“She was driving, Mr. Tomlinson.” Good God! She’s blaming herself. “The report listed distracted driving as the cause.” He paused for a moment, then continued when I didn’t interject again. “Ms. Perez stopped showing up for work after the accident and was terminated about four months after the accident. She had refused counseling, and the hospital had to let her go.” Another pause, then he continued, “In October of that year her home was repossessed by the bank. I was unable to find where she went next. About six months ago she surfaced at the Causeway Apartments. Suite Number 224. The “suites” are basically one room apartments paid weekly. The Causeway Apartments are in a seedy part of town.” Frank paused again. “Do you still want me to continue Mr. Tomlinson?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t feeling very well anymore.
“By the time she arrived there, she was addicted to heroin.” He paused again, then continued into my silence. “She earned money for her habit through prostitution.” He spoke the last sentence quickly and moved on. My hands were shaking. “She is currently two weeks in arrears for the apartment. Her belongings are now in storage on site, and no one knows her current location.” I wasn’t really prepared for this much. I now knew why she hated herself. I knew why she would never tell me everything. Fuck me! I still loved her. I had to find the out the rest.
“Frank, I really appreciate your discretion.” I paused while I collected my thoughts. “I just purchased a small boat to replace one Ms. Perez wrecked. Bob will have the owner information. I need to know what happened four nights ago when the boat was wrecked.”
“I can look into it, Mr. Tomlinson, but it’s my experience that these things never seem to get better.” He was a bit hesitant to continue. I think he sensed that I was more than just concerned.
“Just do it Frank. Double your normal rate and contact me only.” The rest of the world will just have to guess.
“It will take me a day or two. I’ll get back to you when I have something.” He was all business.
“Thank you Frank.” I hung up the phone. I wasn’t sure anymore about confronting Mia. There was a bit more pain than I was expecting. I wiped my eyes dry, put on a smile, and headed back to the house.
Mia was laughing with Bob when I entered. I caught a quick imitation of my expression attempting to swallow a vitamin on Mia’s face. New clothes, nice house, and normal conversation. She didn’t look like she belonged to her past anymore. I wasn’t looking forward to disturbing her new image. Wally saw me walking in.
“Thanks for the tour Dale.” He was all smiles.”I’ve got to get back to the grind. It takes everything I’ve got to keep that clinic going.” He patted Mia on the shoulder and headed toward the door. “I am so happy you’re doing so well.” Mia kissed his cheek and sent him on his way. As soon as the door closed her expression turned darker and she turned to me.
“Am I allowed to know what you two were talking about on the beach.” She had a determined look on her face, and I could sense a little fear behind it.
“Wally thinks it’s a bad idea that I’ve gotten so close to you.” I felt a little honesty would be best. I may keep things from her, but lying wasn’t a good option. She sighed.
“He’s right, you know. I’m not really a good person to get close to.” She looked at me with a sad expression.
“He wasn’t worried about me, he was worried about you. He was afraid I might change my mind and cause you to relapse.” I saw a shiver run up her spine, and a little fear appear in her eyes. I felt a little more honesty was necessary. I caught her eyes with mine. “I told him I was fully committed to you.” Mia dropped her guard and moved quickly into my arms.
“I don’t deserve you.” She was holding me very tight. I smiled inside knowing it was I who didn’t deserve her. I pissed on the world for so long that I should have died a lonely old man. I now saw a shared future. I had to get her to drop her past like she has gotten me to forget mine. I didn’t care who she used to be, I only cared who she was now.
“I have to go out and take care of some business this morning. Can I leave you alone for a few hours?” I smiled and gave her a quick kiss. She kissed me back a bit longer.
“I’m not going anywhere.” She was getting more comfortable with me. I could feel it in the way she caressed the back of my neck and the look in her eyes. God, I didn’t want to see her in tears again.
I grabbed my keys and drove the SUV downtown. The navigator was off by few blocks so I had to circle around a bit. “Seedy” was a nice way of describing this area. I finally found the Causeway Apartments. It looked more like an old run-down hotel. There was an old guy in a grey beard on the front stoop rocking back and forth. It looked like he had deteriorated with the structure.
I wasn’t confident that my vehicle was safe parked here, but I had no good options. I should have paid Frank to come with me. I parked as close as I could get, hopped out, and locked it twice. I walked up to the old man. “Is there a landlord here?”
“More like the land king.” He started laughing at his joke. I could smell his foul breath even though I was a good five feet away. “First door on the left. Can you spare some change?” He held a liver-spotted quivering hand. Screw it, I thought, at least he provided the information first. I reached into my pocket and loosened a ten by touch. I didn’t want to pull out a wad of bills on this street. I handed him the ten.
“Watch my car, will you?” I just nodded to him as I walked past.
“Ain’t no one gonna touch it Mister. Not with Freddy on the job.” He was smiling pretty well. I saw that he was missing about half his teeth. Surprisingly, there was double door entry way to the place. It smelled like stale alcohol, but it must help with the weather. I pushed through the second set and was met with another smell. Unwashed dog was the only thing that was close. I wrinkled my nose and knocked on Suite 101 on the left.
A man slightly bigger than me in a stained wife beater T-shirt answered the door. “What you want?” He sounded like he grew up on the street and was proud of it.
