THEY MET IN the cafeteria of the old Casino on Belle Isle in the Detroit River, a big yellow-brick pavilion from 1910 that had been recently cleaned of grime and graffiti, a warm place on a cold spring morning for people living on pensions and social security. Ryan liked to come here.
The three of them, Ryan, Denise, and Mr. Perez, sat with their coffee by the French windows, looking out at the river and the freighters and the green shoreline of Canada across the stream, taking their time getting to it. There was no hurry. It would be done now.
“I was over in Windsor this morning,” Mr. Perez said, “my first visit to Canada. I had to pick up Raymond’s things. Boy traveled light, he didn’t have too much with him.”
“Why?” Denise said.
Mr. Perez turned from the window. “Why what?”
“Why are you bothering with his things?”
“It’s no bother. I’ll take them to his family sometime, his mama and daddy. There might be something personal they’d want to keep.”
“Maybe his shotgun,” Ryan said.
Mr. Perez stirred his coffee. “You don’t find people like Raymond every day.”
“Thank God,” Denise said.
“Most always cheerful, had a good disposition,” Mr. Perez continued. “Boy liked to eat, too, I’ll tell you.”
“It sounds like you’re gonna miss him,” Ryan said.
“You bet your life I am. Till I find somebody else as good and easy to get along with.”
“Then you’re still in business,” Denise said.
Mr. Perez gave her a surprised look. “Isn’t that why we’re sitting here? You called me, honey, I didn’t call you. I must have something you want.”
Ryan said, “You get all your stuff back?”
“You were there, weren’t you?” Mr. Perez said. “You saw the police take it?”
“I wondered if you claimed it yet. Or had the nerve.”
“The nerve?” Mr. Perez smiled. “That’s what it’s all about. How you stand up and pull it off, keeping a straight face. Getting my property back may take me a little time and a trip to the courthouse, but I’ll get it back, don’t worry about that.”
“You owe me a dollar,” Denise said.
“Yes, I do, don’t I?” He smiled again, digging out a wad of bills and handing her one. “I’ve got a feeling we can quit bullshitting each other and put it on the table, the three of us here. How’s that sound to you?”
Denise smiled back at him. “As you say, that’s what it’s all about.”
“You’re a good one. I hope you see through this fella before too long.”
“Be nice,” Denise said. “Remember, it’s no-more-bullshit time.”
“So as we look at it, we see that you need me and I need you,” Mr. Perez said. “And since neither one of us is gonna bend and we’re sick and tired of wasting time, why don’t we meet right here”-touching the center of the table with his finger-“and split it down the middle? Fifty-fifty.”
“You do have a lot of time in this,” Ryan said.
Mr. Perez nodded. “More than I’ve ever spent before on a case.”
“A case, huh?”
“Whatever you want to call it.”
“Okay, for your time, as a finder’s fee,” Ryan said, “Mrs. Leary’ll give you ten thousand. How does that sound?”
Mr. Perez shook his head slowly and seemed tired. He said, “Come on,” and looked at Denise. “Fifty-fifty. You get roughly, no, not so roughly, seventy-five thousand dollars for signing a paper. How long would it take you to make that working at the A&P?”
“Tell him,” Denise said.
Ryan had let Mr. Perez talk because he wanted the man to have his hopes up reasonably high when he let him have it.
“Denver Pacific,” Ryan said.
Mr. Perez looked at him. “What?”
“Denver Pacific. That’s the stock. Fifteen hundred shares.”
“How’d you find out? The niggers?”
“What difference does it make?”
“I suppose,” Mr. Perez said. “Well, as I told you, if I strike out, I don’t stamp my feet and carry on. I say thank you very much and go on to the next one.”
“Mrs. Leary means it about the ten thousand finder’s fee,” Ryan said. “After all, if you hadn’t come along…”
Mr. Perez nodded, thoughtful, somewhere far away. “That’s very generous of Miz Leary.”
“It’s nothing,” Denise said.
Ryan said, “I suppose it took you a little time to work up that list of prospects. You got a duplicate at home?”
“Unfortunately,” Mr. Perez said, “I carry my office with me. Everything. But I’ll get my papers back, don’t worry about that.”
“It could be months before you get a court date,” Ryan said. “And then you’ve got to hope for a favorable decision.” He waited a moment. “What would your list of prospects be worth to you right now?”
He was taking the Xeroxed sheets, folded once, out of his inside coat pocket. Mr. Perez, sitting very still, was watching Ryan’s hands, seeing the list of corporations and names of lost stockholders unfolded and turned toward him so that he could see the list clearly and identify it and know exactly what it was.
“Would you say twenty thousand?” Ryan asked.
Mr. Perez did not hesitate, though he said it quietly. “More like ten thousand.”
“Tell you the truth, that’s what I had in mind,” Ryan said. He dropped the sheets on the table, in front of Mr. Perez. “Mrs. Leary owes you ten; you buy these, you owe me ten-that makes us even, doesn’t it?”
Ryan and Denise got up from the table. Going past Mr. Perez, Ryan’s hand touched the man’s shoulder. He said, “Mr. Perez, it was nice doing business with you.”
Outside, going through the archway and down the sweep of steps, Denise said, “I don’t know why, but seeing him sitting there, I felt sorry for him.”
“I don’t know why, either,” Ryan said. “You see him this afternoon, he’ll be eating somebody up.”
They reached the car that was angle-parked at the curb, facing the casino.
It came from behind them, from Mr. Perez standing in the arch of the front entrance. They turned to see him and watched him raise his hand holding the sheets of paper.
“Wonder if you’d like to find some people for me.”
Ryan held the door handle, his thumb on the button. It was a funny feeling, knowing he could walk back to the man standing there with his list of names, knowing the man would pay him whatever he asked and never mention Denise or Raymond or Virgil. Ryan opened the door and got in the car.
Driving away, Denise said, “For a moment I thought you were going to take him up on it.”
Ryan looked over at her and smiled and shook his head, but he didn’t say anything.