks bored and kin­da fun­ny.”

Counting the cof­fee fil­ters on top of the machine no doubt.”

Yeah.”

Oliveri spoke as though con­clud­ing a long and detailed expla­na­tion, “So, Bonds is great but he’s a lot bet­ter if he’s hit­ting behind some­one who can get on base… Morning Grady.”

Good morn­ing Charlie. Staff break­fast, yah?” He poured them both cof­fee and water.

Sure. Important edi­tion today.”

Grady’s mous­tache rolled and bris­tled with con­cern. “Too much news.”

You said it.”

Grady arrived in Brenlee pure­ly by acci­dent thir­ty years ear­li­er as an over­grown young German hip­pie whose car stopped run­ning in front of the Bait Bucket. Grady’s par­ents had been great fans of all things American and named him after a jazz drum­mer vir­tu­al­ly unknown to most peo­ple in Brenlee. As soon as he was old enough he had worked his way across the Atlantic on a freighter and began work­ing west across the states. He start­ed work­ing in the orchards pick­ing fruit, then dri­ving fruit trucks, and before long fell in love with a local. Within a few years he had saved enough mon­ey to buy this small restau­rant which had stood board­ed up for sev­er­al years. He moved calm­ly and seri­ous­ly, if not grace­ful­ly, around the place, work­ing the kitchen and front in the morn­ing and rely­ing on his wife Josefa for help wait­ing tables in the evening. Oddly, while his body remained strong, his accent had thick­ened with age, so now “What would you like?” sound­ed like “watt wud tchew like?”

Oliveri and Addlerley ordered. Adderley pre­pared to con­tin­ue, but inter­rupt­ed him­self, “I’ve- I’ve nev­er been here this ear­ly.”

Why would you be?”

To find out what’s going on.”

Charlie smiled, “Just come in and lis­ten in, huh?”

Right.”

I tried that. At first. Doesn’t work.”

Why not?”

First of all, it’s hard to notice things that you’re too close to and sec­ond, nobody real­ly ever speaks off the record. Not for long, any­way. Unless they’re drunk and then you can’t believe what they’re say­ing even if you under­stand it.”

So why are we here?”

Oliveri looked out the win­dow at the small park­ing lot and the con­struc­tion site next door that would, accord­ing to a large gar­ish­ly paint­ed ban­ner, soon be an auto parts store. He looked back at Nathan Adderley. He didn’t want to explain it, but it felt like his job. “We’re here for break­fast and a Geological sur­vey.”

If Beginnings Matter

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Billy, where are you?” Tamra asked him before he could put in his cell phone ear­piece and say “Hello.”

In my car.”

Yeah. Where?”

On 99, some­where between Merced and Fresno.” He looked down the free­way for signs, but he couldn’t be sure.

What?”

I’m dri­ving to Fresno.”

Billy.” Tamra sat down in the same wick­er chair on William’s porch where he had spent the night. “Why?”

I’m going to see Phillip Bergoyan.” He felt a lit­tle excit­ed and proud to actu­al­ly be doing some­thing instead of sit­ting at home.

Who’s that?”

The guy who used to run the paper in Brenlee. When we were kids.”

Okay…”

I need to talk to him.”

Today?”

Yes. He knows some­thing or maybe lots of things about Tommy.”

Shit, Billy. How old is that guy?”

According to my $40 online search for him, he’s 81, col­lect­ing Social Security, and he lives alone in an apart­ment build­ing in down­town Fresno.”

You’ll be lucky if he still remem­bers his name.”

William hadn’t thought of that. “He’ll remem­ber.” William need­ed him to remem­ber.

When are you com­ing back?”

I don’t know.”

