Kansai Cowboy Chapter 7

I couldn’t believe what I heard on the phone. It was too early, and I felt slightly hungover. I slapped myself hoping it was all just a bad dream. It wasn’t and my face literally felt the painful reality of it — a little.

“Steve?” Agatha asked, perplexed by the silence.

“I’m here.”

“Bruce said you were gonna go over there and I thought you were probably the right man for the job. He told me about the friend of his son that could help you out with the language and I just kept shaking my head about what a great friend you are to us all. I mean, damn it all Steve, Kansai isn’t returning our phone calls, Alex is talking to these guys from Kanto — I can’t even keep these names straight — and they’re saying this artist Cheyenne ran off with is a con man. Nothing is on the level here, Steve. Nothing at all.”

“Sounds like it,” I said.

“And now here we are. In the hospital. He’s barely holding on. If you could bring help bring some closure — that would — I don’t know, it would help me at least.” I could hear her voice cracking. Agatha’s voice never cracked. But something bothered me.

“No offense Agatha. Forgive me for asking this: How would finding Cheyenne bring closure?”

“That Ozawa fellow is at the center of this whole mess. He isn’t on the level obviously. I mean, James talked to him only once and then everything started falling apart.”

“Wait? When did he talk to him?”

“At the reception! James was just chastising him a little about that ridiculous Gene Autry get-up he was wearing. The guy just kind of laughed it off. James was just teasing.”

“Right. And you think that caused everything to fall apart?”

“I don’t know, but that Kato guy, remember him? The short balding one?” She pronounced his name as Kay-to so it took a moment to register.

“You mean Ka-toh? That’s how it’s pronounced…or so I was told.”

“Whoever! That small balding Jap in a suit from Kansai Energy!”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“He was very curious about what Ozawa and James were talking about. I mean, he asked again and again. James tried to tell him they were just having a laugh.” I remembered Kato talking to Ozawa. His Jekyll and Hyde routine of being all jovial with me then walking right over to the artist and giving him the what for. Agatha was right. Something definitely wasn’t on the level.

All of this talk of things not adding up made me restless. I got off the couch and headed towards the bedroom. As I started walking, I said “Look Agatha, I hate to tell you this but regardless of what Bruce told you, maybe he was drunk, but I didn’t really agree to go on over there.”

Silence on the other end.

For a while.

I could hear some of the hospital equipment in the background. I continued, “I mean, I have a granddaughter to take care of, remember?”

More silence.

Then Agatha said, “Bruce didn’t seem drunk. I mean, he drove up to the hospital to visit James. He was so happy to see Bruce. And he was happy to hear that his old Texas Ranger friend Steven Bowie was on the case.”

That son-of-a-bitch! I knew who I was calling after this phone conversation ended. I didn’t say anything over the phone so Agatha must have heard silence, or me stewing in anger. She just continued on. “I mean, I’ve already started to allot the funds for you. James was insistent that we bankroll it. W wouldn’t have it any other way. I haven’t seen him that animated since, well, before the heart attack.”

“Okay, okay, let me — I need to talk to some people,” I said as I threw that days clothes on the bed. I looked for sturdy clothes, in case my confrontation with Bruce turned physical. At that moment, I wanted to kick him in the balls.

“So you’re going to do it or not? I’m confused. What do I tell W?” There she went again using the name we all used. She hated that name, but that was about the third or fourth time I had heard her use it. Was she so desperate, the Iron Lady of Copeland? So desperate she was bending, at least a little and using the moniker we adopted for her husband? As I thought this, I saw my old badge, next to the photo of my dearly departed wife. There it was, hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles.

I held it in my hand and saw my reflection.

“Yeah, I’ll do it,” I said.

****

I saw Bruce walking to his Lexus, in a very lawyerly suit and tie, when I pulled up to McBride McMansion. It was strange seeing him looking all official. He usually looked like a walking advertisement for Tommy Bahama. His u-shaped driveway, an economy of space for the McMansion he decided to build on the smallest plot of land imaginable, prevented me from blocking his Lexus in with my truck. He looked surprised to see me for sure. His face cracked a smile though. “Well, this is a fucking surprise,” said.

“Cut the crap Bruce,” I said. I walked up to him and looked him in the eye. Bruce noticed immediately I wasn’t happy. His smile disappeared.

“What’s the…what’s wrong, Steve?”

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Have you talked to Agatha recently?”

