When she learned that Mr. O’Toole went to L A Maria knew why. Maria suspected he would go before he went. She knew he would go. Mr. O’Toole wasn’t very subtle. He didn’t hide his feelings for Anna. Most people thought he would go.
After she learned Mr. O’Toole went to LA, Maria thought about going herself. She seriously thought about going. She wanted to see her grandson. And she wanted to check up on Anna, but she was afraid how it would look. She was curious. She was worried. She didn’t know what to do. But she was concerned about what Anna would think. She wondered: would her grandson look like a member of the family? Would he look like Anna or his father? Since she didn’t know who the father of her grandson was, Maria hoped he looked like Anna. Then when Maria learned that Anna gave her grandson away, she was furious. She was hurt. And she didn’t like the idea of Mr. O’Toole being with Anna. It worried her. She knew she had cause to worry, and she said, “If they’re together, I’ll kill them both.” And she could strangle her daughter for leaving Tucson.
As for Anna, at first she didn’t want to have anything to do with Mr. O’Toole. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him because she didn’t believe he was an honest man. She didn’t believe she could trust him and he hurt her, mentally and physically. Anna knew first hand about his angry temper. He hurt her, and she knew she couldn’t trust him. Then how could she forgive him? How could she trust him? But then too she didn’t think she could survive on her own. She thought she needed a man. So she learned to overlook certain things.
To hear something, anything from Anna would’ve made Maria happy. Silence. Nothing! And because of it Maria worried. She worried about her daughter. She worried about her grandson. She was furious over Anna giving her grandson away. She worried all the time, but it didn’t do any good. And silence made her more worried than ever. And it made her wonder. It made her wonder how she failed. It made her think. It made her wonder. It made her think about all the things she hadn’t done right. She could list the things she hadn’t done right. There were many things. From early childhood until Anna left, Maria saw mistake after mistake; there were many mistakes, and she blamed herself. She blamed herself and felt sick. Are we surprised? From Maria’s lips came cuss words directed at LA. She couldn’t cuss Anna. She couldn’t cuss Mr. O’Toole, so she cussed LA.
But some people never change. Higgs for instance: everyday Higgs went by city hall. He had a routine. He followed the same routine. Everyday he went by city hall. He started early morning, when he started drinking. Then he followed a route from city hall down 6th Avenue, the same route every day starting with his drinking. He hung out in the same bars, saw the same people and sparred with Cesar. Every day he sparred with Cesar … rarely missed a day. You could set your clock by his ramblings. But to those who paid attention to Higgs something predictable was bound to happen. There were those who saw it coming. It was bound to happen. He would trip. He would fall. He would break a hip and end up in a nursing home. Kitty didn’t know what else to do with him but place him in a nursing home. He kicked and screamed, but she didn’t know what else to do. And in a nursing home Higgs became a celebrity. Here was a former mayor, deserving notoriety. In a nursing home, Higgs became a victim of too much attention. “Keep your hands off me,” he’d yell at nursing staff. By then he’d lost his dignity. He was a celebrity who lost his dignity.
Then for Danny: to not see Anna helped. Learning that she had given birth to a boy caused Danny great sadness and hearing that she gave her baby away made him furious. Like Maria, it made him furious. Anyhow, with Anna gone Danny had no reason to stay in Tucson.
Then before it got really hot Maria, Angela and Molly also decided that they needed to leave Tucson. They knew how hot and oppressive Tucson got during June and before the monsoons, so they decided they needed a vacation. Maria convinced herself that she needed a vacation. She decided a change would help her get through what otherwise looked like a long, tedious summer. She liked the monsoons but didn’t like June. But she knew she couldn’t go on a vacation because she couldn’t close her boarding home. She couldn’t go on vacation because people depended on her. Maria and her girls would’ve gone to Cave Creek if they could’ve gone.
