Cory Wade is Missing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 22


Angus took the picture out of his pocket so many times on Thursday, it was becoming dog-eared. Even though it was one of the new copies he'd gotten from Peg before leaving San Diego. At the coin shop and the restaurant across from it, he got the only nods that day.

It mostly got him long looks and short head shakes. No one else in Eugene had seen Cory. While disappointing, it didn't discourage him, because he was close. Every fiber in his body was tuned into the fact he was close. He was but one nod away from picking up Cory's trail, and that idea kept him moving along Eugene's sidewalks.

His feet hurt, his back was sore, and his instincts were obviously not what they once were. He was close enough to Cory to feel him, but he wasn't close enough to find him. As the day went on, his body resented the constant motion. He needed to take a break to eat. He needed a hot cup of coffee. He needed to close the deal, but the feeling he was close to Cory, began to weaken.

He moved out from the coin shop, block by block. One block east, one block north, one block south, a block to the west. There were fewer places of interest by the time he was five blocks from where he started the search that morning.

Angus made a mental note of the bars and arcades that would do booming business, once the working day ended. There were ten spots he'd keep an eye on as the evening progressed, if he could still walk that evening.

Angus walked around the in-town motels before going to Pop's for dinner. He needed to get off his aching legs. Cory was staying in one of those motels. He hadn't left town, but hours of prowling turned up nothing. He was going cross-eyed, trying to see far away faces. No matter how hard he looked, none of the faces was Cory's face.

Angus didn't show the picture at the front desk of the motels he passed. The odds were good, the clerk could recognize Cory, as a guest there, but he'd deny it, and as soon as Angus left, the clerk would slip a note under the door of the proper room.

'Someone is looking for the tall slender boy.'

When he finally did hit the motels, it would be early, while most guests were still sleeping. That would come Friday morning. He'd already picked out a spot that gave him the best few of the most motels, and after visiting the desks, he'd sit and watch.

If he end up staking out the motels, it would be a sign that he'd failed, and his final move was to try to catch Cory as he was leaving his motel, and probably leaving town.

At five, he went to his motel to lie across the bed and rest his eyes, The next time he opened his eyes, it was seven. He took a shower, dressed, and he drove across the highway to Pop's for a meal.

Before leaving Pop's, Angus sat looking at Cory's picture.

"Where are you?"

When Angus stopped at Cowboys a little after midnight, he leaned against the doorway beside a big dude seated on a stool. Actually, on second glance, he was a very big dude, sitting on a stool. Music poured out of the door around him. There were tables in all the open spaces. The bar was maybe half-full, and a few couples danced to the country western sound that emerged from the bar's depths in a space near where a sleepy three piece band played.

Angus wanted to ask the young man for the stool he was sitting on so he could get off his feet. He was reaching the end of his rope. A cold beer before he went back to his motel might help. It had been a long day.

First, he removed the picture from his pocket. Angus held up the picture. The big guy had a small head for a body that large. He, too, looked like he was ready for a beer. He shook his small head slowly, before sitting up straight to take a closer look.

Angus immediately saw the recognition on the guy's face.

"They came in at nine o'clock. Two of them. They left about a half hour ago, maybe not quite that long. Now there are three," the small voice sang, as if they were lyrics to a country tune.

"You're sure? You're absolutely certain it was this kid?"

"They were hot. When the two of them came to the bar, I came to attention. It's slow at nine. The early birds get here early. A few come in, one at a time. About ten it cranks up. There serious drinkers show up," he said. "It was slow, and those two perked me right up."

"Cowboys is a gay bar?" Angus asked.

"No, I'm the only thing gay about Cowboys. Cowboys is anything you want it to be. We get a good cross-section of who you find in Eugene. These two, were hot. They weren't locals. I'd know if I'd seen either one of them before."

"What did the other boy look like?" Angus asked.

"Shorter. Darker hair, darker eyes, kind of smoldering. He was packing big time. Obviously hadn't been out in a while," he said.

"Sounds like them. What was he packing?" Angus asked.

"You're straight? Cop of some kind? It's not important, but he was looking for a good time," he said. "He seemed convinced he'd find it at cowboys."

"You said there was three of them when they left? What can you tell me about number three? Younger? older? Was he familiar to you?" "Look, Mack. I've got a nice little job here. I do my job, you see. If I stand here yakking with you, I won't have a job. Believe me when I say, whatever you intend to pay me for what I know, it won't make up for the two fifty a week I get for sitting on this stool to remove assholes, just before they become assholes. I'm off in an hour. I'll help stack tables before I leave. You want to buy me breakfast, and we can talk over what I know, and what it's worth to you. The answer to the question, 'Do I know the third person?' is: yes, I do. I know he quite well."

