Chapter 13: O, Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Hours had passed. The Sun had dipped the day into an azure canopy spattered with twinkling diamonds from horizon to horizon. Most of this was not visible from within the Old Klatzper House. Annabel had holed herself up next to her phone after leaving her fifth voicemail for her brother. She was working on her fourth cigarillo and fifth shot of Courvoisier when her phone rang. She picked it up, looked at the caller id to make sure, then answered it.

"'Bout time, Mike."

"Nice to hear from you, too, Sis."

"Didn't you even listen to my messages? This ain't a social call. It's important!"

"Well, unless you forget, I've had a very pressing issue today."

"Then you didn't listen to my messages."

"Okay, so much for being cryptic. I've got businesses to run and not a lot of time for this. What could be so big in the metropolis of Shiner that I should've set aside finding my daughter's kidnappers for it?"

"You can be a very arrogant ass sometimes, you know? For your information, your daughter wasn't kidnapped."

"Okay. My apologies, Sis. You suddenly have my undivided attention."

"Thank you, brother dear. Those young men stayed here last night and left this morning."

"But you told my men you hadn't seen them."

"Of course I did. They would've been scared shitless, Mike, those men looking like The Men in Black and all. They're young and naïve, but not felons. Have you actually talked to your daughter today?"

"Of course. She told me all about the kidnapping."

"You mean you intimidated her into giving you information. What I mean is whether you actually just talked with her like a father talks to a daughter."

"I'm sorry. Did you call to be helpful or to engage in your ongoing criticisms if how I run my family?"

"That's just it. You see a family as something to run like one of your businesses. She's your daughter, not an employee, Michael."

She heard a deep sigh on his end followed by silence. She wasn't about to bail him out by giving him what to say, though, which he always expected his conversational opponent to do. After a lifetime, Annabel had learned how he played negotiation games in conversations. Finally he spoke. "If I were to sit and just speak with her, what might she tell me, sis?"

"You'll have to find out most of that on your own. I suggest you try it. The two of us had a very nice chat for about twenty minutes. My God, Mike, she's twenty-eight and she took off like a little girl running away from home. Doesn't that tell you something? I let her and her friend take one of my rooms for a night and then when those young men arrived, I checked them in with a warning to not try to even talk to those girls. She wasn't kidnapped any more than I was even though I am hoping to be arrested here in a few minutes."

"Still seeing the deputy, I see."

"'Course. He flips my switch, you know?"

"Unfortunately, yes, and I don't want to know about your switch."

"Anyway, there was an incident here in town today involving some men who are bad men and who are also hot on the tail of the young men that stayed here last night. Judging from what I found on the web during the interminable wait for you to call back, they're all headed toward El Paso sooner or later this week."

"If they didn't kidnap my daughter and are on some perfectly innocent vacation of some kind, what is that to me?"

"For one thing, Mike, you are usually good at doing the right thing. You know, that humanitarian angle and all that. For another, you have connections and impeccable business sense ..."

"Why, thank you, I never knew you respected my official talents."

"Don't interrupt and don't let it go to your head. Not only does your daughter owe those young men an apology, but they seem to have lucked into something where they need some guidance. I want you to give it to them."

"You ... you what? Are you telling me ..."

"I'm saying your daughter owes it to them, they need some bailing out of a lot of trouble that they don't deserve, and you could end up making out okay yourself. I've found some of what they've done so far and it seems to be catching on for some weird reason. I doubt if they even know how people are spreading their bungled videos and their mishaps around like wildfire. They just have no idea how to capitalize on a thing like this. That's where you could come in. I've had one brandy too many to care how this is coming across, but you need to do it."

Silence again on the line. Finally, "I'll give it some thought. Anything else from the chair of my board?"

"No and that's very funny. I wouldn't fit in with those yahoos even if I did know enough to get in the door."

"Don't sell yourself short, Sis. I wish you'd reconsider ..."

"Nope. Besides, my front door knob is jiggling and the law is here. I gotta go, Mike. Think real hard about what I said. I'll send you some links so you can check out what these boys are doing." Before he could answer she had hung up the phone, polished off her brandy, and stood up while crushing out her butt in the ashtray. She stared at Don with both hands on her desk, eyes narrowed. "You still know that guy that runs the jail in Juarez?"

Don stopped his slow advance and put his hands on his hips. "You're not thinking of having somebody else arrest you, are you? I don't think I could handle being two-timed."

"Men. You're all ridiculous. Call it a hunch. I have a gut feeling your missing pickup and its hombres are going to be in his neck of the woods soon."

Don was very familiar with Annabel's intuition. It verged on psychic and most of the time her "hunches" were downright spooky. If she said she had a gut feeling, he knew it was as good as written in history.

"Might be easier than we thought it was going to be. Turns out those men were caught on some security cameras in Minute Maid Park muscling your Smart Car boys toward the area of the cash office. That connects them with some other missing funds from last year's baseball season."

"You let Barnard and Audie off the hook, then, Don, and make sure that if those assholes cross the border they don't make it out of Juarez."

"So, you do know those two guys. Those were the names on their licenses. Well, just let those cowboys make it across the border and screw up over there. They'll spend a lot more time in a Mexican jail than if they got a good lawyer stateside, even though they have a lot to answer for between here and Houston." He sighed and ventured carefully, "I guess I could make a phone call. I'm sure I can have a little influence to get their welcome extended in Mexico."

"Fine. You do that, but make it quick. Mr. Courvoisier is going to put me to bed before too long and you'll have to step it up. Whip out your phone and then your handcuffs, officer."

Don chuckled and shook hishead while dialing. He never knew quite what to make of Annabel, but tonight hewas going to make whatever he could of her.

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