Tamra didn’t say any­thing. She looked at the old white BMW con­vert­ible her step­fa­ther had res­cued from a junk yard for her sev­en years ago. With the top down it became more obvi­ous than usu­al that it need­ed body work and a paint job. If she squint­ed and blurred her vision she could almost make it look like a giant flo­ral arrange­ment instead of all her most cher­ished belong­ings pro­trud­ing from the pas­sen­ger and back seats: clothes, snow skis, duct taped lap­top, year­books, jew­el­ry, a small sil­ver box from her grand­moth­er, shoe box­es and albums of pho­tos, and a card­board file box full of her bank­ing records.

Tamra.” Emotional pan­ic and caf­feine cut a tem­po­rary nar­row path through the effects of William’s morn­ing joint.

Where are you?”

He heard her snif­fle and sigh more clear­ly than he made out the words, “On your porch.”

What’s wrong?” He pulled into the far right lane of the free­way and start­ed watch­ing for a good place to stop and talk, maybe to turn around.

Nothing.” And then quick­ly cor­rect­ing her­self, “Chad’s a dick and I think maybe I’m a slut.”

You’re not a slut and Chad was, is, and always will be a dick.” He took the first exit into Madera, California and parked in the McDonald’s park­ing lot.

She didn’t respond at first and then said, “You’re so unre­li­able, Billy.”

But I know a slut when I see one.” He hoped she was at least smil­ing, because he didn’t hear her laugh. “What do you need Tamra?”

Someplace.…”

What?”

Can I stay with you?” She sound­ed as though he had made her ask, but he real­ly didn’t know what she need­ed.

Of course.” William rolled down his win­dow and felt sud­den­ly over­whelmed by the smell of deep fried hash browns. It remind­ed him of an old hang­over rem­e­dy.

Thank you.” After a long pause in which he thought he heard her wip­ing her nose, Tamra said, “How do I… I need to get inside.”

As he told her which flower pot on the back porch to look under for the spare key, William felt that first wave of emo­tion­al pan­ic sub­side only to have anoth­er wave trig­ger a more gen­er­al inte­ri­or pan­ic. What was he doing? She was mov­ing in? He was bare­ly over his divorce? This could only end bad­ly. He wouldn’t be good to her and she would resent him. What was she think­ing? But he want­ed to find her there when he returned from Fresno.

The place is kind of a mess. Don’t clean.” He told her.

Okay. But I’m not work­ing, so I might any­way.”

Please don’t.” Then William decid­ed, all too quick­ly, that he had to treat this like a room­mate sit­u­a­tion. “We’ll dis­cuss the house rules when I get back.”

House rules?”

Meanwhile, um… make your­self at home. It’s yours as long as you like.”

I’ll pay rent, Billy.”

No, not this talk, not while soak­ing in the stench of fast food and still high enough to say some­thing para­noid and hon­est. “No. Look, Tamra, you aren’t pay­ing me rent for a house I own. Not yet, any­way. We’ll work out mon­ey, if we need to, when I’m not so fuck­ing high and freaked out about Tommy and every­thing –”

You’re dri­ving high?”

I’m drink­ing cof­fee.”

What?”

Hey, I’m almost there. It’s free­way dri­ving. I’m fine now.”

Billy.”

Tamra.”

And they both held their breath for a moment. Each one ran back­wards through mem­o­ries of failed rela­tion­ships — his mar­riage that just end­ed, her mar­riage too soon after high school, his live-in girl­friend dur­ing col­lege, her five year affair with a lawyer from Stockton, his post-col­lege live-in strict Buddhist (no dope, no meat) girl­friend, and most recent­ly, her dis­as­ter­ous two years with this insur­ance sales­man cum sherriff’s deputy Chad who grew up (and still loved, mod­ern sci­ence or log­ic could nev­er explain why, his old home of Glendale). None of these things ever worked for long, but none of them ever start­ed quite this way, so maybe, if begin­nings mat­ter…

William spoke first. “Move your stuff in. Do what­ev­er you want, just don’t rearrange my office. The rest is yours. You can store stuff in the spare bed­room if you want.”

