Archive for April 23rd, 2009


Fate Pays The Rent (Eighteenth Installment)

Chapter 7

“They found Mari on a bus headed for Gearhart, Oregon.”
“What?  What the hell time is it?”  Clement unwrapped the cord for the cell phone charger from his arm and sat up to look at his alarm clock.”
“It’s 7:30,” Buzz said.  “Did I wake you?  I figured you’d be getting ready for work.”
Clement unplugged the cell phone and tucked the end of the charger cord behind the bedside table.  He got up and walked over to the closet.  “Yeah, I should have been.”
“Did you set your alarm?”
“No.  I forgot.  I never do that but I got in late last night from riding the bus and-“
“You were on the bus again?  You oughta get a new car.”
“Yeah, that’s what Kenny said last night.”
“I can’t believe I forgot to set the alarm.”
“I believe it.  You’ve got a lot on your mind.  You’ve got a friend in jail accused of murder and an unreliable car.”
“Forget the car.  What were you saying about Mari?”
“I was still wondering about Kenny but okay.  They found Mari on a bus headed for Gearhart, Oregon.”
“Did she have relatives there or something?”
“No.  She was actually headed for Peachtree, Georgia but she figured while she was on the road why not stop and see the beautiful Pacific Ocean.”
“Yeah, why not?”
“The answer to that would be if anyone knew her and knew she loved the ocean they wouldn’t have had much trouble tracking her down.  The area along the Oregon and Washington coast isn’t that big.”
“No kidding.  You talk to her yet?”
“No.  She’s smarter than Clement thought she was because as soon as she got back into town she got lawyered up.”
“You want me to try to talk to her?”
“You’re pretty smart too.  Even if you don’t know how to operate an alarm clock.”
“I can’t talk to her first thing this morning because I need to take care of some things in the office.  We’ve been getting some weird calls lately and I feel like I should see what’s going on.  I wasn’t in yesterday and Jeff was gone yesterday and, obviously, won’t be in today either.  Is Jeff coming in today?”
“Not unless Mari throws her lawyers out and starts singing.”
“Right.  So, no Jeff.”
“That sounds right.  How long will it take you to get everything sorted out at the office?”
“Everything?  Longer than both of us have left on Earth.  I can probably get a handle on these weird calls and put a couple of irons in the fire by noon.  You want me to meet you there?”
“Yeah, at noon.  When you say weird calls what do you mean?”
“Not creepy or harassing kind of weird.  People have been calling and asking for products we don’t sell.”
“You sell chicken strips.”
“Yeah, just the plain frozen breaded kind.”
“Sounds awful.”
“No, just boring.  We go to trade shows and sometimes the boss sends us out on good-will missions.”
“That’s where you were two days ago when you met the kid who explained what Mari was working on.”
“Right.  I went back there yesterday afternoon and had a long talk with the principal.”
“About the kids?”
“About them and I wanted to get her impression of Jeff.”
“She thinks he has a great capacity for mischief but would never do anything really bad.”
“Does she consider murder to be really bad?”
“I didn’t ask her but I got the feeling she would.”
“That was either brave or foolish of you.”
“What was?”
“Volunteering to go to the principal’s office.”
“Yeah, she’s good people.”
“That doesn’t sound like something you’d usually say.”
“You’re right.  It’s probably from spending so much time on the buses.”
“Blame it on the working poor.  I’ll see you at noon and you can explain about Kenny.”

Clement drained the day-old coffee into a large pitcher and dumped it down the sink before dismantling and washing the coffee urn.  He wrapped his index finger in a soapy paper towel and scrubbed inside each piece.  “Why the hell are these people calling and asking for things we don’t sell?”  He remembered how his mouth had watered when the woman described the sausages filled with chicken, green pepper and kalamata olives and Jeff saying, “I wish we did sell those.”  He rinsed the pieces and set them on a three-layer stack of paper towels to air-dry.  Opening the refrigerator, he found a can of Red Bull, which he took, and the last half of a tuna sandwich bearing impressions of the eater’s fingers , which he did not.  Sitting down at his desk, he popped the top on the can, set it on the upper left corner of the blotter, and pulled his Rolodex closer.
“Yeah, Mike?  This is Clement Powell.  Yeah, like you know a lot of other Clements.  You ever hear of sausages with chicken, green peppers and kalamata olives in them?  Who’d know about them?  Some woman called me and asked if I could track them down for her and she’ll pay me extra.  I dunno.  I think they sound good too.  Yeah, I’ll let you know if I find them.  Thanks.”
He flipped several cards forward.  “Eco Meats.  Who the hell is Eco Meats?  Must have been from a trade show.”  He continued to look through cards but kept coming back to Eco Meats.  He dialed.  “Yeah, you’re gonna think I’m crazy but I’m looking for some sausages made with chicken, green peppers and kalamata olives.  Do you have anything like that?  You do?  Oh, this is Clement Powell from Rockin’ Rooster.  Yeah, the plain breaded chicken strips.  How many to a package do the sausages come?  Really?  What else do you have?  With curry and apples?  Well, it doesn’t grab me but I’m more of a Nathan’s Finest guy.  Could you fax me over a price list?  No, I’ve got somebody calling me wanting to know if I can order them and she’ll pay me extra.  No, I’ve never thought about jumping ship.  No no, just send me the price list.  Yeah.  555-4166.  Got it?”  Clement hung up the phone and put a paper clip on the Rolodex card for Eco Meats.  Then he called the woman from King Foods and told her he was waiting on a price list and he’d be in touch and yes she was very welcome and no he hadn’t thought of selling the sausages himself instead of the chicken strips which weren’t very good.  She thanked him again, he hung up, he picked up the Red Bull, turned off the lights and went downtown to talk to Mari.