Eyes still closed, Garrett muttered, “Less than a day now.”
“I don’t know where we search. I don’t know what we do. There are no loose threads. There’s nothing left to chase.”
Murphy’s head sank down on his chin. “I don’t know either.”
Somewhere in the high grass, a red crossbill chirp chirp chirped and goats stamped at the mud from a light overnight rain. From a horse trailer, a few mares set to be sold down near Dillon shuffled as best they could manage. The whole place smelled of sweet hay and mustard seed gone wild. Miles away, the smog over the Flats was just starting to take shape under the dawning light. It was as beautiful a morning in the outskirts of the city as they could ask for.
Garrett opened his eyes, and Murphy started talking again.
“So Duncan. He dealt a few blocks away from me, I want to say… mmm… Colton Street.”
“Murphy, I don’t want to listen to a story.”
The ghost continued, never quite breaking his rhythm. “I say friend, but really, he was just more or less an acquaintance, know what I mean? Didn’t have too many friends in those days. Not real ones.
“Anyways. Old Montayne, he used to get up every morning like a machine, getting’ out there and dealin’ about six every morning. Till one day, he just didn’t. Nobody thought much about it. People dropped out from time to time, or moved on, or got picked up and no one noticed. Montayne could’ve been one of those guys. A ghost.” Murphy smiled. “I thought that’s what happened to him, but a few months on, I’m taking my boy to the grocery store. Couldn’t go in there alone anymore. Owners knew me, had my picture up. Their employees, they knew I dealt, but if I brought in Eggar – he couldn’t have been more than two or three – no one said a peep to me. I could slip a few samples around, shake a few hands, and all the while, I’d just be looking like I was shoppin’ for diapers or something.
“Except that day Eggar really did need… shit, something. Maybe it really was diapers, or food, or something. Nah, wait, it definitely was diapers. Anyways, point is, I’m down to almost nothing in my wallet. I don’t mean broke-” Murphy made air quotes with his fingers “-but broke. I could either pay off the cop walking my beat that day, or I could buy Eggar diapers. And I’m such a rat bastard, I’m thinking if I steal some dish towels, maybe I can tie them around his waist with rubber bands or something.” He caught Garrett’s look and bowed his head. “Ain’t proud of it, Garrett. You know that.”
“I know. It’s just hard to reconcile you to that guy sometimes.”
“It’s been a long, long trip,” Murphy agreed. “So I’m standing there. I got the rags in my hand, but something pulls me back to the kids’ aisle. And I’m looking between the diapers and the rag, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Jesus, am I really gonna do this to my own kid?’ And the truth is… yeah. I know I was.
“And here comes Montayne, shuffling down the aisle. He’s clean, I realize. I don’t mean from the drugs – dude was actually allergic to heroin, and not much else was worth pushing those days. I mean, he was in a suit. He’d shaved. Badly, but he’d shaved. His hair was done up with this rubber band, and he kinda looked like a pirate. Truth be told, I kinda thought it was a little bit rad.”
Garrett sighed, wishing he’d get to the point. “Murphy, we’ve got no time for this.”
“You, more than anyone else, know time doesn’t really matter, does it? We got all the time in the universe, brother. And this is important. Because I know what you’re thinking, and you’re not doing it, you asshole.”
Garrett got up, dusting off the ass of his jeans, and Murphy joined him.
As they headed back towards the silo, Murphy kept going. “So I barely recognize him. Montayne, though, he knows me. Everybody knew me. Better or worse. He stops and he says to me, ‘Don’t.’ I play innocent, like I don’t know what he’s talking about, but the old man, he just shook his head and started on down the aisle.
“I grabbed his arm, and I asked him, ‘Where ya been, Monty?’
“Montayne, he just looks at me, and there’s sadness there. Maybe for him, maybe for me, maybe for all of it. I don’t know. He took my baby up out of the cart, and he held him up there, not really playing with him, just sorta looking at Eggar. Finally Montayne puts him back and says, ‘Who do you want him to see? The man, or the devil?’”
Garrett waited for more as they approached the big front door. He dug for his keycard and half-turned as he swiped it to unlock the bunker’s first entrance. “And?”
Murphy glanced towards the west, sucking in his cheeks before answering. “It took me a long time to figure out I wanted Eggar to see the man.”
Ignoring the service elevator, they started down the long spiraling stairwell to the intelligence room. A few people shuffled here and there, but most everyone was either out in the field or glued to a computer and a phone. Somewhere down one of the halls, Garrett heard Stephanie talking to someone, but he still had trouble facing his sisters. The shame tore at him. Instead, he asked Murphy, “Was there a point to that story?”
The ghost jumped down the rest of the flight of their stairs and turned to face Garrett. “That’s the day I realized I really like suits.”
If it was a joke, he wasn’t smiling.