Posts Tagged ‘cheeseburger

28
Aug
10

Corner of 4th and Morrison

Got any change?
Change? Change?
Man in the blue tie- got any change?
Shit, lady. You’re looking so fine.
I know you been eating good. Gimme some change.
Hey, girl. Cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr is $6.
You oughta put a quarter of that in my cup.
Better yet, buy me one.
We’ll go to my place, eat it together;
I’ll tell you how I ended up up on this wall asking for change.

09
May
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Twenty-first Installment)

“I thought you didn’t know this guy. I thought you only talked to him once.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s the senselessness of the whole thing. One day you’re talking to a man about good and evil and Saul and David and the next day you find out someone cut his head off. The fathers go out to get food for their chicks and they come back to discover a bird ate them and it was a waste of time.” One of the little boys looked at their table and giggled. His mother, following his eyes, tapped his cheeseburger sternly.
“Okay, you’re scaring mothers and children and you’re starting to sound like Jeff. I’m not saying it isn’t hard to find out someone you knew has been murdered and I’m not saying you’re wrong to be angry or even scared about all this. But let’s figure out who did it so you can feel at least a little satisfaction on that count.” They chewed and swallowed in silence. KC declared that was the way, presumably answering an unheard question regarding his preference, he liked it. The little girl tussled with her older brother over a French fry. Their father said something low and decisive. The girl slumped back against the booth. “I can see why your family was disappointed because even when you’re not paying any attention to what you’re saying you still come up with something that makes sense.”
“I’m not sure if I’ve been complimented or insulted. What are you talking about?”
“Justification for killing someone.”
“Yeah?”
“In our society we usually accept that there are certain situations that excuse killing someone.”
“If they break into your house?”
“Yeah, in some places. There’s also self-defense.”
“Aaron Whittaker had a migraine and he was lying on the floor. I heard him sit up and if you’d heard the agony he was in you couldn’t be convinced he was capable of hurting anyone.”
“Or protecting someone,” Buzz continued.
“There again, I don’t see how Aaron could have been a danger to anybody. The man was in extreme pain. He couldn’t even reach up to the desk to get his own thermos of coffee.”
“And you’re sure it was sincere?”
“I don’t know. Can you fake a migraine? Women have been accused of faking things but I’ve always heard there was a purpose to what they did. What would be the benefit of holing up in a dark room and lying on the floor if you weren’t actually sick? I guess we could check with people who knew him and find out whether he actually suffered from migraines. Maybe Mari would tell you something if you promise her enough.”
“She’s someone else’s problem right now and I’m willing to keep it that way. Besides, everything we’ve seen so far has been consistent with the reality that he was suffering a migraine. He was in the dark, he was lying down, he was drinking coffee, he made disturbing noises when he tried to sit up, and he hadn’t eaten much all day.”
“Wait a minute, how do you know that?”
“Stomach contents report.”
“Could the migraine have been brought on by low blood sugar?”
“I’d have to check into it but my gut instinct says that even if it could be this one wasn’t.”
“Why?”
“He’d been diabetic for years, I’m guessing here, and he knew how important it was to keep his blood sugar stable.”
“Yeah, but cream cheese and cranberries and chocolate aren’t exactly low in sugar. Is that what you’d expect somebody to be eating if they wanted things to be stable?”
“No, but people who are diabetic do screwy things sometimes. I knew a girl who used to wash down Godiva chocolates with champagne.”
“Hold on. He said something about maybe having to excuse himself to throw up.”
“He was probably hoping he would. Migraine affects the nausea center of the brain. Sometimes the only thing that helps is to throw up.”
“So, we can assume he hadn’t already thrown up or he would have been feeling better?” The family was leaving now and as they were passing Clement’s table, the smaller of the boys mimed making himself vomit. His mother swatted him with the hand not holding the tray of garbage.
“You’re thinking that if he had been able to eat something earlier in the day and then he’d thrown it up the only thing left would be whatever he ate after he threw up.”
“Right. Which would be the cranberries and cream cheese.”
“I think it’s going to be pretty tough to figure out whether or not he threw up. ‘You can’t dust for vomit’ as they said in Spinal Tap.”
“How long does it take to digest cream cheese? Or cranberries?”
“I have no idea.”
“I’ve got another question you probably can answer.”
“Yeah?”
“Who called it in?”
“What?”
“Who called 911? Who called the police or whoever and said ‘Hey, I found a dead body in this office’? Was it one of the cleaning people?”
“Tanner’s looking a little anxious up there. You wanna see if they have anything that passes for coffee?”
“Sure.” He came back empty-handed to hear Buzz signing off a phone call. “Tanner says they do but since we seem like we’re okay he wouldn’t recommend it. Vicky suggested a frozen mocha dessert type thing.”
“God help me. You might be wondering who that was on the phone.”
“Not really but if you want to tell me.”
“The person who called it in was Dolores only she’s not calling herself Dolores anymore.”
“What?”
“Patience, my good man. All will be revealed. She didn’t show up for work for two days but she did call in on the second day and say she was very sorry but she was having some drug problems and she planned to go into rehab so please don’t fire her. When they did sit down and talk with her in person she had a very interesting story to tell indeed. Before we talk with her, however, we need to pay a visit to my old friend Dr. Phillips.”
“The coroner?”
“Yep. He has an interesting story too.”