Billy-”

I’ll be back tonight prob­a­bly and then we’ll talk, okay?”

Thanks. Bye.”

Bye.” William hit the red phone icon on his cell phone. He didn’t know why, but for the first time in a year he wished he weren’t high.

Slow, Muddy, Sleepy Swirls

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

His mother’s car smelled of pot­pour­ri. He turned the key on and put down all the win­dows to let the smell dis­si­pate. William rarely drove the well-trav­eled (170,000+ miles) maroon Nissan Sentra. He drove it down to the store, out to the lake a cou­ple of times, and once all the way to Berkeley for a bad­ly need­ed trip to a place with some Goddamned cul­ture and a decent book­store or two. Today, it need­ed gas and oil if he was going to make it to Fresno, but first…

William drove to the banks of the nar­row Brenlee Irrigation District (B.I.D.) canal on the edge of town bor­dered on one side by the sun bleached wood­en fence and dan­gling tree limbs of a small hous­ing devel­op­ment built in the 80s and on the oth­er side by an ancient look­ing wal­nut orchard. A large wood­en sign post­ed on the edge of the orchard so it could be seen on the way into or out of town adver­tised the sale of 47.7 acres of land — Brenlee sew­er and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions, sur­veyed for sub­di­vi­sion, inter­est­ed par­ties should con­tact the sell­er, Kenneth Sneed at his local phone num­ber list­ed on the sign. As he parked the car and pre­pared to mask the bit­ing scent of pot­pour­ri with the sweet mel­low­ness of his morn­ing joint, William won­dered how they would deal with this canal once it no longer ran near any farms or orchards. How long would it last?

He took a deep drag on the joint and as he wait­ed to release it, felt the seat under him grow soft­er, more com­fort­able. He sighed and exhaled into the car vent — no more laven­dar or the cloy­ing sweet­ness of dried rose­buds soaked in some sick­en­ing oil. Ten min­utes lat­er the car reeked of pot and William was on the verge of nap­ping. He got out of the car and sat on the canal bank. The low water moved in slow, mud­dy, sleepy swirls. In the dis­tance it reflect­ed the yel­low, grey haze of the sky. William had nev­er seen smog here as a boy. His first mem­o­ry of smog was on a vis­it to Disneyland with his fam­i­ly. He remem­bered feel­ing the sky clear as they drove north towards home. Now the entire mid­lands between the coastal moun­tain range and the Sierra Nevadas hid under a blan­ket of exhaust and smoke. It felt dis­gust­ing.

The butt of his joint sailed from his fin­gers, caught some tiny updraft and then drift­ed with no splash onto the sur­face of the water. It wasn’t far from here that he and Luke found Tommy’s body 20 years ago, maybe a half a mile, but it felt fur­ther away because he still made out the dis­tances of this town as he did as a boy — gauged by the ped­dles of his small BMX bike and how far out­side he roamed from the area his par­ents allowed him to play. A shake of his head couldn’t erase the thought of Tommy, so he returned to his car and head­ed to the Speedy Stop for gas and break­fast.

Now, as the Nissan Sentra sits poised to make the left turn that will take him out of town, William won­ders if he should call Tamra. Maybe from the road. Then he dou­ble checks things: sick­en­ing­ly sweet cof­fee cake — check; pack­age of small choco­late cov­ered donuts — check; cof­fee in the cuphold­er — check; Teriyaki beef jerky — check; and direc­tions print­ed from the Internet with two pos­si­ble address­es — check. “Okay Mr. Bergoyan,” he says to the wind­shield, “I sure hope you’re still alive.”

