His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 35
“Actually I never touched the other guy. I deserved this — needed to learn a lesson.”
I got up, gathered the blanket and pillow. “I’m sorry to run, but I need to go see Billie, and then I have a meeting.”
Dad’s face brightened. “How is Billie? When are you going to bring her out here again?”
I didn’t want to burden him with bad news, but Billie was something of a local celebrity, and if he switched on the TV he would hear about the explosion and her injuries. “She’s not so good,” I said, and proceeded to tell him about the attack on the restaurant as I put the bedding away and got dressed.
“So the rest of the world thinks it was a bomb, but you know it was magic,” he said when I was done.
“Well, that’s . . . yeah. Billie knows the truth.”
“And your partner from the force? The black woman?”
“Kona. She doesn’t know yet.”
“Right, Kona. You need to tell her. They’re looking for a bombing suspect.”
He was right. “I’ll call her,” I said. “But right now I have to–”
“Go.” He waved a hand toward the trailer door. “Get out, vamoose, skedaddle.”
I grinned, and so did he. It was nice to have a conversation with him, rather than just listen to one of his incoherent monologues.
“Dad, did you . . . ?” I stopped myself. I had intended to ask him whether he had ever spoken to Mary Hesslan, Elliott’s widow. But I feared his response; he seemed fine now, but I knew his mental state was fragile. Talking about anything having to do with my Mom might set him off again, especially if she was part of the hallucinations or dark magic attacks that had been troubling him in recent days. And the truth was, I didn’t think I was ready for the conversation my question might provoke.
He was watching me, eyes narrowed again. “Did I what?”
“Did you eat anything at all yesterday?”
His gaze lost some of its focus and he shrugged. “Honestly, Justis, I don’t remember.”
“Well, try to have something today, all right?”
I hugged him and let myself out of the trailer. I had barely enough time to get to the hospital and check on Billie before my meeting at Sonoran Winds Realty. It being Saturday, I hoped that I would have smooth sailing all the way back into the city. An accident on the Phoenix-Wickenburg Highway killed that dream. By the time I was through the worst of the traffic I was too late to get to the medical center, and a bit too early to go straight to my meeting. I stopped for coffee, stalling.
I’d been unsure yesterday about whether I ought to follow through on my plan to speak with Patty, and the intervening day had done little to convince me that this was a good idea. At this point, though, I figured it was too late to back out. I walked back to my car and drove the rest of the way to North Scottsdale.
I had to remind myself that to the folks at the realty office, I was Mister Jay. And, I realized, that gave me an out: I didn’t have to tell her that I was Dara Fearsson’s son. I could ask her questions about Regina Witcombe, and leave without her ever knowing the truth. Provided she didn’t examine my PI license too closely. I blew out a breath, my dread deepening by the moment.
Before I knew it, I was parking the Z-Ster in front of the building, my hands sweating, my mouth dry. You’d have thought I was here for a first date rather than an interview with a potential lead. I wiped my hands on my jeans, got out, and walked to the door.
The place exuded class, as you might expect from a realty company that routinely handled the sales of million dollar homes. Glossy photos of enormous estates hung in the windows, along with fashion-model-quality portraits of the various agents who worked there. I recognized Patty’s photo right away. She was rather plain, as she had been in high school, with light brown hair, brown eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose. I took a breath and stepped inside.
Predictably enough, the office had been decorated in the geometric patterns and earth tones associated with the Southwest — warm browns that shaded toward red, pale ochres and beiges, and the lapis-like blue of a high desert sky. A pretty blond receptionist sat at a large desk near the door, wearing a white blouse and tan jacket that blended perfectly with the office color scheme. She was on the phone, jotting down notes on a pad. I waited in front of the desk.
After a few more minutes, she hung up, put the note she had written in one of several shallow boxes on her desk, and fixed her attention on me. Blue eyes raked over my bomber jacket, t-shirt, and jeans in a way that left me thinking I ought to go back home and change. I’m sure the bruise on my jaw didn’t help with this first impression. At last, her gaze met mine again and her features resolved into a thin smile that said, You can’t possibly afford anything we have listed. Why are you wasting my time?
“Can I help you?”
“I called yesterday morning to make an appointment with Ms. Hesslan-Fine.”
Her look of disdain gave way to one of disappointment. “Mister Jay?” No doubt she had hoped I would be wearing an Armani suit.
I glanced at my watch. “I’m a few minutes early,” I said, still avoiding a direct lie about my name. “If she’s not ready for me, I can wait.” I waved a hand at the plush couch that sat near the desk, in between a matching pair of glass end tables. I should have known that would get me in faster; receptionist Barbie didn’t want me sitting out here, scaring away her rich clientele.
“No, I believe she’s free right now.” She reached for the phone, punched in an extension number, and after waiting a few seconds said, “Patricia, your ten-thirty is here.” She hung up again, and smiled up at me, lowering the temperature in the foyer. “She’ll be right out.” Which I took to mean, Don’t even think about sitting on that sofa.
I remained where I was, standing in awkward silence, admiring the photographs that hung on the walls: the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Petrified Forest, and several desert scenes that could have been taken in the Superstition Wilderness or Sonoran Desert National Monument.
The door along the back wall behind the receptionist’s desk opened. I turned, and felt the world drop away beneath my feet, making my stomach swoop.
I was sure that the woman walking through the door was Patricia Hesslan-Fine. The receptionist wouldn’t have called for the wrong agent. But at first glance I could barely be certain. Because the woman’s face was obscured by a blur of magical power.
I opened my mouth to say something, a thousand questions rushing into my mind. You’re a myste? Was your mother a myste? Or was it your father? Did my mother cheat on my Dad with another weremyste? Is this why Regina Witcombe chose to work with you? But every one of those questions died on my lips. Some of them I couldn’t ask yet, not where anyone else could hear. Others . . . others I wasn’t sure I wanted to have answered.
Upon spotting me, Patty slowed, no doubt seeing the same blur across my face, although obviously without understanding its implications for the history she didn’t yet know we shared. In the next instant she recovered, striding forward, a hand extended.
“Mister Jay, how nice to meet you. I understand you were referred to us.”
I shook her hand; she had a firm grip. “That’s right. A friend recommended your agency, and you in particular.”