He was standing in McAllen's air terminal; slack-jawed and dewy-eyed, holding a cardboard sign with my name scrawled in red crayon. Behind him, a loudspeaker droned a speech from the mayor, Philip Woods. His honor was up for reelection and promising to get tough on crime, no matter the cost, or implications. It was a promise each voter could cling to in hopes of a better, safer tomorrow. It was also a promise the Mayor would have trouble keeping. Because in Texas, when it came to crime, implications always run deeper than expected.
I stopped in front of the sign-holder and jabbed the cardboard with my finger. In response, his wet brown eyes flickered into focus. They drifted from my face to my shoulders to my shoes, and then back to my face; as if not certain I was real.
"You the detective?" he asked, dully. His face was like a vacant lot. His softly spoken words coming slow and painfully, like work from a man shortchanged for his labors. "You Deacon Bishop?"
I could smell gin on his breath and the rancid sweat clinging to his oozing pores. "Naw," I replied, fanning the air in front of my face. "I flew here from Dallas because I have this thing for cardboard."
My presence in McAllen related to a request from Eli Huggins; a businessman reputedly rich enough to start his own country. The poor soul in front of me looked like he would have trouble buying a cup of coffee without getting a donation.
"I hope to god you're not Eli Huggins!" I blurted, as the memory of his expense check bounced around in my head.
"Eli's my brother," the sign-holder said. He let the cardboard slip from his big fingers, to the floor. "I'm, Leon."
Leon Huggins was well past middle age, short and wiry. What I could see of his body had a lot of hair; gray on his head and three-day beard, black on the backs of his hands and arms. His sunburned face was crisscrossed with deep crags. He had old scars above his eyes, along the ridgeline of his cheeks, and across the bridge of his flattened nose; markers, prizefighters got for winning second place.