Brock made a right turn onto the dirt road. The motel at the end of it looked like something circus animals were better suited for.
“Hello,” said a woman as he entered; her hair the color of rose water. Her skin made him think of rubber dolls, all folded and creased into baby bodies.
He turned the ring around on his finger to make sure the Eagle was up. He placed his hand on the desk. She looked into the computer before her as if it held her future. She typed in his name.
“Interesting ring,” she said.
Brock noticed she was bald at the center of her head as she leaned over his hand.
“That an eagle?” she asked.
Brock nodded. “Family insignia.”
“Signet … symbol?”
“Oh.” She leaned back and took him in. “Sounds to me like your last name should be America then.”
She pursed her tiny lips and her eyelashes fluttered. She stared at him, awaiting his response.
He emitted a sudden laugh, forced but friendly. He brought his fist down gently on the black Formica desk. “Right, American Eagle, should have made the connection.”
She stepped back. That’s when he knew she found him attractive. She showed a filmy smile. “You’re from Australia, right?”
He grinned. “England.”
“Ah, that place where people drink dark warm beer.” She made a sound like she was cold, part laugh, and part semblance of ‘phooey.’ As she leaned toward him he noticed the crevice of her breast. Images of sweat stains and pale pink brassieres came to mind. He thought of London and the flat he’d grown up in. He wondered if she was wearing those old nylon stockings his granny used to wear that were rolled up in knots at the knees. Probably not though, it was too damn hot for that.
“My name is Millie,” she said.
“Any bars around here, Millie? I’d love a beer, even cold will do.”
She eyed him curiously. “I don’t mean to pry but what brings you all the way to Callicoon?”
He noticed the stained coffee cup she held to her lips, the red silhouette she'd left behind.
“I’ve got relatives here, probably wearing an eagle ring too. I’m a bit of a genealogist, it’s a hobby.”
“You don’t say? Well, I know everyone in town, never seen an eagle ring on anyone. Maybe I can help anyway though?”
“Sure, pass it around. I’m looking for Eagles; one might show up.”
Tracks from an old rail station went through the center of town. A hotel that went back decades, and had since lost its glamour, now looked like something out of an old western movie. It tilted at the corner of a turn, threatening to crumble into a pile of wood. Main Street went up a hill on one side and down on the other; if you followed it west and you’d wind up in Pennsylvania, follow it east and you’d dead end at the Delaware River.
Brock looked into the window of a pretty shop with colorful candles, their clean scents beckoning his entrance, promising all things good. He didn’t feel quite pure enough for that and passed it by.
The sign above the door said Sui Generis. Antiques in the window pretentiously reupholstered in tapestry patterns looked too well bred for the tiny town. As Brock opened the door a bell announced him and a man with strange eyebrows glanced his way.
Brock tipped his head; this must be the fruitcake, he thought.
“Looking for anything special?”
Brock looked up; brass lamps and chandeliers covered the ceiling, price tags hung from crystals with too many zeros.
“Eagles,” he said.
Hunter LaPorte came out from behind a desk that looked invitingly expensive.
“What kind of Eagles?” he asked, the tattooed eyebrows on his brow frozen in arches that contradicted his expression.
Brock noticed he was nervous and kept crossing and uncrossing his arms.
“You tell me?”
Hunter looked at him with fervent glances as the door opened and a bell rang; a couple entered and began to browse.
“Sorry,” Hunter whispered. “No eagles.”
Brock was surprised. He thought it was odd that LaPorte did not react. He realized that someone else might have gotten to him first. He looked back at LaPorte. Maybe the guy is just afraid, he thought.
"I'm with the LVAJ," he said. “Peter sent me.”
Hunter stared at him. He was playing dumb.
"Try again," Hunter said. "I'm going to an estate sale tomorrow."
Brock tipped his head at the couple as he left the shop. He heard the little bells behind him.
“I said Peter sent me.”
Hunter nodded his head. “Well, thank him for me. I come well recommended.”
Brock stared at him. He hadn’t expected this. “The diamond?”
“No, no diamonds,” Hunter said.
Brock was flabbergasted. He couldn't figure out why LaPorte was acting the way he was, playing dumb. As he walked down the quiet street instinct told him La Porte knew exactly why he was there.
Brock bumped into an Indian on the sidewalk that moved his head and spoke from a cassette in his belly. Brock had been distracted and had almost knocked him over. The dummy stood before an old cigar shop and was almost as tall as he was. “Come on inside,” the dummy said.
“Know where I can find the Eagle?” he whispered into the dummy’s ear.
The dummy returned a wooden smile and did a slow turn. “Come on inside,” it repeated.
The music was loud. Brock wanted to hold his ears but held his belt loops instead. He made his way down the long bar, his face an oddity, one not seen before. The bar was lined with locals who called each other by nicknames, men who liked to laugh and women who liked laughing with them. He managed to find a seat and tapped his hands to the music. He nodded his head and started singing.
“You don’t know any of the words,” said a small dark woman on his left.
“Nice ring,” said a woman to his right. She had blonde hair and breath like musty rooms.
Brock turned to the woman on his right, though the other one had a softer face. The bartender noticed his ring too. He gave it several glances.
