Spell Blind – Snippet 05
Robo’s was one of the hottest music and booze joints in Tempe. It was upscale enough to serve all the best beers and trendy drinks, and to provide its bands with a professional stage and quality sound equipment. But it was also seedy enough around the edges to seem cool to the University kids. On nights when there was live music — Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays of most weeks — the line to get in could stretch all the way around the block.
When I got there, the doors to the place were closed, including the second set of glass ones past the window where patrons paid the cover charge. As Kona had told Gann, the Marquee read “Electric Daiquiri: Featuring Randy Deegan and Tilo Ruiz.” Inside one of the windows was a black and white picture of the band standing in front of some vague photo studio backdrop. Randy stood at the center, wearing jeans and an untucked dress shirt. The guys around him came across as cool and a little unsavory, which I’m sure is what they were going for. But Randy couldn’t help but look like an all-American kid, even with that serious, “I-really-am-a-badass” expression on his face.
It didn’t surprise me at all that a place like this would be interested in having Randy Deegan’s band headlining for it. What did surprise me was that a buttoned down guy like Randy would stoop to play there. Then again, from all I’d seen in the papers and on television over the past year or so, I had the sense that Randy wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps, and maybe he figured anything that made him out to be a regular guy would help.
Despite the locked doors, I could hear music coming from inside, so I knew the place wasn’t empty. I knocked several times until at last a large man in a Robo’s t-shirt came to the door and tried to shoo me away. I pulled out my private investigator’s ID, which has a terrible picture of me and looks official enough to impress.
“My name’s Jay Fearsson. I’m doing a little work on behalf of the Deegans.”
He frowned, glanced back over his shoulder, clearly unsure of what to do. But then he shrugged, perhaps figuring that I was Randy’s problem and not his. He let me inside.
The music was cranked to an ear-splitting volume, but I could tell right away that Electric Daiquiri was a decent band. They were in the middle of an up-tempo instrumental piece with a Latin beat and a lot of tonal modulation. Randy played bass but was obviously the group’s front man — not that I would have expected anything different. The band also included a guitarist, a drummer, a keyboardist, and a saxophonist, who was in the middle of a blistering solo. The stage lights were on, but the rest of the place was dark and I doubted that any of them could see me. The sound guy acknowledged me with a quick nod, but then went right back to fiddling with the mixing board. I took a seat in the back of the bar and listened to the rest of the piece, which went through a keyboard solo, a drum break, and a final go-round of what must have been the original melody. All of it was very tight, and when they finished I clapped.
Randy shielded his eyes from the spotlights. “Who’s that?” he asked, squinting against the glare.
“My name’s Jay Fearsson,” I said. “I was at your house the other day.”
“The guy Howard talked to?”
He glanced at the guitar player, and then at the other musicians. “Let’s take a quick break, guys.”
Randy and the guitarist took off their instruments, hopped down from the stage, and joined me at my table. The rest of the band wandered backstage.
I shook hands with Randy, and he introduced the guitar player as Tilo Ruiz. He was a tall, good-looking Latino kid, with black curly hair and large dark eyes. He was rail thin and was dressed like a model in his black jeans and white t-shirt.
“You were Claudia’s boyfriend, right?”
“That’s right,” he said with a puzzled frown. “How’d you know that?”
I didn’t think it would be too smart to bring up Robby Sommer, so I shrugged. “Must have read it somewhere. You both have my deepest sympathies.”
“Thank you,” Randy said, sounding anything but grateful. “I have to tell you Mister . . . uh . . .”
“Right. Mister Fearsson. I think it was a mistake for Howard to even talk to you the other day. He shouldn’t have asked you to do any work for us. I’m not comfortable with that at all, and neither is my father.”
“I can understand that. But first of all, he never gave me any money, so he didn’t hire me in any true sense. And second, even if he had, I’m bound by both ethics and the law to keep any work I do for you completely confidential.”
“That didn’t stop you from talking to Billie Castle.”
My smile was reflexive; I would have preferred to smack the kid in the mouth. “If you read her piece the other day, you would have seen that I told her nothing, and that she was feeling pretty snippy about it.”
“And now you’re here,” Randy went on, as if he hadn’t heard me.
“Yes, I am. You probably know that the police have a man in custody.”
“Mike Gann,” Tilo said.
“That’s right. I came here to learn what I can about him. The fact that I happened to find you here is a coincidence. You have my word on that.”
Randy had narrowed his eyes. “You’re doing work for the PPD?”
“You read Billie’s article. I used to be a homicide detective. I worked the Blind Angel case for a year and a half before I left the force.”
The Deegan kid still wasn’t ready to declare me his closest pal, but my explanations seemed to have satisfied him, at least for the moment.
“You think this guy Gann is the Blind Angel killer?”
An honest answer would have raised questions that could get Kona in trouble. “I don’t know. He certainly had it in for your family.”
“Yeah,” Randy said. “I’m sorry if I came on too strong just now. It’s been . . .” He averted his gaze. “It’s been a rough week.”
“I understand. I won’t trouble you anymore. But can you tell me who I should talk to about Gann? I have a few questions about his work here and how he got along with his co-workers. That sort of thing.”
Randy nodded. “Kenny Moore is the person you really want to talk to. He’s the manager. But he’s not in today, and he won’t be again until Thursday night.” His expression brightened. “You should come then. We’re playing, and I can reserve a table for you up front.”
“I’m not sure I want to be that close to your speakers.”
“In back then,” Randy said, grinning. “But that’s your best bet for finding Kenny.” He furrowed his brow. “The other person who might help you is Doug Bass. He’s the janitor, and he’s been here forever. He’d have known Gann.”
“Is he here now?”
Randy nodded. “In back.”
“All right, thanks.” I shook hands with both of them, and started toward the back of the club.
“I meant what I said,” Randy called to me. “Come Thursday night. There’ll be a table reserved for you.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll try to make it.”