From Houston Rueben O’Toole arrived. He rang the doorbell, and no one knew who he was. Here was a stranger who looked like Mr. O’Toole, and he talked like a Texan just like Mr. O’Toole talked like a Texan. And no one ever knew how he found Mrs. Martinez’s home. Rueben was intelligent, intelligent and confident and motivated. Motivated, Rueben came to Tucson looking for a dad he never knew. He was looking for his father, Mr. O’Toole and didn’t know his father had gone to LA.
Rueben always wanted a father. He always wondered about his father and what happened between his father and mother. Rueben always wanted a father and wondered where he had gone. It was difficult for him. Not having a father was difficult for Rueben and shaped his character. There was some secret, and he hated secrets because of it. And for a long while he acted like he didn’t want to know it because he hated secrets. And then he had to know and kept looking until he traced his dad as far as Tucson. And he kept looking until he knocked on Mrs. Martinez’s door. “Perhaps nothing happens without a reason,” Rueben would tell himself later.
George arrived in Tucson on an afternoon flight from Dallas. No one met him at the airport. No one knew he was coming. But as he emerged from a concourse he kept looking over his shoulder. He felt uneasy, hoping against hope that he wasn’t being followed, so he kept looking over his shoulder. He kept looking thinking that there was someone … that someone was following him, but he couldn’t be sure. The concourse was crowded. The airport was busy. It was a busy time of day. He came in on a late afternoon flight, and he wasn’t sure that he wasn’t being followed. And he hoped he wouldn’t start hallucinating. George already felt shaky. He wasn’t sure of anything.
Later, much later, as he made the rounds, everyone commented on how fit George appeared. He hadn’t changed, everyone said. Only his clothes were different. He had new clothes. Everything he wore was new. New, and they came off racks of the best stores. They were expensive clothes from the best stores. New clothes, with tags still on them, tags and labels from the best stores, but … but even these clothes had something wrong with them. They didn’t fit him. They didn’t look right on him. He didn’t fit his clothes. It was like he hurriedly bought them without trying them on.
George brought with him a private detective named Sam. Sam grew up in Dallas and knew that his accent would always give him away as a Texan. George found him in the Yellow Pages, though it was understood that they wouldn’t talk about it. They would keep it a secret. Not that it mattered.
Sam quickly impressed everyone with his genteel and engaging manner. Only Higgs thought the young man seemed too smooth to be trusted. Higgs thought he could see through Sam. Higgs had knack for seeing through people. But what bothered Higgs most was that Sam had prior knowledge of everyone. It seemed like he had been thoroughly briefed.
From the airport George and Sam took a cab to the Gentry Hotel. The hotel was not a particularly good one and had greatly deteriorated during the short time George was away. Without Charlie or Shelly to advise him George rented a dark, dingy room. (It may seem strange that he didn’t go to Mrs. Martinez’s boarding home.) He showered, changed, and left hurriedly. He left in a hurry. He didn’t want to be in his room any longer than necessary.
George took a cab down South 6th Avenue and had a cab driver stop in front of a large adobe home. To his surprise it was a short ride. And to his surprised the yard was landscaped meticulously. Unsurprisingly, it had a rock garden and cactus scattered here and there. No one was in sight when he pulled up, though when he got to the porch he heard a shrill voice coming from inside. Two people were shouting at each other. It hurt his ears to hear people shouting at each other. George climbed a set of steps and rang a doorbell.
“Come in!” screamed Mrs. Ramsey. “Come in! The door is unlocked.”
Mrs. Ramsey had her back to the door when George let himself in. With her head cocked to one side and her shoulders slumped she stood there in suspended animation. She didn’t turn around to look at George.
“Alan! Stop it! Can’t you see you’re putting us through hell?”
Her son Alan was lying on a couch. He was lying on a couch with his feet propped on an arm. Alan bit his lip, shut his eyes, and raised his eyebrows, as he showed disdain for his mother.
Mrs. Ramsey turned around and, seeing George, shouted, “What do you want?”
“You must be Mrs. Ramsey.”
“I’m her. And you?”
“George. George! I don’t believe it. I thought …. God almighty, you’ve come. You’re here.”
