My father related the story to Officer MacAdoo. Mom and the kids were out, and dad was home alone. About an hour earlier, four Frenchmen in black and white striped shirts, red neckerchiefs, and black berets had barged in demanding to know where Reginald was. They all flashed pistols around in a limp, careless way except for the leader. Instead of a pistol, he had a giant kielbasa in one hand, and he would take a bite from it casually and talk right in my dad’s face with his mouth full. They tied my dad to a chair rummaged around the house looking for any clues to Ringo’s whereabouts.
Remember that my father is a committed Presbyterian (which means that we were all Presbyterians, except that Ringo’s influence had disabused me from its excesses). When the leader got in dad’s face and said, “Where eeez frère Reinaldo?” my dad did what he thought he was supposed to do—he responded with “may the Lord rebuke you,” upon which the leader walloped my dad across the face with the kielbasa. As commanded in holy writ, my dad looked at the man and offered his other cheek, upon which he gave him a swift and gleeful backhand with the sausage.
This went on for about twenty rounds, each time my father considering himself honored, reckoned by God worthy to be sharing in the sufferings of Jesus, each sausage cudgel bringing him more into conformity to the image of Christ. When my dad was beaten to unconsciousness, the men apparently left. But they found and took with them the farewell letter that, you recall, Ringo had torn out of the big King James Bible, from Revelation, and left on the kitchen table.
While dad was telling this story to Officer MacAdoo, I wandered absently into the kitchen, found the wizardly spoon, and then called Dimity on phone in the hall outside the kitchen. I said in a low voice, “Get the car ready, Mitts. If you can, push it out to the greenbelt where nobody will see. Get your dad to help. I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”
“I hear loud voices in the background, Bo. What’s going on?”
“There’s a cop here!” I whispered. “My dad got beat up by some thugs looking for Ringo!”
“Bloody hell on a stick boy! Get over here now!”
I hung up the phone and drifted back toward the front of the house, toward the door. If I could just slip out the way I slipped in…
The officer scribbled in his notebook. “Sir, did they say what they wanted with your brother?”
My dad chuckled, “My brother is a complete reprobate.”
Hey, wait a minute, I thought. He shouldn’t speak of Ringo like that.
“The only thing he does is travel, travel, travel. All over the world, always off to somewhere. The eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth. How he can afford it, I do not pretend to know, he’s never had a regular job in his life.”
I gasped. That’s not true! I said to myself, ready to rise to his defense.
“He recently boasted that he had some kind of fancy European sports car. But I can hardly imagine that has anything to do with these thugs. He probably just owes them money.”
Son of a bitch! I thought. How dare you talk about Ringo like that!
“Fancy car…” the officer muttered entranced, his eyes flying open wide. “He drives a fancy car, you say.” He looked around, and then he looked at me.
I couldn’t keep my lid on any longer. “That’s right!” I burst out. “It’s a LANCIA!” I jabbed my finger at them, “D! Twenty! Four! The fastest car in the world! And he’s had plenty of jobs!” I barked without thinking. But then I was definitely thinking “oh, shit.”
The house seemed to lift from its foundations and slowly spin. Mom and Dad looked at me in horror. Officer MacAdoo stood, mouth open as if he’d forgotten how to breathe, as if right then and there I’d somehow whisked away his meat and potatoes by some magic trick. He hissed, “It was you!”
He took one big step my way and I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” and ran out the front door. I ran up the greenbelt checking my pocket twice to see that the spoon was still with me. Ahead I saw the Lancia under the shadowy canopy of leafy overgrowth. She was in the driver’s seat.
“Okay!” I shouted. “Let’s go! What are you doing?”
“Driving. Get in.”