Ben Perrini had worn the same un-pressed suntans, shirt and pants daily for seven weeks and never thought to change until today. This morning wanting to make a better impression he changed his shirt. He hoped that might bring him a closer level of confidence and trust with Edna Running Eagle.
Saturday morning in anticipation of the Detective’s arrival, Edna had reminded herself that it might be in the boys and her best interests to keep the lines of communication open.
Now in the middle of the Q & A, she hazarded a brittle remark.
“You need to at least try to convince me you’re not still trying to pin this murder on a Native American, Ben.”
“Come on, Edna. I’m definitely past that. What have you got?”
“It’s probably nothing but . . . “
“A few days ago, I took the boys up to Loon Lake for a rock concert and decided to kill time waiting for them in Clayton.”
“I stopped in at Birdy’s for a hamburger and a beer.”
“Where’s this going?”
“This guy bought me a beer and poured out his life story.”
“Killing time can be boring.”
“It was, . . . until he hoisted up his pants leg. . . . ankle holster with a pistol.”
“Wait a minute. What the hell did you say to provoke that?”
“He was rambling on about being small and needing an “equalizer.”
“I called him out on that to break the boredom.”
“What happened next?”
“When the guy flashed the gun, the bartender called him a dago and threatened to call the police.”
“Wait a minute. Did you know this guy?”
“Never saw him before or since. Not anyone I’d want to know.”
Ben’s response was predictable.
“Did you get his name?”
“His name was Restorini.”
“There was something funny about him.”
“Acted goofy, sounded goofy, but didn’t look goofy. Short, wiry, bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Looked like a chimpanzee.”
“Looks? Lingo? Clothes?”“Nothing remarkable. But the bartender knew him. Sounded like he was a regular problem.”
“Could you pick him out of a lineup?”
“Maybe. Rattled on about working the kilns and being an artist.”
“Did he invite you up to see his etchings?”
“He said he painted for sanity and peace of mind.”
“Clayton has a bunch of Italians. Two or three generations. Brick yards are full of ‘em.”
“Do you want to know what I think?”
“That’s why I drove out here, Edna.”
“I think you’re tired of looking for a killer. Any port in a storm”
But Edna had started looking for connections, too.
“Do you know what the weapon was?”
“Ballistics said it was a Ruger SR22.”
“Is that a little one?”
“Right. Perfect for concealed carry.”
“That’s why you’re making up these stories.”
“I’m not making up stories, Edna.”
Edna said, mostly to herself.
The guy didn’t look strong.
Out loud, “He looked spidery, but I saw him pick up a chair with one hand.
“Check it out with the bartender. He was there.”
Ben’s answer was quiet, unhurried, and it surprised her.
“I may be able to put one and two together. “
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s three, but sometimes it’s twelve.”
Ben felt like she had taken the lid off and solved his puzzle.
“Thanks a bunch, Edna. I haven’t had this much fun since the VC captured Saigon.”
The face she made was probably meant for a smile. Whatever it was, it stopped him. Ben decided he’d better quit while he was ahead.
“Enough is enough for now, Edna.”
“I can’t believe it. You’ve just ruined a perfectly pleasant Saturday morning. The boys are finished in the kitchen. I hope we are, too.”
“I’m in the detective business, Edna. When someone gets killed its bad business to let a killer get away with it. It’s bad business all around, for everybody everywhere.”
“In the ER, we don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble, as long as things get fixed in the end.”
“Your triage decision this morning is looking helpful. I need to put it to work right away. I’ll stop at the sports pub on the way back.”