The Mustache Man

Chapter Eighteen


            It didn’t matter. He couldn’t locate Chance and Jewels and Bert as the wind gathered in sound and shrieked all around them. For years after he had left them he had always known where they were, could picture them. Chance had said before he’d left “You’ll always know where I am” and she was right. He could smell her juicy perfume even in a dust storm high up above in the Arizona desert just before he entered the mountains. He didn’t need her texts to know where she was. And now he couldn’t find her.

            Chance couldn’t find him either. She walked away from the screen as the connection broke. Jewels held her hand and that bulldog, Bert who never left their side (except at night when he took strange long journeys) he was there as well. She walked with Jewels and Bert out into the house filled with her paintings and sculpture and into the courtyard she shared with others in this apartment complex in this western city called Denver. Then she stared at the card on which she had written the address of a man Carlton said used to be a detective, Robert , “Shul” for short. Carlton had left her the key to his apartment.

Detective Robert worked at the University, only twenty five miles away. She packed a lunch and gathered up Jewels and the bull dog and canceled all her appointments. There was no phone number only an address and an apartment number. She canceled all her appointments with clients and took to the road. It was summer. There would be no snow on the roads, no ice, just a little bit of wind that came down from the mountains. Jewels was happy about the trip. She made up tunes with that odd little whistle she had developed. Birds sung back to Jewels with their songs. Bert rode on Jewels’ lap. It was only a two hour journey from the mountain town called Vortex to Denver and the University.      

            They left at four in the morning and arrived just as the sun rose. Chance found a parking place a few blocks away from University Avenue and walked with Jewels and the bulldog by her side. They climbed three flights of stairs then found the apartment and knocked. Bert barked when no one answered. His bark sounded like a cross between a muffled lion’s roar and the holy ghost with a rasping cold. When no one answered Chance unlocked the door. They stepped into darkness, boxes, and the smell of stale cigars, pizza and beer. When Chance found the light she saw what Carlton had warned her about, a place piled high with books and trash. She and Jewels began to clean as Bert investigated.

            When Bert returned with a half eaten pizza in his mouth Chance slapped his flanks to make him drop the pizza then looked into his deep pale milky way eyes and saw that hint of stars that always made her wonder if he was a dog or a being hiding inside a dog with a temporary visa to be an animal.

            By noon she had cleared the place of cigar ash, half eaten food, taken out the trash and collapsed on Shul’s big leather couch with Jewels in the crook of her arm and Bert lying across Jewel’s chest. That was how Shul found them when he walked in as the sun began to set.

            Bert opened one eye and greeted Shul with a low growl. Shul made himself a sandwich out of left over cold cuts, opened a beer and sat in the big soft chair watching the bulldog. Bert ignored him and went back to sleep. He knew who they were. Carlton had warned him she might not return this time, that she was sending him Pete Vargas’ family. Detective Robert Schulman took in the clean apartment and sighed. He knew her name. He had wanted to meet Chance Montclair for a long time. She was the one human being who had lived with Pete Vargas, the man Carlton called the Mustache Man.

            He had wanted to interview her for a long time.

            “I forgive you for cleaning up my apartment,” said Shul. “I forgive you for dumping my cigar ash. I forgive you for going into my frig, taking out my five day old pizza I was going to broil to a crispy texture but I won’t forgive you for rearranging my papers and books. I knew where everything was. I may not be able to locate certain case files now for years.”

            Then Chance began to interrogate Detective Robert Schulman.


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