If you are looking for No Time for Goodbye Part 31 you are coming to the right place.
No Time for Goodbye is a Webnovel created by Linwood Barclay.
This lightnovel is currently completed.
The only other person I could think to call was Rona Wedmore. I considered it, then decided not to. She wasn't, as far as I could tell, solidly in our corner.
I think I understood Cynthia's motivations for disappearing, but I was less sure Wedmore would.
And then a name popped into my head. Someone I'd never met, never spoken to, never even seen across a room. But his name kept coming up.
Maybe it was time to have a chat with Vince Fleming.
If I could have brought myself to call Detective Wedmore, I could have asked her outright where I might find Vince Fleming and saved myself some time. She'd already said she knew the name. Abagnall had told us he had a record for a variety of offenses. He was even believed to have partic.i.p.ated in a revenge killing, after the murder of his father back in the early nineties. There was a pretty good chance that a police detective would know where someone like that might hang out. to call Detective Wedmore, I could have asked her outright where I might find Vince Fleming and saved myself some time. She'd already said she knew the name. Abagnall had told us he had a record for a variety of offenses. He was even believed to have partic.i.p.ated in a revenge killing, after the murder of his father back in the early nineties. There was a pretty good chance that a police detective would know where someone like that might hang out.
But I didn't want to talk to Wedmore.
I went up to the computer and started doing some searches on Vince Fleming and Milford. There were a couple of news stories from the New Haven paper over the last few years, one that detailed how he had been charged with a.s.sault. He'd used someone's face to open a beer bottle. That one got dismissed when the victim decided to drop charges. I was willing to bet there was more to that story, but the online edition of this newspaper certainly didn't have it.
There was another story where Vince Fleming got a pa.s.sing reference, as someone rumored to be behind a rash of auto thefts in southern Connecticut. He owned a body shop in an industrial district somewhere in town, and there was a photo of him, one of those slightly grainy ones taken by a photographer who doesn't want his subject to know he's there, going into a bar called Mike's.
I'd never been in, but I'd driven past Mike's.
I got out the Yellow Pages, found several pages listing businesses that would fix your dented automobile. From the listings, it wasn't immediately obvious which one might belong to Vince Fleming-there was no Vince's Auto Body, no Fleming's Fender Repair.
I could start phoning every body shop in the Milford area, or I could try asking around for Vince Fleming at Mike's. Maybe there, I might find someone who could point me in the right direction, at least give me the name of the body shop he owned, and where, if the papers were to be believed, he chopped up the occasional stolen car for parts.
Although not particularly hungry, I felt I needed some food in my stomach and put a couple of slices of bread into the toaster, slathered peanut b.u.t.ter over them, and ate them standing over the sink so I wouldn't have to clean up the crumbs. I threw on a jacket, made sure I had my cell phone with me, and went to the front door.
When I opened it, Rona Wedmore was standing there.
"Whoa," she said, her fist suspended in midair, ready to knock.
I jumped back. "Jesus," I said. "You scared the s.h.i.t out of me."
"Mr. Archer," she said, maintaining her composure. Evidently my sudden opening of the door scared me more than it did her.
"h.e.l.lo," I said. "I was just on my way out."
"Is Mrs. Archer here? I don't see her car."
"She's out. Is there something I can help you with? Have you any new information?"
"No," she said. "When will she be back?"
"I can't say, exactly. What did you want her for?"
Wedmore ignored my question. "Is she at work?"
"You know what? I'll just give her a call. I think I made a note here," she had her notebook out, "of her cell phone number."
"She's not answer-" I stopped myself.
"She's not answering her phone?" Wedmore said. "Let's see if you're right about that." She punched in the number, put the phone to her ear, waited, closed the phone. "You're right. Does she not like to answer her phone?"
"Sometimes," I said.
"When did Mrs. Archer leave?" she asked.
"This morning," I said.
"Because I drove by here around one in the morning, getting off shift late and all, and her car wasn't here then, either."
s.h.i.t. Cynthia had hit the road with Grace even earlier than I'd imagined.
"Really," I said. "You should have dropped in and said h.e.l.lo."
"Where is she, Mr. Archer?"
"I don't know. Check back in the afternoon. Maybe she'll be here then." Part of me wanted to ask Wedmore's help, but I was afraid of making Cynthia seem guiltier than I feared Wedmore already viewed her.
That tongue was poking around inside her mouth again. It took a break so she could ask, "Has she taken Grace, too?"
I found myself unable to say anything for a moment, then, "I really have things to do."
"You look worried, Mr. Archer. And you know what? You should be. Your wife has been under one h.e.l.l of a strain. I want you to get in touch with me the moment she shows up."
"I don't know what it is you think she's done," I said. "My wife's the victim here. She's the one who was robbed of her family. Her parents and brother first, now her aunt."
Wedmore tapped me on the chest with an index finger. "Call me." She handed me another one of her business cards before heading back to her car.
Seconds later, I was in mine, driving west on Bridgeport Avenue into the Milford neighborhood of Devon. I'd been past Mike's a hundred times, a small brick building next to a 7-Eleven, its five-letter neon sign running vertically down the second story, ending above the entrance. The front windows were decorated with signs advertising Schlitz and Coors and Budweiser.
I parked around the corner and walked back, not sure whether Mike's would even be open in the morning for business, but once inside I realized that for many, it was never too early to drink.
There were about a dozen customers in the dimly lit bar, two perched on stools up at the counter having a conversation, the rest scattered about the tables. I approached the bar just down from the two guys, leaned against it until I had caught the attention of the short, heavyset man in a check shirt working behind it.