Hell Once And For All

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Pickem Sneed’s mind felt claus­tro­pho­bic. The boy. The trees. Pruning to be done. Sheriff and police officer’s ques­tions. Mable — a man has to pro­tect his wife and fam­i­ly, doesn’t he? That poor boy and his small strong hands. Like his grand­son, who’s job it is to deal with this now. But he doesn’t know. He’ll make the same mis­takes. And he’s got orchards to tend to, a fam­i­ly of his own and every­thing else. And frac­tur­ing what room remained in his mind for peace and rest were the dark lines of a pat­tern that formed a face. The face of a man that hadn’t aged in his mind these 20 years. Where was he yes­ter­day? Dead. Still dead. And the old man awoke.
Pickem hadn’t made it from his reclin­er in the liv­ing room to his bed last night. It hap­pened, but not often, so he wasn’t too con­fused when he woke up and didn’t see Mabel’s face half buried in a pil­low next to his own. Instead, he saw his read­ing glass­es reflect­ing light com­ing through a liv­ing room win­dow. The first dim light of the day open­ing the orchard and falling to this house. His home. Under his read­ing glass­es, a copy of last weekend’s paper, but he hadn’t been read­ing that when he dozed off, he’d been fight­ing sleep as he read and re-read a para­graph of a true sto­ry about a man who tried to bring the Bible to China. Mabel said it was as good as The Good Earth. It wasn’t, but it passed the time.

He thinks he should call his son Kenny. He might be at the Fire Station, but he should try his house first. Kenny would know what’s going on. He would know what to do. And what to say if they asked about the oth­er boy, the one from before. But what about the man? And that fel­la in prison? Pickem clos­es his eyes and tries to take a breath, clear his mind, and break out of this bad dream. The morn­ing sun stretch­es across the car­pet­ing and up the arm of his chair, warm­ing his fin­gers. He can’t see a way out, trapped by things that nev­er should have hap­pened. Surely he must be dead already and all this some elab­o­rate trick of the dev­il to steer him to hell once and for all.

Ballast

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

His only dream was an aggres­sive slideshow full of images of the day behind him and imag­ined scenes of the day ahead. It repeat­ed itself with sub­tle vari­a­tions through­out the night. By 4:30 AM Hernandez felt more tired than he had when he went to bed four hours ear­li­er. He sat on the edge of the bed. He pushed his fin­gers through his hair and leaned his fore­head into the palms of his hands.

Unplug man. You got­ta unplug.” He whis­pered to him­self. He felt dry and heavy. He stag­gered to the bath­room hop­ing a show­er might wash his brain into focus. It didn’t.

He dressed in his newest uni­form, dou­ble check­ing every­thing because he knew he couldn’t be trust­ed. In the liv­ing room he real­ized he had not hol­stered his weapon. He found it on his night­stand near the alarm clock and a pic­ture of Theresa. She would hate that, he thought. Frustrated with him­self he stood up straight and took a deep breath, eyes closed and hands at his sides.

What would make this bet­ter? How could he sleep final­ly? Breathe eas­i­ly? Feel at some kind of peace with the world? Why was he here? Why was he in this uni­form with a gun on his hip? He didn’t real­ly believe that catch­ing the per­son who killed the boy would answer all or any of these ques­tions.

He looked at him­self in the mir­ror one more time and then down at his pic­ture of Theresa. He pulled his gun case out from under his bed and kneel­ing down, unlocked and opened it. He took out his ankle hol­ster and strapped the small Beretta Tomcat to his ankle, pulling down his pants to con­ceal it. He had tried to give it to Theresa two years ago, but she had refused it. He kept it. Only fir­ing it once every few months, just to remem­ber how it felt, which was light and basi­cal­ly reli­able, but strict­ly for back­up. Bringing it is an act of des­per­a­tion, but it makes him feel bet­ter. He has bal­last.

The right side of his mouth bends into a smile and even though he feels a headache com­ing on, he feels clear all of a sud­den. He knows how to start this day. Where to go and who to talk to and maybe, he thinks, even what that old man who ran the paper was up to.

An Empty Morning

Monday, December 4th, 2006

The phone rang six times before Bergoyan answered. “Hello?” Irritated and grog­gy, the old man’s voice was dry leaves against rust.

