Finally, his uncle opened the door beaming from ear to ear. “Spencer, how nice to see you. Come in.”
Spencer didn’t say a word…wasn’t sure how to react.
“Let’s get comfortable in the den. I’m sorry we couldn’t talk this morning.”
Spencer was puzzled by his uncle’s mood…like the morning’s conversation never happened.
Uncle Dwight put his arm around Spencer’s shoulders and steered him to the den. “Sit down, relax,” he said pointing to the sofa. “Can I get you a drink? Are you into hard stuff these days?”
“Just water thanks.” His uncle was acting so casual…it was bizarre.
“Do you mind if I have a night cap…can’t sleep without my bourbon.”
“Whatever,” Spencer mumbled.
His uncle opened the liquor cabinet and took out a huge tumbler. “So,” he said, his back turned. “What’s on your mind?” Ice cubes clinked in the glass.
“Don’t you remember what I said this morning?”
“Not really. You were babbling. Are you feeling better?”
“I’m fine. You’re having an affair aren’t you?”
His uncle faced him. “An affair? Spencer, your aunt passed away a year ago. I’m just going on with my life?”
“Well, yeah, but you were having an affair before, weren’t you?”
His uncle’s expression was impenetrable. “That’s totally erroneous. Who told you that?”
“The hostess at Hicks Street Grill..she’s from Glenwood Cafe in Carroll Gardens.”
His uncle laughed. “That’s Liz. She’s a complete scatterbrain. You can’t rely on her gossip. Why would you listen to that? You’re usually level headed.”
“I was at brunch this morning and she started talking about you and your wife….how she’d seen you at Glenwood Cafe, like recently…and a couple years before that.”
“Well, Spencer, I can assure you there’s nothing to her rumors. Liz has serious memory issues…called Jackie and me the wrong name a million times. It got to be a joke.”
“No ifs, ands or buts, it’s totally ludicrous. I can’t believe you’d listen to such silly scuttlebutt. I treasured Aunt Jackie.”
Spencer’s mind was spinning. He wanted to shout “the police don’t think it’s scuttlebutt,” but didn’t. The whole idea was to build a case, not get thrown out. He thought of the attacks, and was determined to keep at it…try to force a slip. “Who’s Monica MacTavish?” He asked…his uncle’s eyebrows raised…no other reaction.
“You tell me. Where did you get that name from?” Hard eyes bored into him..
“Uh…the hostess.” Spencer lied…hoped the police wouldn’t be pissed.
“Is that true?” Like his uncle could read his mind.
The eyes studied him. “You’ve totally lost me, Spencer. Are you all right? You look awfully pale.”
“No, I’m fine.” Though he was far from it.
“You don’t seem to realize how ridiculous this all is.”
Spencer pictured the policemen in the van…probably disgusted with the aimless conversation. Even his uncle was getting impatient.
“I’m surprised at you, Spencer. Here you are in the same house where your aunt took her life, showing absolutely no respect. I can’t believe my ears…your dad and Jackie were so close.”
“I loved Aunt Jackie. That’s why I’m bringing this up.”
“Oh really? You don’t seem respectful of her, or me. You obviously have no conception how tragic her end was. Would you like to see the dismal corner where she took her life?”
“No…thanks.” Doubts were bubbling up. He was pretty sure he had it straight, but then again…Stop! A voice screamed in his head. Don’t get off track! Stay focused!
“Come on, Spencer. You’re more of a man than that. You need to face reality…then you’ll see why I take this so seriously.”
Alarm bells went off in Spencer’s head. He thought of calling for help, but didn’t want to act like a wimp at the first sign of trouble. Chill! He told himself. Nothing serious has happened. Play along…the police are right outside. But, another voice reminded him of the gun shot. Anything can happen…get the fuck out! Spencer glanced at Uncle Dwight’s white hair and tweed jacket…he just didn’t seem that dangerous.”Okay, let’s take a look,” he said.
They entered the spotless kitchen and faced the cellar door. Uncle Dwight threw it open and switched on the light. “Look down there,” he said. “Have you ever seen such a miserable hell hole?”
Spencer peered down, wondering what was so terrible. It looked neat as the kitchen. He started to turn back…was pushed violently…found himself careening down the steep stairs…bouncing, banging. He grabbed at the railing, but missed…slammed into the rock-hard floor and blacked out.
He opened his eyes in a blur of pain, his uncle over him.
“Spencer, are you okay? You tripped.”
“What?” Everything was hazy.
“You tripped, clumsy. I thought you were coordinated.”
Spencer knew he was hurt bad. He couldn’t breathe…when he moved, the pain was unbearable…he lay still…tried not to move. Where are the police? He thought.
“I don’t know what game you’re playing,” his uncle said, “but I’ve totally lost patience. I’m sick of your silly questions and innuendos. Aren’t you? Did it really get you anywhere? It was just a silly, amateurish, exercise. I’ve really nothing against you, Spencer…at least I didn’t, but now I guess I do.”
“My father…” Spencer whispered.
“What? Stop talking gibberish!” His uncle gave him vicious kick in the ribs.
A disembodied scream echoed off the walls…Spencer wondered who it was, then vaguely recognized his own voice.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash…Uncle Dwight looked up…scurried away. Doors slammed. Boots came thundering down the cellar stairs.
“My god, Spencer are you okay?” Detective Ryan’s voice.
Spencer opened his mouth…couldn’t speak.
“He’s in bad shape!” somebody yelled. “Call the EMT’s!” Blue uniforms were everywhere…Spencer lay still, cold cement against his cheek.
“Check the back yards!” Ryan ordered. “He can’t be far!”
Spencer tried to lift his head…was sickeningly dizzy.
A blinding white light hovered over him…am I dead? Shapes penetrated the glare….heads…Mom, Cal, Michelle.
“He’s awake!” Michelle cried.
“Thank god!” His mother’s gravelly voice.
Cal’s face appeared. “How you doin’, man?”
“Okay,” Spencer gasped. The last thing he remembered was the basement…it was miraculous to be in such a white, clean space.
“You almost checked out, man.”
“You’re not still mad?”
“No. You’re my main man. We’ve gotta stick together.”
Where’s Uncle Dwight?”
“They’re looking for him. He got away, but they’ll nail him.”
“Shit.” Spencer tried to scratch his nose and felt oxygen tubes…realized one of his arms was pinned down. “What the fuck?”
Michelle’s face appeared. “Hi, lovebug,” she said kissing his lips. “You’re in a cast from the waist up…except for your right arm.”
“You look wonderful,” he whispered.
His mom’s face appeared. “I’m sorry I let you down, Spence. From now on I’m turning over a new leaf.”
“Thanks, mom. I really need you.”
“You look sleepy.”
“I can’t keep my eyes open.”
It’s the drugs, sweetie. Don’t fight it.”
“Yeah…okay.” Spencer closed his eyes. He was happy and sad at the same time. He’d tracked down his father’s killer, then lost him. How fucked up was that? Shit, he’d have to start over again.
Give us your thoughts. Should we have another Willingham mystery?