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Scared Money

Scared Money

Jeremiah's boots crunch across the parking lot gravel until he gets to his pickup. Out here away from the lights he can see a star or two in the sky.

He turns, says, "This alright? Or would you rather sit in the vehicle?"

Fred Kirby's eyes have disappeared into the shadows cast by his forehead. "This will do."

"Alright then. Speak your piece."

"Okay. A few years back, when our people were... active in Eastern Europe, there was this guy. He was indigenous to the area. We had him do jobs for us, jobs that were particularly difficult or dangerous or-"

"You're sayin' y'all used him to cap folks."

"Yeah. And he was good at it. Really good. It was like he had a special gift for it, or just enjoyed it in some unnatural way. Maybe it was in his blood. He's Hungarian by origin and they can be a particularly violent people. So this guy-"

"He have a name?"

"His name is Farkas. Benjamin Farkas. The deal we made with back then- more or less at his insistence- was that once we didn't need him anymore we would bring him to the U.S., set him up in business, let him live out the rest of his life in peace. So in the late 1980s he moved to Dallas, started a few businesses-"

"Like what he was in back home?"

"No. These were legit. Real estate development, brokerage, that kind of thing. We got him started like we promised and then we cut our ties. We sort of hoped we had heard the last from him to be honest. And that was the way it was for over ten years. Then last week, he called. He wanted something from us."

Jeremiah reaches into his pocket for a piece of nicotine gum and pops it into his mouth. "Go on. I'm listenin'."

"Mr. Farkas told us one of his key people had gone missing, along with some money. A very considerable amount of money. He wanted help finding his missing employee. That put us in kind of a bind, you see, because-"

"Because y'all can't operate domestically and you ain't about to go to the FBI, own up to having invited some Hungarian button man to live here, ask them to help find some hired hand who had vamoosed on the guy."

"I had heard you don't mince words, Captain Spur. We told him no can do. He understood our difficulty and had an idea of his own. Somebody else he could call on for help. Somebody outside the government."

"I'm his idea?"

"That's right."

"How come him to pick me?"

"He didn't say and we didn't ask. Although I suppose we could guess. Anyway, we kind of liked his suggestion. I mean, you're retired from law enforcement, so there aren't any delicate cross-jurisdictional issues. We've worked with you and know how good you are. You could have been one of us if you had wanted. I mean that as a compliment."

Jeremiah grunts and works the gum in his jaw.

"So we told Mr. Farkas we would come to you on his behalf."

Over in the stadium a roar builds and the band fires up the fight song.

"Listen to that," says Jeremiah. "You done made me miss a touchdown."

"We would like for you to speak with Mr. Farkas, Captain Spur."

"And I'd like you to go to hell."

"He said you'd say that. He told us when you did, we should tell you he knew your father."

"Now I know one of two things is true. Either he's lyin'. Or you are."

"Captain Spur, he's not lying. My agency knows this to be true."

"Prove it."

"I can't. You'll have to take me at my word."

Jeremiah Spur chews his nicotine gum. "You're startin' to work my patience."

"Mr. Farkas is sending his private jet to pick you up at the Washington County airport tomorrow at ten o'clock. I'd pack a bag for a few days, if I were you."

"I got a herd to attend to."

"We'll be sending around a couple guys to take care of that for you. They'll be at your place first thing in the tomorrow. You'll have plenty of time to show them the ropes before you leave."

"Y'all done thought of everything, huh?"

"The United States government appreciates your help, Captain Spur."

Kirby holds out a hand. Jeremiah's stays by his side. The man drops his hand. "I'll let you get back to your football game now."

Jeremiah watches him walk to a car and get in it and drive off.

That wind out of the north suddenly doesn't seem so light and fresh. Jeremiah turns up his jacket collar and stares at the ground.