The Pearl River Excursion (Part 2)

Harry returned to his place at the table and cleared a space. Ewan set the folder down and opened it. Harry leaned down a little as he stood squinting at the contents of the folder. He felt his shirt pocket, his pants pockets; he picked up his jacket from the floor and checked its pockets. “Where are they?” he muttered. He collected his briefcase from under the table, set it beside the folder and opened it. “Ah.” He took out his reading glasses and put them on. “All right,” he said, “let’s see what you’ve got, man.” The hint of a southern accent crept into his voice.  

Inside the folder was some stolen mail, opened; a six-page report of a private investigation, clearly amateur; and three photographs, all of the same elderly man, all taken from a distance. One of the photographs had been photoshopped to colour the man’s white hair black and add a gold chain around his neck. Harry picked up the mail and read the name and address on the envelopes. 

“He goes by Aaron McAllister now,” said Ewan. 

“Pearl River?” said Harry. “Where is that?” 

“About forty miles from New Orleans.” 

Harry set down the envelopes. He picked up the report and scanned the first page. His brow furrowed. 

“What?” said Ewan. 

Harry shook his head. “Followed A.M. to the library,” he read, “then optometrist. Possible new lens prescription. A.M. bought a donut and coffee, then went to the store. Returned 1:45pm. Among usual groceries, two cans of shaving cream…” He glanced at Ewan. 

“I thought it might be important,” Ewan said. 

Harry sighed and flipped through the pages, unimpressed. Until the final page. He paused and examined it. Upon it, close-up printouts of two thumbprints: one dated 1975, the other collected just two weeks ago. The more recent print was incomplete and slightly smudged. Harry held the page close to his face, eyes darting from one thumbprint to the other. 

“See?” said Ewan. 

Harry lowered the report and stared at the table. 

“A fingerprint match,” said Ewan. 

Harry picked up a photograph, the photoshopped one. He looked at Ewan. 

Ewan shrugged. “I thought it might help.” 

Harry rolled his eyes and tossed the photograph onto the table. He picked up the next one. His eyes narrowed and he stared a long time at the old man in the picture. Finally, he screwed his mouth up and shook his head. “I don’t see it. Maybe the fingerprints… I don’t know. Look, Ewan, know you want it to be him. I’m sure we all do. But it’s just too…” 

“Wait,” said Ewan. “Look at the last picture.” He picked up the final photograph and held it out. 

Harry sighed. He took the photograph and looked at the old man in his pyjamas and slippers, taking a box of junk out to his garbage can. Harry’s mouth fell open. 

Ewan smiled and nodded. “See?” 

Harry’s hand trembled. A tear welled in his eye. “It’s him,” he whispered. “I… I never thought— 

“Harry?” came a voice in the hall. “Harry, is everything all right? I heard there was—” A middle-aged man with a bushy moustache appeared in the doorway and stared in shock at the overturned chairs and broken computer on the floor. “Harry,” he said, his voice becoming stern, “what on earth is going on here?” 

Harry blinked hard. “Damn it, not now Alan!” he yelled, and then grabbed a faux gold-plated Colt pistol from his briefcase and fired a shot into the wall next to Alan’s head. 

Alan dropped to the floor and scurried on his hands and knees back down the hall. “Get back!” he called. “Everyone back! He has a gun! Call security! Call the police!” 

Harry lowered the smoking gun and stood staring at the doorway. Ewan winced and wiggled a finger in his ear. He looked at Harry. Harry’s chest rose and fell with deep breaths. Finally, he placed the gun back in his briefcase. He looked down at the photographs lying on the open folder. “We, uh… We should probably get out of here,” he said. 

“Clubhouse?” said Ewan. 

Harry nodded. “Clubhouse.” 


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