Two hours later Lonnie was at a coffee shop on Dufferin Avenue. Targe Wilkins sat opposite. Average height, average looks, inconspicuously dressed, he blended. That made it easy for him to accumulate facts about people by collecting confidences, eavesdropping, connecting dots on the Internet until he thought he had something worth selling.
He had told Lonnie he couldn’t believe what private things people would say about themselves in public, as long as they were talking on a cellphone.
“It’s like they think they’re in a friggin’ sound-proofed phone booth,” Targe marvelled.
He never tried to sell what he collected to the subject of the information. That was too much like blackmail and too likely to put a target on his back. Instead he sold it to someone like Lonnie and no one else ever knew the source.
Lonnie looked at the new leather jacket Targe sported and thought business must be good.
Targe sipped his drink. He would never tell the other man so, but he held Lonnie in some awe. Targe had had to use his fists a few times growing up, and was thankful he looked as tough as he did. He knew it was an illusion – he wasn’t a man of action at heart. He maneuvered in the world of technology with ease, but he avoided physical confrontation whenever he could.
Lonnie, on the other hand, looked almost frail but he had survived war on the front lines. From what Targe had seen on his television screen and read in the newspapers, that was a significant accomplishment compared to surviving the mean streets of their home town.
“Matthew Kalinski’s in jail,” said Targe. “He’s doing time for assault. He used a gun, but they couldn’t make that part stick, so he’ll be out in about six months. I can’t find a Brent Pardue, but Kalinski has a pal by the name of Bobby Perch. They’ve done jobs and time together.”
Lonnie nodded in satisfaction. “And Glen Sharp? Does he have any connection with them?”
“Yup,” said Targe.“The three of them, along with a guy named Greg Tan, are the main suspects in a series of bank robberies in Montreal. The cops investigated them but no charges. Kalinski was offered a walk for his current stretch, but he wouldn’t talk.”
“OK. I know what happened to Glen Sharp. What about the other two?”
“Greg Tan’s body was found in an alley in Montreal, his head bashed in. No arrests, but Bobby Perch disappeared about the same time and it’s his MO. Apparently he prefers his fists to guns, and he’s got the muscle to follow his inclinations.”
“Could he be Brent Pardue?” asked Lonnie.
“Yeah,” said Targe. “So could a lotta other guys.”
“What happened to the gun Kalinski used in his assault case?”
“They never found it.”
Lonnie, thinking aloud, said, “Glen Sharp couldn’t have killed Vonnie. He was drunk, and he didn’t work when he was drunk.”
“So said his sister.”
“Pirelli confirms it,” Lonnie said.
Targe nodded, made a face that said, OK, I buy that. “So who killed her?”
Lonnie paused, and then said, “What about this: Kalinski gives Sandy the key to a safe deposit box. Bobby suspects Sandy has it but knows she won’t have anything to do with him. He arranges to meet Brenda as Brent Pardue. Thinks it might get him close enough to Sandy to find out where she keeps it. He learns she gave it to her sister and now Vonnie has the key.”
“And Glen Sharp?”
“Perch gets him drunk, takes his boots to wear at Vonnie’s. The plan is he returns the boots to Sharp, kills him and hides the body, collects the money and leaves town. Kalinski blames Sharp.”
“Not much of a cover,” said Targe. “Sharp’s body was found the next day.”
“Pirelli says that’s a fluke. It should have stayed under.”
“So Perch has the key?”
Lonnie shook his head. “Why stick around to kill Sandy? Once Brenda confessed to her that Vonnie had the key and it’s gone, Sandy’d tell Martin. He’d assume Sharp took it.”
“So what happened to the key?”
“Damned if I know,” Lonnie said.
They ordered a meal and beer. These days when he was with someone he trusted and talk was casual, even desultory, Lonnie felt the watchfulness easing and he could believe that some day life would be what it once was.
As they were about to leave, he offered Targe a lift. His friend declined; he had to drop something off for a client.
“He’s got his shorts in a knot about it,” he said. “I can leave it for him now without having to see him and get him off my back.”
Targe, who was chatting up the waitress as she collected the bill and their payment, didn’t notice Lonnie’s sudden stillness.
Later, Lonnie entered the back lane behind Brenda’s house, turned off the car lights and glided to a stop when he reached her back garden. As he expected, the house was dark. Her parents had lost their eldest daughter; their only other child would be with them at such a time.
His movement up the path of the back yard was slow – there was no moon tonight – and soundless. He found the sidewalk that lead to the front. Houses, hedges, cars appeared as a muted black and white study under the streetlamps.
He stayed in the shadows until he reached the stoop. Moved up the steps close to the banister to avoid any creaking sounds. His hand opened the lid of the metal mailbox and reached inside.
Final instalment in a few days.