Karen was this close to losing it. She clenched her fists and stepped forward. Something was about to come out of her mouth, and my inner voice warned, It ain’t gonna be pretty.

“Miss.” I spoke loudly and gestured. Both women turned toward me, as I had hoped they would. I purposely looked past them. “Miss,” I called again. A waitress pivoted and stepped between Karen and Mrs. Thomforde to reach my chair. “How many tickets do you have left?”

She did a quick count of the remaining tents on her tray and said, “Ten.”

“I’ll buy them all.” I dipped into my pocket for cash. “Ladies, pick a ticket, my treat.” I dropped a ten on the tray and leaned back while each woman made a selection. Ruth said that I certainly knew the way to a girl’s heart. Her friends suggested that Ruth was a cheap date.

“Take a ticket,” I told Mrs. Thomforde. “You, too, Karen. Pork chops, yum.”

Mrs. Thomforde selected hers, and Karen followed, leaving one ticket on the tray for me. I pulled a four. Victoria’s number. Suddenly I wasn’t having any fun. Suddenly I was angry again. I kept it to myself.

The waitress thanked us, scooped up the cash, and made her way to the front of the bar where the manager stood next to a spinning wheel. They both scanned the crowd for the other waitress, catching her eye. The waitress held up four fingers.

“Four tickets left for a chance at winning five pounds of pork-chops-on-a-stick,” the manager announced.

“You and Scottie talk a lot, don’t you, Mrs. Thomforde?” I said.

“Of course we do,” she said. “I’m his mother. He calls me all the time. He’s a good boy.”

“Did he ever mention any friends to you? People he spends time with?”

“You mean from prison?” She was looking at Karen when she said, “He doesn’t spend time with that trash.”

“Did he ever mention anyone called T-Man, for instance? Mr. T?”

Mrs. Thomforde looked up and to her right. “I don’t think so,” she said. “No. No, I’m sure he hasn’t. Why are you doing this, McKenzie?” She flung a look at Karen. “Why are you helping her?”

I patted Mrs. Thomforde’s hand. “I’m not,” I said. “I’m trying to help Scottie. When I found out Karen was looking for him—I was looking for him because I was hoping he might know some people who can help me out with something, but then she told me”—I flicked a thumb in Karen’s direction—“that Scottie was missing…”

“Yes, yes,” Mrs. Thomforde said. “You were always a good friend to Scottie. I remember what you did that one time. I won’t ever forget it.” She sighed dramatically. “Back when you were kids—everything seemed simple back when you were kids. Scottie was so full of fun and love and…” She was looking up to her right again. “If only…”

The manager spoke loudly from the front of the bar. “Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. For five pounds of pork-chops-on-a-stick.” He spun the wheel. It completed several revolutions before slowing and eventually settling on number sixteen. The woman who had won the chicken and hash browns gave out a squeal from a table behind us.

“Did she win again?” asked Ruth.

“It’s so unfair,” said Mrs. Thomforde.

I thanked Mrs. Thomforde for her time and said good-bye to the girls and led Karen out of the bar. I stopped her just outside the door and studied my watch, counting the seconds as they ticked by.

“What are you doing?” Karen asked.

“I think Mrs. Thomforde was lying about knowing where Scottie is,” I said.

“What makes you say that?”

“Did you notice that while she was speaking to you she was looking upward to her left, but when she was speaking to me, she was looking upward to the right?”

“No, I didn’t. What difference does it make?”

“Right brain, left brain. When you glance up to the right, you’re pulling your thoughts from your memory. If you glance up to the left, you’re pulling thoughts from your creative side. Often, that means the person is lying. When Mrs. Thomforde told us she didn’t know where Scottie was, she was looking to her left.”

“That doesn’t tell me what you’re doing.”

“I’m giving Mrs. Thomforde a ninety-second head start.”

“To do what?”

At ninety seconds, I opened the bar door and both Karen and I stepped inside, standing close to the entrance. From where we stood we were able to see Mrs. Thomforde’s back. She was speaking on a cell phone.

I asked Karen if she was hungry. She said she was, so I drove to a vacant lot lit up by the streetlights on the corner of Arcade and East Seventh Street. There was a food trailer like the kind you see at state and county fairs anchored against a wooden fence. It was rigged with tiny yellow lightbulbs and covered with hand-painted scenes of a pastoral Mexico.

“You’re kidding, right?” said Karen.