"OK. You driving?" Angus asked, ready for some coffee.

"Yeah, I have wheels. Where do I drive?"

Angus took out his wallet and let the guy see his badge and I.D. He handed him a card and a ten-dollar bill.

"You got a phone?"

"In my car. I can't talk on the phone while I'm working," he said.

"What's your name?" Angus asked.

"I'm Tiny, of course. What else would you call a guy who is six eight and weighs four hundred pounds?" Tiny laughed at the irony.

"I'm Angus. Listen up, Tiny. You see any of those three before you finish tonight, call me. It's worth a hundred bucks to me,"

"Don't worry. If any of them come back, I'll get my phone."

"You know Pop's? Out on the highway?"

"Yeah, I know Pop's. Good food," he said.

"You meet me at Pop's, once you're off. I'll be there drinking coffee. I'll buy you breakfast. We'll talk. If you have anything to say, I'll give you a hundred bucks."

"I expect I got plenty to say you'll want to hear," Tiny said. "Now let me do my job. They're already looking out here to see who I'm talking to. If they ask, I'll just say it was the law. Now, beat it."

Angus went to his car and drove up and down the street in the vicinity of Cowboys Bar & Club. If they'd picked someone up, Angus figured they'd gone back to their motel room. He doubted they were still on the streets, but he had time to kill.

At two-thirty, Angus looked up and there stood Tiny. He was blocking the light. Angus was sure Tiny could create his own eclipse.

"Sit," Angus said. "I'll get the waitress. You look hungry."

"I'm always hungry," Tiny said. "What specifically do you want to know?"

Tiny was in his early twenties. He'd played football at State and when his knees gave out, he stayed near the university after quitting school. Everyone knew him on site, and he made a pretty good living doing odd jobs, moving pianos, refrigerators, and moving anything awkward that needed moving.

"You have any idea where the boy was staying?" Angus asked.

"They came on foot," Tiny said. "They were freshly-showered and in nice clothes. I didn't get the impression they walked far. There are several motels in mid-town. I'd speculate they're staying in one of those. That's where they parked their car. Every place worth going to, you can walk to in Eugene."

"Anything stand out?"

"The one in the picture is your typical twink. Very popular in Cowboys Bar & Club. We get lots of twinks."

"He's not old enough to drink," Angus said.

"I mark the back of their hand, once I card them."

"You mark the back of their hand?" Angus asked.

"Special pen," Tiny said, holding up an awkward looking magic marker. "Looks innocent enough, but it's invisible ink. Behind the bars they have special lights. The mark stands out like a hot twink in a bathhouse full of bears," Tiny said.

"So you carded them?"

"Are you kidding? I card all the hot guys. I carded both of them. The darker boy was older. He didn't get a mark on the back of his hand. The kid did. Neither one of them was from around here. Both of them had California I.D., but in a week, there'll be thousands of California boys coming to school up here. I don't think those two were here for school. It's the impression I had."

"What else?" Angus asked, looking for anything.

"The older boy was hungrier. It's not too crowded on weeknights. I could see them sitting at the bar. The older boy, Leo, I think, was drinking and chatting up the local ladies, you know," Tiny said. "The funny thing was, the twink was the only one I saw with money. He kept flipping twenties on the counter while Leo drank."

"Ladies?" Angus asked. "He was after a woman?"

"I was fooled too. I didn't picture him going after babes, you know. If I were with the young one, I wouldn't be able to see the ladies. He was as cute a twink as we get in here. Had a swimmer's body, you know. Like I said, that's popular here. Once school starts, twinks will be everywhere," Tiny said. "The older one was less fit. His body was bigger, less defined. They were both tan as could be. They've spent a lot of the summer in the sun."

"You said there were three when they left," Angus said. "They picked someone up. Was it a boy or a girl?"

"You see, here's where we run into the generational thing. You ask if the third person was a boy or a girl. I answer yes. You look at me like I'm odd, not knowing a boy from a girl. I look at you like you're naive, thinking everyone should be either a boy or a girl."

"There were three?" Angus said. "Let's deal with that first. Someone left with them? Are we still on even ground?"

"Like I said, it wasn't that long ago. I kept my eye on those two," Tiny said. "You could say there was four of them, when they left, in a manner of speaking."