"Help ya?" he asked, a damp mug in one hand, a towel in the other. He worked the towel into the mug, twisted it around.
"Hi," I said. "I'm looking for a guy, I think he comes in here a lot."
"We get a lot of people," he said. "Got a name?"
The bartender had a pretty good poker face. Didn't flinch, raise an eyebrow. But he didn't say anything right away, either.
"Fleming, Fleming," he said. "Not sure."
"He's got a body shop in town here," I said. "He's the kind of guy, I think, if he does come in here, you'd know him."
I became aware that the two guys at the bar were no longer talking. "What sort of business you got with him?" the bartender asked.
I smiled, trying to be polite. "It's sort of a personal matter," I said. "But I'd be grateful if you could tell me where I could find him. Wait, hang on." I dug out my wallet, struggling for a second to get it out of the back pocket of my jeans. It was a clumsy, awkward maneuver. I made Columbo look smooth. I laid a ten on the counter. "It's a bit early for me for a beer, but I'd be happy to pay you for your trouble."
One of the guys at the bar had slipped away. Maybe to use the can.
"You can keep your money," the bartender said. "If you want to leave your name, next time he's in, I could pa.s.s it on to him."
"Maybe if you could just tell me where he works. Look, I don't mean him any trouble. I'm just wondering if maybe someone I'm looking for might have been to see him."
The bartender weighed his options, must have decided Fleming's place of business was probably pretty common knowledge, so he said, "Dirksen Garage. You know where that is?"
I shook my head.
Across the bridge over into Stratford, he said. He drew me a small map on a c.o.c.ktail napkin.
I went back outside, took a second to let my eyes adjust to the sunlight, and got back in my car. Dirksen Garage was only a couple of miles away, and I was there in under five minutes. I kept glancing in my rearview mirror, wondering whether Rona Wedmore might be following me, but I didn't spot any obvious unmarked cars.
Dirksen Garage was a single-story cinder-block building with a paved front yard and a black tow truck out front. I parked, walked past a Beetle with its nose smashed in and a Ford Explorer with the two driver's-side doors caved in, and entered the garage through the business entrance.
I'd come into a small, windowed office that looked out onto a large bay with half a dozen cars in various stages of repair. Some were brown with primer, others masked with paper in preparation for painting, a couple with fenders removed. A strong chemical smell traveled up my nostrils and bored straight into my brain.
There was a young woman at the desk in front of me who asked what I wanted.
"I'm here to see Vince," I said.
"Not in," she said.
"It's important," I said. "My name's Terry Archer."
"What's it about?"
I could have said that it was about my wife, but that was going to raise a whole bunch of red flags. When one guy goes looking for another guy and says it's about his wife, it's hard to believe anything good can come of that.
So I said, "I need to speak with him."
And what, exactly, was I going to speak with him about? Had I figured that part out yet? I could start with "Have you seen my wife? Remember her? You knew her as Cynthia Bigge. You were on a date with her the night her family vanished?"
And once I'd broken the ice, I could try something like, "Did you, by the way, have anything to do with that? Did you happen to put her mother and brother in a car and dump them off a cliff into an abandoned quarry?"
It would have been better if I had a plan. But the only thing that was driving me now was that my wife had left me, and this was my first stop as I went beating about the bushes.
"Like I said, Mr. Fleming is not here right now," the woman said. "But I'll take a message."
"The name," I said again, "is Terry Archer." I gave her my home and cell numbers. "I'd really like to talk to him."
"Yeah, well, you and plenty of others," she said.
So I left the Dirksen Garage. Stood out front in the sun, said to myself, "What now, a.s.shole?"
All I really knew for sure was that I needed a coffee. Maybe, drinking a coffee, some intelligent course of action would come to me. There was a doughnut place about half a block down, so I walked over to it. I bought a medium with cream and sugar and sat down at a table littered with doughnut wrappers. I brushed them out of my way, careful not to get any icing or sprinkles on me, and got out my cell phone.
I tried Cynthia again, and again it went straight to voicemail. "Honey, call me. Please."
I was slipping the phone back into my jacket when it rang. "h.e.l.lo? Cyn?"
"Dr. Kinzler here."
"Oh, it's you. I thought it might be Cynthia. But thanks for returning my call."
"Your message said your wife is missing?"
"She left in the middle of the night," I said. "With Grace." Dr. Kinzler said nothing. I thought I'd lost my call. "h.e.l.lo?"
"I'm here. She hasn't been in touch with me. I think you should find her, Mr. Archer."
"Well, thanks. That's very helpful. That's kind of what I'm trying to do right now."
"I'm just saying, your wife has been under a great deal of stress. Tremendous strain. I'm not sure that she's entirely...stable. I don't think it's a very good environment for your daughter."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm not saying anything. I just think it would be best to find her as soon as you can. And if she does get in touch with me, I will recommend to her that she return home."
"I don't think she feels safe here."
"Then you need to make it safe," Dr. Kinzler said. "I have another call."
And she was gone. As helpful as always, I thought.
I'd downed half my coffee before I realized it was bitter to the point of being undrinkable, tossed the rest, and walked out the front of the shop.
A red SUV bounced up and over the curb and stopped abruptly in front of me. The back and front doors on the pa.s.senger side opened and two rumpled-looking, slightly potbellied men in oil-stained jeans, jean jackets, and dirty T-shirts-one bald and the other with dirty blond hair-jumped out.
"Get in," Baldy said.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"You heard him," said Blondie. "Get in the f.u.c.king car."