Yoharie: Plumbing (part two)
So, the IMAX jaunt…in a world of scant rewards, Hibbler could pat himself on the back for having figured it…had let him refine the list. He cased from his car, got hot, walked Beatty to a tree island and let him shit, saw (opportunely, when he was just in his seat again, unscrewing the cap on a Pepsi) his suspects leave the theater, drive around the shopping center. He followed. They parked for a while outside an Applebees, left, got on the highway, slowed for an Outback Steakhouse…
Got blared at, sped on, made the light. Hibbler didn’t.
His read on the gestures between front seat and back, was that Giarma Yoharie was nixing every choice. Back on their tail, he watched her shrug strongly; finally the car pulled up to a restaurant looking like a chain, not quite fast food. Repurposed, but familiar…
A Red Lobster.
It called itself now, scripted-something, on top of block-lettered BISTECCA. Italian. Smelled like the char of steak. Man! But he was stuck with this surveillance. He saw the landscaping was shabby, and only a few cars were in the lot.
And this was what suited Giarma. Hibbler didn’t laugh as much as he wanted to, her bossing it over Trevor. He was nagged. It came to him…he had told himself Red Lobster without remembering, not at first.
On the drive home Hibbler thought, why wouldn’t I knock at the door?
Father of two, missing since Thursday…
Two semis crowded his lane. In a rough tandem, they gunned for an exit, forcing him to the shoulder. His mind left places where his body might be found, the underpasses and dumpsters his saturated imagination had flashed, red-hued, dit-ditted along the bottom of the screen with statistical info in typewriter font…
And filled with a blankness, panic shooting down his arms. Hibbler felt it snatch him in the gut, a problem lately. Panic attacks.
But…they were a kind of disability?
Pros and cons came to him, of having something you could say you had, so people (Kate) would stop harassing you over getting a job. He made himself concentrate. Go to 160, knock. Armed. Let whoever answers see. Say, like a pro: I’m trying to establish the whereabouts of a Valentine Yoharie…
Thin build, probably under 5’7”, blond hair. Eyes…
Failure, here. Hibbler thought of Val and wasn’t sure. Anyway, he could learn what kind of house it was—whether the door would be answered at all, whether by some twitchy type with bloodshot eyes, who’d put his face out, and keep the interior hidden…
Hibbler parked in a garage, a documenting of his movements. But forget Todwillow; he could see good in proof as well as bad, a ticket to verifty your whereabouts. He scanned the neighborhood from a bus shelter. He had bought a coffee and three Egg McMuffins. He ate and sipped, savoring, not making mental notes.
A bus arrived, and Hibbler thought, why not? Get around town a little, get an idea what kind of people are walking distance from this crack house. He liked saying it, though the friend’s house was neat-kept, had porch geraniums, and the one at the corner had a brick patio with tables, a half-circle wrought iron fence, a woman in a tie-on smock nursing a cigarette butt…
Not a café, though…a something or other…
Zodiaque, it said. What could that mean?
He turned his head while the bus glided by. He lost his equilibrium a little, and made eye contact with a woman behind him.
“What’s that place, you know? I thought the sign said Zodiac?” He found he was embarrassed to pronounce any French spin on this.
“Saj parlor,” she said, or seemed to.
Hibbler fell broodingly back in his seat. They couldn’t have a place like that right downtown. There was a church, had been, sitting cattycorner to it. When the bus stopped, and the woman rose, saying to him, “Take care”, he flushed—convinced she believed he’d been looking for a massage parlor.
“Where you riding to?” the bus driver asked.
Hibbler heard; he left the question in the background, while asking himself a similar one. Buses…he didn’t ride them. There was not a lot to these downtown streets; you got off, crossed at the light, waited for one going back where you came…
The fare was almost nothing, but Hibbler didn’t carry that kind of small cash.
“Hmm, hmm,” the driver said. “You know you got your phone, you can buy a pass anytime. Right there in your seat.”
“Wait…” Hibbler didn’t, but nearly did, say, “Are you talking to me?”
It was a comedian thing, from the talk shows, a bit they did…he thought a movie quote. He could picture the manner and accent so strongly, he feared he could not say the words straight.
“I forget,” the driver smiled, pulling to a stop. “I’m supposed to give that little spiel about the app.”
Bothered, Hibbler left his seat, moved forward.
The driver said, “No, sir. Exit at the rear.”
Why? No one was getting on. Angry, bothered further, in a way slowly gelling, Hibbler mastered an impulse to refuse, turned in silence, and via the rear door, did a clumsy jog onto the walk. Someone laughed.
His mind shot the image of Val Yoharie’s friend. What street was this again, intersected by 27th? It was Giles Ave. Now he was walking. He had only been on the bus for ten minutes.
(2021, Stephanie Foster)