"There was three, now there are four. You playing with me, Tiny? You have a hundred dollars riding on your answers. I'd be more specific if you want more than a free meal," Angus said.

"You are a man of your generation. I'm a man of mine. In your day, you saw things a certain way. In my day, we see things in our own way. They don't match up and no matter what I say, we won't understand each other, you know."

"Tell it in your own words. I'll figure it out," Angus said.

"The older boy had been chatting up Lola. She's a local celebrity of sorts. The other boy walked arm in arm with Lola. He got it. He and Lola were simpatico, but Leo, he didn't get it, but he wanted Lola in a big way. Lola gets to people that way. You either love her, or you avoid her. The older boy just wanted her."

"He didn't get it? He didn't get what, Tiny?"

"I do a little singing, Mack. You should recognize this one, and you'll understand perfectly," Tiny said.

"I'm game. Sing a way," Angus said.

"Well, I'm not dumb, but I don't understand, why Lola walked like a woman, but talked like a man. Oh, my Lola, lo-lo-lo-lo-lola, lo-lo-lo-lo-lola," Tiny sang flawlessly.

"You even sound like The Kinks, Tiny. She is a transsexual," Angus said.

"She is trans. That other word isn't used these days, but you got the idea. I'm sure Leo did, sooner or later, but I don't think he had a clue when he waltzed out of there with Lola," Tiny said. "I'm sure the wrapper came off sooner or later, and he was drunk enough, he probably didn't care. Lola is said to be a very good time."

"Like you say, it's a generational thing," Angus said. "So how does a child of this millennium, know the words to a song that dates back thirty years in the last millennium. It's not a song that's been on the pop chars for fifty years," Angus said.

"I'm Gemini Amity Armstrong," Tiny said. "Tiny for short."

"Your parents are old hippies?" Angus said.

"My parents are still hippies. A boatload of people like them came to Oregon, set up crafts shops, lived off the land, refused to conform to the man's rules about working your ass of to almost be able to afford to live in this society. They've done surprisingly well. I have nothing to complain about. While I was crawling around in diapers, Lola was one of the songs playing on the record player. They claimed that rock & roll documented the sixties."

"Wow! Does that take me back. I was in Vietnam. I was an MP, an army investigator, and then a Chicago cop," Angus said. "I started out in the late sixties."

"You were everything my parents rebelled against. Doing the man's work, fighting the man's war, they weren't having any of it. The FBI was looking for my father, he's a proud draft resistor, until Carter let them all off the hook for not going to their party in Vietnam."

"They were probably leading war protests in their day.

Tiny laughed.

"What's in the direction Cory was walking in?" Angus asked.

"The highway. Some all night places out that way. He could have been going to get coffee, although, he wasn't drinking," Tiny said.

" He could have been killing some time, while his buddy and Lola hooked up. I couldn't hear what they were saying. Leo and Lola were well-oiled at that point."

Angus got quiet. He didn't ask anymore questions. His brain was processing what he'd already been told.

"Something wrong, Mack. I didn't say something wrong, did I?"

"No, it leaves a lot in the way of possibilities. I could start checking the highway for him, but I'm in Eugene, I've got to check the motels to see if I can locate them. You give me something I haven't had in months, a live sighting of Cory Wade, and the direction he went in, but when all is said and done, he might no longer be in Eugene," Angus proposed.

"It was after eleven thirty when they left Cowboys. You came up before midnight, right after they left. No one hitchhikes at midnight. There's nothing for miles in either direction, once you get away from Eugene," Tiny said.

"There's some civilization to the north. I came in that way. I noticed the farther south I came, the more rural it became."

"I hope I helped. You didn't say what you want with the kid, but you seem like you're OK to me, Mack. Maybe you'll get lucky."

"Maybe, Tiny. Maybe," Angus said. "You've been a big help."

Angus opened his wallet and put a crisp new hundred dollar bill in front of Tiny. The big young man stood, finishing his coffee.

"Good luck," he said, leaving Angus with his thoughts.

"Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola," Angus sand. "But I can't understand, why she walks like a woman, and talks like a man, my Lola," Angus sang to himself.

"Darling, we have sing along night on Wednesday evenings, you ought to come join us in the bar," the waitress said.

"I'm afraid I missed my shot. I'll be leaving tomorrow," Angus said, knowing he'd be leaving with, or without Cory Wade.

There was only one more thing to do in Eugene, and then, he'd be done.

