Reyna jumped forward. “So sorry to bother you, ma’am. We were just wondering if June Gardner lived here.”
“Don’t know no one by that name.”
“Or Jodie. Tall, black, curly Afro?”
“Yeah that bitch came by.”
Reyna’s heart leapt. “When?”
“Don’t fucking know. But I sent her on her way just like I’m ’bout to send you on yours.”
“Do you know where she went?” Gabe interjected.
“Do I look like someone’s fucking keeper?” the woman spat, and then slammed the door in their faces.
Gabe looked like he wanted to barrel through the door. Reyna put her hand on his arm and shook her head.
“She’s not going to be any more help. I think if she was this nice to us then she wouldn’t have been any kinder to Jodie.”
“Come on. Let’s find someone more willing to give information.”
They headed back downstairs and Reyna walked over to the elderly man who had tried to flag them down. He at least had wanted to talk to them.
“Hello,” she said with a smile.
“Well, hello there,” he said with a toothless grin. “I’m Harold.”
“Nice to meet you. We are looking for our friend June. She used to live here and we haven’t heard from her in a while.”
“June, June, June,” the man said as if looking deep into the recesses of his mind.
“Our other friend, Jodie, came looking for her last week.” Reyna gave him the same description she’d given the woman upstairs.
“Oh! I remember her,” the man said. He moved a backgammon piece before turning back to them. “She came ’round asking the same questions as you.”
“Yes, we’re worried about our friend June.”
“June?” another man asked, glancing up. “She worked at the pie place. I go every week. Best pie in the city. Try the cherry cobbler.”
“Yes, the pie place,” Harold said with a smile.
Reyna sagged with relief. A lead.
They got instructions from the men, relieved to find it was only a few blocks away, and then hurried from the horrid apartment complex. She and Gabe didn’t speak as the anticipation coursed through both of them. After botched mission following botched mission, they needed this win. They needed to prove that they could get one person back. Because if they could get Jodie, then maybe they could save everyone else too.
She took a deep breath and pushed forward. This pie place would have answers. She was sure of it.
The pie place was actually named Pie Place. It was a simple diner. Not exactly clean, but it had waitresses in vintage yellow dresses with white aprons over them. None of them looked too pleased to be there. But Reyna knew what it was like to not even have a job, so she could understand keeping one that you hated. She hadn’t exactly loved working for Visage.
She and Gabe pulled out red-cushioned stools and sat at the counter. A woman roller-skated up to them from behind the counter, holding a pen and notepad.
“Welcome to Pie Place, where we have the best pie in the city. Can I recommend the cherry cobbler?” she said with little enthusiasm.
The backgammon guys must come all the time. They even had the spiel down.
“Cherry cobbler would be great,” Gabe said. Reyna shot him a look. He shrugged. “Who turns down pie?”
Gabe waited until he had his pie in front of him before grinning wickedly at the waitress. Reyna watched with admiration and disgust as he charmed his way into conversation with this woman who clearly hated her job. She giggled and flirted, came back twice for drink refills, and ignored her other tables to talk to Gabe.
“Be right back,” he said with a wink and then followed the waitress through to the kitchen.
Reyna huffed in frustration. This was not helping them at all. What a pig!
She finished off the rest of his second helping of cherry cobbler. She had to admit it was really good. Damn. She’d been hoping it was an exaggeration.
After five long minutes, Reyna was ready to head back into that kitchen herself and bust up whatever was going on. It was bad enough that he and Meghan were finally…almost on good terms again. They were clearly an on-again off-again kind of couple. But still, not cool! It was worse that he’d basically abandoned her for some waitress.
Then Gabe appeared. He looked grim.
“What?” she asked, glancing around to check her surroundings. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re not going to like this.”
“Well, I didn’t like you abandoning me out here either.”
He glanced at the bar. “You ate my pie.”
“You were gone forever!”
Gabe sighed and threw down a twenty. “Come on. I know where Jodie went next.”
“How the hell…?”
“Sometimes interrogations happen with a smile.”
“You really are trouble.”
He flicked her a devious grin. “I am.”
“So, where the hell did she go?” The bell chimed overhead as they exited.
Gabe pointed across the street. “Meredith told me that girls who get fired from Pie Place ‘go across the street.’ Apparently it’s quite literal, because girls who get fired from a mediocre diner can’t get a job anywhere else.”