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Friday, March 26, 2010 - Page updated at 10:04 AM


Mystery! Mayhem! At the Market! Part 4: The Finale

Stevie hummed the opening bars to "Suspicious Minds" as he stumbled down the slick cobblestones leading from First Avenue into the Market. Back where he started, but somebody had forgotten to throw him a homecoming parade. Didn't matter, Stevie had started celebrating anyway. He staggered through the deserted Market, carrying nothing but a backpack and his guitar case. Seven months to the day after Emilio gave him the lucky silver dollar, and the silver dollar was just about all he had left.

Opening for Throbbing Rockets had been as lucky as it got, and when Stevie was asked to continue on for their international tour he thought his life and his liver had finally straightened out. The Rockets partied so hard that even Stevie could barely keep up, though he did his best. The only thing he remembered about Tokyo was the huge bottles of Sapporo and the fact that it was the only time in his life when he felt really tall. By the time they got to Europe, the Rockets were barely speaking to each other, the crowds were sparse, and Stevie kept falling asleep in the middle of his set. Davis McIntyre, the skinny lead singer and guitarist, amused the band by tossing ketchup-soaked French fries at Stevie's head from the front of the tour bus, until Stevie, deep into an insouciant vin rouge, had punched him out, which evidently wasn't quite so amusing. Bleary-eyed, Stevie was left at a truck stop outside of Paris and handed a ridiculously small check by the band's manager. Now, here he was, unshaved, unshowered and broke again. He plopped down on the curb, dizzy from jet lag and the airport booze. Two a.m. and all was definitely not well.

Stevie stared at the silver dollar Emilio had given him, turned it over. His good luck charm, that's what Emilio had called it. Well, whatever good luck the silver dollar brought had been used up fast. If Emilio had still been alive, Stevie would have returned it to him. No, that wasn't true. Not after Stevie found out how valuable it was. A guy sitting across the aisle on the flight back was a coin collector. He said it was worth at least $20,000. The date was rare, but the double-strike mint error made it much more valuable. This two-faced Lady Liberty who couldn't seem to decide whether she brought good luck or bad, was at least useful for something.

Stevie shivered in the night air. When the Market coin shop opened, he was going to sell it. Lucky or not, $20,000 would cover first and last on an apartment with plenty left over to pay off his bar tabs and start some new ones. He stood up, kissed the silver dollar, but his hand shook and the coin fell to the street ... and started rolling. He chased it in the dark, shouted for it to stop, then tripped over his own feet. When he looked up the silver dollar was gone. He searched for it for hours, searched until after the sun came up, dodging the trucks delivering fresh fruit and vegetables, crawling on his hands and knees, scouring the cracks and crevices. He was sitting cross-legged, weeping, when a man pressed a $5 bill into his hand and told him to get some breakfast, he'd feel better. Stevie made almost $50 by midmorning, more than he ever made singing songs.

* * *

Someone was lightly shaking Janine's shoulder. "Are you OK, ma'am?"

Janine blinked, pushed back her thick red hair. "Yes ... yes, just fine. Thank you." She leaned against the wall as the man walked away. Her head throbbed from where she had smacked against the bricks. She looked around at the people bustling through the Market, chattering away, bags in their arms. Crabs watched her from behind thick glass, their claws waving. She clutched the silver dollar, felt as dizzy as Stevie last night, hung over from his long flight.

Stevie? She opened her fist, stared at the coin. She remembered Stevie, felt the rawness in his throat from too many cigarettes, remembered Emilio too, and Henry, felt the boy's scrawny chest pounding as he ran with the stolen silver dollar, shoes flapping with every step. She had been all of them. Been Henry when he was hungry and later when he was Hank, all strut and violence, and Emilio too, with the time bomb ticking in his chest and refusing to give in to bitterness or despair. All those faces, those lives, those stories.

Janine was a rational person. Too rational for her own good. No time for fun in her calendar. She had a concussion. Probably a good idea to go to the doctor, get it checked. Doctors can only do so much, chica, said Emilio, and Janine heard his voice clearly, heard his warm laugh, and knew she didn't have a concussion. Knew there wasn't a thing wrong with her.

She turned the coin over. Could it really be worth $20,000? Twenty thousand dollars would allow her to quit her job ... start law school now instead of later. Her boyfriend, Jack, thought law school was a stupid dream, an excuse to keep her nose in a book instead of spending time with him. She rubbed a thumb across the ridged edge, stared at the double-strike face. Lady Liberty who brought good luck and bad. Lady Liberty who always turned up when someone needed her most. Is that why she had found the coin? Why, after all these years of lying there under the street, had she been the one to find it? Take what you find, Red, said Hank, and don't look back.

From her vantage point, Janine could see Jack waiting for her outside the restaurant.

Be brave, lady, snapped Hank.

Follow your heart, said Emilio.

Relax, boys, I can handle things from here, said Janine.

Jack glanced at his watch, face twisting in annoyance, too angry to see her. Too angry to see anything but himself. She flipped the coin, sunlight flashing as she walked toward him. Time to tell Jack what time it really was.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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