Terminal Sunsets Chapter 12
As we speed along in Donald’s SUV, I call in to the gallery and talk to Marcus briefly.
Marcus tells me some reporter from Fleur De Lis Magazine has called and is trying to set up an interview time with me. Marcus tells me the guy’s name is Ian B. Cane, and this strikes me as odd so I ask him, “He actually referred to himself as Ian B. Cane, with the B and everything included?”
“Yeah,” Marcus replied. “Shit reminded me of Thurston Howell the III off Gilligan’s Island and shit man.”
“Weird,” I mutter.
“Yeah, he seemed weird enough.”
“Weird good, or weird bad?” I ask.
“Not sure, just something seemed off about the boy,” Marcus says.
I tell him I’ll be back in around an hour or two and he tells me not to worry, so I hang up.
I glance over at Donald, who is zig-zagging in and out of traffic as we head up Canal street under the I-10 overpass near Claiborne.
He glances over at me and grins and asks me if everything at work is cool.
“Yeah, everything is cool,” I say.
I pause and look at him. With the exception of losing maybe 10 or 20 pounds and growing his hair out some, Donald has practically not changed at all in appearance. He still looks basically the same as he did back in the late 1980s when we used to go clubbing nightly.
I grin at him, sort of nervous (but I don’t really have any good reason to be) and neither of us say anything for a while. He finally reaches over with his right arm and gives me an affectionate squeeze on the back of my neck and smiles.
It’s an honest smile and I have the feeling, although I have nothing to back up this belief, it’s the first true smile he’s had in a long time. A small piece of my heart breaks silently and I want to say something, but as I absently fumble for words, I glance up out the window and notice he’s about to careen into the back of a Hubig’s Pie van.
“Donald, watch out!” I holler at him.
But he instinctively, reflexively turns the steering wheel sharply to the left and passes the guy effortlessly while also managing to avoid hitting a bicyclist who was about to start biking out onto Canal from the neutral ground.
“I should have rammed him,” Donald says, laughing.
“What the bike guy?” I ask.
“No, the Hubig Pie van. We could have jacked all his pies. Those fucking things are addictive and they put them right near the checkout aisle in every store too, so it’s like an impulse buy. Oh never mind, you don’t care.”
“Trust me dude,” I tell him. “I know all about impulse buys.”
“I buy and eat around 10 of those fucking things a week,” Donald says.
We lapse back into silence for a few minutes and then he adds, “Dude, it’s good to see you. It really is. God what’s it been, since 88? Christ, that’s over 20 years. You look good. Fit. Surprising after the way we used to party. Shit, I never thought I was going to live past 21. But somehow I keep waking up.”
“Same here,” I tell him as he makes it to the intersection at the cemeteries at Canal Street and Canal Boulevard. He hooks a left and starts heading towards Metairie Road. “Where are we headed anyway?” I ask.
“Gotta check something,” he says. “Got this thing to check about three or four blocks up.”
“What’s with the chef pants man?” I ask him. “I though you were doing that other thing.”
“I do both. Breakfast shift at St. Charles Tavern, line cook. My other gig, the one you’ve come to see me about and I also do AC repair shit at night.”
“At night?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “Business offices, banks, that sort of thing. They’re staffed during the day, so we go in at night to repair when they’re closed.”
“That makes sense,” I say, nodding.
Donald has some weird, but familiar sounding song on the radio that I cannot place. It begins with an AC-DC like guitar solo but then gets real mellow. It’s a love song of some sort, with a melodic chord progression.
Finally I just ask Donald, “Dude what the hell is this song?”
“You don’t recognize it?” he asks me, as he pulls a joint from the ash tray and lights it.
“If I recognized it I wouldn’t be asking you,” I say.
“Think about it,” is all Donald says, as he hands me the joint. “Listen. Listen to the voice.”
I almost wave him off. I haven’t smoked in ages, but instead, I find myself reaching out and taking a hit. I hold it and try to focus on the song. I listen to the guy’s voice carefully, handing the joint back to Donald.
I can tell by the look in your eye, I can tell by the way you sigh
That you know I’ve been thinking of you, and you know what I want to do.
“Shit,” I say. “It’s so familiar.”
I can tell by the things you say, I can tell that you know the way
And I know what you want me to do, Oh, I’ve got hearts and flowers for you
Donald hands the joint back to me and I hit it. I choke for a second but I hit it again and listen to the infuriatingly familiar tune, wondering how long Donald is going to drag this torture session out.
And I also try not to think of Maddy, which is kind of ridiculous considering that’s part of the reason…No, it’s the exact reason I am meeting with Donald today, to see if he can help me track her down. A surge of emotion, intermingled with the lyrics to the song and the pure release going on in my body, I’m sure, which is due to the weed. I’ve been so tightly wound, so taut now for months, that I almost begin crying right there but I get a grip on myself, even though the lyrics just seem to reach out and twist my heart.
If you leave me you’ll make me cry, when I think of you saying good bye
Oh the sky turns to a deeper blue; That’s – that’s how I’d feel if I lost you
“Fuck, I give up. I surrender. Who is it?”