Bergoyan?”

Yes? This is Phillip Bergoyan.”

This is Oliveri. Charlie Oliveri.”

Yes.”

Oliveri wait­ed. He didn’t want to kill the for­mal­i­ties him­self, just to let them die in a long pause. They with­ered and he spoke, “I have some news.”

Please.”

There’s been anoth­er boy killed.”

Through the receiv­er, Oliveri could hear some­thing catch in the man’s throat before he replied, “The same way?”

Same way.”

I’m sor­ry. I had hoped–” Old man Bergoyan trailed off lost in a thou­sand hopes too small and impor­tant to name.

I know. I know.” Charlie Oliveri shift­ed back into his desk chair and watched the dark­ness of ear­ly morn­ing over Brenlee through his office win­dows. “Also. By coin­ci­dence or maybe not, I had a vis­it from a lawyer last night.”

Oh?”

From Sacramento.” He read the name of the firm from the papers on his desk. “Finster, Windham, & Marshall.” He wait­ed for that to sink in.

The Boone boy?”

That’s right. They didn’t give me the details, but he died up in Folsom Prison yes­ter­day.”

Yes. Yes.”

You okay?”

No, but that doesn’t mat­ter.” The old man sound­ed angry.

Hey, Phil-”

I had hoped to be dead before any of this hap­pened again, Charlie.”

Oliveri bit back a dozen cru­el ways he could have answered the man’s self-pity. “I deliv­ered your let­ter to the inves­ti­gat­ing offi­cer. He’s a good man. Name of Hernandez.”

Mexican?” Oliveri didn’t answer. “That’s good.”

Well, he’ll prob­a­bly be get­ting in touch with you soon enough.”

Will he? They will let him?”

I don’t know the sit­u­a­tion or him all that well, but I get the feel­ing he does what he wants.”

There was a long pause filled with the blank mod­u­lat­ing hum of the open line between the two men. Finally, Oliveri spoke, “Why did you wait, Phil?”

I… it couldn’t be touched, Charlie. But now… maybe…”

What?”

I should go. You have a paper…”

Maybe what, Phil?”

Thank you, Charlie. Good morn­ing.” And the old man dis­con­nect­ed.

Oliveri almost called him right back. He put the phone in the its cra­dle and looked at the emp­ty streets of Brenlee and the des­o­late rail yards. The only word he could find to describe this morn­ing was ‘hol­low’, so inex­act and vague, yet so per­fect­ly apt. A thick black three col­umn head­line: Brenlee Morning Feels Hollow.

All The News

Friday, December 1st, 2006

He knows it was Bergoyan. He is the only one with a con­science and the boy’s (he was a man, wasn’t he?) fam­i­ly couldn’t have afford­ed the cheap­est lawyer’s retain­er, much less one who deliv­ers doc­u­ments to local news­pa­per edi­tors after hours. The old man prob­a­bly used the bet­ter part of his pro­ceeds from the sale of the paper to pay the firm of — What was it again? Oliveri looked down at the doc­u­ments the woman had hand­ed him on the stairs the night before - Finster, Windham, & Marshall to keep tabs on Mike Boone up in Folsom. Probably a Sacramento firm spe­cial­iz­ing in this kind of thing. Does any­one any­where actu­al­ly do this kind of thing besides old guilty news­pa­per­men? “Well, that’s prob­a­bly enough busi­ness.” He mum­bles half out loud to him­self.

What was that Mr. Oliveri?” The Adderley kid — Sports, Cooking, and Technology, also pret­ty good at lay­out and ter­rif­ic at get­ting that fur­ni­ture store over in Merced to buy full-pagers every week.

Nothing. Call me Oliveri. No ‘mis­ter,’ Adderley. Remember.”

