Stalking is Fairly Easy

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.

Or worse.

That knock on the door could be from a rapist. Or a robber. Or a salesman.

Theo was lucky, I’m just a tutor.

Major Headache And Minor Progress

The first day on the job didn’t go too well.

After determining Jessie had moved out and was never going to clear out her voice mail I went home, overserved myself and passed out on the couch.

I woke up at 6 in the morning with a sudden jolt that propeled me off the couch and onto the floor. The TV was still on but the sound of the local morning news broadcast was over run by my alarm clock in the bedroom. When I went to stand up, I knocked over a platoon of empty beer bottles from the coffee table. They scattered wildly across the floor as I righted myself and tried to straighten out my spine.

Moving like a mortally wounded Quasimoto, I lumbered into the bedroom, shut off the alarm clock and collapsed onto the bed.

Nights that ended in haze of muddied stumbling through the house and mornings that began in uncertain, painful lurches were becoming normal.

I rarely slept in the old queen sized bed anymore. I felt so alone laying in such a large piece of real estate on my own every night. My back was slowly softening as I lay there thinking about this tutoring job.

The experienced drunk knows to always leave their essential items in the same place every day. If they do not follow this simply act of discipline, they will spend countless hours searching for their phone, their wallet and car keys. Mine were sitting in a neat little pyramid between the microwave and a stack of unopened mail on the kitchen counter. I picked up my phone and made once last attempt to call Jessie.

The voice mail was still full. Thanks a lot.

As soon as I got home I should have taken notes of what I learned creeping around Jessie’s apartment complex. The contact information I left on her door was gone on the third sweep I made, right? That goofy Indian guy said she moved in with her boyfriend but he didn’t know his name. I’m getting sloppy and that’s not going to help me out.

I guess I could have gone by the apartment manager’s office and asked them if they knew anything. However, the place seemed a little too corporate to give out any information on her. They definitely wouldn’t let me check her mail box or open up her place.

Feeling somewhat defeated I decided to call Byrd Services and just ask the boss man if he knew the name of the guy his daughter was dating.

I’m sure, in hindsight, if I had been totally sober that morning I wouldn’t have called Mr. Byrd. I learned later that he would have looked upon the call as the first sign of incompetence.

Lucky for me, his secretary Cyndi answered the phone.

“Why hello there Lazlo,” she said, her voice a huge bucket of sunshine blasting through the phone. This was not a woman who woke up in a pile of beer bottles.

“Hey, how are?” I said, trying to sound alert and ready for action. As I tried to move the conversation forward I felt my hands start to sweat while a dull knot began to develop in my throat. Don’t barf on the phone. Do NOT barf on the phone.

“Um, is Mr. Byrd in?” I asked.

“You know hon, he’s not,” said Cyndi, throwing even more of that great blinding beam of cheer into my ear. “He’s at a meeting would. You like to leave a message?”

“Well, I guess.”

I was trying to figure out how much I could say to Cyndi with out blabbering my way out of a job.

“I went by Jessie’s apartment yesterday,” I said. “I tried to leave a couple of messages with her but her voice mail is full.”

Cyndi’s tone darkened. It still sounded cheerful but there was a hint of concern mingled into it now.

“Was she at her apartment?” Cyndi asked.

I tried to chuckle through my response in a poor attempt to sound casual.

“She’s…. well, this neighbor. He’s an Indian. He said he thought she might be at her boyfriend’s place.”

All of the cheer was gone from Cyndi’s voice now.

“She’s at Theo’s?”

“Yah… you got any contact information for Theo.”

“No,” Cyndi said curtly. “His last name is Turner.”

“Okay… I think I’ll just go over to Theo’s house to introduce myself and, you know, get this whole thing rolling. Thanks.”

And then, like a light bulb coming back to life, Cyndi’s morning sunshine voice returned.

“Well, no problem Mr. Gusto. You call me anytime you want, okay?”

“Sure,” I said.

Her response implied that she had already decided not to tell Mr. Byrd I had called or that his daughter was shacking up with Theo.

The sense of dread and failure was gone after I hung up, but my head was still fogged from the previous night’s drinking.

I tried to go for jog to sweat out the booze. I went two blocks and vomited all over the road.