A Novel

Chapter 26: Pig Town Fling

Pow-Wow Days began on Thursday » September 17, 1987 » Alejandro took Kathy's Mercedes sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning » by Friday morning » September 18, 1987 » the hotel was full » its lobby and dining room teemed with people.

At breakfast, Fernando said to his waiter, "It's insane around here this morning."

The waiter: "There's not one empty room in the entire hotel."

"Is there a conference or something?"

"No. Most of these people are probably here for Pow-Wow Days. We're the closest decent hotel to Tiskilwa. Even so, it's not usually this busy for Pow-Wow Days—least that's what one of the desk clerks told me. She's been working here over twenty years and she says she never seen it this busy before. It's on account of the Indian museum they're opening down there. This weekend. It's built over an Indian chief's grave. You're gonna be able to see his bones and everything."

"Yeah, well I'm checking out today, so you'll have one room to sell."

The waiter seemed surprised, "You aren't staying for Pow-Wow Days? It's a lot of fun. They have a carnival, a beer garden, a demolition derby, a parade, cool battle reenactments, a gun-and-knife show—"

"I'm just here on business. I have to get back to Chicago."

"Well have a safe trip sir."

Fernando did check out that day, but he didn't return to Chicago. He drove only as far as La Salle, where he took a room at a truck-stop motel, "The Tikki", off Interestate-80.

He bought a pack of cigarettes in the truck-stop. He didn't usually smoke, but smoking helped him to concentrate, and he needed concentration to prevent his thoughts from spinning out of control.

The motel had exterior room doors. Fernando's room was on the second floor. He stepped outside his room to smoke a cigarette, on the steel-railed loggia that connected the second floor rooms with staircases at either end.

About a quarter mile down the frontage road was a handjob house claiming to be a "Spa". From where he stood smoking, Fernando could see men walking furtively to and from the Spa—both the sex-hungry and the satiated.

Pig, pig, in the big rig: dig the prig scoping the pig.

It would be a good spot to jump somebody. All these pigs walking to the handjob house. They'd never report the assault: how could they explain what they were doing there? He shook his head; he had spent too much time among rural white trash: I'm beginning to think the way they do, low-down and dirty, like a borax gangster.

Then he remembered Ultraglis, and what he and Kathy were preparing to do the very next day. It would mark an irreversible change in his life. There would be no more $200 steak dinners at Morton's, no more BMWs, no more Christmas teas at the Drake. A year from now a Toyota Corolla will seem like a luxury car. It's the blow-off.

Ultraglis was a rupture with his past. By tomorrow night he would feel transformed; he would be transformed. Or am I already transformed? And if so, then when did it happen, and how long did it take? Why is it so easy for me to imagine mugging some filthy, syphylitic trucker for the petty cash in his wallet? Is it because we're going to need that cash, Kathy and I are? Is this what love does to a man?

He suddenly resented Kathy: why the hell was she so damned insistent on going through with this crazy scheme? She could just walk away from it all, and be no worse off. Let this kid go through with his threat, and inform on her. She was finished either way; she'd have to leave everything behind, but at least she wouldn't have a murder rap on her.

He knew Delaney could find somebody else to kill this kid, and that Delaney would too, if Kathy refused. But she didn't refuse. Fernando wondered, is it because she's that loyal to Delaney? She's following his orders like an obedient hunting dog, even unto death. If she could be that loyal to Delaney, could she simultaneously be loyal to me? Is she secretly in love with Delaney? Is that why she won't love me?

The cigarette was smoked. He dropped it onto the concrete balcony floor, and ground it out with his Gucci loafer. He reentered his room, closed the door, opened his suitcase, and picked up Ultraglis, clutching it tightly by the grips. So this is Ultralgis? He had his own piece—9mm—but he was fascinated by Ultraglis: .45 ACP. Why should the particular weapon matter so much to Delaney? It's love, fucking love, that makes a man slide so easily into this, he thought, and I don't even know if she'll love me after it's all over.

Whatever the reason or the cause, he was in for keeps, and he intended to see it through. He put Ultraglis back into his suitcase, checked the time, left his motel room, and drove back towards Elmville.