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YBOR NOIR | John David
Frank “Giddy” Geddy wasn’t a morning person. He never had been. Mornings were for people with nothing better to do that hassle people with better stuff to do, like sleep. Or recover from a hangover, like Frank. No good-hearted person would ever call you, or pound on your door at 11 a.m. on a Sunday. Anyone who did wasn’t a friend of yours, and probably never would be.
Frank’s friends knew better, which meant that whatever asshole was knocking on his door wasn’t one of them. Which meant they wanted something, probably money, which Frank didn’t have. Thus the no answering the door.
“Mr. Geddy? Mr. Geddy, please! I need your help!” The banging continued.
The voice was female but not feminine. A little rough around the edges, like Frank. He was listening now.
“Mr. Geddy, can I talk to you please? I tried to call your office, but no one answered.”
Frank’s “office” was his crummy walk-up apartment above an equally crummy dive bar on 7th Avenue. He liked it because it was in stumbling distance of all his favorite places, ironically all bars, but not the one downstairs. Frank hated that bar. Always filled with the wrong “type” of people—young, hip, attractive people. Not broken-down old drunks, like him.
The buzzer sounded again, and Frank’s head felt like the sound was coming from inside his brain and blasting out of his ears, like the speakers on some ghetto rat’s car. He couldn’t take any more.
“Who are you, and what the hell do you want?” he yelled at the door.
“Better yet, don’t tell me… just… fuck… off,” he continued.
“Mr. Geddy. Please open the door. I need to talk to you.”
There was just enough of a pleading tone in the voice to make Frank feel curious, if not interested.
“Un-twist your panties, sweetie. Do you know what time it is? What day it is? How hung over I am?”
“Please Mr. Geddy. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important… I… I’m just so scared.”
The little sniffle in the voice got Frank off the couch and over to the door. He had always been a sucker for a damsel in distress, and this one sounded like trouble was all around her. He opened the door.
She looked like a hot mess. Her mascara was smeared, and her clothes had that “wore them yesterday, too” look to them. The dark circles under her eyes told Frank that she hadn’t slept much, if at all lately, and her expression told him it wasn’t because she was having fun.
Good thing I’m already dressed.
“Who are you, how’d you get my address, and whatta you want?”
“Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
“Probably not. Depends on how you answer those questions. Right now, it doesn’t look good.”
“Mr. Geddy. My name is Amelia Portola, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. My son is missing.”Missing person. Always more trouble than they’re worth. The kind of case that almost never has a happy ending. People went missing for two kinds of reasons. Because they don’t want to be found, or because somebody else doesn’t want them found. Either way, it’s usually bad news at the end.
“Ms. Portola, right? You may as well come in and tell me your story. You already ruined an awesome hangover by making me be awake through it. Drink?” He grabbed the mostly empty bottle of whiskey off the coffee table and poured some into a dirty mug.
“Um, no, thanks. I’ll pass, for now.”Her lips said no, but her eyes said “Yes, please.”
“I’ll put some coffee on. Have a seat… anywhere.” Frank brushed the burrito wrappers and crumpled newspapers off the couch and onto the floor. “Here, sit here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Geddy.”
He hated to be called “Mr. Geddy.” His friends called him “Giddy,” because he was a happy drunk, the kind that people actually liked to hang out with.
“Call me ‘Giddy,’ or Frank. But not ‘Mr. Geddy,’ please.”
“Ok, Frank. I’m here because my son has been missing since Friday night. I found out yesterday, when his friend called me to ask if he got home ok. They were all out clubbing, ‘crawling’ I think they said, here in Ybor. His friend Jenn said that Matt—that’s my son, went to the bathroom and never came back. They got a text from him later saying not to worry.”
“Has this ever happened before, Ms. Portola?”
“No, Matt lives at home and has always been good about letting me know where he is, and when he will be back. He knows that I worry about him if he doesn’t.”
“Ms. Portola, he probably just made a new ‘friend,’ and decided to make a weekend out of it. Boys will be boys, you know that, right?
“Yes of course I know that!” She was almost yelling now, and crying at the same time. “But this isn’t like him at all. Since his father died…” her voice trailed off.
“Amelia, please, can I call you that? I’ll tell you what. I’ll take a look around, ask a few questions, see what I can see. But I don’t work for free. My basic rate is $1,000 per day, plus expenses, if any. I get three days minimum, up front, no refunds. I take your case, I get paid, find or don’t find, you understand? If I don’t find him in three days, he doesn’t want to be found, or can’t be…”
“What do you mean, can’t be?”
“Well, usually missing persons that aren’t located in three days are either running from something, or they’re not gonna be found anytime soon because they’re dead. I’m sorry to lay it on you like that, but it’s the simple truth. You could always go to the cops. Have you talked to them? What did they say?”
