In the car, cruising up I-95. Top down, sun shining. My trench coat was hot as hell. Me and Jimmy were heading North to pick up our third and final team member. The engine on the old Impala wasn’t running in top form. That plus the three surfboards sticking out of the trunk playing parachute were keeping us well under the speed limit.
In addition to the surfboards, Jimmy’s “things” consisted of spare ankle cords, a roll of sex wax, three bottles of Hawaiian Tropic (SPF-2), two pairs of cutoff jeans, a couple of T-shirts, his electric guitar and amp, and a Gameboy.
“Where we going, Dick?” He remembered my name. I was touched.
“Going to run up to Wilmington. Pick up Simon.”
“Yeah. He’s going to be working with us.”
“Does he know that?”
“Oh.” Jimmy looked out at the passing trees. “He’s not gonna like you volunteering him again.”
“Don’t worry about Simon. I’ll talk him into it.”
“Yeah, well. You know, Simon doesn’t like me very much. Do we have to get him?”
“Yeah we do. And don’t worry. Simon likes you just fine.”
“No he don’t. He calls me that number thing.”
Jimmy was right. Simon didn’t care for him much. Simon was at one end of the educational spectrum while Jimmy was at the other. A dollar says you can guess who was at which end. ‘That number thing’ was Simon’s way of poking fun at Jimmy. He sometimes called him ‘Number 12’. It started when we were eating at a Tai restaurant one night. Jimmy had said something stupid (big surprise there) and Simon told him that most of the food on the menu was more intelligent than he was. At this particular restaurant you ordered your meals by number. Jimmy had ordered number ‘12.’
“He probably forgot all about that. Besides,” I said, trying cheer him up a little, “Wilmington’s on the coast.”
“Yeah? Okay. That’s cool.” He seemed a little better. “Yeah. Okay,” he said again. Personal affirmation. “Can we go a little faster then?”
“We’re topped out, Jimbo.”
“Really? I thought this big old thing had a V-8.”
“It does, but one of the “V’s” isn’t working real good at the moment.”
“Oh.” Jimmy the conversationalist. “That’s okay, I like riding in cars. I’m pretty good at it.”
“Yes you are, my friend.”
“I like watching things too,” he added.
“Lots of good things to watch while you ride in a car.”
We rode in silence for a while. Jimmy ate some Fritos and then dozed off. Gave me some time to think. Jimmy and Simon didn’t get along too well but both were crucial to my plans. Okay, that’s a lie. Simon was crucial. Jimmy just needed something to do. But he was also my friend. Having him along would bring some balance to Simon’s extremely intelligent but obnoxious personality. Jimmy would also be a good sounding board. And, if we ran into someone with a gun, he would reduce my odds of getting shot by another 17% than if I had only one partner. Cold reality. But it was a cold world. Well, except in Florida anyway.
We crossed the South Carolina border and almost immediately passed what was undoubtedly the best deal on fireworks ever offered. Made me think of Simon. Nothing to do with fireworks. Just that Simon had been wearing a yellow shirt the last time I saw him. Bright yellow. Just like the fireworks sign.
Simon was a square peg. As I’ve said before, a very smart man. Went to school up North in one of those places covered with vines. Harvard, or Yale, or Pepsodent; can’t remember which. Maybe all four.
Maybe I’ll grow a goatee. Give me an edgy look.
Anyway, Simon was pretty level headed. He was an asshole, but that was something I could live with since he won the intelligence battle between me and Jimmy hands down. Had an IQ that I figured had to be way up there in the double digits.
I met Simon when I was working part time at a Dairy Queen a few years back. Investigation business hadn’t been exactly brisk then either. I went into work one night and Simon was in the back kitchen staring at the water as it washed down the drain from the running tap. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was “studying the effects of erosion in order to develop a theory which may provide a possible alternative to carbon dating”.
I told him that I meant what was he doing here; in the back of the DQ. He didn’t work there. Anyway, to make a long story short, we got to talking and before you know it we struck a bond. I also got fired for fucking off in the kitchen for three hours. The breaks, I guess. Simon apologized about getting me fired but told me that if I ever got tired of being a private investigator I had a promising career just waiting for me in the personal petroleum distribution industry. It’s good to know you have that kind of safety net.
Simon always wore shoes because he had a couple of extra toes. This was the only thing that he was really sensitive about and he tried hard to act like it wasn’t a handicap. Because he wanted to be treated like any other person, I always did my best to respect his wishes, though in truth this did create problems on occasion; especially when we performed certain field operations (like sunbathing) which inevitable led to his being left to guard some cheap hotel room, often for days at a time. Overall, Jimmy and I treated him just like one of the guys, and, aside from some good natured ribbing from time to time, made no mention of his abnormality (we did, however, occasionally laugh like hell about it when he wasn’t around; we’re sensitive that way).
Although he was a pain in the ass, Simon was helpful and we had worked well together in the past. I don’t think he really liked detective work and I know it rankled him to play second fiddle to myself. But he’d always accepted when I needed him in the past. Partly because he was my friend. Partly because he knew I’d beat the shit out of him if he didn’t. Like I said, cold reality. Ain’t had my ass kicked by a pen yet.
We hit Wilmington around 10 that night. Would’ve made it sooner but we stopped at South of the Border to buy some authentic Mexican souvenirs. Hey, who can resist all those signs?