Angus was back in Pop's for breakfast, shortly after six. After going to his room and laying down for a few hours, he wanted some coffee and breakfast, before he began to canvas the in-town motels. The feeling he was very close to Cory, had faded.

He'd spent Thursday thinking he might catch sight of Cory, but by the time he found Tiny, he was spent. The excitement over finding someone who had seen Cory, proved he was still in Eugene Thursday night. It didn't excite him. He didn't have enough energy to be excited. He needed to check the motels. Then, he needed a new plan.

He waited until a little before seven, to make the trip into town. He'd be there before most people were up and circulating. Parking his car near the central market, Angus would stay on foot, until he'd been in each motel nearby.

At the first hotel, no one was at the counter, but in a few minutes, a sleepy-eyed clerk approached the counter.

Angus placed his wallet, badge and I.D. visible, beside the picture of Cory. There was a ten-dollar bill sitting beside the picture.

"I'm Detective Angus McCoy. Have you seen this boy? We think he's taken a room somewhere in town," Angus said.

The clerk's eyes started on the ten-dollar bill, moved to Cory's picture, and spent the least amount of time on the open wallet.

"I'd like to say I have, but I'm the midnight-to-eight guy. Unless he came in the middle of the night, I wouldn't know if he was here or not. The full crew comes on at eight and you need to talk to them. If he checked in during the day, one of them may have seen him."

"Do you know if the schedules for the other downtown motels are the same as yours? A midnight-to-eight guy and a full crew comes on at eight?" Angus asked.

"It's standard this time of year. Next week we'll have two people on at night. Once the university goes into fall session, we get guests all hours of the day and night," the clerk said.

Angus remembered the restaurant across from the coin shop. He walked the couple of blocks to get a cup of coffee, while he waited for the shift change. He drank part of the second cup the waitress poured for him, before he walked back to the center of town.

Angus went into the first two motels, and he was met with blank-faced stares and head shakes. If there was more than one person moving behind the counter, Angus needed to ask them to stop and look at the picture. The cursory glances told Angus that they wouldn't tell him anything.

Cory was staying in one of those motels. Angus was sure of it. He couldn't shake the information out of anyone, even if he was losing patience, after starting out with a real shot at catching up with Cory.

After the third motel, Angus decided it was going to be another long day. He went into the next motel, in a line of motels. He hadn't been defeated yet, but the idea of getting lucky had come and gone. He was determined to stop in every motel in the area, no matter how long it took.

In the next motel, the guy at the counter was older than most of the clerks he'd encountered. Angus put his spread out as the clerk was busy issuing a room to an older couple who had just come in from Toledo. 'That's in Ohio, you know? Our grandson is starting college next week. We came out to surprise him.'

Angus yawned and stifled the urge to stretch.

"Yes, sir," the man said, looking through dark rim glasses at the display in front of him.

"We respect the privacy of our guests. Even if he was here, I wouldn't be at liberty to tell you, and I see a hundred kids a year who look just like this kid," he said, pointing at Cory's picture.

Angus didn't see the manager push the buzzer, but he obviously did. A man nearly as big as Angus appeared in the hallway to the left.

Angus saw him s soon as he moved into the reception area. He walked straight to the counter and stood next to Angus. He glanced down at the picture, the badge, and the California private detectives' license. He looked at Angus.

"I'm retired from Indianapolis P.D.," the man said.

"He's asking questions about our guests, Randy," the manager said. "Can you see if you can help him."

"I'm retired from Chicago," Angus said, recognizing a fellow cop when he saw one.

They shook on it.

"Let's move away from the counter. I'm Randy Seizmore," he said.

"Angus McCoy," Angus said, shaking the other man's hand before picking up his things.

They sat in the corner of the main lobby and Randy spoke first.

"I'm the security. A college town like this doesn't require much security. I mostly head off trouble if it looks like trouble is coming. The manager thinks you might be trouble, and here I am. He's already lost interest in us, but if we're going to talk, we need to walk outside, like you're leaving."

"I'm private. I came up from San Diego. I'm looking for a boy who has his mother pretty worried about him," Angus said, handing Randy Cory's picture.

"You know I can't tell you if he's here or not," Randy said. "This job isn't much, but it's the job I have. Say I have seen this kid around. If I walk out with you, like I'm escorting you off the property, you won't make me regret it, will you, McCoy?"

"I have no power in Oregon. I want to talk the kid into talking to his mother. I'll take the kid home if he agrees to go. I can't do more than that," Angus explained.

