Garza is my name. Chico Garza. Big D is my house. I rolled straight out of Special Ed, played four years of tight end for the TCU Horned Frogs, and parlayed my contacts into a sweet gig as a parking lot attendant on Deep Elum. This proves people who excel in athletics don’t necessarily have other talents.
I digress! The parking lot is my day job…my cover if you will. I am not sure if the owner of the lot knows I work there, since he doesn’t pay me very often. In fact, never. I pad my bank account from work as a private investigator. I don’t actually get much PI work, but I’m available.
People notice me. I stand six feet, five inches tall and weigh in at two forty-five. I maintain a slim, forty-eight inch waist. The punks fade away when Chico rolls down the street.
I live with my Mom, off and on, when business is not so good. This time, I have lived with her for, well, circa, eight years. We live on Gaston, where Mom runs a boarding house for down and out hookers. This works out well for everyone, except when one or two get in my bed and want me to do stuff. I don’t really understand what they want to do, so I just kick them out of bed and go back to sleep. They have their own beds.
It’s right after lunch, and I am finishing my second large bowl of pinto beans spiced with liberal portions of Jalapeno peppers. My Mom is not exactly a gourmet cook, so we have a lot of spicy beans. I say spicy. This stuff will take the paint off a new pickup truck. My mouth hasn’t had any skin in it since I moved back home, and my gut must look like five miles of bad road, but I keep getting off the subject.
I head out the door with Mom right behind me with her pot of beans. I have to get away from those beans. I’m already passing enough gas to fuel the Greyhound Bus line. I jump in my VW beetle, and the battery has one more start left in it. I can just feel it. This is going to be my day.
I cruised down Elm Street looking for some action. I parked in front of the Toucan Bar, get out, and go in. They know me there. I waved to a few people, walked up to the bar, and slapped down a single. Gorilla Mike, the owner/barkeep, nods, placed a coaster in front of me, and tops it off with a glass of tap water, no ice. Then, he snaps up the single and continues to dry glasses. “Hey!” I exclaim. “You didn’t get my order?”
Gorilla Mike didn’t look up, but continued drying glasses. “When you pay me something on your tab, I might consider letting you order.” He continued his work for a minute, produced a studied look on his face, and yelled at his assistant. “Hey Stump. Did you take out the garbage? It smells like something died in here.”
I took a solid swig of my drink and let my hard eyes roam the room. They settled on a punk. O’Neal Smith and I went back a ways, and our history was not a good one. He towered about five feet, ten inches and weighed around one-fifty. He would have to be stupid to take me on, but stupid is as stupid does. He swaggered over to where I leaned against the bar. “You owe me five bucks,” he snarled.
“I don’t owe you anything. We never said the bet was for real money,” I retorted.
“Garza, we played poker for four hours with four other guys. How can you say it was not for real money? Did you see any monopoly money on the table? I loaned you the five bucks, and I want my money back.” He got a puzzled look on his face. “Did you crap in your pants?”
I stood straight up, towering over the punk. I gestured for him to come on if he wanted a piece of me. Matters became a little fuzzy after that, but I quickly regain my feet. When I was able to focus on the door, I made my way out onto the street. My hawk-like eyesight and razor-sharp mind soon returned, and I spotted an old acquaintance working the gutter with a broom. “Cobra,” I shouted. “Zup?”
Nathan Tinkle, which was his real name, didn’t respond to my overture. He kept on sweeping. I figured that he hadn’t heard me, so I strolled over and slapped him on the back. “Hey Cobra,” I asked. “Aren’t you still with the cops?”
The Cobra kept sweeping and then he said, “For Christ sakes Garza. I’m undercover here. Would you just move on?”
“Sure,” I responded. “I know just what you mean. I was on the job for awhile.”
“On the job,” he groaned. “You didn’t make it halfway through rookie training. Are you kidding me?”
I answered, “Hey man. I learned a lot in two weeks. I learned things I use everyday in my PI work.”
Another punk was hanging out in front of a neighboring bar. He yelled, “Hey Garza. Why are you talking to the cop?’
