Loren D. Estleman - Amos Walker 17 - Retro
that western civilization reached its highest point withthe invention of the can opener; after that, there was nothing to do but add electricity. Now we’re more interested in finding out where we took the wrong turn, which means retracing our steps. Have you noticed how often the word ‘retro’ occurs in today’s advertising? It’s used to sell everything from ballpoint pens to wings of hospitals. These days, backward is the new forward.”
    “Yeah, I say crap like that too when I want attention. I called to see you about the Garnet case.”
    “So you said. Your report arrived this morning. Everything seems to have concluded satisfactorily to all parties, deceased and quick.” He resumed distributing folders.
    “When I wrote it. Today the score is Deceased, two, Quick, Zero. Someone shot Delwayne Garnet to death in his room at the Airport Marriott yesterday afternoon.”
    A folder paused in mid-descent. “I’d heard there was a shooting. But the name wasn’t Garnet.”
    “He’d been using a phony name for years. When the papers find out who he was, they’ll play it up. A fugitive in a box is worth five in a cell.”
    “What was he doing at the Marriott?”
    “He called and said he wanted to give me information he couldn’t over the telephone. He wanted to hire me to find out who killed his father in nineteen forty-nine.”
    “Good God. Whatever for?”
    “I didn’t ask.”
    “Who killed him?”
    “The father? I hadn’t started looking.”
    “Not the father. I wasn’t aware he had one until just now, and I certainly don’t care what or who happened to him. Who killed Delwayne Garnet?”
    “Who didn’t? Vietnam made a lot of enemies on both sides, not counting any he might have made on his own in the meantime. I’ll try to find out, if you pick up my day rate and expenses.”
    “And why should I do that? This firm’s business with Garnet is finished.” He fussed with the last folder. It had a monogram on the cover I couldn’t read, with a lightning bolt through it.
    “When the cops come around, you’ll be able to say the incident is under internal investigation. It’ll make you look better in the press.”
    “The press has always been cordial, insofar as we’ve had relations at all. It may surprise you to learn the police are capable of conducting a thorough investigation without help.”
    “More than capable. I never knock what the other guy is selling. One of the questions they’ll ask is if you knew where Garnet has been keeping himself these past thirty-four years. A sheriff’s investigator who wants to be sheriff can turn that into a case of harboring. If he doesn’t, the FBI will. They need to shift the blame before someone on Capitol Hill thinks to ask them why they couldn’t find him and you could. The media will want to know the same thing. Meldrum and Zinzser could be this year’s Enron.”
    He straightened to his full height and faced me. His height wasn’t all that full, but he was narrow and made the most of the illusion. It would impress juries. “Are you threatening extortion?”
    “I’d be bluffing. I’m fresh out of merchandise. I told a county captain everything yesterday. I’m surprised you haven’t heard from him before this, but I got the impression he thinks the manual is just a suggestion. All I’m after is a client.”
    “We’ll take our chances. Would that be all right with you?”
    “Hunky-dory. Someone comes up missing every day. Someone else will drop around eventually with a checkbook to ask me to look for him, and if he doesn’t, I’ll go to that second someone myself, just like I came to you today.”
    “In that case, if you’ll excuse me.” He looked at his watch, a thin gold oval with an ostrich band.
    I didn’t move. “There’s another thing to consider, and youcan have it for free. I assume you’re handling the rest of Beryl Garnet’s estate, apart from her ashes.”
    “A number of institutions were named in the will, not that

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