JAY WALT WAS getting a coffee, cream and sugar, to go.
Ryan slid onto a stool between a couple of black girls with coats on, visitors, and hunched over the menu. He didn’t feel like talking to Jay Walt in the coffee shop of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, ninth floor: Jay Walt talked out loud wherever he was, even on an elevator. When Ryan was with him he’d feel people looking at them.
“Jesus Christ, hey, where you been? Move down one, honey, okay? You mind? Thank you, sweetheart.”
Ryan looked up at the beige leisure suit and trench coat over one arm-belt and rings and epaulets-and the alligator attaché case and the coffee to go with the plastic lid, all of it being wedged in against the counter, close to him.
“What’re you, so busy you don’t call your answering service anymore? I been trying to get you, two days I been calling. I figure you’re shacked up with some broad filed for divorce. Needs a little sympathy, huh? I know, don’t tell me, buddy, I been there.”
Jay Walt’s back filled and stretched the double-knit suit. The black girl next to him looked over. It was close in here, humid, the stools filled shoulder to shoulder.
“I figure you had some paper,” Ryan said, “no hurry. I was going to call you today or tomorrow. But I don’t think I can handle it right now.”
“Jesus, you eat in here?” Jay Walt pulled his tinted glasses off to look at the vapor forming.
“Not too often. Usually I’m downtown, I go around to the Hellas-”
“Eat that Greek shit?”
“-or the Athens.” Sounding like he was apologizing.
“I grab a cup,” Jay Walt said, “drink it in the car, make a few phone calls.”
“You got a phone in the Mark now?”
“Naw, new Cadillac Seville. It’s small, you know, but it’s okay. With the phone, shit, I could drive to Miami handle all my business I don’t have to do personally.” Jay Walt was peeling the lid off his coffee to go.
Ryan was hot in his raincoat. He ought to take it off. He looked past Jay Walt to get the waitress. Get something and get out. Jay Walt glistened. His styled hair, like a grayish ace cap, glistened with spray. His nose glistened, and his tinted wire-frame glasses glistened and reflected the overhead light. The waitress wouldn’t look this way. She’d made up her mind, nothing was going to make her look. He could get up and leave. He wasn’t sure why he’d come in here anyway, or why he’d come downtown. He hadn’t been downtown in a month. He hadn’t seen Jay Walt in about two months. He didn’t like fast-food counter places with slow service. Tell Jay Walt he’d changed his mind.
Christ, walk out if you want. You don’t have to explain anything.
Ryan said, “Well, I think I’m going to give up on getting served.”
“You want the waitress?”
“No, never mind.” The guy would probably yell at her to get her ass down here, then call her honey and sweetheart and give her a lot of bullshit with everybody listening. Ryan started to turn the stool to ease out of there. “I’ll call you later on, okay?”
“Wait a minute, sit still.” Jay Walt laid his hand on Ryan’s arm and left it there. “I got you, let me tell you what I want.”
“I’ll come by. I’d have to pick up the papers, anyway.” He’d do it, just to get out of here.
“It’s not papers. I want you to find a guy for me.”
Ryan could see it coming. A guy ran out on his car payments and took the car, disappeared. Something like that. He said, “What do you need me for? Call the police.”
“It’s not that kind of a thing,” Jay Walt said. “No paper, no summons, anything like that. I just want you to locate a guy for me. A Robert Leary, Jr. He’s probably around sixty. Say fifty-five to sixty-five. Find out where I can reach him and let me know. That’s all. You don’t have to hand the guy anything or even talk to him.”
“So he’s not in the phone book or the city directory.” Ryan turned back to the counter, but Jay Walt’s hand remained on his arm.
“A lot of people aren’t. But this guy, he doesn’t even have a credit record. Can you imagine that today, no credit record? Not even a rotten one. I put some of my guys on it, that’s as far as those shitheads could go, phone book and a credit check. It’s going to take a pro, I can see that. So who do I think of first, immediately?”
“What’d the guy do?”
“He didn’t do anything. There’s nothing illegal, it’s a business thing. Client of mine, guy I do business with, wants to find him. Why would you have to know anything about it? You understand?”