07
Apr
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Fifteenth Installment)

Clement followed Buzz across the hall to the door of Aaron’s office which was standing open. The shovel was gone. The chair he had sat in the night before while discussing the future King David’s motivations was broken and tagged. As Clement looked around he noted that nothing else was as he had remembered it either. Had he been in this room with the lights on? He and Aaron had talked by the streetlight filtering through the blinds. Yes, he had left a note on Aaron’s desk the day Dolores had caught him so he must have seen this room. “There was a painting on that wall.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah, it was a painting of Aaron, the man who had this office, and he was looking very much like one of those old lumber barons.”
“The Robber Barons.”
“Exactly. I thought at the time that it was funny someone that young would be so arrogant. Maybe it was confidence.”
“You know anything about a painting?” Buzz asked a guy with a brush.
“Yeah, somebody found a big frame down in the dumpster. It could have had a painting in it before they tore it up.”
“Did you find out any more about what he did here? I mean, while I was out in the hall.”
“The guys found some of what looks like coal but also some kind of orangey rocks, some blue ones and some green ones. We don’t know anything about rocks so we’ll have somebody that does give us a report.”
“Why would they ruin the painting?”
“Maybe they took it down looking for a safe and it happened that way or maybe they didn’t find a safe and they were ticked off and vented their uncivilized feelings on the painting.”
“Do you think that’s why he was killed?”
“Nah.” It was the man with the brush. “Whoever did that came along after he was dead or maybe didn’t even know he was in here and found the door standing open and decided to take advantage of it.”
Clement remembered Aaron saying something about excusing himself and encouraging Clement to take advantage of his absence. “Where is he?”
Buzz came to stand beside him. “You sure you’re ready?”
“I’m probably more ready than he was.”
“Yeah, there’s that.”
Clement walked to the window, tracing the path he’d taken the night before. When he reached the side of the desk, he looked down. “Holy crap! That’s a lot of blood.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“Is that the usual amount when someone’s head gets cut off?”
“I’ve only seen one of these before now myself. I asked somebody else and he said he thought it was a lot. Maybe some people lose blood faster than others. Some people got high blood pressure and that doesn’t help.”
“It was the coffee.”
“What?”
“He told me people should drink coffee if they have a migraine because it constricts the blood vessels and keeps the pain from getting through.”
“It might constrict your blood vessels but it’s also going to raise your heart rate and as soon as the circuit gets cut-” Buzz looked apologetically at Clement.
“It’s a lot more okay than I thought it would be. He’s not still here and that makes it easier.”
“No, they moved him out of here real quick as soon as they got things marked. The rug would be outta here too but I wanted you to be able to look around and see what you remembered.”
“So, this is where they found him?”
“Yep.”
“That’s just about where he was when I left last night.”
“That tells us something then.”
“Yeah?”
“Either he was really attached to that spot on the floor and he went back to it after he got up or-“
“Or else he didn’t get up to let the person in because they had a key.”
“Who would have a key? Or who could get a key?” They were back in the hallway beside the window that looked out on the goat. Two men wearing coveralls and gloves walked into the office then one stuck his head back out.
“Okay if we take the rug now?”
“You wanna look around in there any more?”
“I don’t think I’m gonna remember anything else standing there. I’m not sure I’ve been any help at all.”
Buzz nodded to the man in the doorway. “Yeah. Thanks for waiting on it.”
“No problem. We’re on the clock.”
“Mari’s out of town. She made a copy of the key to Aaron’s office while they were still together.”
