After Luke left, Gil came over to Fleming and said “this is getting heavy.”
Fleming looked toward the door and almost trance like said “you think?”
Gil said “oh yeah. His guilt is his albatross. His cross to bear. His unpardonable sin…at least to him.”
Luke didn’t come to the bar the next night or the one after. Three days later, there he was…sitting on the last stool at the end of the bar.
Fleming came in and sat beside him. She said nothing nor did he for the first few minutes. She noticed a band-aid on his left hand and some discoloration around it. It was the kind of discoloration that one might get from having an IV invade a vein by an unskilled nurse.
Fleming finally broke the deafening silence and asked “are you okay?”
Luke turned and said “I’m just great. Can’t you tell?”
“What happened to your hand?” she asked.
He looked at her with that ever familiar sneer and said “I got it stuck in someone’s mouth after they kept asking me stupid questions.”
Then, like someone had just put the needle back on a record, Luke’s story continued to play.
“I…I had this…I was concerned about Jenny, of course, but I still had that disappointment about it essentially being an open and shut case. You know, get a description, a positive identification, slap the cuffs on, make an arrest, go to court and get a conviction. Cut and dried. No Deerstalker cap required.”
Luke motioned for another drink and said “I’ll never forget how scared Jenny was. She must have trembled for days. I kept assuring her that she had nothing to worry about.” He downed his drink and said “I promised that I would protect her.”
Before Gil had put the bottle back on the shelf, Luke tapped his empty glass on the counter and motioned for yet another.
“We put Jenny in a safe house. Safe. Boy. That was a joke. Almost every hour, she called and every time she did, she said ‘it’s me’. I started teasing her, asking who else she thought would be calling me from the safe house. Still, every time she called, she said ‘it’s me’.”
Luke gave Gil a nod and held up two fingers. Gil brought another glass and filled it along with the one Luke was already holding. Gil and Fleming both watched as Luke downed both glasses and motioned for two more.
When Gil brought the drinks, Fleming could tell that he was going to say something to Luke, and interrupted him. “Gil,” she said. “Would you bring me one of those?” Gil looked at her, nodded and said “of course.”
Luke had a sorrowful look in his eyes as he stared into his glass. It was as if he was looking back in time. A time he was trying so desperately to escape. A time when penance had been self-imposed and was going to be everlasting.
After several minutes, Luke asked Fleming “are you going to drink that or just let it mellow?” Before she could answer, he picked it up and downed it.
Fleming put her hand on Luke’s. He let it rest there for a few seconds and then moved his away.
She could see the pain in his eyes and hear the agony in his voice when he quietly said “Jenny.”
He sat there and picked at his glass as if trying to peel an imaginary label off the side. “The day before the trial, Jenny disappeared. There were no signs of forced entry into the safe house. There was no sign of a struggle. There was no blood or tissue evidence. There was nothing. She just disappeared.”
He looked off into the distance and said “I imagine she’s resting next to James Riddle Hoffa. Isn’t that ironic? His middle name was Riddle and one of the biggest unsolved riddles ever asked is “where is Jimmy Hoffa?”
Luke stood up, took four twenties out of his wallet, tossed them next to his glasses, turned and walked out.
To be continued_____________________