Jay Walt finally let go of Ryan’s arm. He took a sip of coffee and touched a napkin to his mouth. “Guarantee you a hundred and a half for three days. No, shit, say two days. You’re fast, the way you work. You don’t locate him in two days, you get paid anyway and we talk about it some more, see if there’s any point in continuing.”
“This client of yours-he pays the bills?”
“Sure he does, he’s looking for the guy, I’m not. I’m helping him out strictly as a favor.”
Ryan got out his notebook. “How do you spell his name? The guy I’m looking for.”
“Robert Leary. L-e-a-r-y. Junior. J-u-n-i-o-r.” Jay Walt glanced over to see if the girl next to him was listening, appreciating him. She was biting into a club sandwich, then wiped some mayonnaise from the corner of her mouth. “Last known address 146 Arden Park.”
Ryan looked at him with a question.
“I know,” Jay Walt said, “it’s all colored down there now, but it’s still a pretty good street-big houses, mansions. I think a lot of colored doctors must live there, or else it’s all whorehouses, I don’t know.”
Ryan was sure the girl was still listening. Dumb guy. That’s what it was, not his confidence, he was just dumb, he didn’t have any feelings. Ryan said, “When did Robert Leary, Jr., live there? How long ago?”
“Nineteen forty-one. It was still solid white then, a very classy address.”
“That was thirty-five years ago-you don’t have anything else? Something current?”
“Jackie, if I had something current I’d have called the guy up by now. This is why I’m talking to the pro, guaranteeing a hundred and a half.”
The “Jackie” stopped Ryan. Jay Walt was the only person he knew who ever called him that. Ryan didn’t consider himself a Jackie. It hooked him, Jay saying it in his loud voice.
“You want me to do it,” Ryan said, “it’ll be twenty bucks an hour. A hundred and a half gets you one day. But I’ll probably have to make some inquiries and they’ll have to be followed up the next day or maybe even the day after, so it looks to me like we’re talking about three hundred guaranteed. If that’s too steep for you, then put your shitheads back on it.”
Jay Walt was staring at him through his tinted glasses. “What’d I say?”
“You didn’t say anything.”
“All of a sudden, on the muscle.”
“I’m telling you the terms, my rate on something like this.” Ryan kept his voice low, calm but with a little edge to it. “Since you’re not paying, what do you care what I charge, right? Or do you have to get an okay?”
“I got a little flexibility in negotiating,” Jay Walt said. “Naturally. It’s pretty much up to me.”
“So maybe I’m low,” Ryan said, “and we should start over.”
“No, I think you did pretty good. You’re coming along, Jackie.”
“Also, a hundred and a half in advance,” Ryan said. “I don’t mean in ninety days, I mean before I do anything.”
“I’ll call the guy,” Jay Walt said, “have him mail you a check.” He hesitated. “No, wait a minute-”
“How about if I pick it up? Save him the trouble.”
“Well, actually, see, he doesn’t want to deal with too many people. This guy, he’s from out of town, doesn’t have a lot of time.” Jay Walt was thinking and talking at the same time.
Ryan saw it. “If he sends me a check, I’m going to know who he is, anyway. What’s his name?”
“Let’s keep it simple.” Jay Walt had his billfold out and his thoughts in order. “I give you the advance, you won’t have to worry about it anymore. We keep the deal simple, strictly between you and me.”
“Why don’t you want me to know who it is?”
Jay Walt was holding the billfold open, looking inside.
Ryan watched him. The girl was eating her sandwich, not paying any attention. “Hey, Jay? What’s the big secret? What’s it about?”
“You wouldn’t know the guy, anyway. He’s from out of town.”
“Then what’s the difference?”
“You want the hundred and a half or not?”
Ryan didn’t ask any more questions.
He got right on it, beginning with the Detroit City Directory for 1941. Then looked up the next few years.
Robert Leary, Jr., was not listed as a resident of 146 Arden Park in any of the volumes. Allen Anderson was the only name that appeared.