“I am here to bring Mia Perez’s account up to date and pick up her things.” I wasn’t sure I should have put it quite that way. I felt it may have come off a bit snobbish. He just smiled.
“She don’t pay with money asshole, and I ain’t interested in no blowjob from you.” I wasn’t prepared for that. The image of Mia on her knees before this piece of shit hit my brain like a ton of bricks. My fist shot forward before I had a chance to consider where I was. I connected with his face before he had a chance to drop his shitty grin. He dropped on his ass like a sack of potatoes, and blood started coming out of his nose. I had never hit anyone in my life before. My hand was in extreme pain. I struggled to ignore it. The landlord’s expression promised my impending death. He rose, keeping a careful eye on me.
I pulled my money clip out of my pocket. “My investigator has told me that Mia has stayed here for six months.” I started counting out bills and he slowed his rise. “I have no idea what one of these dumps cost.” I kept snapping more bills off the clip. He returned to his feet and took a half a step away from me. His nose was dripping blood on the floor. He didn’t seem bothered by the fact. “This is five thousand dollars that says she was a model tenant, an angel of virtue, and always current with the rent.” I handed him the money. He understood immediately.
“I’m sorry I insulted her, Sir.” He took the money from my hand slowly. “I mistaked the name for someone else. Where would you like Ms. Perez’s belongings?” Greed is a wonderful motivator.
“The black SUV up front.” I handed him another hundred. “Hire some help if you need to. Lose anything that looks like it might be related to drugs or her old profession.” He nodded his head.
“Bobby get out here! We gots work to do.” He was yelling back into the apartment. A younger carbon copy of the landlord appeared from around the corner.
“Damn, Pops! Who did your face?” He was eyeing me with suspicion.
“I ran into the door. We got to load Ms. Perez’s belongings into this gentleman’s SUV.” He was pointing at me. The son didn’t grasp the “gentleman” reference and started to speak.
“You mean that whor…” His father’s hand moved much quicker than mine ever could and slapped his son across the face.
“We don’t make disparaging comments about our best tenants.” The landlord smiled at me and handed his son the hundred. “Let’s get her stuff loaded.” Bobby moved off with renewed vigor after pocketing the hundred. I returned outside to Freddy guarding my car. He was leaned up against it like he owned it.
“Thank you Freddy.” I smiled at him and received a toothless grin in return. It took the father and son team fifteen minutes to load up the five boxes that made up Mia’s life. Bobby must have heard the whole story, because he apologized to me at first sighting. After the SUV was loaded, the landlord came up and indicated they were done.
“I removed some stuff you didn’t want to see.” He looked down toward me. He had a tissue stuffed his right nostril. “Everything else is there; we ain’t no thieves.” Honor among slime, I thought to myself.
“Thank you,” I said. I entered my vehicle and drove away. As soon as I was out of sight, I took a good look at my throbbing hand. It was beginning to bruise and was a bit stiff. I flexed it and figured there were no broken bones. I remembered the feeling when I saw the landlord fall on his ass. It felt good to defend Mia’s honor even though it was unwarranted. I conveniently forgot that I would be in the hospital if the landlord wasn’t so greedy. I drove home the victor.
I found the house empty when I returned. I panicked, kicking myself for leaving her alone. I ran to each room and checked the bathrooms. I grabbed my phone and was about to dial Monica when I spotted some black hair at the top of a lounger under the umbrella. I stopped to catch my breath and laughed to myself. That is exactly where I would be if I were her. I donned a set of swim trunks and headed down.
I found her sound asleep with her finger three chapters deep into The Hobbit. “My fantasy woman” was my only thought. I moved the umbrella to extend her shade time and pulled the other lounger close. I quietly lay on my side to watch her sleep. She was wearing one of the new swimsuits we bought yesterday. I wished it could have been the white bikini. This was a full suit that still revealed her curves. I loved those curves. I watched her chest go up and down slowly almost in time with the waves. My beach was so much better with her on it. It took only a few minutes before I nodded off.
I was awakened later by a soft set of lips kissing my hand. I open my eyes and was met by a quick kiss. “Whose face did this to your hand?” She was lightly caressing my now black and blue knuckles. It looked a lot worse than it felt. There was concern in her eyes. I was about to lie about how it happened. It would just be insulting; she knew why my hand was bruised.
“I don’t want to tell you right now.” I looked into her eyes and prayed she wouldn’t push. She shrugged her shoulders.
“Then I probably don’t want to know.” She grabbed my good hand and pulled up. “It needs some ice though.” She was leading me back to the house. She looked good in her suit. I was hanging back half a step watching her cute butt cheeks go up and down as she made the incline. She caught me out of the corner of her eye. “Stop watching my fat ass,” she said, smiling as she spun around, hiding her behind.
“Sexy butt, sexy breasts. I don’t care which way you walk.” I laughed as she began to blush. The way she filled out the suit, I wasn’t sure if I would prefer the bikini. She built an ice pack inside of a wet towel just like Grandma. I sat on a stool. She pulled up next to me and placed the ice pack across my knuckles. She held it there while she stroked my arm with her other hand. I felt a tremor in her hand as she caressed my arm. I looked up and realized she was putting things together. Her eyes were beginning to water.
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