There are exactly 176 people named Turner in the Houston phone book.
I started trying to find Jessie after I sobered up in the afternoon.
I was lucky, because the names Theo and Theodore seem to have died out along with Hee Haw and leisuer suits. There were, however, a number of T. Turners.
If there is one thing I learned as a reporter, it was how to be a stalker. There’s a host of people you have to track down at any given moment in a newsroom. The relatives of murder victims is always an unpleasant task. Worse yet is getting a hold of the suspected killer’s mother.
“So, Mrs. Siveli, do you think your son killed that girl they found in by irrigation ditch?”
There’s no “right way” to ask that question.
Just in case this “Theo” still lived with his parents I called every Turner listed. I slowly made my way through the list. Each time I reached a real person I simply asked, “Is Jessie there?” They all either hung up or told me I had the wrong number.
I hit pay dirt after 30 minutes when I called the number listed for M. Turner.
“Is Jessie there?” I asked, trying my best to sound like I knew she lived there.
“She’s not here.”
“What about Theo?”
“Who is this?”
Bingo. I hung up the phone and jotted down the address on an old reciept near the phone.
Seriously, I could be a professional stalker.
I down loaded a map of the adress, took a shower and headed over to the house.
The place was on Little John off of Memorial Drive. I pulled up in front of a large stark white modern style house with a large circular driveway and block glass turret slapped to the front. The house was laid out like a “V” and was poorly landscaped. There was only one long and narrow plate glass window stretching across the northern front of the house.
It was an eye sore.
The house stuck out like a wart among the tudor and colonial houses that surrounded it. It seemed like someone pulled a really bad Miami Vice set and dropped it on the block. I’m sure it’s very existence completely pissed off the rest of the street.
That being said, I sort of liked it.
I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. Silence. I jammed my finger into the door bell and finally heard a haggard voice say, “I’m coming.”
Three sets of locks had to be opened before I was greeted by a short, brown skinned man with a clump of dark hair.
“Howdy,” I said. “Are you Theo?”
“Yes,” he said, squinting his eyes slightly.
I judged him to be in his late 20’s or early 30’s. But it was hard to tell his age.
Both of his cheeks were marred with deep acne scars. His eyes blood shot eyes contained black pupils. He was dressed in flannel pajamas even though it was 80 degrees outside. A large coffee stain ran down the right side of his chest. He looked like Colonel Kadafi and Manuel Noreiga managed to breed together.
The stangest part was an angry red rectangle angled across his forehead. The mark seemed like he had been slapped with a ruler or got in the way of a paving brick
I spoke quickly and loudly with carnival barker voice.
“I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Do you by any chance know a Jessie Byrd? You see, I’m here to help. I’m here to help you. I’m here to help her. Her father has sent me to see if you need anything.”
“Huh?” he said.
The redness in his eyes. The jack rabbit approach he had to answering the door. This guy was stoned. This would be easy.
“I am here to help Jessie,” I continued. “Jessie Byrd. Is she here?”
“She’s not here,” Theo finally said in a dazed fashion, still wildly confused by my presence.
“Well then, let me come on in and we can talk about what you two kids need, eh?”
And like that, he let me in. Theo was either incredibly stupid or he had been pulling bong tubes all morning. I decided he was a little of both. No one in Houston would just let a stranger into their house.
After all, this is town where any knock on your day might be made by a someone trying to push their version of Jesus on you.
That knock on the door could be from a rapist. Or a robber. Or a salesman.
Theo was lucky, I’m just a tutor.