Next he visited the records section, Detroit Department of Health. Robert Leary, Jr., finally showed up. Born at Harper Hospital. Parents, Robert J. and Clara Anne. Date of birth…
Ryan paused, looking at the date. Right there-July 20, 1941-his job ceased to be routine. Or else somebody had made a mistake. Robert Leary, Jr., at least the one on record, was not sixty years old. He was thirty-five.
Board of Education records confirmed it. Robert Leary, Jr., had attended Cass Technical High School during the years 1957-58. There was no record of his having graduated.
At the Wayne County Clerk’s office Ryan found out that Robert Leary, Jr., and a Denise Leann Watson had been issued a marriage license August 11, 1973.
There was no Denise Leary or Watson listed in the telephone directory.
Ryan was in a phone booth in the lobby of the Detroit City-County Building. He called his friend Dick Speed and arranged to meet him at the Athens Bar on Monroe, around the corner from police headquarters.
In an hour, Dick Speed said.
That was fine with Ryan. It would give him a chance to look up probate court records and see if he could learn something about the Allen Anderson family, who were living at 146 Arden Park the year Robert Leary, Jr., was born. There was a connection, or else Leary wouldn’t have been listed with that address.
Ryan had another idea. Before he left the phone booth he called both the Detroit News and the Free Press and dictated an insertion for their personal columns in the classified section. Both for tomorrow’s editions.
He almost called Jay Walt, to tell him what he had learned so far, then decided no, don’t appear eager. Make it look easy.
Ryan and Dick Speed had gone to high school at the same time, Catholic Central. Both had played varsity football and baseball and American Legion ball. Both their dads had worked at Ford Highland Park. Ryan remembered Speed’s brush cut in ’62, the year he graduated from Western Michigan with a Phys. Ed. major. He had tried out as a free-agent defensive back with the Browns, Bengals, Redskins, and Lions and finally put in his application at the Detroit Police Academy. Ryan had thought he’d make the pros on his name alone, Christ, Dick Speed, six-one, two-ten; but Speed found out he couldn’t back-pedal worth a shit and those skinny black wide receivers would show him a hip and be on their way.
Dick Speed had hair now, layers of it, and choker beads and tight faded Levi’s and a.357 Mag that was almost as big as Clint Eastwood’s.
Sipping his Stroh’s in the Athens Bar, he told Ryan he was with Squad Six now-a special unit of the Criminal Investigation Division that handled drug-related homicides: a lot of execution-type killings where the guy was tied up and gagged and shot in the head.
“Like in the movies,” Ryan said.
“The movies, shit,” Dick Speed said. “I mean you can’t imagine the mess, a guy gets hit in the head. All over the wall, the floor. Jesus, it’s something.”
“You ever get sick?”
“No, I never did. These other guys, the old pros, they’d wait to see how you’re going to take it. But I never have been sick. Knock wood. Shit, knock Formica in this place.”
“I wanted to ask you if you could do me a favor.”
“The movies, listen, you want to see the real thing,” Dick Speed said, “I can arrange it, ride in the meat wagon sometime. Shit, you’d die.”
“Then what would I want to do it for?”
“Sunday morning early’s the best time. Come back to Receiving with the meat wagon, then stop by the morgue, see all the Saturday night hotshots, the good time they had.”
Ryan was polite and listened and made a few comments, but he wasn’t buying him beer to learn about dope-related executions or Sunday mornings at the morgue.
“Listen,” Ryan said, “I got to get over to Probate before it closes”-where he had just come from-“and I was wondering if you could do me a favor. Look and see if you got a sheet on a Robert Leary, Jr.”
“What’s he supposed to’ve done?”
“Nothing I know of,” Ryan said. “But if a guy’s hard to find, I was wondering maybe it’s because he’s got something to hide. Am I wrong?”
“There could be all kinds of reasons,” Dick Speed said. “Maybe he owes money, hasn’t paid his alimony. You sure this guy’s still around?”
“No, I’m not, but I started thinking-what if he’s in jail? I’m looking up all the records and he’s sitting there waiting.”
“You know something you’re not telling me?”
“No, it’s just a thought,” Ryan said. “Something I might’ve overlooked.”