In any case, Sergio looked at the security video, studied the pale-skinned man with the pointed hairline, and told Eddy he’d once given that man a ride in La Jolla. The man in the video was the Tijuana boyfriend of someone Sergio knew, and his real name was Juan, not Robert.
So Eddy decided to look for the man in Tijuana. He took the photographs he’d made from the surveillance video across the border to his restaurant, Mariscos del Pacífico, and asked his staff if they’d ever seen this guy Juan. Eddy told the manager to call him if the man in the video showed up.
Eddy also took the step of calling his lawyer to ask that he get a private investigator to find out who, exactly, Juan was and where he lived.
After that, Eddy and Juan spoke by telephone one more time. This time, Eddy told Juan that he knew his real name and did not intend to pay him anything.
Juan promptly lowered his informant fee to $6000.
Eddy still wanted to know if the kidnapping threat was serious, so he suggested that Juan meet him at Mariscos del Pacífico, but Juan refused, saying he didn’t have papers and therefore couldn’t go to Mexico, but he could meet Eddy at a shopping mall in the U.S.
Eddy didn’t agree. They decided to talk again by telephone, but Eddy never spoke to Juan again. The exchange did, however, initiate a crucial conversation between Eddy and his wife Ivette.
“I told her if I ever were kidnapped, go to FBI,” Eddy said.
∗ ∗ ∗
At about this time, two things happened. A For Rent sign went up in front of a plain brown house in a tight cul-de-sac at 1539 Point Dume Court in Chula Vista. Fifteen-year-old Derek and his friend Freddy watched from their garages as the house that had been occupied by a family with a teenaged daughter was visited first by prospective renters and then by the new tenants, who were not a family but a pair of guys. They were Hispanic, in their 20s or early 30s, Derek guessed, and they spent an awful lot of time driving to and from the house. One guy in particular would drive to the house, carry in some grocery or duffel bags, then get back in his red MR2 and drive away. A couple of hours later, he’d be back and do the same thing. A lot of cars, in fact, rolled in and out of Point Dume now: a black 2008 Escalade with newly purchased rims (not stock, Derek noticed), a silver Ranger, a gray Corolla, the red MR2, and a black Lincoln truck.
Meanwhile, an old friend of Eddy’s got in touch to apologize. Three years earlier, Eddy Tostado and his friend David Valencia had sometimes gone out to clubs with Monroy, the architect, and their respective wives and girlfriends, but then one night the women were dancing for Eddy, David, and the architect, and David started punching and kicking his girlfriend. Eddy tried to stop David, so David grabbed a bottle of whiskey and hit Eddy on the head with it.
Eddy nearly passed out, blood gushing from an inch-long cut. The architect tried to calm David down, as Eddy remembered it, but security took David out, and Eddy went to his father-in-law’s clinic to have the gash on his head swabbed and sealed with butterfly bandages.
That was the last time Eddy saw David Valencia until May of 2007, when Juan showed up on Eddy’s front step with his kidnapping story and David Valencia started telling Eddy’s car detailer (who came to Eddy’s house every Friday) how sorry he was about hitting Eddy with that whiskey bottle and how much he wanted to talk to Eddy and make it right. The car detailer even tried to use his own phone to call David so that apologies could be made and friendship restored. They didn’t reconcile, though, until Eddy heard that his former friend David had been in the hospital. Okay, Eddy decided, and he called.
David and Eddy met at a coffee shop, where David said he was sober now, living in the U.S. with his wife and family. David’s son was playing soccer, his daughter was riding horses — he was doing family things now — and maybe Eddy’s daughter would like to come ride horses sometime. By the time Eddy and David parted that day, Eddy had promised to buy some cars for David at an upcoming auction, just like he used to do.
∗ ∗ ∗
On Thursday, June 7, Eddy Tostado and David Valencia went to a car auction. David picked out a car and a pickup truck and left. Eddy, because he was the one with the dealer’s license, bid on the cars David wanted, among others, and at around 7:00 that evening met David in a Starbucks in Chula Vista. David was waiting on the patio outside, which was really just two green umbrellas on the sidewalk, hemmed in by the bug-spattered bumpers of trucks. Southwestern College sits across the street, so students flow in and out all day, buying lattes and frappés.
Eddy and David chatted about when and where the cars would be ready, and Eddy had pushed his chair back to go when David said, “Wait, let me buy you a coffee.”
Eddy said he didn’t want any coffee. It was too late at night, he said, and coffee would keep him awake, but David insisted, so Eddy relented, and as he sat there on the strip mall sidewalk, the temperature, which had been 63 degrees, dropped ever so slightly, and the cloudy sky pinkened, as it does even in the gloomiest month of the San Diego year, and another person who was not who she said she was walked into the picture.
“Nancy,” David called her. She was young and thin and pretty and Latina, like lots of girls who go in and out of that Starbucks, but she dressed expensively, decked out in Louis Vuitton. She was about five feet six and very fit, Eddy noticed, as if she worked out. She had short hair and what Eddy called a “little nose.”