Authors: Mark Shepherd
Presto snorted back, suggesting he didn't fully believe Paul.
"You just wait, buddy boy, they'll be after you again. Watch your ass a little more carefully. Use middlemen from now on. Get out of the line of fire."
They stopped at Houston and Main, a stone's throw away from Dealy Plaza, where Kennedy was assassinated. Tourists were swarming over it as usual, with the usual amateur sleuths looking for clues that several million other sleuths had somehow managed to overlook in the past thirty years. Presto glanced over toward the slow curve of Elm, under the County Annex building, where Oswald allegedly shot the president. Standing here with his guilty, yet unconvicted, felon felt somehow appropriate.
"Would you look at that," Presto said, shaking his head. "This ain't no place to be doin' that."
Paul looked over to what Presto saw. What appeared to be an old black man and his son were walking toward the Annex Building, smoking crack in a glass pipe. Paul looked away.
"So where'd you park that Beamer, Bendis?" Presto said after crossing Main. The dealer had a deep, raspy voice that added years to his apparent youth. Paul was running today, and he had happened to see an empty meter a few blocks from the courthouse. The usually skeptical lawyer had taken this as a sign that good things would happen to him all day.
"Down here on Commerce . . . yeah, there it is," he said. The new BMW had less than a thousand miles on it, but already it was an old friend. It had tinted windows that allowed him to do all sorts of secret things inside it. He was considering doing one of those things right now.
He frowned at the white glob of pigeon drop ornamenting the windshield, then climbed into the Beamer, glad to be out of the Dallas sun. Bendis loosened his tie as the car revved, and started the air conditioner, which cooled them off after the initial furnace blast from the vents.
Presto crouched into the tight space, his knees up to his chest, an angular, middle-class skeleton trying to look comfortable on leather upholstery.
"You got yourself a new one, didn't you?" Presto said, sniffing the car's new air.
Paul didn't answer him. He reached over and opened the glove compartment, looking for the brown bottle and minispoon.
First things first,
the lawyer thought as he sniffed two heaps of the white powder, one up each nostril. Then the sun rose on his afternoon, giving everything a pink tint. For the first time that day, he felt alive. The coffee he had for breakfast had done little to revive him, and as a general policy he didn't go into court coked up. It looked bad. Also, if he started doing that, he might become an addict and have to stop altogether and start going to those twice-damned Cocaine and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and he was damned if he was going to let a harmless little powder take over his life when he had so much going for him and was raking in three hundred grand a year from clients. Like. Presto.
His thoughts racing, heart pounding beneath his rib cage, he consciously slowed down his breathing. That was one side effect he didn't like from coke—sometimes it kick-started the old kicker a little too hard.
That will pass soon enough.
He knew not to ask Presto if he wanted any. Presto didn't do coke. Or drink. Or smoke. Or even drink coffee. The man was an absolute health nut, eating acidophilus and psyllium husk pills like candy, along with dark green veggies, beta carotene, vitamin E, a walking "special foods" pharmacy. Privately, Paul thought he was a little nuts, but then almost all the dealers he'd ever represented avoided their own product. At least, the successful ones.
The cellular phone on the floor between them chirped, an annoying sound that, for some reason, he didn't find so annoying right now.
"Yeah, what is it?" Paul said.
"Oh, Paul," Yanni, his wife said, an edge of hysteria cutting through his euphoria. "Oh Paul oh Paul oh Paul . . ."
Paul grimaced, and forced calm into his voice, genuinely annoyed. "Yes, dear. What's wrong?"
His reply was not so much a question as it was an acceptance that he would have to listen to his wife for five or more minutes describe a completely mindless problem that had no hope of being solved. She did this only when he was in his car, never at his office when the call was relatively cheap. Half his carphone bill could be attributed to Yanni describing, in minute detail, how the clothes dryer killed the cat by slow-cooking it over a seventy-minute cycle, or how the paperboy came by and demanded payment in coke, or any number of situations a moron with an IQ of fifty could deal with. But not his wife. Not Yanni.
