The Old Man (Part Three)

As I watched and waited at the side of the house I started to put things together. Working backward I thought; the police just came to deliver news to this woman that made her sob and cry. What just happened in this town that was that tragic? A man died in an explosion. Yellow Polo had been inside that store. Whether he had been in there when the explosion happened or ran in shortly after I wasn’t certain. I did see him coming out however, bringing the satchel with him. He delivers the satchel to the woman in the house, kissing her passionately before leaving. If that’s how delivery people are rewarded in this town then I’m getting a job. I didn’t think that was the case so that means that Yellow Polo and the woman are involved romantically and now the woman is leaving with the police officer after being given what I presume to be devastating news.

I watched as the officer helped the woman out the door and into the squad car. I didn’t see her lock the house. As I waited for them to leave I tried to talk myself into going in the house. Maybe there was a motive for murder in that satchel. I looked out across the street for the Old Man but couldn’t see him. At least he had enough sense to hide when the police arrived. As the squad car turned the corner and sped out of sight I moved around to the front of the house. Still not seeing the Old Man anywhere I walked up to the front door and knocked. There was probably no one else home but if anyone were watching I wanted to appear as if I was just looking for someone. I knocked again after a few moments and when no one answered, I tried the door handle. It turned and I pushed the door open. The Old Man said, “I think you’re getting the hang of this.” I nearly jumped out of my skin when I found him just inside the door.

“How…” I looked at him, looked back at the door, looked at him again and said, “How did you do that?”

“No time to loose now. Better check the bag. Could be something important in there.”

I stared at him and he said, “Go on now, check the bag before someone comes. I don’t think you have much time.”

I didn’t move. Thoughts were twirling around in my head that I couldn’t make sense of. “You check the bag,” I said.

The Old Man looked at me in a peculiar way. A soft smile touched his lips and a sadness came into his eyes. “I don’t think that’s possible,” he said.

A chill touched the base of my spine and traveled all the way up to my scalp. I just stood looking at him for a moment. Things he said came back to me. He “didn’t breath anymore,” had “no use for a name.” He didn’t get knocked over from the bomb blast like I did, and no one seemed to notice him except me. The signs were all there but I didn’t want to see them. Didn’t want to believe the impossible. Everything I had ever thought about life and death just crumbled away. “Who were you,” I whispered, “when you were alive?”

The sadness had not left his eyes. “I don’t remember. But I feel a kinship to the man who died in the store. That’s all I know.” He looked up and held my eyes in his. “That’s all.”

“Okay, I’ll check the bag, but you should know that the creep factor here has just went off the scale. Just saying.”

“As I imagine it would. Just think how I feel.” I hadn’t thought of that.

The satchel was under the couch cushion where the woman had left it. I pulled it open to reveal bearer bonds worth a lot of money. I pulled them out and leafed through them. Looking around the room I noticed pictures of the woman at her wedding reception, in a canoe with her husband and other normal stuff of everyday life. A picture on the mantle caught my attention and I moved closer for a better look. It showed the happy couple in front of “Jacobs Jewelry” with a “Grand Opening” banner across the front. In front of the store was a nice little park bench. The very bench we had been sitting on that morning. “Okay,” I said, I think I know what happened. Yellow Polo killed the guy in the store so that he could have his bearer bonds and his wife. Since he brought the bonds to the wife, she has to be in on it.”

“I think you’re right,” the Old Man said. “You need to go to the police.”

“Oh right, and what am I supposed to tell them? That a… a… whatever you are, led me around town showing me all these clues until I figured it out? Yes officer,” I mused, “a dead guy helped me out.”

“Well, that is what happened, however I see your point. You could tell them that after the bomb blast, you took a walk around town to clear your head and came upon the sliver car, recognizing it from the store and your curiosity found you looking in the window.”

I thought about that for awhile. “It just might work,” I said.

“I can’t go with you, you know,” the Old Man said. “I…I think I’ll sit here awhile.” He gestured to the pictures in frames around the room. “Something about this man is familiar. I feel…I don’t know. I feel something. It’s hard to say.”

“There must be a police station downtown,” I said. “I’ll head there now. Will I see you again?”

Preoccupied with looking at the pictures he said, “Could be, could be.”

I put the satchel back where I found it and left the Old Man in the house. Considering that Yellow Polo had given the satchel to the woman I didn’t think he’d come back for it. If I was right about what happened, I didn’t think he’d want to be seen at her house or with her. Upon going back downtown I found the local police station and told them my story, leaving out certain “details.” They had questions of course and I spent the rest of the day there. Because I was a witness, they said I couldn’t leave town and put me up in a hotel with an emergency cash fund they had set up for that purpose. It took a few days of investigating but in the end the woman confessed to the crime. Yellow Polo turned out to be a business partner of the woman’s husband. He tried to run but they caught him. I picked him out of a line up and the whole thing was done in a couple of weeks. During that time I didn’t see the Old Man anywhere. Just when I thought I may not see him again I found him in the local park which looked out over the bay. “I wondered what happened to you,” I said.

“Me too,” he replied. He was silent for awhile, looking out at the ocean. “I found a picture in the house after you left,” he said. “It was a photo of me with the woman’s husband. Someone had written ‘Me and Pop’ across the bottom. We were standing by the ocean. I think, I think my name used to be Pop.”

I smiled at that. “Yeah,” I said, “Pop, that must have been it.”

We stood together watching the waves roll in. The breeze was light and the day promised to be warm. The Old Man licked his finger, and held it up in the wind. He turned it this way and that and finally said, “The wind is from the West today. Good times ahead.” He turned and walked down to the beach. At the edge of the water he stood, just where it began to touch his shoes and looked out toward the horizon.

I said, “I’m going to miss you Old Man.” He waved casually and turned to walk down the beach. I watched until I couldn’t see him anymore.

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