Brock thumped his hands on the bar with more fervent rhythm and started bouncing his knees. Then he turned full circle and grinned at the blonde.
“This here is my Eagle ring. Great looking ornament, isn’t it?” He took the woman’s hand in his. “You like my Eagle ring, darlin’?”
He didn’t even need to practice his American. It came out simple. Just take the clip out of the pronunciation, the clip and the class.
He didn’t know if he’d gotten anywhere or not. The bartender might have liked the ring but he didn’t pursue it. No one showed much interest in his Eagle ring but the blonde, the one who seemed insulted when he left without her.
“You queer?” she asked through a slur.
“Wish I were sometimes.”
He smiled back at the door and waved, but she’d turned her attention on someone else and didn’t notice.
“Easy come, easy go,” he said.
He could walk from the bar back to his room though it might take a half hour. He didn’t care. Brock was happy for the air, the freedom of space and the quiet of the night. There was a chill in the wind. He thought about Jane, her warm body lying under blue sheets. He wanted to call her, tell her everything. He envisioned her confusion.
“What?” she would say. “You bastard. How could you work for the FBI? How could you sell out my father?”
By the time he put the key in the lock of his motel room he had nixed it. Her dusky eyes didn’t need his secrets. Her despair did not need his.
On his third day in Callicoon he thought he might be coming up empty. He had gone to the local newspaper and taken out an ad: Is the Eagle here? It read. But no one called the pay as you go cell phone he’d picked up at the airport to tell him it was. And the fruitcake in the antique shop still wasn't talking. Brock assumed he’d made a deal with someone else.
He went into every shop on Main Street, made sure he flashed his ring. He returned to Sui Generis only to find that Hunter had come up with a walking stick that had an eagle head handle. The bastard was playing him for an idiot.
“Not quite what I had in mind,” Brock told him.
“Ivory handle,” Hunter said. “I realized right after you walked out the door I had one.”
“Look, you know why I'm here. Let's talk.”
"I told you, I don't have any Eagle anything, ‘cept this. Sorry."
That was too strange, that Hunter wasn't talking, wasn't even reacting. Maybe this was all a bunch of shit… just John Carelli’s hope…just Peter's stupidity. He could always trust his instincts though, and his instincts said: keep digging.
On the fourth day he noticed the headline on some local paper that lined the rack in front of the shop where the Indian dummy turned and spoke to strangers.
Brock almost fell to the curb as he felt the words sink in; he had to sit so he found a car fender. “Dead?” he whispered. “Oh, my God.”
He breathed in deep. His hope that she’d still be alive was shattered. He went on to read that Brenda’s body had been found on an Eleanor Long’s property behind the cottage she rents to some guy named Andy Longfellow. Brenda had been killed with a bow and arrow.
“A fucking bow and arrow?” He wiped the sweat from his forehead.
The phone was cheap and he couldn’t get a signal. Someone told him that if he stood between the rail tracks and the old cinema he’d probably get lucky. He went looking for the old cinema, his steps couldn’t keep up with his thoughts and he almost lost his footing and fell.
“Tell me this isn’t happening,” he said breathlessly into the phone. “A bow and arrow?”
The voice on the other end of his cell kept crackling, like fireplace cinders.
“It came across the wires yesterday; she’s definitely been identified.”
“God damn it.”
“Looks like we have a problem.”
Carelli seemed to be taking it lightly. Brock felt his anger rise. “I guess you could say that,” he said slowly.
“We’ve got a lunatic up here, watch your back.”
“She was murdered with a bow and arrow?” Brock couldn’t believe he’d read it right.
“Yeah, very strange.”
“Probably a couple of weeks ago.”
“Look, I’m sorry. She must have found out something, gotten too close to the diamond.”
Brock’s head was spinning. It wasn’t making sense. “Did you find a place to stay?” he asked to fill the silence.
“Yeah, look, we’re not going to involve the local police in FBI business. I want this to be a local investigation for now.”
“Where are you?”
“Not far from you; I've hooked myself up with Eleanor Long, couldn’t be better.”
"What do you mean?"
"We've put her under surveillance."
"I surmised that, the body was found on her property."
"She was easy."
“You're bugging her, is that what you're saying?”
"Something like that."
Brock didn't like the sound of it. For one, it was out of character for an FBI agent to consider sex as part of surveillance. He was beginning to smell something foul.
“Someone obviously knew what Brenda was doing here.” Carelli said.
“I want my wife up here where I can watch her, keep her safe.”
“What makes you think she’s safer in Callicoon?”
“She’s safer with me, that’s all I know. And she's just had a miscarriage; I don't want her to be alone at a time like this. It looks like I'm going to be up here a while, LaPorte isn't talking or he’s gone elsewhere, made a deal with someone else. I’ve got to find out what’s going on.”
“I don't like it, Jane could get wind of what you're up to and open her mouth to Devon.”
“Look here, Carelli, LVAJ members don't get murdered. It's rare. Something out of the ordinary is happening and that puts all of us at risk. I'm going to tell Peter to send my wife up here. She comes or you can do this without me. I don't want her alone right now and I don't want anyone putting an arrow in her back because she's t ied to Devon.”
"I think she's safer in San Francisco than she is here."
"I won't say anymore about it. She's safer with me and that's the end of it."
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