“According to who?”
“According to Jeff. He didn’t say she made more than one copy though and supposedly I had that solitary copy last night when I unlocked the door and talked with him.”
“Heads up!” The two men in coveralls had the rug hoisted on their shoulders like a pig going to a luau.
“You guys are fast.”
“Takes practice.”
“Like putting on a condom.”
Buzz watched them carry the rug as far as the elevator then turned back to Clement. “So, you had a key and Mari may have had a key. Did Jeff have a key?”
“Not unless Mari gave one to him too. Or maybe he made a copy before he gave the key to me.”
“Okay, you, Jeff, and Mari. Who else?”
“Mr. Gomez or somebody else on the cleaning crew had one or they couldn’t get in to clean this office.”
“You think they’d clean if they thought Whittaker was gonna be gone for a couple of days?”
“Maybe not. Probably not. He said last night that the crew was competent but not impressive or something like that. He also said they’d never get anybody better as long as Dolores was in the building because she was so protective of Mr. Gomez and minority rights.”
“Did Dolores have a key?”
Clement leaned his head against the cool window and closed his eyes. “She came running up to me as I was getting off the elevator. We talked about what I was doing here. She insisted that I talk to someone else on this floor and she decided that person was Aaron. We knocked on the door and he wasn’t here and then-. Yes! She has to have a key. She let me into his office and made me write him a note. I wrote the note on his desk so we must have gone at least as far in as that.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“So that gives us you, Jeff, Mari, Dolores, and somebody from the custodial team who probably was further from the office than any of the rest of you.”
“Why, Buzz. I believe you’re a cynic.”
“I’m a skeptic; it’s not quite the same.” They were sitting at a long table that appeared to be several picnic tables shoved together and covered with a large piece of oil-cloth.
“Why are we having lunch here at Judy’s? I mean, I understand it’s lunchtime but why bring me here?”
“I like to have a big juicy burger for lunch; it gives me a good excuse for a nap or a coffee break around four o’clock. Somehow I wasn’t really in the mood for a burger today. Plus I remembered what you’d said about being in the neighborhood around the office and I figured you’d like to get as far away as possible. Staying in the same city, of course.”
“Of course. Restrooms are where?”
“Over there in the corner and they’re guaranteed to be immaculate until you use them.”
“I see my reputation precedes me.”
“Yes. You want a Caesar salad, no anchovies, extra croutons?”
“Did Jeff tell you that too?”
“No. That’s how I order mine.”
It took Clement longer than he had expected to get back to the table from the bathroom. Judy’s was the kind of place he would never have gone on his own. There was a gift shop selling canned seafood and T-shirts with messages like “Judy gave me crabs”. Old toys, clothes, and furniture hung from the walls and ceiling of the dining room and more items were tucked into the rafters. Postcards- from loving couples describing honeymoons at Niagara Falls or from car dealerships congratulating buyers on the one-year anniversary of their purchase or from visitors extolling the beauty of Ames, Iowa rested under the glass table-tops. Clement felt eyes on the back of his head and stopped examining a candy-apple-red Duncan Imperial yo-yo. Buzz was watching him and he nodded his head at the two salads and coffee.
“Wow! That was fast.”
“No, you were slow. It’s all right though.”
“I had one like that when I was a kid.”
“A red one?”
“Yeah. I didn’t realize they made them in any other color but I guess they must have.”
“Yep.”
“Took me six months of wheedling, cajoling, and bargaining to get my mom to buy me one. Coincidentally, she gave in a week before my birthday.”
“Coincidentally, huh?”
“Did you have one?”
“Not like that. I had a glow-in-the-dark Butterfly.”
“One of those tricky guys.”
“You got it.” He waited while Clement added cream and sugar to his coffee. “I did some checking while you were gone.”
