After powering up his aging laptop and waiting for the signal, Felix checks the classifieds. Nothing. He throws the paper on the table. Whatever is happening in the present seems irrelevant. Poverty is timeless that way, thinks Felix. It could be last year’s paper and what was news then would still be news to him now, here in his private Purgatory. Hiram picks up the newspaper and reads the horoscopes out loud. Then another story catches his eye. “Listen to this, tío. ‘Four decades after the theft of the famous Green Tara necklace, a diver discovers…’ ”
Felix snatches the paper.
“What does it say?” asks Hiram.
Felix reads quickly through the first part of the article. According to the writer, this is no average forgery. An investigator is quoted, “Whoever reproduced the Green Tara had an intimate acquaintance with the necklace, the exact cut of the emeralds and diamonds, and all the intricacies of the settings. According to experts who examined the necklace, the skill of this forger is unmatched.”
Felix hands the paper to Hiram. “Read the rest out loud. My eyes hurt.”
Hiram reads and summarizes. “It just says basically that the original necklace was never actually chucked into the ocean during a boat chase out of the harbor. I guess it’s still out there somewhere.”
“Go on,” says Felix.
“It says, ‘The discovery of the forgery has re-ignited interest in the search for the Green Tara all over again,’ and then more about the origins of the necklace, the heist, blah, blah, blah, experts say this and that, and some questions about the death of an actress named Cheryl Lundquist”
Felix spills his coffee all over his pants.
“Whoa!” Hiram offers Felix a stack of napkins. “You look like you saw a ghost.”
Felix puts down his coffee. A wide smile spreads across his face.
“Yes. A ghost. I did see a ghost. Only she was real.”
“I knew it!” Felix is apoplectic.
Felix gets to thinking. His cousin Agate lives in the wine country where Felix is almost sure he ran into the same Cheryl Lundquist at a liquor store the last time he went to visit. Only Cheryl was, and still is, supposed to be dead.
Felix thinks some more. Agate tried for several weeks to get Felix and Hiram to come stay with her in her mobile home until they got back on their feet, but Felix’s pride prevented him from taking her up on her kind offer. Just before noon, when Hiram goes out to get a few things for lunch, he gives her a call to find out if her offer still stands. When Hiram returns, Felix says to his bewildered nephew, “Pack the car. We’re leaving today.”
“What for?” asks Hiram nervously. Between the two of them, they’d barely scraped together enough money for May rent on their cinder block cell, and they still have two weeks left. Felix knows that Hiram has a lead on a job at a nearby motel. Felix’s options are more limited. “Naturally, you’re concerned. But that motel is the kind of establishment that rents rooms by the hour. And I am too old to stand on my feet all day. Agate lives in a lovely, little town in the wine country – the birthplace of California! And she has an extra room. Plus, there is an old friend I need to see.”
“But you said–”
“I know what I said.”
Hiram waits a moment to speak. “It’s legit, right?” Hiram asks cautiously.
“It’s legit. Agate is a businesswoman. She doesn’t believe in charity.”
Felix doesn’t want Hiram to stay in Los Banos any more than he wants to stay in Los Banos. Felix is going to give poor, orphaned Hiram the fighting chance Felix never had. He’s just been waiting for a sign.
“Why are we going to see this old friend of yours?” asks Hiram. “Just asking.”
“It’s a feeling I have.”
Hiram chews his nails and stares into his coffee. “What about work?”
“There will be plenty of work there.” This is an educated guess. “Rich people are lazy.”
“I’ll need to jump the car,” says Hiram.
“Not for long,” Felix answers.