The old man chuckled, finally rising, an audible series of pops coming out of his knees and back. “You don’t even know his name? You beat on a boy like that without even knowing who he is? What kind of man are you?”
I shrugged. I had asked myself that question more than once. Instead of trying to answer it for him I countered with, “How do you know I’m from the casino?”
It was his turn to shrug. “He came by here the morning after. I gave him an icepack and a place to sleep. He mentioned a big American ape had pushed him around.” He gestured at me with a wave of his hand, leaving trails of smoke and little doubt that he made the connection from there.
In an attempt to change the subject I asked, “So you’re not his father?”
I nodded. “His last name Moreau as well?”
The old man nodded before he caught himself so I pressed further with, “So where is he now?”
With some combination of relief and spite he put his cigarette back in his mouth and said, “I don’t know.”
Mixing in lies and truth I said, “He had three friends come down to the cafe by Les Moulins to try and rough me up.” I gave him a quick description of the three voyous, Balaclava, Fatty, and the Algerian. “Any idea where I can find them?”
Several quick puffs of smoke announced some thinking by Moreau. “Why would I tell you that?”
The truth felt like the most powerful tool I had so I used it. “Your nephew is sticking his nose in some business involving Carlu Sarti. Do you really want that?” The Corsican had been fooling around with Mitnick, but I didn’t know if Moreau would recognize that name. I had a strong suspicion he’d know who Sarti was.
Cigarette between ring and index finger, Moreau risked lighting his hair on fire by rubbing the space between his eyebrows with the thumb of that hand. He gave a mighty sigh, one that gave off vapors of regret more than surprise. Lodging the cigarette back into his mouth he busied his hands by examining a wrench, rubbing grease off it. “There’s a bar out west by the river called The Factory. They hang out there sometimes.”
There were a lot of pubs out by the river, so I wasn’t sure how helpful that information would be. Since I had him talking, though, I followed with, “He mentioned something about a girl. You know anything about that?”
This provoked a laugh from the old man, causing him to look up at the water spotted ceiling. It was a high, crowing laugh, mourning more than mirth, and wouldn’t inspire anyone to join in. Eyes raised to whatever powers he believed in Moreau asked, “Larenz, what have you gotten yourself into?”
As sad as it might be, that sounded like a yes to my question. I was going to push for more but a footfall behind me caught my attention.
Two men came in through the open garage door, one so wide that he nearly had to turn sideways to enter. Both of them were dressed better than the neighborhood deserved, both in black coats, one in a turtleneck, the other in dark dress shirt with a flared collar that barely contained his bull neck. It only took me a moment to recognize Brick and Whip from the casino, but it was enough time for both of them to get inside.
With them already here, I decided it was best to pretend to not know them. I put on my best earnest American voice and said, “Hey fellas. We’re almost done here.” As if they were here to talk about motorcycle repairs.
Whip straightened himself to his full height, which was greater than I remembered it being. Standing as tall as Sophie, he would have some serious reach. He was still bruised on one side of his face from the beating he had taken at the casino. Both his cheek and the chip on his shoulder seemed to be suffering from the resulting swelling.
These facts had the increasing possibility of becoming important as Whip said in passable English, “We are not here to speak with him.” Brick blocked the garage door and I thought about the exit in the back.
I heard Moreau tighten his grip on the wrench he was holding. Instead of rising to that tension I asked Whip, “What can I do for you?”
Whip smirked, bending the scar on his other cheek around a dimple. “We’re here to offer you a ride. Mr. Mitnick would like to speak with you.”
I considered playing dumb for a moment but then thought better of it. I could run, but in this small space it was anyone’s guess as to how that would shake out. Besides, I had a few questions I wouldn’t mind asking Mitnick.
So I said, “OK.”