After a few more minutes of self-recrimination, I heave a sigh, order a pizza, and shuffle downstairs for an evening of Netflix. Clearly, today is determined to suck, and the best I can do is turtle up and let it wash over me. Earlier, I’d thought about maybe going out later tonight, but if I did that, I’m sure that one of the other robbers would find me, or I’d run into Edgar, or a plane would fall on me or something. Better to just turn on the movies and turn off my brain.
Three cheesy movies and more of a pizza than I meant to eat later, though, and I’m still not settled. I’ve still got thick black bruises across the backs of my thighs from the car impact, and although they’ve faded a fair bit, no matter how I sit tonight, the couch seems to press directly into them. Also, it’s too hot in the house, which is a problem I can’t really fix because the thermostat says it’s 49 in here.
I add some ice to my soda and try watching a movie about some Arctic explorers finding monsters in the glaciers, but if anything, all that snow just makes me warm up more. So I switch to The Mummy to try the opposite. It still doesn’t help much, but at least the movie’s better.
Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I fall asleep to weird dreams of robbers running me down with their cars and attempting to eat my organs. I try to tell them that they’ll burn their tongues, but they open their mouths and I can see they’re already charred inside.
“How hot is it in Celsius, Part-Time?” one snarls at me as he swipes a clawed hand across my stomach, and I jerk awake to find that the credits are rolling.
I sit up to find the remote, but as I’m turning the TV off, a name in the scroll catches my eye: Vincent. Not the Vince that Peterson was referring to earlier, obviously, but it still reminds me that now I’ve got a name for the guy I immolated. It may not have been intentional, and he may have had it coming, but I still feel like I owe it to the guy to at least find out who he was. It’s a weird version of giving him a legacy, I guess.
I take my soda up to the computer and sit down to look up Vince, but I run into a problem — I’ve completely forgotten his last name. All I can think of is “D’Onofrio,” which is obviously not right. My brain, helpfully, refuses to move on from this. If my attempts to remember were a conversation, it would look like this:
What was his name? Vince D’Onofrio. No, not D’Onofrio. Something else, something kind of like that. Oh yeah. D’Onofrio. No! Something ELSE. Yeah, you’re right, sorry. Vince…D’Onofrio. Okay, just shut up.
Maybe you never get caught in loops like this; maybe it’s just me. If so, you’re lucky, because it’s super annoying when your thinking organ refuses to think.
Eventually, I give up on trying to remember the name and just start Googling things more or less randomly. I try pairing “Vince” with “robbery” “arrest,” “suspected robber” and so on. These all get plenty of results, but nothing local, and after a while I find myself just staring blankly at the screen, my hands resting on the keyboard.
On a whim, I type “49 Fahrenheit to Celsius.” Google tells me that it’s less than 10 degrees Celsius, so Doc Simmons was right in saying that you can’t just basically double it. I mean, obviously she was right, but here’s evidence. Even if it does seem to work out pretty well for the sort of temperatures associated with fires.
“Fires” gives me an idea, and I try searching for “car fire Sunset Vincent.” This brings up a local news article from a couple of weeks ago about an early-morning single-car fire on Sunset Avenue. The article identifies the driver of the car as “Vincent Amano,” to which my brain says, “Yeah, D’Onofrio.” Helpful, brain.
Now that I have a first and last name, it’s much easier to look up information on this guy. It all shares a theme — petty theft, larceny, auto theft, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon, and so on. I click through, putting together a picture of a small-time hood who’s been at it for a couple of decades, spending as much time in jail as much as he does out of it.
Most of the articles are text-only news bulletins, though, and so it’s not until I find one with a picture that I get the real shock: I know this guy. I’ve seen his face.
It takes me a second to place him, but then I remember: he’s the guy I saw at Børger the day after the accident, the one who told me his friend had been in a car accident the same night I had. Recalling that conversation, suddenly everything he said takes on a much more sinister tone. He knew I was there! He knows where I work. He knows I killed his friend, who was probably one of the other guys who tried to rob Børger that night.
So the cops are wrong about the victim of the car fire. It wasn’t Vince. Vince was in the store the next day, checking to see if I recognized him without a mask on. And he’s had a couple of weeks to plan whatever his revenge is. He might have followed me home by now; he might know where I live. I need to let someone know now.
I fumble back through my phone’s call log looking for unsaved numbers from a few months ago. I find one and dial it, and am trying to figure out what I want to say when a clipped voice answers, “Who is this?”
I hang up the phone so fast that it’s like I’ve gained a new superpower. I’d recognize that voice anywhere; that was apparently my ex-boss Edgar’s number, and while I’m sure he would be delighted to learn that someone is trying to kill me again, he’s extremely unlikely to help. To help me, anyway. He might help them.
Checking the call log again, I find a second unsaved number, which I call and get the much more reassuring, “Peterson.”
“Officer Peterson! Hi, I have some — this is Dan. Dan Everton. I have some information for you about Vince D’Onofrio.”
“Amano! Sorry. He’s not dead. I saw him in Børger.”
“Okay, when?” I hear a pen click.
“The night after the robbery. He came into the restaurant and talked to me. He mentioned that his friend had been driving his car the night before and had totaled it in an accident.”
“You didn’t think this was a strange thing for him to volunteer?”
“Well, he was just making conversa…tion…” Right, conversation about the fact that I’d been in a car accident the night before. A thing which Peterson had been obliquely trying to get me to admit earlier, and which I basically just did.
I press on. “I don’t know, it made sense in context, I guess. But now that I know it was him, I think maybe he was planning something? Or maybe threatening me?”
“Why would he be threatening you, Mr. Everton?”
Because I torched his car and his friend. “I — don’t know. The robbery, maybe? He knew what I looked like, obviously. If he was the robber, I mean.”
“Do you think Mr. Jefferson might also be in danger?”
Matt! I hadn’t even thought about him. I mean, he probably isn’t, not if Vince is looking for revenge for the car accident, but maybe. “He might be. I don’t know. I mean, the guy talked to me that night, and Matt was there too, but I don’t think he said anything to him. It was like he was sizing me up in particular.”
“Why do you suppose that is? Wasn’t it Mr. Jefferson who dialed 911 during the robbery?”
Yes, but when Vince’s associate hit me with his car, he told me that he thought I’d screwed things up for them somehow. That was before I set him on fire, you see. “Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s thinking. Look, I’m just worried because he knows who I am, he knows where I work, and he’s had two weeks to figure out what he wants to do with that information. And if you guys think he’s already dead, then you’re not going to be looking for him if something does happen.”
“All right, Mr. Everton. I’m just asking questions. Do you have any reason to think he’s going to do something tonight?”
“What? No. I just found out who he is, is all. I don’t know anything besides what I told you.” Not on the precise topic of what Vince is planning and when, anyway.
“All right. Then, as it’s nearly midnight, I’m going to table this until tomorrow and deal with it in the morning.”
My eyes snap to the clock on my computer, which confirms that it is 11:52 PM. “Shoot! I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. Thank you for answering.”
“It’s fine, Mr. Everton. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Peterson hangs up, and I’m left wondering if he meant that to sound ominous, or if it’s just my guilty conscience putting that spin on it. Either way, I’m not going to sleep any time soon, so I text Brian.
My phone buzzes a minute later. “Yeah, at Beans.”
“Be there in 15.”
As I’m putting my shoes on, I send a followup text: “If I’m not there in 20, call the cops. I’m serious.”
I hustle out the door, hurrying into the night. It’s not even a mile to By the Beans, but there are a lot of shadows between here and there, and every one seems to be watching me tonight.