“AC-DC,” Donald says. “That little riff at the beginning is the only real give-away.”
“Dude, are you sure?” I ask him. “This doesn’t sound like any AC-DC song I have ever heard.”
“Circa 1975,” Donald says. “It’s off their first album dude. High Voltage. From the Bon Scott era.”
“Damn,” I mutter. “That’s a trip. Bon Scott was the shit man. There was a time in my life when I used to want Ride On played at my funeral.”
“Now what song do you want played?” he asks, a fair enough question.
“Fuck if I know,” I say. “I tend not to think about death as much as I did when we were in our 20s.”
Donald chuckles and adds, “You know that’s right dude. That’s because we’re naturally closer to it. I’ve noticed the older I get the more I want to live. But, Ride On is a pretty good choice.”
Finally the song ends and another song I do recognize, She’s Got Balls, kicks in.
Donald swerves again suddenly and says, “Dude reach down on the side of your seat real quick and look at those papers inside that folder. I need you to do something for me.”
He whips the SUV into a parking lot of some building on Metairie Road, about eight blocks up from the cemeteries. As he does, he hands me a cell phone and tells me to dial my number into it, so he can store it. I do, wait for it to ring a couple times and then hang up.
I open the folder up and it is..well, a dossier for lack of better word. There’s a picture of this girl, a young woman probably in her early 20’s. She’s a pretty black girl with nice bone structure, good smile and obscenely beautiful eyes, even in the black-and-white DMV photo. Her name is Naomi.
“What the fuck is this dude?” I ask him as he begins to cruise the rows of parked cars in the parking lot.
“Look down at the bottom of the page,” he tells me. “I need the vehicle information.”
“The what?” I ask.
“What does she drive? What does it say she drives?”
“A black Toyota Camry. Louisiana plate HDF437,” I say and then happen to glance over my right shoulder and say, “That’s it right there.”
“Yeah, I saw it too,” Donald says as he positions the SUV and parks it.
“What’s the deal with this chick?” I ask him.
“New case,” he says. “Neck and back injury. She was worked by another agency but she burned them. Not really sure what happened. The client wasn’t very clear on that point. They never are. But she supposedly has dogs at home that she walks most days during her lunch break.”
“Does she live close to here?”
“Not too far. Right down the block, off Canal Boulevard near Delgado,” he says.
“What is this place? What does she do?”
“It’s a spa and salon. She cuts hair,” Donald says. “Why don’t you go in there. Try to see if you can see her. Price a spa day or something for your wife.”
“I’m divorced,” I say.
“Pretend,” Donald laughs. “God, don’t be so dense.”
“I’m high,” I tell him, giggling. “If you don’t want me to be dense you shouldn’t have gotten me stoned to the bone man.”
“Just go in there, see if you can see her and try to make small talk. Most of all see if it looks like she’s going to be leaving for lunch any time soon.”
“Are you sure?” I ask him.
“Just act natural,” he says. “And call me if it looks like she’s leaving.”
I settle myself down and then get out of the car. I begin walking up to the back of the building. The doors to the place are on the side. I’m just opening the door as I look up and she is right in front of me. In fact I practically yank the door out of her hand.
“Oh God,” I say. “I’m so sorry.”
As I’m trying to apologize, the tip of her left heel catches on the door mat and she begins to pitch forward. I react quickly, though and reach out and grab her with both hands on her hips. I pull her backwards, a little too hard and her back smashes against my chest.
God she smells fucking good. I let go of her quickly though and she turns around, laughing.
“Are you okay?” I ask her.
“Yes, I’m just such a spazz though,” she says, smiling at me flirtatiously.
There is no doubt about it. She’s smoking hot. She’s got black pants and a tight, button up white shirt that seems more molded to her body than buttoned. I can see her nipples protruding slightly through her bra and top even though it’s like 75 degrees outside.
I want top bite them.
“No, it’s my fault. I didn’t see you on the other side,” I tell her. “I didn’t mean to rip the door out of your hand.”
“I’m just glad you were there to catch me when I started to fall forward,” she says, exhaling sharply with a laugh. “You have good arms.”
“Martin,” I tell her, deciding I should feign some semblance of a cover. I reach out and shake her hand.
“Nice hands too,” she says. “I’m Naomi. Yes indeed, nice hands. Strong hands, with no rings on them. That’s always a plus.”
“I’m sort of in a rush today,” I tell her. “But would you like to go to lunch or dinner with me?”
“I’d love to,” she says. “She reaches into her purse and produces a card. She scribbles another number on the back. “That’s my cell on the back. I look forward to it.”
“Me too,” I say as I walk into the salon. I quickly call Donald and he answers.
“What the fuck was all that?” he asks.
“You’re never going to believe this shit. I got her cell number dude. We’re going to go to lunch together. Not today obviously.”
“Get the fuck out of here? Really?”
“Seriously,” I tell him. “I’ll tell you about it after. She’s headed your way.”
“Yeah I know, start walking back out but over towards the street. I’ll grab you as we pull out.”