Long Lost Page 29

I looked up his name in Address Book. Bingo. I plugged both his home and cell number into my phone.

Again with the clever.

’’Do you know where Wilsham Street is?’’ I asked.

’’It\'s walking distance. Does Mario still live there?’’

I nodded and dialed Mario\'s home phone number. A man with an American accent answered and said, ’’Hello?’’ I hung up.

’’He\'s home,’’ I said.

I hope the amateur detectives out there are taking notes.

’’We should head over.’’

I quickly opened up iPhoto. There were plenty of pictures but nothing that stood out. I couldn\'t e-mail all of them out. That would take forever. The pictures were normal, which is to say, heartbreaking. Karen looked happy next to her man. Rick looked happy too. Their faces beamed as they held their son. IPhoto has this feature that allows you to put the cursor over an Event and the pictures fly by in a rapid slide show. I watched the MATTHEW IS BORN! Event and FIRST BIRTHDAY and a few others. Again heart-breakingly normal.

I stopped at one very recent shot under DAD\'S SOCCER FINALS. Rick and Matthew were in matching Manchester United soccer uniforms. Rick had a big smile and held his son close to his side. The sweat was dripping off him. You could almost tell that he was out of breath and ecstatic about it. Four-year-old Matthew huddled against him, wearing goalie gear the oversize gloves and that little black eye makeup and trying to look serious, and I thought that this kid will now grow up without that smiling father and I thought about Jack, another boy who had to grow up without his father and I thought about my own father, how much I loved and still needed him, and then I closed the file.

We slipped toward the front door without saying good-bye. I looked behind me and spotted little Matthew slumped in a chair in the corner. He was wearing a dark suit.

Four-year-olds don\'t belong in dark suits. Four-year-olds belong in goalie uniforms next to their dads.

MARIO Contuzzi answered the door without asking who it was. He was thin and wiry and reminded me of a Weimaraner dog. He jabbed a narrow face in Terese\'s direction.

’’You have some nerve.’’

’’Nice to see you too, Mario.’’

’’I just got a call from a friend at Karen\'s. He says you popped in unannounced. Is that true?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’What were you thinking?’’ Mario\'s head snapped toward me. ’’And why would you bring this asswipe, of all people?’’

’’Do I know you?’’ I asked.

Mario wore those tortoiseshell glasses I always thought were trying too hard. He was wearing suit pants and a white dress shirt that he had been in the midst of buttoning. ’’I don\'t have time for this. Please leave.’’

’’We need to talk,’’ Terese said.

’’Too late.’’

’’What\'s that supposed to mean?’’

He spread his arms. ’’You left, Terese, remember? You had your reasons, maybe. That\'s fine. Your choice. But you left and now that he\'s dead you finally want to have a little chitchat? Forget it. I have nothing to say to you.’’

’’That was a long time ago,’’ she said.

’’Precisely my point. Rick waited for you to come back. Did you know that? For two years, he waited. You were distraught and depressed we all understood that but that didn\'t stop you from shacking up with Mr. Basketball here.’’

He pointed at me with his thumb. I was Mr. Basketball here.

’’Rick knew about that?’’ Terese asked.

’’Of course. We thought you were devastated, vulnerable maybe. We kept an eye on you. I think Rick hoped you\'d come back. Instead you go off to some little island for a private orgy with Hoop Head.’’

He pointed at me with the thumb again. Now I was Hoop Head.

Terese said, ’’You were following me?’’

’’We were keeping an eye on you, yes.’’

’’For how long?’’

He didn\'t reply. Suddenly his sleeve needed to be unrolled.

’’How long, Mario?’’

’’We always knew where you were. I\'m not saying we discussed it anymore and you\'ve been at that refugee center for the past six years so it\'s not like we checked all the time. But we knew. That\'s why I\'m surprised to see you with Bozo the SuperJock here. We thought you dumped this meathead years ago.’’

He waved his thumb in my face again.

’’Mario?’’ I said.

He looked at me.

’’Point that thumb at me again and it will end up mid-colon.’’

’’Physical threats from the big man on campus,’’ he said, a smirk splitting the narrow face. ’’It\'s like I\'m back in high school.’’

I was about to get into it with him, but I didn\'t think that would help. ’’We have some questions for you,’’ I said.

’’And I\'m supposed to answer them? You don\'t get it, do you? She was married to my best friend and then she shacks up with you on some deserted island. You know how that made him feel?’’

’’Bad?’’ I said.

That stopped him. He turned back to Terese. ’’Look, I don\'t mean to come on like a raging ass, but you don\'t belong here. Rick and Karen had a good thing. You gave this up long ago.’’

I looked at Terese. She was trying very hard to hold it together.

’’Did he blame me?’’ she asked.

’’For what?’’

She said nothing.

Mario\'s shoulder deflated along with, I assumed, his anger. His voice softened. ’’No, Terese, he never blamed you. Not for any of it, okay? I did, I guess, for the leaving-him part and yeah, that\'s not my place. But he never blamed you, not for a second.’’

She said nothing.

’’I have to get ready,’’ Mario said. ’’I\'m helping Karen with the arrangements. Arrangements. Like it\'s a choral piece. What a dumb-ass word.’’

Terese still seemed a little dazed, so I stepped in. ’’Do you have any thoughts on who might have killed him?’’

’’What are you, Bolitar, some kind of cop now?’’

’’We were in Paris when he was killed,’’ I said.

He turned toward Terese. ’’You saw Rick?’’

’’I never got the chance.’’

’’But he called you?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Damn.’’ Mario closed his eyes. He still hadn\'t invited us in, but I sort of pressed myself into the doorway, and he stepped back. I expected a bachelor pad I\'m not sure why but there were toys on the floor and a Pack \'n Play in the corner. Empty baby bottles were lined up on the counter.


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