Since getting angry tended to multiply the length of the conversation by a factor of five, Paul tried to sound understanding. There was always the "whoops, I drove out of range" explanation for hanging up.
He listened to her sob for ten seconds, then sat up straight.
There might be something to this after all.
"The police called," Yanni said, finally. "Daryl's in trouble."
Which can mean anything,
he thought, biting his tongue. "Could you be a little more . . . specific?"
"The police called and said they were questioning him about some murders."
Oh, good God,
Paul thought, getting angry.
That little worthless juvenile delinquent of a son would have to go and screw up like this.
"When did this happen?" Paul asked patiently.
"Last night, or this morning. Oh, I just don't
They want one of us to go over there, right now, and pick him up."
Paul groaned, his patience slipping. "Go
"You don't have to shout!" Yanni shouted. "The phone works perfectly."
"I wasn't shouting," Paul replied. "Why don't you start from the beginning?" he said calmly, thinking,
before I defy the laws of physics and strangle you over the phone.
"The police called from the Winton house. They are questioning
about some murders over there.
Paul rubbed his forehead.
"What was he doing over there, for crissakes?" He had to think a moment.
Where did that kid say he was going last night? Wasn't it over to Adam's house and study trig or some bs?
"How am I supposed to know? He talked to you. He doesn't tell
Is that exactly what the police said: murder?"
"Ummmm," Yanni articulated. "Well, no. Deaths. Isn't that the same thing?"
Paul shook his head, glanced over at Presto, who was staring out the window.
"No. It isn't," Paul said.
"Well, anyway, they said they found several bodies over there."
"Is Daryl under arrest?"
"Well, no. I don't think so."
"Did you talk to Daryl?"
he doesn't talk to me. No, I didn't."
"Give me their number."
He wasn't about to go over there in person. Cops, even homicide, had a way of knowing when one was on coke, even when there were absolutely no physical signs. But he couldn't just drop this, which was his first impulse: if Daryl was under arrest, the boy needed to be told to keep his filthy mouth shut until he sent someone from the law firm over to deal with it. If he blurted some kind of made-up confession, it could cost thousands of dollars and months of court time, which he didn't have right now to spend.
Yanni gave him the number, and Paul promptly hung up.
"What was that about murders?" Presto asked casually.
"Nothing." Paul grunted. "My wife doesn't know what she's talking about."
Paul called the Winton number. A male voice answered.
"Winton residence. Officer Demaret speaking."
Paul cleared his throat. "This is Paul Bendis. Daryl's father. What's going on over there?"
A pause, as the officer conferred with someone else, then, "It would be better if you just came over, Mr. Bendis. This is a serious situation."
"Well, that's kind of hard to do right now. I'm in a traffic jam and I have an appointment with a client in . . ." he glanced at his watch, "one hour." The latter half of the excuse was true.
"I see. Well, your son Daryl called the police this afternoon after finding his friends dead. There was some kind of all-night party, according to the neighbors."
"Dead. How did they die?"
Another long pause. "I think it would just be better—" the officer began.
"I told you, I can't make it right now. Is your superior officer there? May I speak with him?"
Moments later, another, older voice came on the line. "This is Detective Roach. Is this Daryl's father?"
"Yes, it is," Paul said, feeling his patience slipping away again. "Is my son charged with anything?"
"Mr. Bendis, this looks like an overdose. Your son could be very—"
"Is he charged with anything?" Paul cut in, and immediately regretted it. For a second there he forgot who he was talking to.
"Well, no. Daryl Bendis isn't charged with anything," the detective said, adding, "
. We're still searching the house."
"You are, are you?" Paul said. He almost asked if they had a warrant, but thought better.
Just get Daryl out of there. The Wintons can clean up their own mess.
"Well, let me know if you find anything. I'll be there as soon as I can."
, Mr. Bendis. Say, are you the attorney Paul Bendis?"
"Well, yes I am. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing. We will—"
"I have to go now. I'm on a carphone, and the signal is getting a little . . ."
Paul hung up.
