“We’re looking for this man. Have you seen him?” Benelli held up a computerized sketch of Tiny, recreated from the best of Sig’s memory. The two spent most of the day hitting up every florist they could find in the vicinity. All of it was tiring footwork. No one liked to be harassed by the cops around there, especially when it drove away paranoid customers. There’s a saying on the other side of the river: “everyone has a rap sheet in Old Town.” It wasn’t without a little merit.
“I don’t know who that is.” The clerk at the final flower shop dismissed them in short order, and went back to throwing cheap flowers in a second-hand vase for the budget section. He reeked of gin, and looked like he hadn’t seen a bathtub in days. Both of them stepped out of the shop a little disappointed. Benelli turned to her partner and asked the inevitable.
“That was the last of them. Got any other bright ideas?” The sentence was punctuated by two cats going at it around the corner.
“Maybe we’re not approaching this problem the right way. It’s always possible they wouldn’t talk to the police. It’s not like we’ve done them any favors over the years.” Sig stared out into space.
“If that’s the case, then we totally blew it. They’ve already seen us once. The thieves would have to do something to make it a losing strategy to keep quiet, like make a shop owner go missing. Trying it again another day would be stupid.”
“True, or…” Sig’s voice trailed off and he started to blink like something flew in his eye.
“…or he’s not buying them from a store.”
Benelli knew their current conversation was now secondary, as the vacant look meant he was out to lunch. If gears were turning in his head, the smoke would surely follow. She pictured a hamster running as fast as it could on a wheel, then collapsing from exhaustion. As irritating as it was, she learned by now not to take it personally.
“He’s not buying them from a shopkeeper.” Sig finally came back to the real world. “They might just be telling us the truth after all.”
“So, where is he getting them? You said yourself he wasn’t getting them from the graves.”
“Sure, but there’s still more than one way to buy flowers around here.” He stopped to put a cigarette in his mouth. “I’m willing to bet there’s a travelling merchant on the street.” With a short point, he made out a kiosk to the north of them.
“How are we going to find them? Street vendors roam and we could be on the hunt for days.” Benelli was disappointed in the long shot. It was starting to sound like he was getting desperate, and wasting time wasn’t much of a hobby for her.
Sig frowned at the question and then added, “word of mouth.” A small light from a Zippo could be seen inside the palm of Sig’s hand. “They have their own little trade organization down here. They’ll talk each other up, if there’s something in it for them. It’s the best advertising they can get at this level. Everyone helps everyone else out. You know, quid pro quo.”
“How can he string all of his wild theories together to sound so plausible?” Benelli thought. It drove her nuts, but it was all that they had at this point. A shot in the dark was better than back to the drawing board. Sig was already walking across the street at the vendor he saw. She decided to stay there and let him do all of the work this time. She needed a break from the race.
“Hey buddy, how much for the apple?” Unwittingly, Sig walked straight up to the man whose cart recently became part of the car chase obstacle course. Fortunately for him, the merchant never got a good look at his face. The corpulent senior looked up attentively, after he put the pen down on his crossword puzzle.
“30 cents,” replied the immigrant. “You look like a shrewd man, and shrewd men know it’s the best deal you’ll find around here.”
“Great. I’ll take that, a peach, and a pint of blueberries. By the way, I’m looking to pick up some flowers for a special someone. Do you know where I could get that on the street? All of the florists around here don’t have anything I want.”
The old man’s eyes sparkled and a smile spread across his face. “Aha! You’re in trouble with your lady friend, ah?” He nodded toward Benelli on the other side of the street. “You’re wise to beg for forgiveness. You’re also a lucky man. My wife sells flowers to people who want to remember their dead. You can find her near the graveyard.”
It never occurred to Sig that there were still grieving people in Old Town. Where else would they go? The proximity would also be perfect for Tiny. The times didn’t jive well, but he could always loiter about during the daytime. He’s obviously not the brains of the operation. Sig handed a few crumpled bills to the seller and denied his change. A sense of accomplishment came over the fruit seller, as he thought all of his work paid off. Little did he know it could have been twice the price, and Sig would still have paid him.
“Thanks, friend, I’m always around if you want more fruit!” The merchant beamed not only for the profit from the sale, but the prospect of future income. Sometimes the small things in life mean a lot. Sig tucked the produce under his arm and trotted back to his partner.
“You starting a health food kick?” Benelli was eying the peach. She hadn’t eaten much all day, and she was starting to get curt. Not being as dense as he looked, Sig tossed the fruit to her. “Here, it looks like you’re going to pass out.”
With the bite of peach still in her mouth, Benelli mumbled,“what did you find out?” The sticky sweet juice dribbled down her chin as manners were for another day. Sig bit into the apple dramatically. “We need to go to Chestnut Grove to pay our respects.”
© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved