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.She watched him.She was wearing a white nightgown.Her grandfather said she used to wear a nightgown like that as a child.Bill said, "Did your father beat you?" Leah said, "Maybe." She had these memory gaps.She could not recall large blocks of her childhood.Bill tried to ask a string of questions.Leah talked over him.Her father ridiculed her.Her stepmother and stepbrother teased her.They tried to tease her out of being fat--but she stayed fat anyway.Bill asked her if she'd like to see her mother's case solved.Leah started back on her father.Bill clenched up.So did I.Victimhood was a summons to exploit and explore.Love the one you lost only if they deserved it.Know your dead.Learn how you derive and diverge from them.Leah said her father was the key suspect.She didn't know her mother was murdered for years.Her father hid the fact.That was suspicious.That meant he was hiding things.Her grandfather said he saw the apartment the day after her mother vanished.The place was a mess.Clothes were scattered around.Her baby brother sat in a pool of urine.Bill said, "Your father passed a polygraph test."Leah shrugged.I asked her where she got her information.Leah said, "My grandfather."I asked her if she ever read newspaper accounts.Leah said, "No."Bill gave me his "more questions?" look.I shook my head.Bill thanked Leah.I said we might clear this thing.It might help her get on with her life.Leah looked right through me.I dropped Bill off and drove back to my hotel.I stretched out on the bed and turned the lights off.I dropped their male surnames and ran with Betty Bedford and Geneva Hilliker.Not doppelgangers.Not symbiotic twins.Inimical personalities and antithetical souls.My mother drank Early Times bourbon.She fucked cheap men and cut them off if they cloyed or messed with her solitude.She got pregnant in '39 and aborted herself.She rammed literacy and the Lutheran Church down my throat and made me grateful as a middle-aged man.Betty fell into things.My mother hid out in El Monte.She lived out the dreams and crazy expectations that drive bright and beautiful women.Betty hid out in El Monte.It was a good place to live the lie that life was hunky-dory.Two Jeans.My mother went to nursing school and shortened Geneva to Jean.She was 19.It was 1934.She could shoot men down with stern words or a look.She wanted sex on her own sweet and unconscious terms.She knew how to say no.She said yes, no, or maybe that night.She didn't sense danger.She could have walked away from the drive-in.She had options that Betty Jean didn't.Her unconsciousness made her passively complicit.Betty Jean went to the drugstore and bought baby food.Her life ended nineteen years short of my mother's.I wanted to find the piece of slit who killed her and fuck him for it.Bill called first thing in the morning.He said he just got off the phone.He talked to Tom Armstrong, Joe Walker, and Lee Koury.They traced the kid.He was serving three-to-life.He got out on parole in '75.He stayed out two years and went down behind a fresh rape.AND:Koury said the kid almost confessed to the killing.He almost gave it up at his polygraph test.He said, "My dad's got heart trouble.This would really kill him."II4I replayed the words from L.A.to Fresno.Koury and Meyers made the kid for the Scales snuff.The kid was 42 now.He was locked down at the California Men's Colony.He fell behind a kidnap-rape in Bakersfield.Tom Armstrong just received a full report.Bakersfield was a hundred miles from Fresno.Bill was from Fresno.Betty Jean's parents lived in Fresno.We drove up in Bill's car.We took Bill's father along.Angus Stoner was 86.He knew Kern County.Kern County was all new to me.Dirt fields and shack towns.Wind and dust and a big flat sky.Angus supplied travel notes.He identified orchards and harvesting contraptions.He talked up his hobo adventures, circa 1930.He picked walnuts and grapes.He slept in boxcars.He poured the pork to numerous women.He cut a wide indigent swath.Butch queers rode the rails then.They dogged his handsome ass.He kicked their asses good.Bill and I laughed.Bill called Kern County "El Monte North." I called it "Dogdick, Egypt." We were white-trash postgrads.Disorder and poverty scared us.We trashed it with postgrad license.We were like blacks calling each other "nigger."The kid did Youth Authority time, and he got paroled.He split the San Gabriel Valley.He pulled a postgrad rape here in Kern County.We hit Fresno at dinnertime.It was too late to hit Betty's parents.We booked three hotel rooms and ate at a chain coffee shop.Angus reprised his travelogue.I drifted in and out of it.I had the kid in my brain-sights.Bud Bedford lived in a trailer park between two freeway ramps.His trailer was small and dirty inside and out.He lived with his long-term girlfriend and a small, bug-eyed dog.The dog perched on his wife's lap and showed Bill his teeth.He stared at Bill and sustained a low growl throughout the whole interview.Bill and I flanked Bud Bedford.Bill laid out the investigation and emphatically cleared Betty's husband.Bud Bedford stared at a neutral point between us.He sucked on a cigar stub and took the smoke in deep.His girlfriend stared at him.The dog stared at Bill.Bedford was seventy-something.His hands twitched.His face twitched.He looked frail and nihilistically inclined.A good blast of cigar smoke could debilitate or kill him.He did not react to Bill's pitch in any discernible manner.I said, "Tell me about BettyJean."Bedford said, "She was a good girl and a good mother."I said, "What else can you tell us?"Bedford said, "She shouldn't have got mixed up with Bill Scales."I backed off.My questions were taking me nowhere.I wanted perceptive or passionate answers.I wanted to know if Betty Jean still lived in her father's mind and if he fought to keep her there.Bill took over.He asked specific questions and let Bedford ramble.I listened for signs of fatherly love in the mix.He broke up with Betty's mom when Betty was 8 or 9.They fought some custody battles.She got Betty first.He got her second [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]