"Damn," he muttered at the windshield.
"What is it?" Presto asked.
Paul waved the question away, released the parking brake, and eased the Beamer into downtown traffic. "It's just a bunch of kids who don't know how to handle their drugs yet. My next client may be my own son."
Paul pulled onto 35E, dodging traffic, heading to Presto's house.
"Sounded serious. Your son okay?"
Paul looked up from the traffic. "What?"
"Your son. Is he okay?" Presto said with a strange, indecipherable expression.
"Hell, I guess so. He's not charged with anything," Paul said, turning his attention back to the evening rush-hour traffic.
Adam McDaris hung up the phone in the Yaz's back office, for the first time realizing just how far apart he and his friend Daryl had gotten in just the past month.
Last summer was nothing like this,
He couldn't even think,
first angry, then depressed over how screwed-up Daryl sounded.
He picked up the phone and almost called back, but thought,
it would be a waste.
Besides, there were customers out front, with only one bartender besides himself working today. Adam sat at a brown pressboard desk strewn with accounting pads and a mountain of cash register tapes, wishing he could do something about his friend, but having the presence of mind to know he probably couldn't.
The traffic at the Yaz on a Monday afternoon tended to be unpredictable and varied, even in downtown Dallas, Texas. The juice bar opened only six months ago, but already a tight group of regulars had begun to frequent the place.
The Yaz began as a liquor bar, but as more and more bars sprang up throughout the scenic West End District, business began to dwindle. The owner, a second-generation Korean-American named Jimmy, decided to experiment with the after-hours/underage crowd. And business exploded.
The Marketplace shopping mall, an old four-story brick building that once housed the Sunshine Cookie and Cracker factory, was already a haven for youth. The lower level housed a video/pinball arcade that looked like a carnival, boasting life-sized Western dummies in the laser shoot, elaborate holographic games, miniature bowling, foosball, and dozens of other ways to get rid of quarters on a Saturday afternoon. Upstairs was a miniature golf course next to a bar and restaurant, a cartoon art gallery, several fast-food eateries, an airbrush t-shirt shop, a Western shop, and an Irish shop. All set in a rustic atmosphere of wooden floors, restored oak beams and skylights, original equipment of the old structure, with no concrete, chrome, or stainless steel. Part of its appeal was that it didn't look like a modern mall; the building itself was an antique.
Which didn't explain its appeal to youngsters; perhaps it was just that it was different, particularly with the elaborate arcade. At any rate, Adam thought, it was a perfect location for the Yaz, whose time had certainly come.
He started working on the weekends last January, when it reopened as an after-hours. At first business was slow, but as word got around, the place developed a reputation as an alternative watering hole, where ID's were not needed and the latest in Techno and Industrial music played into the late hours of the morning. The money was good and the crowd not too overbearing, even the drunk ones who came in after two in the morning—with one or two exceptions. It was better than working fast food; here you didn't get burned with hot grease or have fingers removed by roast-beef slicers. In the nightclublike atmosphere, Adam felt a little more sophisticated and mature, more so than he would if he were flipping burgers and wearing a paper hat.
When Adam applied for work, Jimmy hired him right away. Now that the place was fashionable, there were two file drawers of applications, but Jimmy was about to throw them all out. The owner was particularly pleased with Adam, especially when the boy explained how his friends hated to pay two dollars for a soft drink but wouldn't mind so much a higher door cover: the change in pricing increased the profits by 25%, foot traffic by 50%. At the time Adam had just been looking for a place to work so he could make payments on his Geo Metro and the insurance that went along with it. The job ended up heightening his popularity with just about everyone.
The Yaz even found unpredictable but fairly steady profits by opening up early in the afternoon. The only stipulation required by Marketplace management was that they saved the loud, high-energy Industrial music for later hours. No problem. With a subtle changes in lighting and music, the Yaz was a laid-back cafe, specializing in exotic coffees and espresso. Adam was allergic to caffeine, but had no trouble preparing and serving the dark brews, as long as he didn't
any of it.