I sipped my drink and watched Eldridge’s reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Late twenties, a white button down shirt yellowed around the collar, clean-cut good looks. After a while he noticed me looking and raised one eyebrow. I picked up my glass and ambled over to where he sat, alone, nursing a beer. The local newspaper was spread out across the table. He’d used a ballpoint pen to fill in two-thirds of the crossword puzzle on the entertainment page. I pulled an empty chair across the scuffed tile, sat down.
He said, “What’s a twelve letter word for lucky?”
He wrote in the answer. “Do I know you?”
“I’m a friend of your parents.”
He leaned back, studying my face. “Is that right.”
“They’re worried about you, Matt.”
He traced one finger along the rim of his glass. “You going to tell them where I am?”
I lit a cigarette, shook out the match, squinted at him through the smoke. “Not if you don’t want me to.”
“Look, they’re not bad people. They raised me okay—no abuse or anything like that. We got along fine, even when I was a snotty teenager.”
We watched a blond in a miniskirt sink the eight ball. Eldridge said, “Do you ever get an itch? To go somewhere else, to be someone else? To start over where nobody knows your name or looks at you like they need something they think you can give them?”
“Sure. The urge usually fades pretty quick though.”
Eldridge drained his beer. “I guess that’s where you and I differ.” He laid a ten on the table and scraped his chair back.
Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge sat in matching chairs angled opposite my desk. The wife’s fingers clasped a fake leather purse. When she offered me a tentative smile there was lipstick smeared across her front teeth.
The husband asked, “Have you turned up any new information?” They leaned towards me, flowers to the sun. I looked down at my big ugly hands, folded in my lap. I raised my eyes to their hopeful faces.