The next day was another chilly one with the skies overcast. The atmosphere was almost at saturation point and the dampness was palpable. It felt like rain would start at any moment.
After taking my morning shower and getting dressed, I left the motel and walked down the street to Vips once again for breakfast. Though the motel offered a complimentary breakfast, the continental breakfast is usually not very satisfying. I wanted to have a leisurely breakfast surrounded by locals anyway.
I got a copy of the Daily Journal newspaper from a paper box before entering the restaurant just to see what the local news might be.
Receiving the customary pleasant greeting upon entering the restaurant, I was quickly ushered to a small table about halfway back in the dining area and was immediately asked if I wanted coffee, to which my quick response was “Yes, indeed.”
The waitress left a menu on the table and, departing, said she would be back shortly to take my order.
As I sipped the steaming coffee and perused the menu, I settled on having a large bowl of hot oatmeal and asked for a small cup of raisins and that the oatmeal be sprinkled with cinnamon. I also ordered toast and marmalade and a glass of milk. Considering the state of the weather, hot oatmeal seemed like the thing to fortify me for a while.
As I waited for breakfast to be delivered and sipped coffee, I leafed through the newspaper. I paused only briefly to smile at some of the local news items which, like so many small-town papers, featured auto accidents, garden club activities, social gatherings, and a few items about the activities of local government.
Breakfast was delivered with quick efficiency. The steam rising from the hot oatmeal through the topping of cinnamon wafted a lovely sweet aroma as I added a bit of sugar and felt the heat of the oatmeal warming me with each savory bite.
After finishing breakfast, I walked to the front counter and paid the bill — again with cash and a modest tip. Pulling my topcoat collar up and donning my cap, I stepped out into the dreary day, well-anchored with a hearty breakfast and three cups of hot coffee.
On the walk back to the motel, I stopped in a small local office supply shop and purchased a clipboard and a pack of filler paper, a couple of items that would become part of my scheme to call on Wenger.
Retrieving the Lexus from the motel parking lot, I set out for Hays Street. I parked on nearby Searcy Street and headed around the corner onto Hays and up the block to 743.
The Sig was secured in a belt holster at the small of my back. It was not a particularly handy place as I could not reach it quickly, but since Wenger apparently had no inkling of what I looked like — and my scheme should get me invited into his house — I didn’t anticipate that I would need quick access to it. At this point, I was hoping that I would find Wenger at home but without his wife and son. Should the entire family be there, I would simply gather as much information as I could and make plans to come again when he was likely to be alone.
After pushing the bell button, I could hear the sound of the door chime inside. No barking. That was a good sign as dogs can sometimes present complications when least desired. I had to ring a second time after about twenty seconds of no response, but then I could hear footsteps approaching the door from inside.
And then the front door opened slightly to reveal a somewhat smallish man in a long-sleeved tee-shirt, jeans, and stocking feet. He looked like he hadn’t been out of bed very long as his hair was somewhat tussled, and he was sporting a day’s beard stubble.
“Mr. Wenger?” I inquired as cheerily as I could muster.
“Yes,” he said, almost sleepily.
“Good morning, Mr. Wenger. I’m Martin Taliafero. I’m not selling anything. I live over on Locust and a group of us are trying to form a neighborhood association so that we will have more clout with the city officials and get some improvements in the neighborhood.
“Do you have a few minutes that I could talk with you about the association and what we’re about?”
“Nah, I’m really not interested right now. Maybe later,” he said as he moved to close the door.
“Please, Mr. Wenger. I promise I won’t take more than fifteen minutes of your time. It’s pretty nasty out today and I could sure use a break and maybe a cup of coffee if you have some made,” I said, trying to appeal to his sympathy.
He hesitated for a moment.
“Okay,” he said. “Come on in. I’ll give you a few minutes. I was just getting ready to have some coffee myself. You’re right. It is a nasty day.”
I entered into a small foyer and, at his suggestion, placed my cap on a nearby coat hook. This could be a critical moment. If he was going to recognize me, without my cap would be the time that it was likely to happen.
I saw no hint of recognition and followed him into a modest-sized living room, neatly furnished with a traditional sofa and upholstered chairs, a coffee table, and side tables at each end of the sofa. There was a wood-burning fireplace and some wood stacked nearby in a niche, but no fire at the moment.
He motioned me to one of the lounge chairs and said he would be right back with some coffee, asking if I needed cream or sugar, to which I replied neither.
During his short absence, I carefully looked around the room and into the other rooms that I could see from the chair. I spotted no sign of gun racks or the like and I heard nothing that indicated that others were in the house at the moment.