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25

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 Raymonds things. Boy traveled light, he didnt have too much with him.

Why? Denise said.

Mr. Perez turned from the window. Why what?

Why are you bothering with his things?

Its no bother. Ill take them to his family sometime, his mama and daddy. There might be something personal theyd want to keep.

Maybe his shotgun, Ryan said.

Mr. Perez stirred his coffee. You dont 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, Ill tell you.

It sounds like youre 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 youre still in business, Denise said.

Mr. Perez gave her a surprised look. Isnt that why were sitting here? You called me, honey, I didnt call you. I must have something you want.

Ryan said, You get all your stuff back?

You were there, werent 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. Thats what its 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 Ill get it back, dont worry about that.

You owe me a dollar, Denise said.

Yes, I do, dont I? He smiled again, digging out a wad of bills and handing her one. Ive got a feeling we can quit bullshitting each other and put it on the table, the three of us here. Hows that sound to you?

Denise smiled back at him. As you say, thats what its all about.

Youre a good one. I hope you see through this fella before too long.

Be nice, Denise said. Remember, its 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 were sick and tired of wasting time, why dont 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 Ive ever spent before on a case.

A case, huh?

Whatever you want to call it.

Okay, for your time, as a finders fee, Ryan said, Mrs. Learyll 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. Thats the stock. Fifteen hundred shares.

Howd 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 dont 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 finders fee, Ryan said. After all, if you hadnt come along

Mr. Perez nodded, thoughtful, somewhere far away. Thats very generous of Miz Leary.

Its 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 Ill get my papers back, dont worry about that.

It could be months before you get a court date, Ryan said. And then youve 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 Ryans 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, thats 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, doesnt it?

Ryan and Denise got up from the table. Going past Mr. Perez, Ryans hand touched the mans 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 dont know why, but seeing him sitting there, I felt sorry for him.

I dont know why, either, Ryan said. You see him this afternoon, hell be eating somebody up.

They reached the car that was angle-parked at the curb, facing the casino.

Mr. Ryan

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 youd 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 didnt say anything.


| Unknown Man #89 |