Right.” Wait for it. Here it comes. “Oliveri.” Like clock­work. Good kid. Fran would have told Oliveri to smile at the kid, but this kid has had too many smiles. Still, Oliveri looks up and smiles quick­ly so the kid will get back to work.

He doesn’t want to make the call, but he has to and he’ll have to do it before talk­ing to the train wreck that is the Boone fam­i­ly. Will the old man be sober? What’s it been, two years since they last spoke? Bergoyan sound­ed wrecked, tor­tured by things that weren’t even in his head any­more, just inside him some­where else. “He’s dis­turbed on a mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el,” is what his niece had told Oliveri. She’s the only way any­one will know the old guy is gone when that over­due day of reck­on­ing comes — her or the ‘Return To Sender’ stamp on one of the papers Oliveri drops in the mail each week.

Adderly.”

Yes, Mist- um. Oliveri.”

You have a han­dle on things down here?” The kid stands amidst piles of the bun­dled mid-week edi­tions, dou­ble check­ing the paper count against a list of deliv­ery loca­tions. The papers arrived about an hour ago and the two of them have proof­read final copies, made note of any cor­rec­tions that will need to appear in the week­end edi­tion, and set aside copies for the archives. The deliv­ery truck will arrive in a few min­utes, Adderley will help load it and then prob­a­bly crash on the couch in the lob­by for a few hours before they open for busi­ness. Good kid.

Everything looks good, but I think we have like six extra bun­dles.”

Besides the addi­tion­al ten I ordered?”

Yeah.”

They on the invoice?”

Um.” Adderley flips through the pages on the clip­board in his hand. “No.”

Give two extra to Harvest Market. One extra each to the Bait Bucket and Grady’s. Keep two here. Set ‘em up out front. If nobody buys ‘em or calls for ‘em by noon we’ll run ‘em over to the school.”

Got it.”

Then call the print­ers and make sure the bill’s right, but make it clear that we didn’t order ‘em and we’re only pay­ing for ‘em if they sell.”

Okay.” But the kid looks more red-eyed and over­whelmed than usu­al.

Oliveri stands up from the old vinyl rolling office chair where he’s been rumi­nat­ing over these strange legal doc­u­ments while the kid worked. “Nathan.”

Yeah.” Startled the poor kid. He’s beat.

How you hold­ing up?”

The skin­ny junior col­lege stu­dent adjusts his glass­es up his nose. “Um. Okay, I guess.” He grad­u­at­ed from Brenlee ele­men­tary only six years before, didn’t he? Can’t even drink legal­ly yet.

It’s gonna be weird for a while, but I think it might get bet­ter. We have a chance. The town, I mean.”

Nathan Adderley glances down at his cheap sneak­ers, the same style Oliveri wore back in high school, and then looks up, “It’s always been weird in Brenlee. Everyday.” He says it like Oliveri is new to town and from a cer­tain per­spec­tive he real­izes, he is still new. He’s only ever caught glimpses of the way a local kid like Adderley sees this place.

Right. Well, hang in there, okay?”

What else is there?”

And now Oliveri real­ly does smile and that only makes the kid sad­der than hell. He clears his throat. “I got­ta make some calls upstairs. Shout if you need any­thing.”

Okay. Um.”

Yeah?”

You know it’s not even 4 AM?”

Yep. Don’t run to the donut shop after the deliv­er­ies go out, Adderley. Breakfast is on me today. We’ll dri­ve out to Grady’s.”

Thanks.”

Don’t wor­ry about it.”

Oliveri’s body drags what pass­es for an aging small town newspaperman’s spir­it up the bat­tered old wood­en stairs. He clos­es the door to his office, which he almost nev­er does, and its frost­ed glass win­dow rat­tles. He sits in the same wood­en desk chair Phillip Bergoyan used for years and years and looks at the type­writ­ten list of num­bers he has taped to his tat­tered desk blot­ter. He punch­es in the num­bers on the old push but­ton phone and pre­pares to report.