The Widower's Two-Step - Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan - Tres Navarre #2 - The Widower's Two-Step

So hold on, little darlin', 'cause the music is stern, Twirl 'round the cradle 'til your soul starts to burn, And don't say the next dance we won't get a turn 'Cause the Widower's TwoStep is a hard one to learn.

—"THE WIDOWER'S TWO STEP," Brent & Miranda Daniels


"Could you please tell your kid to be quiet?" The guy standing in front of my park bench looked like he'd stepped off a Fleetwood Mac album cover, circa 1976. He had that Lindsey Buckingham funhousemirror kind of body—unnaturally tall, bulbous in the wrong places. He had the 'Fro and the beard and the loosefitting black martial arts pyjamas that just screamed mod.

He was also blocking my camera angle on the blue '68 Cougar across San Pedro Park, eighty yards away.

"Well?" Lindsey wiped his forehead. He'd walked over from his tai chi group and sounded out of breath, like he'd been working the moves too hard.

I checked my watch. If the lady in the Cougar was going to meet somebody, it should've happened by now.

I looked at the tai chi guy.

"What kid?"

A few feet to my left, Jem made another pass on the swing set, strafing Lindsey Buckingham's students as he came down. He made airplane sounds at the top of his lungs, which was a lot of lungs for a fouryearold, then pointed his toes like machinegun barrels and started firing.

I guess maybe it was hard for Lindsey's folks to concentrate. One of them, a short ovoid woman in pink sweats, was trying to squat for Snake Creeps Down. She ended up rolling on her rump like she'd been shot.

Lindsey Buckingham rubbed the back of his neck and glared at me. "The kid on the swings, dumbass."

I shrugged. "It's a playground. He's playing."

"It's seventythirty in the morning. We're practicing here."

I looked over at Lindsey's students. The pink ovoid woman was just getting up. Next to her a little Latina lady was doing her moves nervously, pushing the air with her palms and keeping her eyes tightly shut as if she was afraid of what she might touch. Two other students, both middleaged Anglo guys with potbellies and pony tails, lumbered through the routine as best they could, frowning, sweating a lot. It didn't look like anybody was achieving inner tranquillity.

"You should tell them to keep their feet at fortyfive degrees," I suggested. "That's an unbalanced stance, parallel footing like that."

Lindsey opened his mouth like he was about to say something. He made a little cough in the back of his throat.

"Excuse me. I didn't know I was talking to a master."

"Tres Navarre," I said. "I usually wear a Tshirt, says 'Master.' It's in the wash."

I looked past him, watching the Cougar. The lady in the driver's seat hadn't moved.

Nobody else was in the San Antonio College parking lot.

The sun was just starting to come up over the white dome of the campus planetarium, but the night cool had already burned out of the air. It was going to be another ninetydegree day. Smells from the breakfast taqueria down on Ellsworth were starting to drift through the park—chorizo and eggs and coffee.

On the swing set Jem came down for another run.

"Eeeeoooooowwww," he shouted, then he made with the machine guns.

Lindsey Buckingham glared at me. He didn't move out of the way.

"You're blocking my view of the parking lot," I told him.

"Oh, pardon me."

I waited. "Are you going to move?"

"Are you going to shut your kid up?"

Some mornings. It's not bad enough it's October in Texas and you're still waiting for the first cold front to come through. It's not bad enough your boss sends her fouryearold with you on surveillance. You've got to have Lindsey Buckingham in your face, too.

"Look," I told him, "see this backpack? There's a Sanyo TLS900 in there—pinhole lens, clear resolution from two hundred yards, but it can't see through idiots. In a minute, if you move, I might get some nice footage of Miss Kearnes meeting somebody she's not supposed to be meeting. My client will pay me good money. If you don't move I'll get some nice footage of your crotch. That's how it works."

Lindsey scratched some sweat droplets out of his beard. He looked at the backpack.

He looked at me.


Jem kept swinging higher and shouting louder. His skinny brown legs were pinched into an hourglass shape by the swing. When he got to the top he went weightless, silky black hair sticking up like a sea urchin,