Yoharie: Inside (part three)
Yoharie put out a hand for the remote, and zapped the TV screen. Now he had a black mirror. He watched Hibbler, wasp-eyed in sunglasses, tug at a yellow shrub swallowing the garage corner. This tugging, Yoharie surmised, was disapproval. Hibbler interrogated the shrub, and it sat silent, flabby and ferny, grown too large for its spot.
Maybe the boys could give it a trim.
Hibbler came to the steps.
“How’s life, Jeremiah?” Yoharie called out.
Hibbler entered the porch, approached the bed. He was like a process server, trying to get close and make eye-contract; while the glasses stayed on, reflecting Yoharie’s eyes back to him.
“Good,” Hibbler said.
He took Beatty by the collar and hauled him outside, quiet at it. Mean.
“You don’t have to treat him like that. I like Beatty. I’ll sit with Beatty some time you’re making a trip.”
“Some time I’m making a trip.” Hibbler stood, legs apart. His hands were hooked in his belt. His repetition had been slow, insinuating. “Like to California?”
“Fuck knows. Wherever. Why you bugging me, man?”
“You feeling okay?”
Dawn, come back. Boys, get here. He could suddenly remember he had to call Giarma. She and Trevor were just down the street. But the question was only insulting. Yoharie allowed he’d been insulting first.
“I’m fine. I got company on the way.”
“Oh. Who is that?” Hibbler extracted his phone from a breast pocket. He woke it, typed in his password, backed a step and lifted his head, like he was going to enter whatever name Yoharie gave.
“Neither of them is here, in the house.”
“On my lonesome.”
“What’s going on in your basement?”
Before these words, Hibbler had given a dart, a sideways motion reined in, towards the sliding door that opened onto the kitchen. The door was always pushed well back.
“I got no problems, Jer,” Yoharie said at last. “I don’t need your help.”
“Mrs. Kennedy’s been having some. Problems. With a gang.”
Hibbler seemed to have thought of this improbable last, that second.
“How’s she know that?”
“Gang of dropouts,” Hibbler said. “They don’t live here. They stole… A basketball that belonged to her son.”
“That sounds like you couldn’t do anything about it. How much is a basketball worth?”
“Did you know there was a light on down there?”
Hibbler indicated again the inside of Yoharie’s house, another jerk of the head.
“Well, man, you better go look at my basement.”
Yoharie sighed back into his pillows.
The glasses, Hibbler had bought from a police supply website.
“Why, Jer?” In her way of not talking to him anymore, Kate had let this stew for five minutes. Then she was back at her office door. “A hundred-fifty dollars. Plus you had your stupid thing FedExed.”
This, too, grim and dry.
In the past he could have bought himself something; now, because he didn’t have a job, he was on probation, like twenty years of doing his part didn’t entitle him to his wife’s respect.
He heard her say, “Fucking pervert gear.”
It was bothersome the camera showed, right between the eyes, but most people didn’t know you could get these. Yoharie wouldn’t.
Yoharie, of course, had heard from the Russians, so he knew his time was up. Hostile from the get-go.
Before, he would’ve just said hi. He was trying to get Beatty over on his side. He knew Beatty was Savannah’s dog…was it because…?
The thought of his daughter sold into captivity made Hibbler halt the investigation here, at the basement stairs, want not to bother going down, but spin back and throttle the truth out of Yoharie.
They had said, though, on one of the shows, that a criminal always leaves evidence at the scene. It was a chain-of-custody thing. Or not quite. Disturbance was the word. Yoharie would get off, claiming Hibbler had planted…
He wondered why he hadn’t thought of planting anything.
The act would be righteous, not crooked. These people were kidnappers and white-slavers. Plant a shoe from Savannah’s room and call the police, let them find it. Damn.
The basement had a lino floor, louvered doors sectioning off the washer and dryer, a table with shopping that needed putting away, shelves where all the Costco paper towels and shit needed to go.
There was furniture, a dinette table and chairs, a headboard and footboard, bedrails, some plastic lawn stuff; this, and the shipping boxes that surrounded it, were grouped by a lettered sign lying on one purple plastic tub: Val’s.
A futon, pulled out for use, its ticking mattress, bright throw pillows velvet and satin, a chest of drawers painted turquoise and silvered, craftily, a standing wardrobe with an Ikea vibe, a woven rug in an Indian pattern…
These were organized as: Giarma’s.
Some pang clutched Hibbler’s heart. The thought that Savannah would love Giarma Yoharie’s taste.
(2021, Stephanie Foster)