Raylan saw them as soon as he came around the side of the house past the garage: Bobby the gardener and a black guy sitting at the table on the patio, their shirts off, getting some sun and reading the newspaper. Both of them holding open sections of the paper, reading away.
It took Raylan all of a moment to realize they knew he’d come back and were putting on this show for him.
There were sections of the paper and a white shirt on the glass-top table; but not lying flat, Raylan noticed, something under there. Maybe their gardening shears, or the machete the guy had the other day.
“I see you got yourself some help,” Raylan said to Bobby Deo. “What you need for this job is a crew.”
Both of them had looked up and were watching him now, coming across the patio.
“I noticed your car in the garage, figured you were around somewhere. You taking a break?”
The one he knew was Bobby Deo had on his good pants again and his reptile wing tips, shiny clean. The other guy was wearing cream-colored pants and sandals.
Bobby Deo said, “Yeah, we resting.”
“I don’t blame you,” Raylan said, taking time to squint at the sky and reset his hat on his eyes. Looking out at the scraggly date palms and sea grape lining the property he said, “What I don’t understand is why you’re doing this instead of your collection work.”
He turned now to face them.
“There’s a lot more money in getting deadbeats to pay up, isn’t there?”
Bobby didn’t answer. The two of them sat there staring at him.
Raylan said, “You’d like me to get to the point here, wouldn’t you?”
The guy still didn’t answer.
“Okay, maybe you can help me out. I understand you do collection work for a friend of mine, Harry Arno. Is that right?” Raylan waited, watching the guy making up his mind.
Finally Bobby said, “Sometimes.”
“I’m told you worked for him last week.”
“Where you hear that?”
“From another friend of Harry’s. He told this friend you made a collection for him and he was suppose to meet you in Delray Beach. Harry waited and called this friend when you didn’t show up.”
Bobby said, “You heard that, huh? Who told you I was here?”
“Your buddy Santo.”
“Yeah? How do you know to ask him?”
Time to identify himself.
Raylan held open a leather case to show his star and I.D. “It’s what I do, find people, fugitives on the run. I’m United States Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, Bobby. I do the same thing you used to do, only, I bet, for a lot less money.” Raylan put on a slight grin, showing he thought it was funny they had this in common.
Bobby didn’t grin back.
“Let me ask you something,” Raylan said. “When you track down a guy who skipped, he ever offer you money to leave him alone?”
“That what you want?”
“Wait now,” Raylan said. “You think I’m looking for a payoff?”
“What it sounds like.”
“For what? Not ask you questions?”
“All I asked was if a fugitive ever offered you money.”
“More than you’d make bringing him in.”
“You ever take it?”
Bobby shook his head.
“I wouldn’t do it.”
“You mean it would get around and you’d be out of business,” Raylan said, “which you are now anyway. No more skip tracing since that fall you took. Or, you’re saying you wouldn’t do it ‘cause you’re a straight shooter. I believe that, Bobby. So tell me how come you didn’t meet Harry in Delray last Friday, one o’clock?”
“Something came up, I couldn’t be there.”
“But you’d made the collection.”
“No, I told Harry the guy can’t pay him.”
“The guy,” Raylan said. “You mean Warren Ganz.”
Bobby shrugged and Louis spoke up.
“You see that sign out front where you drive in, say ‘keep out’? That means you, man. This is private property, so leave.”
Raylan turned to him. “Who am I talking to?”
“You talking to me. Who you think you talking to?”
Raylan said, “You want to get in this? Tell me who you are and what you’re doing here with this guy. Couple of gardeners-you put your good clothes on to clear brush. Sit here for my benefit like you’re taking a break? If you’re not working here then you must be trespassing. So I’ll have to cuff you and take you in.”
“I live here,” Louis said.
“Maybe I’ll take you in anyway.”
“For what?” Louis sounding surprised now. “Man, I’m the caretaker. He’s staying while he does the work and I help him out some.”
“What’s your name?”
“You putting me on?”
“It’s my name. You want me to spell it for you?”
“Where’s Warren Ganz?”
“Down in the Keys someplace, been gone all week.”
“When’s he coming back?”
“Didn’t tell me.”
Now Bobby said, “When I came here to collect, he was leaving. He said go see his mother, she’d pay me. So I go see her at the home-”
“They’re talking,” Louis said, “Bobby tells her he’s a gardener and she hires him to clean the place up.”
“Yes, but first,” Bobby said, “she tell me no, she won’t pay the debt, even for her own son. So I call Harry, I say maybe if you try-you the one her son owes-you can get her to pay you. He say to meet him and we can talk about it. But I never went there.”
Like they were getting their stories straight.
Raylan said, “You told Harry about the mother?”
“I did. Told him how she is, how you don’t know what she’s talking about sometime. Like when I go to get paid for my work.”
Bobby shook his head, resigned, before looking up at Raylan with sort of a frown, interested.
“You went to see her the other night, didn’t you?”
“I spoke to her,” Raylan said.
“Yeah? How was she?”
“Older than she looks,” Raylan said. “We talked.”
“About what, her piano? Then you talk to a nurse and she tell you the old woman don’t have a piano? You ask about her son, the nurse tells you he never comes to visit? Then you come back here and sneak around look in the windows?”
“Woke me up,” Louis said. “I almost call the police, tell ‘em there’s a prowler, man could be armed and dangerous, so shoot the motherfucker on sight. You mean that was you?”
Louis waited until Raylan, giving them a look but no last words, walked off around the corner, back the way he’d come, before Louis said to Bobby, “Hold up your hand.”
“Man, put your hand up in the air.”
Bobby raised his right hand above his head and Louis came out of his chair to reach over and slap the hand saying, “Yeaaah, we done it, man. The dude’s gone off scratching his head wondering what happen to him.”
Bobby smiled, not giving it much.
Still, it was the first time Louis could recall ever seeing the man smile, Louis smiling with him, sitting down again. He said, “There’s no way the dude can say any different than what we told him. You see a way?” He pushed the newspapers off the table and picked up the shotgun he’d laid there underneath, with the machete. Then looked at Bobby again. “Do you?”
“Do I what?”
“See how the man can believe anything but what we told him?”
“I don’t know what he believes,” Bobby said. “I have to think about it. The first time, he act like a cop trying to be a nice guy. Now we know he’s a cop, so he don’t have to act nice.” Bobby speaking with a thoughtful tone. “Comes here looking for Harry… Why would they send a U.S. marshal, a federal cop?”
“Nobody sent him,” Louis said. “Didn’t you hear the man say he’s a friend of Harry’s? Hasn’t seen him in a few days, so he ask around, follows some leads, decides to check on people owe Harry money. See if they’ve seen him, that’s all.” Louis looked toward the house and raised his voice to say, “Hey, you suppose to be down in the Keys.”
Bobby turned to see Chip in the sunroom, watching them through a pane of glass. He said, “Leave him in there.”
“Scared to come out,” Louis said. “Look at him,” and said, “Come on, man, the coast is clear.”
“I told you leave him in there,” Bobby said, his tone getting Louis’s attention. “We have to think about this guy-what’s his name?”
“Raylan something,” Louis said, “believes he’s a cowboy. Got the hat, the boots. I wouldn’t mind a pair like that, black with the tan wing tips?”
“Had his coat open, thumbs in his belt,” Bobby said. “You see that? Ready to draw his gun. I always wonder what that would be like, two guys facing each other with guns.”
“Like in the movies,” Louis said.
“Yeah, but it could happen,” Bobby said. “This guy isn’t going away.”