“Hello Jimmy,” I said as I slid into the booth across from him.
He started to slide out but was stopped. “Meet my…partner for the day,” I said as Monika sat down next to him.
“Trevor, I ain’t got nothin’ to do with nothin’, I swear,” said Jimmy.
“Eat your breakfast, Jimmy,” I said. “I just have a few questions then we’re out of here.”
Jimmy found it difficult returning to his pancakes. I wasn’t sure if it was me staring at him through sunglasses at 6:30 in the morning or having Monika sitting that close to him. My money would be safe on a bet.
“What do you want to know?”
“Miles Stratford, where is he?” I asked.
“No idea,” said Jimmy as he stuffed a big bite in his mouth. Monika and I exchanged a look. Somehow I felt she could see through the tint and past the swelled eye and actually make eye contact.
“Then you can help me find him,” I said.
“No way, man. I heard you are an untouchable now, man. I don’t want to end up dead.” Bits of pancake flew out as he sputtered out the words.
“I’m right here, Jimmy, touchable as ever. Look at this face. Does it look like it hasn’t been touched?”
“Money’s after you man. I don’t want to be in the way when it finds you,” said Jimmy as he looked out the window as if someone might see him with me.
“Everyone knows you wronged the media man last night about something. You might as well run for it. No one’s going to help you now.”
“And how does everyone know about anything about last night?” I asked.
“Trevor, I’m not talking, man.”
Monika moved a little closer to Jimmy. Under normal circumstances Jimmy would have been nervous just by the fact a girl was near him at all, but there was something that Monika was giving off that just told you that if you messed with her she was going to rip your face off and stick it down your shorts. The sad part is I think Jimmy would have liked it under other circumstances.
Jimmy put his fork down and stared out the window. “I don’t know what you did but word got around that you’re not on his good list right now. No one wants to be near you. I’m serious, Trevor. You got to get out of town.”
I could tell he was serious. Jimmy cared about Jimmy first but I could see in his face that he really thought I was as good as dead. “I can’t go anywhere, Jimmy. I have a job to do and I need your help to do it.”
“No, man,” he said and tried to climb out of the booth over the back of his seat. Monika’s hand on his knee stopped him. Not that she was being seductive or anything but her nails had torn through the denim like talons and snatched him back down.
Jimmy whimpered. Jimmy never screamed, at least not anymore. He knew that usually meant more pain would follow to shut him up, not from me. He had been an information guy for so long that he knew the tricks and the rules. The fact that he wasn’t giving me information just proved how bad things really were for me.
I gave Monika a look. Hurting Jimmy hadn’t been part of the plan. It wasn’t my style, but then I didn’t know what hers was but I had a feeling it could get rougher. “Jimmy, promise on your momma’s grave that you don’t know anything and I’ll leave you alone,” I said.
Jimmy stared into my glasses and I knew he saw the warped reflection of his face looking back at him. “I swear, Trevor.”
I threw down some cash to cover his breakfast and slid out. “Thanks, Jimmy. Sorry about the knee, wasn’t part of the plan.”
“I know,” said Jimmy as he looked at Monika. I saw forgiveness come to his eyes as he took in all of her for the first time. I wasn’t sure what cultural crossroads Monika was from but it had done its job well in the looks department, but I was becoming immune to it. There was an intelligence and a fierceness there that I was coming to respect. Even with her toughness I pushed my arm ahead of her to swing the door out so she could go through first and then made for her Jeep.
I sat back into the leather seat. “What was with the claw routine?” I asked.
“You weren’t going to stop him,” she said as she turned the key.
“Anything he was going to give us would have been a lie just to get rid of us, so I knew stopping him would do no good. Besides violence isn’t my thing,” I said.
The engine went quiet. She looked at me and laughed. “After what you did last night, stomping Marcos Li and then shoving a gun down Stratford’s throat, you are actually going to say you aren’t into violence?”
“I was defending myself against Little Man, or Li or whatever, and the gun for Stratford was for show. I have to put on a show or people will walk all over me,” I finished.
“You did a pretty good acting job,” she said cranking the Jeep again.
“That’s what it is, acting. I am a pacifist at heart. Don’t get me wrong. I will defend myself or others, but I am not going to seek out conflict.”
She became quiet. “I know.”
“You know what?” I asked.
“You’re a good man. That’s why I was sent to you.”
I looked at her. “Sent to me?”
“Yes. Lori Jackson is my aunt.”
“Then that means…what exactly have you gotten me into?” I asked. “And how young are you?” I wasn’t really sure which was the more pressing question.
“Aunt Lori is the youngest of her generation and I belong to the oldest, so we are more like sisters than aunt and niece,” she said with a smile. She knew what had been going through my mind. “As for what you are in, well, it’s exactly what I told you, I want to get Miles Stratford for killing my sister.”
“And she was killed in a car accident?”
“Impossible,” I said. No one in Lori’s family would die that easily.
“She was decapitated, supposedly by the windshield,” said Monika as she gripped the wheel. I looked more closely at the steering wheel and noticed slight bends here and there that were not factory. Monika had anger issues. I wasn’t frightened. For some reason passion came to mind.
“Li was sniffing around my office,” I said.
“This is just great. I’m right in the middle of your war.”
“Dead center,” she said.
Dead kept ringing in my ears.