“They said he probably ran off with someone. They said he was an adult, and they couldn’t even take a report until he had been missing for 48 hours. They said not to worry,” she sniffed. “But he’s my son, he’s not answering his phone, and I am worried, because he’s never done this before, and I’m just… so… scared.”
“Do you have the three grand?”
“No, I didn’t know I had to pay you in advance. It’s Sunday and I have no way of getting that much cash today!” She sobbed a little, then said, “But I need you to start looking now! Isn’t there any other way?”
Frank looked her up and down. She was definitely one of those moms you’d like to… friend. It had been a while since he’d felt the healing touch of anyone but himself, but the poor thing looked so sad and helpless. Damn I’m a sucker for a pretty face.
“That watch you’re wearing, is it a Rolex? It looks like one. Let me see it.”
“This?” She took it off and handed it to him. “It was my mother’s. I know it’s worth a lot, but I’m not sure how much, I never asked.”
Frank felt the weight of the solid gold watch, and counted the diamonds around the dial. “It’ll do, for now—get me the cash by tomorrow, though, or I’ll have to pawn this.”
“Fine!” Amelia said. “Just find my son. Here is the address of the last place he was seen in. It’s a bar called the ‘Big Monkey,’ or the ‘Bag Monkey,’ something like that.”
“That’s the ‘Bad Monkey,’ I know where it is. I’ll ask around. Here’s a pad. Write down the names of the friends your son was out with, their cell numbers, and the text message you said one of them got from him after they last saw him. Do you have a picture? Good.”
She took the yellow pad and began to write. “Is there anything else I can do?”
“No, just be available 24/7 if I need you. If we’re going to find him, there’s no time to waste. Don’t forget my money, or I keep the watch. Now go home and get some rest. There’s nothing else you can do right now. You’ll hear from me.”
Frank watched her as she walked out the door and down the hall.
She sure is easy on the eyes.
He closed his door and looked at the pad. Two names and numbers were written there, along with what he assumed was the text message from Matt, and his cell number. Frank looked at the picture. Good-looking kid, clean. Didn’t look like trouble.
They never do.
Mom, though, that was another story. She did look like trouble, the kind of trouble that a man got himself into and didn’t want out of. Frank looked at the pad again. The text message read:
“Il b fine, met sum1 gota fly.”
Short and sweet.
She musta been a spicy tamale for Matt to dump his friends like three-day-old leftovers.
Frank grabbed his hat and headed out the door, down the stairs and out onto the street, squinting against the late-morning sun. The smell of stale cigars, beer, and vomit lingered around the doorway to the walk-ups, like it did pretty much everywhere on 7th Avenue on a Sunday morning. He headed towards the Bad Monkey, past the disheveled passersby doing the walk of shame, and past the street musicians getting an early start on the weekend tourist crowd. He tossed a couple of dollars into the musician’s guitar case and pulled out the picture.
It was a long shot, but street people see a lot, and don’t miss much.
“You see this guy around here lately?”
“Nah, man. I don’t ‘see’ a lot of things, ya know what I mean?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Frank kept heading west until he reached the Monkey. The afternoon crew was inside setting up, but the place wasn’t open yet. He knocked out the door, three times, crisp and loud, like a cop.
Old habits die hard.
“Closed!” the pretty blonde bartender yelled at him through the glass. “We open at noon!”
He knocked again, once this time, and pulled out his wallet, holding it up the glass like it was a badge. He quickly put the wallet away as the bartender walked over to the door. “Official business, ma’am. Can I ask you a few questions?”
She looked at him skeptically as she unlocked the door. “Can I see that badge again, officer?” she said.
“I’m not a cop, ma’am. I’m a private detective. I’m looking for a missing person who was last seen here, Friday night. Can I talk to you for a few moments?”
The gal had beautiful… eyes. Frank looked up at them, after a moment. “Thanks for your help. I’m looking for this young man.” He held up the photo. “Were you working Friday night? Did you see him?”
She took the photo from his hand and studied it carefully. “I was working that night, but I see hundreds of people here, all the time. Unless he was a regular… I can’t say.”
“This guy would have stood out. He closed the place down with two of his friends, a guy and a gal. Was probably pretty hammered.”
“Man, you just described about 90 percent of the people here every night.” She looked at the picture again. “Now that you mention it, a couple was asking if any of us had seen their friend, just before closing. I remember because they seemed really worried, the girl especially. I told them he probably just went somewhere else, or to get something to eat. They left in a hurry.”