“Yeah, we just got off the phone. She said you were going to Japan. I thought, wow, that’s fucking great…”

“You thought that because you orchestrated it. You told her I was going on that little errand for you, even though I specifically told your ass ‘no’ the evening before. Didn’t I?”

Bruce looked down and produced a slight grin. “You did. I fucking heard you. I think Agatha might have jumped to some conclusions, made some assumptions. You know how she is.”

“You’re right. I do know how she is. She’s pretty simple, pretty blunt. Not one to jump to conclusions. If she’s needs clarification, by god she’ll ask for it.”

“All that I said was…” He tried to look me in the eye but he couldn’t. He then looked away and started leaning on his heels, quiet.

“What did you say Bruce?”

“I just told her about the conversation we had…”

“And?”

Looking down at the driveway now, he said, “And we just…she finally asked me, she asked…you know…she asked me if I thought you would go, I told her it was a definite possibility.”

“Really, that’s how the conversation went?”

“As far as I can recall at the moment, yeah.” A lawyer-like answer if I ever heard one. I had been in law enforcement long enough to know every qualification a lawyer would pull out of their ass to cover said ass. Bruce’s next response, to put his suitcase in his car start inching towards the driver seat was also something I saw in law enforcement — by criminals trying to make a run for it. “Look, I have to get going Steve. I have an appointment. Lindsey Mason, remember him? He and the university are caught up in some shit and he’s — making fucking accusations against me — like I’m responsible for that fucking debacle in Ellis. Last fucking thing I need right now!”

“Were you responsible? I have a friend in the Sheriff’s department there.”

“We can talk about this later.”

“Okay,” I said. I then walked over to the other side of his Lexus. Bruce looked confused at what I was doing, like “What is this crazy redneck up to?” I opened the passengers’ side door and sat down in the nice leather seat. I closed the door and looked at the driver. “Pretty snazzy wheels you have here Bruce.”

Bruce looked panicked. Helpless. Just the way I wanted him to look. “What — what the fuck Steve?”

“You can go to work. Don’t let me stop you. I’ll just be here until I get all my answers.”

“Look — can’t you see! I’m fucking desperate! I told you I’m up to my fucking ass in debt!”

“You don’t look desperate. Pretty nice car, nice house, well, nice everything. More than my pension could buy,” I said as calmly as possible.

“I could fucking lose everything tomorrow!”

“So?”

“So? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It’s just a house, just a car, we all have them. No big deal.”

“If it were only that fucking simple.”

“It is that simple. You’ve just made it complicated.”

“Fuck, Steve. What do you want?”

“Did you lie? Did you tell Agatha I’d go to Japan for you?”

Bruce slapped the steering wheel, looked straight ahead and closed his eyes. “Is that what you want to hear?”

“I want to hear the truth. Don’t give me a lawyer answer. None of them qualifications. Just a simple yes or no for a simple man.”

“Okay, fine — yes. I told her. Because I thought — call it a future projection — I thought I could convince you.”

“Whatever,” I said. Bastard coaxed me in to using a word I hated…but it was fitting in the moment. I got out of the car and closed the door.

I then heard Bruce roll down his window. He yelled out, “So are you going?”

I stopped, looked at him and walked back to his side of the car. I thought I could do a dramatic walk-off, like the ones in the movies, but I wanted to make sure he heard me. I made sure to look him dead in the eye. “Yes, I’m going. Because I gave my word to Agatha I would. Because she’s a friend. But if I find out again that you’re lying to me, or putting words in my mouth, then I swear, I will kick you right in the nuts. Understand?”

“I — fuck. I’m sorry Steve. I understand. Fuck, I understand. Here…” Bruce opened his wallet, I was expecting a wad of cash or something but he just handed me a card — his business card, but on the back was someone’s name written on it in Bruce’s chicken-scratch. “Jason Reudelheuber-Katz.”

“Who?”

“Jason, Roy’s roommate from UCLA? He said he’ll help you. Here’s his phone number and email address. Call him or email him, so you guys can set something up.”

“You told him I was going too, huh?”

Bruce looked frustrated. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but talking to me. “I emailed him when Agatha told me, okay?”

I looked at the card, made sure I could make out all the numbers and letters. “Fine, I’ll — damn calling Japan is kind of expensive I’d imagine…”

“I’ll buy you a phone card. Look I have to go.”

“Then be gone,” I said. Bruce drove off. I looked at the card again. Jason Reudelheuber-Katz. “What type of name was that?” I thought.

Continued in Chapter 8