There was a wretchedness in Wilson’s mind. Something he could not dissolve by any sort of mental process or by simply saying the picture of Everett Carpenter, a name he could not recall laying in mangled display that he did not remember. The image gruesome and haunting rotted in his mind. “Please go away,” he said and drove on.
His only stops were for gas, the restroom, and coffee. There was a weariness on his face. He tried to dig deep into his brain to pull from its depths a single memory of that action that laid Everett Carpenter to rest.
Wilson drove until his eyes became heavy and could not stay open. He stopped at a motel off the interstate in Mitchell, South Dakota. He didn’t bother to remove his clothing. He fell on the bed and slept until day break.
The drive to Chicago was morose. He forced other thoughts into his head. There was a conflict that gnawed away at him in the pit of his stomach, his wife Gayle and Marti the woman he fathered a child with years ago in Indianapolis. He wondered if Chicago might reveal another surprise.
However, the only thing to relieve his mind of that nettlesome situation, that would likely be worked out, was the intrusion of Everett Carpenter’s image. The simple solution was to ram his car at full speed into a bridge piling. The thought was more than a passing one. Yet, Wilson was driven to know the full extent of his being. He had to know and then decide what to do with what he knew.
The address led him to a small barbershop on West Diversey Avenue. Wilson parked the car and walked into the barbershop. There were no customers. Two barbers sat in the barber’s chairs waiting. One was Vietnamese the other was black.
The black man stood. “What can we get for ya taday?”
“No haircut,” Wilson said politely holding out his hand
Wilson looked at the Vietnamese man still sitting in the chair He was small with thinning hair and wore thick glasses. “Are you Chung Quang Dung?”
“Yes,” Dung said and raised from the chair. “Have we met?”
“Yes,” Wilson said. “Many years ago.”
Dung slowly moved forward curiously examining the face of Wilson. Dung nodded slowly. “It has been many years.”
“My name is Wilson Gentry,” Wilson said.
“Yes,” Dung said. “I know and I have been expecting you.”
“Expecting me?” Wilson said.
“Yes,” Dung said. “For over thirty years. How did you find me?”
“Burton Parnell,” Wilson said.
“What is it you want?” Dung said.
“Honestly, I‘m not sure,” Wilson said. “You said you were expecting me, why?”
“You do not need to be coy with me,” Dung said. “You have something to do, something I’ve been expecting.”
“What are you talking about?” Wilson said.
Dung turned to the black barber, “Jerry, watch the place by yourself for awhile.” He motioned to Wilson toward a hallway to the back of the shop. “Come with me.”
Wilson followed Dung down the short hallway that led to a set of stairs, upstairs and down. Dung flipped a light switch on and stepped downstairs. He turned and walked to the front of the basement.
A steady slow drip of water came from a storm drain pipe in the dimly lit brick surroundings. It was dank and mysterious. Neither man feared the other. It was as if this meeting had been planned and rehearsed well in advance and the outcome already known.
Dung stopped below a hanging light bulb. As soon as Wilson positioned himself facing Dung, Dung turned to a file cabinet against the wall and opened it.