“I came as soon as I could,” George apologized.
“I prayed and kept hoping, kept hoping you’d come..”
“Don’t listen to her. The bitch ain’t prayed a day in her life.”
“Wait! Wait! I’ll be back!” Mrs. Ramsey disappeared into the kitchen.
“Don’t be surprised if she don’t come back with a kitchen knife,” said Alan. “Mostly she bitches. And that’s being generous. Cruel. Dead. Shot dead. That’s what happened to her old man, my father.”
“So I heard.”
“My, my, you’re angry. What’s got you ticked off?”
“Living. And I ain’t angry.”
“I’ll note it.”
“You do it. And who told you you could come in here?”
“Your mother asked me ….”
“Your mother wrote me.”
“And as for my old man, I despised him. He got what he deserved.”
“I’m going to say it again. I see you’re pissed.”
“He’s angry over the murder of his father and won’t admit it,” said Mrs. Ramsey, coming back into the room. “Murdered! And you!” She screamed at Alan. “No, no, no! No, no, no! I’m not going to say it.” From then on Mrs. Ramsey tried to ignore her son. “Thank you, Lord, thank you. George, you’re an answered prayer.”
“How could I say no?” asked George. “And I brought someone with me who’ll be able to help more than I can.”
“Well, a real murderer is sitting there on the couch there.”
“Fascinating. Now she’s accusing me of murder.”
“No respect. Always disrespectful.”
“See!” cried Mrs. Ramsey.
“Shut up!” yelled her son.
“Alan!” And Mrs. Ramsey started crying.
“Mister, this is dreadfully simple. You keep her away from me. But it don’t matter. I’ll get whipped if I do or if I don’t. She don’t understand. I can’t get out. People who try to get out don’t make it. It’s that simple. If they try, they’re dead.”
“Listen to him. George, you can see why I sent for you. I’m worried sick. I thought seeing his old man in a coffin would turn him around. Nope! Now I’m afraid to let him out of my sight.”
“Bitch! Nothing’s going to happen to me.”
“Shut up! He belongs to a gang. It’s the end of everything if we don’t stop them. He’ll get himself killed.”
“I see,” was all George could say.
“Kiss my ass!”
“It’s a waste of time.”
“No it ain’t. I didn’t raise you for nothing. But I can’t see putting any more effort for nothing. Jeezus! Gotta be tough. Well George, thanks. I think you get the idea. Have you had something to eat? You’ll have to excuse me. I have a cold.”
“No, yes. Forgot how hot it could be here in June. Getting off the plane was a real shock. Where do you think we should start?”
“Get the cops moving. Get them off their butts.”
“Shut up, Alan. I told you to shut up.”
The more George heard the worse his headache got.
“This is what it’s about. Family and fame.”
“Let me give him a heads up. Cause he won’t hear it from anyone else. Let me do it. Let me give him a heads up. Dope. Pot. Crack. Meth keeps you humping. Hates senseless killing, so make it count.”
“Shut up bitch! He’s not interested … not really interested.”
“You’re a disgrace Alan. I should call the police. He won’t go away!” cried Mrs. Ramsey. “Alan just lies there and won’t go away. I don’t want him to go away, but it’s impossible if he stays.” She wept and then laughed to stop weeping. “Show me a little love and respect.”
“Respect, shit! She has a gun to my head and is on her knees all the time. That don’t work. It never has and never will. Mister, look out for her lies,” Alan muttered. “She lies all the time.”
“Uno momento, por favor! I do what?”
“Let’s control ourselves,” said George slowly.
“After a good lunch,” laughed Alan.
George was beginning to dislike Alan and frankly wanted to leave.
“After all I’ve done for you, I get this. Pity of course. Pity, George, that you see this.”
“Listen!” said George. “This doesn’t help. Maybe I caught you at a bad time and should come back.”
“Is there somewhere where we can talk?”
“This way, out in the courtyard and…lunch?”
And Mrs. Ramsey led George outside and into a shaded courtyard where they could talk in private.