Yoharie: Plumbing (part one)
Better to concentrate on the small things. Some item on the list you hadn’t checked off. Just get that. When the proofs were out of your control; when you had no approach to the ones who could tell the truth, who…
Who, if confronted with the right question, would have to tell the truth. Hibbler didn’t fault Yoharie, or Miss Orse. Nice people, just—his Mom might have said—lackadaisical. For a forty-six-year-old born in 1970, the formal address, the “Miss”, didn’t quite sit, but she deserved the reminder. He was getting more conviction about lone-wolfing it these days, when everyone else thought values were a joke.
“Last laugh’s gonna be yours,” Todwillow told him.
Rae’s side-smile, and: “Dad, don’t turn into a weirdo,” didn’t faze Hibbler. Kate had a lot to do with how his daughters would not respect him.
Todwillow said also that if Yoharie had ever been different, he’d have married Dawn. “What I mean is, you don’t believe in a sacred thing and then just decide one day, nah. Who cares? Or, at least…”
This happened in their talks, these pauses. Hibbler filled in: “He’s not a father who really…sets an example.”
“Figure it out.”
The question of who Valentine Yoharie’s friend was, was just a thread. A full-scale investigation got, had to, complicated. What they knew about Savannah, since Kate knew and was holding back, would take process, tracking down clues, plugging stuff in, asking the next question.
Hibbler had consulted the Yoharies’ trash. Only they had that camera doorbell…it couldn’t be coincidence his walks past their house were fruitless anymore. Mat, who wasn’t at home, had trash. What was that supposed to mean? But Hibbler consoled himself that kids Val’s age wouldn’t be note-writers, so a discarded paper was a longshot.
He had followed Val to the friend’s house. He was not a hundred percent on whether Val lived there, or still at home. This mattered—finding Savannah might mean accessing both places. Yoharie would let him in, and the tricky part was only what pretext he’d use to get past chatting on the porch, get inside…search the bedrooms upstairs, but most important, the basement. When he made his rounds at night, he saw a light on…the light had first come on about a week after his daughter’s disappearance.
Rae gave different stories (while his wife said: “Fuck’s sake, Jer, don’t bother Rae!); he couldn’t get it in his notes the exact day Savannah had gone. Then again, it had taken more than one pass by the Yoharies’ to recognize the light as a thing. When he went out at three am, a time you expected only security lights, Hibbler intended to jot down any others he saw burning in the neighborhood.
But process. First to know who the friend was, then look him up. Get Todwillow to use his database, if it came to it. One job at a time…
Hibbler’s mind went places; it was hard to stop.
“Savannah is safe. She’s okay. Rae knows where she is. You don’t have to do anything.” Kate had pinched his sleeve, not letting him leave the room. “I’d tell you if I could trust you. Come on, please, Jer!”
“No. You go ahead. Do whatever you want. It’s fine, Kate.”
He had walked out on her, then, with his dignity. Todwillow told him Savannah was in California, near L.A. Working for a man named Jeffrey Nelson. “He checks out. But you don’t need a record to be a perve.”
Armed so, Hibbler could question Kate, and Rae, and know if they lied. He wasn’t satisfied. His timeline had it…and this information was supplied by, witnessed by, Todwillow…May 13, 2016, Savannah Hibbler talking to Valentine Yoharie on the street, Enterprise, the next one over. Val seen walking with her, to the Hibbler residence on Tampico (Hibbler’s case notes were recorded with professional detachment); Val had left and returned to his own house on foot, at 4:24 pm, after a visit of forty-two minutes. Hibbler had himself seen his daughter for the last time between that day and the day she’d disappeared.
All his memory-jogging walk-throughs, his reviews of emails and news headlines, hadn’t fixed the final sight, or the final words any more firmly. So of course, she could have been in further touch with Val; she could have made phone plans with him, been inside the Yoharie house.
“Kid’s gay,” Todwillow had prompted…
But after all. First there was the friend. An old, numbered street close to downtown, specifically, 160 27th. And anyone else who might traffic around in that house, that neighborhood. On the true crime channel, Hibbler had seen…he thought…how gays could be, like, procurers… It was distasteful to him. He didn’t seek documentation, make any lengthy study of it…while Todwillow said, tapping temple: “Open eyes, Jer. You gotta know what these people do, if you’re gonna stop them.”
The tail he’d put on Val and the friend, Giarma and Trevor Royce, (himself) had led to an IMAX theater outside Hagerstown. But—new idea—a theater had to be rife with deals going down. All in the dark, and all that excitement on the screen… The meeting could have been arranged. Jeffrey Nelson sitting right there, handing over cash. Because of Beatty, Hibbler couldn’t stay. And even for letting ten minutes go by, for wasting money on a ticket, just so he could be sure they were really sitting there, one of those Cathlyn types was in the parking lot baby-talking Beatty through the window-crack.
“Oh! Look at you, Puppy Love, you’re so thirsty!”
She was pouring water out of a bottle, into Beatty’s mouth. Mostly onto the floor of Hibbler’s car.
(2021, Stephanie Foster)