The Cobra flung his broom to the ground, put his hands in the air, and screamed at me. “Garza, you idiot. I’ve been setting up this sting for two months, and you just blew it all to hell.” He spoke briefly on the wire mike that ran down his jaw. Within minutes, a patrol car drove up, and he got in. “I’ll get you for this Garza.”
The punk next door yelled, “Hey Cobra. We made you the first day.”
I decided maybe I needed to move on, and then a large black Mercedes pulled up. The back window rolled down, and my old friend, Jorge Vargas, showed his face. Vargas played for SMU, when I was at TCU. The important thing was that after football, we went in different directions. He muscled his way up to being the kingpin of the drug trade in Dallas. I don’t like that stuff. He is always trying to get me to take something or shoot up with something, but that’s not going to happen. My Mom doesn’t like drugs.
Jorge gazed at me for a moment, and then he said, “Chico. How’s my man?”
“I’m cool. How’s it with you, Jorge?”
“The truth is,” he growled, “I have a problem you could help me fix.”
I was beginning to get nervous. “I’m not selling any drugs, Jorge. You know I don’t do that stuff. I run a straight operation.”
“What operation? You haven’t made a buck since you stopped shining shoes.” He retorted. “I need you to find a girl for me. This is personal.” He turned to one of his associates and asked, “What is that I smell?”
I can usually find people. I have my own technique for doing so. I look them up in the phone book. Works most of the time. If this is personal, it might not be illegal. Maybe Jorge and I could do some business, and I could make some honest cash. “Who are you looking for?” I asked.
“Her name is Anita. She hangs out at the St. Benjamin Church over on Columbia.” Vargas said.
“What do you want me to do if I find her?”
“Tell her I will make things right with her old man.”
This was getting thorny. “Why don’t you tell her yourself?”
Jorge looked embarrassed. “It’s too complicated. I don’t fit in around churches very well, what with my business and all.”
“How about a little advance?” I was testing the waters.
Jorge pulled a twenty from somewhere and tossed it on the sidewalk. I snapped it up and said, “We can do business.”
I knew where the church was located. I drove over, parked the Bug, and went in. A middle-aged priest was filling the holy water container from a garden hose. I asked him, “How’s it going Father?”
“Cool, my son. Care to make a little donation to the families of the poor?”
“Thanks Padre, I gave at the office. I am looking for the father of a girl named Anita.”
He turned off the water and countered, “You are looking at him.”
He was confused, so I explained, “I mean her biological father. Not her holy father.”
The priest seemed a bit put out. “I am her biological father. What’s it to you?”
“Well, you know, I thought….”
The Padre looked anxious. “Hey, one little sin, okay? I do most of the other stuff. I just happen to like women. Maybe a bit more than I should. Anyway, Anita is my kid. You can find her inside with the rest of the nuns.”
I could feel the quicksand closing around me. “You mean she’s a nun? Then what is Jorge Vargas doing sending me to see her?”
The Padre looked nonplussed. “Vargas is a shit. He takes advantage and then refused to do what’s right.”
“What is right? Do you want him to marry her?”
“Marry her. Hell no. She’s a nun. I want him to give a little drug money to the church. We need a new wing.”
I was getting more confused by the minute. “Maybe I had better talk to Anita. How will I know her?”
“Easy. She is the pregnant one.”
“But I thought you said….never mind.”
I went inside the church, approached a group of nuns, and asked to speak with Anita. She introduced herself as Sister Benevolent, and asked what I wanted. “I have a message from Vargas.”
“Yeah, well I already got Vargas’ message,” she said as she patted her protruding abdomen.
“This one is different. He said he would make things right with your old man. Whatever, that means.”
Her face lit up with a smile. “Fantastic. Hey girls, we will get our new wing. We can start a basketball team. Maybe do some basket weaving. We can give dancing lessons to adults. Add a little beer, and who knows.”
The other sisters reflected her good cheer. They high-fived and danced little jigs. Anita turned back to me and said, “You tell Jorge, he’s got a deal. I will meet him at the usual place, and we can work out the details. I’ll tell Pops all about it during confession.”
There was nothing left for me to do. I left the church, found Jorge and told him the deal. He gave me another twenty. I had more money in my pocket than had been there in years. I might even spring for a Big Mac. Life is good.