"Let's walk out front, and we'll look like we're saying goodbye. As far as the manager is concerned, I've done my job, and our guests are safe from the ravages of unwanted harassment," Randy said.

Angus got up with his new friend as they chatted it up while they went out the front door together.

Once outside, Randy took a hard right, went up a flight of stairs at the side of the motel and walked along the row of rooms on the second floor. Randy stopped in front of room 217, which looked out on the parking lot.

"I'll stand here with you so there's no misunderstanding," Randy said. "Wouldn't do to have them calling the manager."

Angus reached into his pocket and he took out his wallet. He removed a hundred-dollar bill and held it out for Randy to take.

"Can't say I don't need that, but while I was on the force, I lived on what I made. I never took a dime from anyone. Cop to Cop, I didn't show you the room for you to pay me. His mother wants to hear from him. That's enough satisfaction for me," Randy said, not sounding like the offer was an insult.

Angus tucked the bill in his pocket and took out a card.

"This is me. My cell is on the back. You ever get to San Diego, give me a call. You have the urge to go private and are willing to jump through the hoops, I'll give you a job. I don't make big money, but I make enough to live well," Angus said. "I keep a couple of investigators busy most of the time."

Randy took the card, tucking it into his shirt pocket.

"I'll do that," Randy said. "Thanks, McCoy."

Randy knocked on the door. It was almost nine. There was no scurrying inside. After a minute, Angus knocked louder.

"That's their car," Randy said, pointing to a red Toyota. "They couldn't have gone far. It's been there since they came in Tuesday. I like knowing which guest goes with what car."

As they stood together, the door swung open. A naked guy in his twenties stared at them. They stared back.

"Do you know what time it is," he asked, looking at an imaginary watch.

"It's eight-fifty-eight," Randy said, not blinking twice.

"What the hell do you want in the middle of the night?"

Angus recognized Lola when he saw her. She was right out of the song, and bigger than life.

"Is Cory here?" Angus asked.

Lola gave Angus the once over.

"Hey, lover boy, it's the fuzz. I'd put my britches on if I were you. Lucy, you got some splainen to do, and I know when it's time to go."

Lola left the doorway unguarded, and Angus stepped into the room to see what he could see. Randy stepped in behind Angus, putting his hand on Angus's shoulder to let him know not to go any deeper into the room.

"Cory! Where's Cory?" Angus asked in a mellow voice. "I need to talk to Cory."

Leon raised up on his elbows, looking glassy-eyed.

"That's his bed," Leon said, not looking at the empty bed. "Come on back to bed, Lola," Leon said. "I know it's too early to get up."

"No, sir. When the fuzz, they comes calling, Lola gets gone. I don't know what you done, honey, but I don't want no parts of it. Thanks for the screw, lover boy. You was good. You know where to find me once you get out of jail."

Lola finished dressing, looked around to make sure she had everything, and, a minute later, she was passing Angus and Randy.

"Cory. Where's Cory?" Angus asked.

"I don't know," Leon said. "If he isn't over there, he probably didn't come in last night. He didn't come to the room after we left Cowboys last night. He's roaming around somewhere."

"Sorry we disturbed you," Randy said. "Have a good rest."

Angus and Randy stood outside the door of room 217.

"Do you have a next move, McCoy?" Randy asked.

"No. I'm dead in the water. I thought I had him this time. I was sure of it. His damn buddy brings a trans woman home, and Cory takes a powder. I have no idea where he went. Let me talk to the guy in there. He might be able to tell me something. It'll take me a minute and a half."

"My neck is sticking out, McCoy. Make it quick. I need to get back downstairs and I'm not leaving you here."

Angus stepped back into the room.

"Where would he go? Where were you two?"

"We just got here Tuesday night. I don't know where he went. He said nothing about leaving me. We've been staying at my grandfather's cabin on a lake a few miles from the Pacific. It's a hundred miles south of here."

Angus stepped back outside.

"Let's get back downstairs, McCoy. I need to get back to work. I'm sorry it didn't turn out the way you thought it would," Randy said.

"I've chased this kid all over California, and now Oregon, and I haven't gotten close enough to actually see him. I thought I had him this time."

Randy left Angus standing in front of the hotel.

Angus had a feeling, when Tiny told him Cory was walking toward the Interstate, the odds were better than even, he once more stuck out his thumb, giving Angus the slip.

Cory could be anywhere, but Angus was right back where he'd been, since he took this case. He'd covered a lot of ground without accomplishing a damn thing.

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