“Ok. Here’s my card. Do me a favor – ask the rest of your crew if they remember anything about that couple or their friend, would you? You come up with something I can use, there’s a hundred bucks in it for you.” Frank pulled a hundred out of his wallet, tore it in half, and gave her one part. “That’s how serious I am, you find out anything, anything at all, you call, OK?”
“Sure thing, Mr… Geddy,” she said, as she looked at his card. “Sorry I wasn’t more help to you.” Frank turned and headed for the door. “Um, Mr. Geddy, sir? There is one more thing. We keep a white board, back of the house, by the johns. People write stuff there, sometimes, jokes, news, even messages for their friends before they head off to another bar. You wanna see it? “Damn right I do. Let’s check it out.”
I’m getting old, should have looked around before I asked her anything.
“Follow me.” She turned and headed towards a hallway in the back of the bar, turned a corner, stopped, and pointed to a small whiteboard. “There it is. We usually erase it every day, but sometimes you can still see the writing.”
Frank examined the whiteboard carefully. The usual bar graffiti.
“Mandy is a whore,” written in a girl’s hand.
“There once was a man named Enis.”
Nobody is fucken named Enis, fer Chrissake.
“Go Bucs! Wooot!”
Ah, sports fans, the bread and butter of every bar.
And then, in the corner, barely visible, he saw the words “Jenn, went to JJ’s, Matt.”
“Honey, I don’t know you, but I already like you,” Frank said as he handed her the other half of the bill. “Keep my card. Anything else comes to mind, call me.”
“I will, Mr. Geddy!”
I still know how to make a woman smile, just hand them a hundred bucks. Didn’t used to cost me so much.
Frank headed out the door and down the avenue towards JJ’s. Matt must have left in a hurry, probably to score something, either pussy or drugs. Either way, he didn’t want his friends to see him. He wondered about that. Guys leaving a bar to score some action aren’t usually shy about it — they want their friends to know. So that left dope, but Matt’s mom had said he was a “good kid,” whatever that meant nowadays.
Frank had been a good kid, too, but he and his friends had still smoked a few pounds of pot in college.
Had to be a dope deal, then.
Those kinds of things always had the potential to go real wrong, real fast, even for the lightweight shit like pot.
You better be alive, kid. I hate to break a woman’s heart.
Frank stood on the sidewalk in front of JJ’s. The two bars were only a block or two apart. Maybe five minutes to get here? But if it was damn near closing time when the kid left the Monkey, it was probably after last call, which means they wouldn’t have let him in, which means he got stopped at the door, or met someone there.
Gotta talk to the doorman.
He walked in and sat down at the bar. The bartender was slicing lemons by the register.
“What can I get you?”
“Jack and a Bud back.”
“Neat or rocks? Bottle or draft?”
“Neat. Bottle. Is there any other way?
The bartender laughed at that as she poured the whiskey and uncapped the bottle. “I guess not. But you’re not one of my regulars, so I had to ask.”
“I got a question for you. I’m looking for someone. A friend.”
She laughed again. “Isn’t everyone?”
“Not that kind of friend. A young man, last seen here, probably just before closing time Friday night. He mighta got stopped at the door, if it was after last call.”
“You a cop?”
“No, I’m a detective.” He held up Matt’s picture. “This is the kid. He isn’t in any trouble that I know of.”
She studied the picture. “Doesn’t ring any bells. I didn’t work Friday night, I’m mostly days and swing.”
“Anyone else here that did work Friday night close?”
“Yeah, the assistant manager. He’s in the back. Hang on a minute.” He watched as she walked away, doing that sexy hip wiggle cute girls always seem to do when they know someone is watching.
If I was 20 years younger… I would at least ask…
She returned a moment later with a burly-looking guy Frank assumed was the assistant manager.
“I understand you’re looking for some kid?” he said.
“Take a good look at this photo. His people are worried about him. They just want him home safe. Have you seen him?”
“That sonofabitch! Yeah, he was here Friday night. Got real pissy cause we stopped him and his girl at the door. Said he was meeting someone inside. I told him to fuck off cause it was after last call. Turned out they were here to meet one of our servers. Him and his girl hung around until close, then left with Cammie.”
“Cammie? She left with this kid and his girl? Are you absolutely certain?”
“Hell yeah. I never forget a face I’m about to bash.”
“Can I have Cammie’s number?
“Hell no. I can’t give out personal employee info to every yahoo that walks in my place. But I can call her for you. Gimme your card.”
Frank handed his card over. The manager made a quick call, said something Frank couldn’t hear, then gave him the phone.
“Hello? Who is this? What do you want?”
“Cammie? Is Matt Portola there?”
“Um, who wants to know?”
“Detective Frank Geddy.”
“Call your mom right… fucking… now.”
Frank handed the phone back to the manager.
Boys will be boys.