Long Lost Page 51

’’No. I Googled all the letters. Opal of course had a million hits. When I Googled \'HHK,\' the first thing that came up is a publicly traded health-care company. They deal with cancer investments.’’

’’Cancer?’’

’’Yep.’’

’’I don\'t see how that fits.’’

Esperanza frowned.

’’What?’’

’’I don\'t see how any of this fits,’’ she said. ’’This seems, in fact, like a colossal waste of time.’’

’’How so?’’

’’What exactly do you hope to find here? The doctor treated an old man for Huntington\'s disease. What could it possibly have to do with terrorists murdering people in Paris and London?’’

’’I have no idea.’’

’’Not a clue?’’

’’None.’’

’’Probably no connection at all,’’ she said.

’’Probably.’’

’’But we have nothing better to do?’’

’’This is what we do. We flail until something gives. This whole thing started with a car crash a decade ago. Then we have nothing until Rick Collins found out his father has Huntington\'s. I don\'t know what the connection is, so the only thing I can think to do is go back and follow his path.’’

Esperanza crossed her legs, started twirling a free lock of hair. Esperanza had very dark hair, black-blue, that always had that just-mussed thing going on. When she twirled a hair, it meant something was bugging her.

’’What?’’

’’I never called Ali while you were missing,’’ she said.

I nodded. ’’And she never called me, right?’’

’’So you two are done?’’ Esperanza asked.

’’Apparently.’’

’’Did you use my favorite dumping line?’’

’’I forget it.’’

Esperanza sighed. ’’Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: you.’’

’’Uh, no. Might be more apt to say, \'Population: me.\'’’

’’Oh.’’ We sat there. ’’Sorry,’’ she said.

’’It\'s okay.’’

’’Win said you did the sheet mambo with Terese.’’

I almost said, Win did the sheet mambo with Mee, but I worried that Esperanza might misinterpret.

’’I don\'t see the relevance,’’ I said.

’’You wouldn\'t do the mambo-sheet thing, especially when you\'re ending with someone else, unless you really care about Terese. A lot.’’

I sat back. ’’So?’’

’’So we need to go full blast, if that will help. But we also need to understand the truth.’’

’’Which is?’’

’’Terese is probably dead.’’

I said nothing.

’’I\'ve been there when you\'ve lost loved ones,’’ Esperanza said. ’’You don\'t take it well.’’

’’Who does?’’

’’Good point. But you\'re also dealing with whatever else happened to you. It\'s a lot.’’

’’I\'ll be fine. Anything else?’’

’’Yes,’’ she said. ’’Those two guys you and Win beat up.’’

Coach Bobby and Assistant Coach Pat. ’’What about them?’’

’’The Kasselton police have been by a few times. You\'re supposed to call when you get back. You know that the guy Win popped belongs to the force, right?’’

’’Win told me.’’

’’He had knee surgery and is recuperating. The other guy, the one who started it, used to own a small chain of appliance stores. He got knocked out of business by the big boys and now works as floor manager at Best Buy in Paramus.’’

I stood. ’’Okay.’’

’’Okay, what?’’

’’We have time before we meet up with Dr. Schneider. Let\'s head out to Best Buy.’’

27

THE Best Buy employee blue polo shirt stretched across the beer belly of Coach Bobby. He was leaning on a TV, talking to an Asian couple. I looked for remnants of the beating and saw none.

Esperanza was with me. As we crossed the store a man wearing a logger flannel shirt ran over to her. ’’Excuse me,’’ he said, his face alight like a child\'s on Christmas morn. ’’But, oh my God, aren\'t you Little Pocahontas?’’

I stifled a smile. It never fails to shock me how many people still remember her. She shot me a glare and turned to her fan.

’’I am.’’

’’Wow. Oh, I can\'t believe this. I mean, double wow. It\'s such a pleasure to meet you.’’

’’Thanks.’’

’’I used to have your poster in my bedroom. When I was like sixteen.’’

’’I\'m flattered ’’ she began.

’’Got some stains on that poster too,’’ he said with a wink, ’’if you know what I mean.’’

’’ and nauseous.’’ She finger-waved and walked away. ’’Bye now.’’

I followed her. ’’Stains,’’ I said. ’’You have to be a little touched.’’

’’Sadly, I kind of am,’’ she said.

Forget what I said before about motherhood smothering her spirit. Esperanza was still the best.

We moved past Mr. Waaaay Too Much Information and toward Coach Bobby. I heard the Asian man ask what the difference was between a plasma TV and an LCD TV. Coach Bobby puffed out his chest and gave the pros and cons, none of which I understood. The man then asked about the DLP televisions. Coach Bobby liked DLPs. He started explaining why.

I waited.

Esperanza gestured with her head toward Coach Bobby. ’’Sounds like he deserved what he got.’’

’’No,’’ I said. ’’You don\'t fight people to teach them a lesson you fight for survival or self-protection only.’’

Esperanza made a face.

’’What?’’

’’Win is right. You can be such a little girl sometimes.’’

Coach Bobby smiled at the Asian couple and said, ’’Take your time, I\'ll be right back and we can discuss free delivery.’’

He came over to me and held my gaze. ’’What do you want?’’

’’To say I\'m sorry.’’

Coach Bobby didn\'t move. Three seconds of silence. Then: ’’There, you said it.’’

He spun around and headed back over to his customers.

Esperanza slapped me on the back. ’’Boy, that was cleansing.’’

DR. Freida Schneider was short and stocky with a big trusting smile. She was an Orthodox Jew, complete with modest dress and beret. I met her in the cafeteria at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center on Fifth Avenue by 103rd Street. Esperanza was out front making some calls. Dr. Schneider asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I declined. She ordered a complicated sandwich. We sat down. She said a prayer to herself and began to devour said sandwich as though it had called her a bad name.


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