MEET A CRUSTY OLD SOUL FROM THE BISTI BUSINESS
Have you ever met a crusty old soul you don’t like, but can’t say you dislike him (or her), either? Meet Sam Dunkard, the manager of a Giant Service Station in Farmington, New Mexico. When you run across someone like him, you wonder if he hates his fellow man or if he’s just so dedicated to minding his own business it gets in the way of being helpful.
In the following scene from Chapter 15 of THE BISTI BUSINESS, our PI, BJ Vinson, and Aggie Alfano are following up on a lead in their search for Aggie’s younger brother, Lando.
Sam Dunkard, the old crab who managed the Giant Service Station on Main a few blocks from the Trail’s End, rightly assumed he didn’t need to talk to us because he’d already told everything he knew to the “effing” Sheriff’s Office. To make matters worse from his standpoint, Plainer had been by to ask his own questions. The attendant, somewhere in his mid-fifties, got as much out of his five-four frame as possible by standing ramrod straight in scuffed high-heeled cowboy boots. Thumbs hooked in old-fashioned yellow suspenders gave him an air of defiance. It took some patience on my part and some pleading by Aggie to get him to give us the time of day.
“I dunno why I gotta go to the trouble of doing this three times. Twice oughta be one too many.” But he was weakening.
“Because this man’s brother is missing and may be in trouble. The sheriff is looking for him, but Mr. Alfano would appreciate anything we can learn on our own.”
“Told them two law dogs the only reason I recall the guy is because of that flashy car. A fella could spot it coming a mile off even if it was dirty as hell.”
“You know, dusty; kinda like the kid driving it. His eyeballs matched his car; you know, orange. Looked like he’d been driving all night. Figured he drove ten…twelve hours straight from somewhere or the other.”
“But he looked okay? I mean, he wasn’t hurt or anything?” Aggie fished around in his pocket. “I’ve got a picture of him. Could you confirm he was the driver?”
“Don’t need it,” Dunkard said. “Looked a whole lot like you. Like a clone that didn’t grow up as big as you.” Finally, the man glanced at the picture. “Yep, that’s him.”
“And this was when?” I asked.
“Fifteenth,” he said after thinking it over. “My brother-in-law spells me at noon on Wednesdays, so I recollect what day it was.”
“Early morning. Maybe eight…nine.”
“And he was alone?”
“Yep. All by himself.” Sam Dunkard studied us a moment. “Nervous as hell, he was. Kept looking over his shoulder. Made me think it mighta had something to do with the fella asking about him a little later.”
“Asking about my brother?” Aggie said.
“Asking about the car. He wanted to know if I’d seen an orange Porsche.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Said, sure. Not more’n an hour ago. Man claimed he was supposed to meet his friend but got held up by a detour on the way down from Colorado. I never heard of no detour. Course, coulda been up the road apiece, I suppose.”
“What did this man look like? Blond, around the same age as the driver?” I fed him a vague description of Norville.
“Naw. Older. Hard-looking customer. Don’t recall him too much, but think he was sandy-haired, but thinning. Probably somewhere around forty. Stocky.”
“What was he driving?” I asked.
“Don’t remember. Something bland. Brown Ford or something.”
“Any nicks, dings, dents, decals—anything that stood out?”
“Naw. It was just a plain manila envelope”
“I don’t suppose you noticed his license plate,” I said.
“Sure did. It was a New Mexico plate. And he claimed he drove down from Colorado way.” Sam Dunkard frowned. “Could of, I guess, if he was on a trip.”
“How can you be so sure about the license plate?” Aggie asked. “You aren’t even sure what kind of car it was.”
“License plates is my hobby; son. Cars, ain’t. Be surprised how many of these United States I can count every day.”
“Do you remember the plate number?” I asked.
“Hell no. That ain’t part of the game.”
“Did you tell Detective Joe about this man?”
“Sure did. Told Lonzo all of it.” He gave a sour look. “Maybe I held out on that other fella, that BLM man. Too smooth by half.”
By the time we got back into our rental, Aggie looked ten years older than when we had met a few days back. He was silent, and I left him alone.
You wouldn’t think an orange Porsche would be so hard to find, would you? But it deals BJ a great deal of trouble as he chases it clear across this great State of New Mexico.
Keep up the reading. I might be old-fashioned, but I think that still the best way to get information … and some pleasure.
Be happy to hear from any of you who’d like to make contact.
New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.