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Kansas Mourning

page five
by John Edward Gill


He left and got in his car and drove to Swensson Street and across to Harrison. The Parker's two, silver-colored trash cans were by their driveway and he'd take chances tonight that no one would see him emptying them.

Then he drove to Marquette, changed into his running gear, and jogged four miles along the other side of town. At his motel, he showered and watched a Sylvester Stallone movie on television and tried to sleep until it became dark.

He was tired of district attorneys and police, lawyers and judges and investigators and social workers and people who told him to give up. He had pictures of Kimi on his suitcases and picked up one of her birthday party last year. She wore a red blouse and blue trousers; he'd made her wear a white T-shirt when they'd gone swimming.

There was that crepe paper which he'd taken from his car. On Long Island, when she'd first disappeared, he'd put it around snapshots of her. But remembering her that way was passive, he'd thought. Looking for Kimi now kept him going, giving him something to do. It helped him through days and nights and each clue, each lead gave him hope. If he didn't work at finding her, he would think about what she was going through -- changing schools and homes and babysitters and friends and not having a father or seeing doctors and maybe not even having a mother. Evelyn often left her with relatives during weekend visits.

After sunset Morris threw away that crepe, put on blue jeans, no arm band, a black, long-sleeved shirt, and old brown gloves. He wore dark sneakers and drove toward Upton. On the way he stopped at a gas station and rolled down his window.

"I need kerosene," he told the boy.

"What did you stop here for?" The boy wore a red Kansas City Chiefs baseball cap and blue overalls. Moths flew around overhead lights, dust-colored wings flickering shadows on the cement.

"Can't I buy some?" Morris asked.

"At the hardware store, but it's closed."

"Figured you might have lamps. And extra fuel."

"Old man's got one in back."

"All I need is a quart or two."

"I don't know," the boy said.

"How much does he want?" Morris held out a ten-dollar bill.

"I'll see." He went into the office with grease on its windows and a wall calendar with nude women. He spoke to a man in green work clothes and came back with two milk bottles full of kerosene. "Two dollars."

"Okay." Morris took the bottles and put towels over them. "What about garbage cans?" He pointed to three empty cans by the air pump.

"They leak."

"Take another three dollars for two of them." Morris said. He gave the boy ten dollars and told him to put both cans in his backseat.

"You want anything else, Mister? Fill up? Oil?"

"No, thanks." He waved and drove on the highway behind Parker's house, stopped, sprinkled kerosene over his gloves to hide his scent. Then he went down Harrison Street to the Vi-Queen Motel and parked next to it. There was no one around. He watched Parker's house and looked for their dog. After five minutes, he shut off his lights and pulled near their driveway, took out his garbage cans and carried their cans to his car. He made sure the empty ones were in the same place as the full ones and wore his kerosene-soaked gloves.

At the motel in Marquette, he took their trash and dumped it in his bathtub. There were coffee grinds and kitty litter. Maybe that was they kept their dog outside, he thought, a cat. He looked at grapefruit rinds, eggshells, brown grocery bags full of stale, yellowing vegetables.

From the second can he found a small cardboard box with green paper. Crumpled inside was a tiny white envelope with "To Rebecca" in Evelyn's handwriting. Searching more, he found heavy brown wrapping paper with the Parker's address. The return had been torn off.

Morris looked at the box again, still wearing damp gloves. In small print on a corner was "Picus Gifts, Berkeley". He tried to find other letters or cards which Evelyn might have sent, but there were none.

No phone bills, either, showing if Rebecca had called her sister. Were there postmarks on that wrapping paper? Zip codes? He spread out that paper, but the stamped postage had blurred. He made out the initials "AUG", though, which meant the package had been sent this month.

Morris took off his gloves and dialed his friend in Manhattan. "Larry, am I disturbing you?"

"They're not in Upton."

"You might be right," Morris said, sitting down.

"Consus had one of his men do on-site surveillance last week."

"Just what I told him not to do."

"No, his partner had another job there. Or nearby. In Hutchinson."

"Still. They've seen me in fields. They're careful and probably saw Conny's man, too."

"Parker's in over his head, Larry. Financially."

"So am I."

"Gambling. Those aren't hunting trips. Oh, they take rifles and shoot rabbits. But poker. He's got personal loans and his wife found out and he hates her for it."

"I need help in California."

"We got Parker's credit rating. BankAmericard and First USA are over the limit. Way over."

"Did you get his monthly statements?" Morris asked.

"Credit cards show purchases at a children's store in Salina last month."

"Clothes for Kimi?"

"I can't remember. But something else."

"All right."

"Parker hasn't been in the shop. Ellis has run the business for two weeks. Our man went to him."

"Sonofabitch."

"Not for you. For that bank."

"Parker's not the sniper-type."

"Of course. I agree. Just that he can be angry, desperate, drinking heavily. Fighting with his wife. Went to Hutchinson pleading for more time. Bank just said to pay interest for awhile, but Parker wanted to skip three months' payments. Look, Jack, his wife's been after him to have kids. They don't get along."

"Larry, I'm looking for my daughter."

"If he had Kimi for awhile and he's irrational, you could claim he endangered her health and safety. That makes custodial interference in New York a felony."

"That's fine if Kimi was here and Evelyn wasn't."

"Slow down. If you get felony warrants on Evelyn, the F.B.I. can give you that Unlawful Flight To Avoid Prosecution order then. You got yourself a federal case."

"Suffolk County wouldn't give me a felony warrant on Lupus alone."

"Okay." There was a pause. "But you'll want to know this. Two months ago her father called a Wainwright Lamia Jefferson in Denver."

"Who?"

"Holds a seat in Anthropology at the University there. Taking a sabbatical this year. Visiting Lecturer at Cal Berkeley."

"I'll check the Bay Area myself, then," Morris said.

"Call me later if you find anything."

Morris stood up and walked around his room. He counted twelve steps from the front door to the bathroom and back, thinking. He took a bottle of scotch from the coffee table, but didn't drink from it.

Have to stay calm, he thought.



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Copyright © 2003 John Gill. All rights reserved.



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