Out of Ideas, Out of Time
A Collaborative Story — Chapter Seven
The car in front of me was using the passing lane for a leisurely drive. I tried my best to be patient, but I just didn’t have that kind of time. The other lane was occupied by a semi-trailer truck, the driver looked like he was about to nod off.
“Hold on, Kid,” I said to the hitchhiking hindrance sitting shotgun.
“What? Why? Who’re you calling kid? My name is Edward.”
I took the Honda off the side of the road, my foot to the floor. The car drove on an angle as clumps of grass tore up under my tires. I looked up to get a glance of the Sunday driver. The face of a bewildered clown, applying the finishing touches to a false grin that stretched from ear to ear, looked over at me. His clown car was a van big enough to fit a family of six, it was as if he didn’t know how the joke went. I jerked the wheel to the right and cut in front of him.
“What’s wrong with you?” shouted Ed.
“There hasn’t been a shrink yet that’s been able to tell me. I told you to hold on, didn’t I? Now tell me where we’re headed. If you want to be partners you have to pitch in with whatever details you got for me.”
“First tell me what you want with this notebook.” He waved the book in the air as if trying to play keep-away. My hands were on the wheel and it wasn’t like he was going anywhere. “What do you know about my sister?”
I fished her picture out of my coat pocket.
“Is this your sister?” I asked.
“Yeah,” replied Ed. “What’s it to you?”
“She’s hurting, kid, uh, Ed. She can’t seem to get the words out anymore and I need to find out why. Whatever used to make her tick is missing. The clock has a broken hand. Father Time left for cigarettes and never came back. The case was slipped under my door and it’s up to me to solve it. You see how this works? There’s some scrap paper in the door. How about you write down an address for me and we’ll go from there. Take your time, this road goes on forever until it doesn’t.”
“I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write.”
“That’s what she…never mind. What do you mean? You don’t know your own sister’s address?”
“We haven’t spoken in a while,” he said. “I’ve been trying to reach out to her, but she won’t answer my calls. I saw you with her notebook and panicked. She used to always carry this thing around with her. I thought there might be some clue as to where she lives in here.”
Ed wasn’t the brightest.
“You’re about as useful as that sign you were showing off. You’re lucky I recognized you. Hold on,” I cracked the window, “don’t breathe for the next four or five minutes. The pink stuff is doing it’s best, trust me.”
“What pink stuff?”
Ed tapped on the journal cover as we drove. I knew he was headed to Albuquerque, a word spellcheck helped me out with, but all he wanted was to get a little closer to where his sister might me. She was in New Mexico, that was all we had.
“My mother used to always talk about my sister when we were kids,” said Ed. He looked out the window as he strolled down memories of abandon. “She was always the smart one. Sure, I have a bachelor’s degree, but the teachers pulled a fast one on me and wrote ‘B.S’ on it, so I doubt it’s worth anything.”
“That’s not what, never mind. Continue.”
“My sister was always destined for greatness, my parents made sure to drill that into my head. Karen joked she’d someday go live in Santa Fe and become a big time writer. Ha, wonder if she ever did that.”
“What did you just say?” I asked. “Are you kidding me? You’ve had that daydream locked and loaded this entire time and never fired it? She’s probably in Santa Fe! We’ve managed to narrow down the map a bit further. Keep looking back on all your mommy issues. If you think of anything else don’t keep it to yourself, partner. Oh man, we need to make a pitstop for gas. We’re running on empty and this case is on fire.”
I took the nearest exit and pulled into a gas station down the road. I ran through the list of essentials in my head — beef jerky, coffee (black), black licorice, salt and vinegar potato chips, unleaded gas. I stepped out of the car and heard a crack. I knelt and grabbed at my ankle, a belch of agony stirred Ed from his daydream.
“What happened?” he asked, his voice was almost sympathetic, but I knew better.
“Stepped on my foot wrong or something, the damn thing fell asleep from being on the road so long. It,” I tried to stand on it, “just feels like a light sprain, nothing to,” I rested my back on the car and let out a heavy sigh, “worry about.”
“You’re a detective, right? Can’t you just pour bourbon on it or something?”
“Do you have any bourbon?”
“Well then that’s not going to work. Besides, I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have worked anyway. Get out of the car, I’m going to put twenty bucks in the tank, start pumping when I give you the thumbs up from the register.”
I limped from the car to the gas station. First the dogs, now this. It was as if someone, some all-knowing entity, was trying to make this case more difficult than it needed to be. Karen, I’m on the way, even if it kills me. Okay, not if it kills me, but you get the point.