“Yeah?”
“Aaron Whittaker was diabetic. That’s why he had the Benedict’s Solution in his desk.”
“It couldn’t have been used for anything else? No mineral tests or anything?”
“The one and only use according to my people is detecting the presence of glucose in a solution. In this case, that solution was urine.”
“If he was diabetic, why didn’t he use one of those blood-testing machines? Your grandmother used Benedict’s but that was before they had the newer technology. Right?”
“Maybe Whittaker didn’t like needles. Some people are like that. My sister became diabetic while she was pregnant and had to stick herself in the finger about eight times a day. Her hands shook so much the first time she did it that I thought she was gonna stick my brother in law instead but she finally got the hang of it. I guess some people never do.”
“I’d have a hard time doing it. But maybe he had the stuff for somebody else. Mari maybe?”
“I don’t think so because his fear of needles might also explain the coffee.”
“What about it?”
“You said Whittaker was lying in the dark and he had a thermos of coffee. That’s a very old-fashioned way of treating a migraine. Most people would take some kind of pill.”
“I thought I heard some of those things can give you a heart attack.”
“Yeah. It’s rare but I guess it happens.”
“So maybe he wanted to be out of pain but he didn’t want to take a chance on being dead. Makes sense.”
“Yeah, but there’s other ways of dealing with a migraine. Frank, the gentleman with the very tasteful prophylactic comment, goes to the doctor and gets a shot of Demerol. It knocks him out for a day but if he’s got a migraine he’s not gonna be much use to anybody anyway.”
“But that’s a shot.”
“That’s right. It’s another needle Whittaker was trying to avoid. I think it adds credibility to the idea that he was the diabetic and that solution belonged to him.”
“Let’s say that’s right and he was diabetic. How does that get us any closer to knowing who killed him? He was killed with a shovel, right? That could have happened to anybody. If you’re gonna kill him by cutting his head off then it doesn’t matter whether he was diabetic or not, does it? I mean, if you knew he was a hemophiliac and you wanted to make sure there was a better chance of him being dead before anybody found him then cutting off his head would be a good idea.”
“You say that so calmly.”
“That’s because I’m not thinking about it being Aaron who sat on the floor and lectured me on good and evil. I’m pretending this is one of those cold case shows on TV and I’m trying to figure out who did it before the hour is up.”
“You don’t strike me as the kind of person who watches a lot of TV.”
“I don’t. I don’t watch those shows either but I’ve heard a lot about them. And I do love ‘Murder, She Wrote’.” Both men laughed and Buzz signaled for more coffee. The waitress refilled their cups and Buzz watched Clement put in the milk and four sugars.
“You always put in four sugars?”
“Pretty much.”
“Good thing you’re not diabetic. Do you like coffee?”
“I like caffeine.”
“Why don’t you have a Coke?”
“Because you ordered coffee.”
“Did Whittaker take sugar in his coffee?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said he had some in a thermos.”
“Yes, and he offered me some but I turned it down.”
“Did you see any food in the office?”
“No, but it was dark except for the light coming in through the blinds.”
“Did you smell any food?”
“No. I wasn’t expecting to smell any. Before you say it, yes I do know you can experience something without expecting to but I wasn’t expecting to and I don’t remember any.”
“Let’s make this the last cup. Your friend, Jeff, claims to have been in the office and to have left Whittaker alive. Maybe he saw or smelled something.”

28
Feb
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Eighth Installment)

It had taken Clement closer to an hour to get to Anna’s and he had found Jeff on his way out to the car. Taking a trick from Dolores’s book, he had seized his elbow to steer him back to a booth in the corner. Clement bit into a quarter-pound cheeseburger and, as the red onion gave between his teeth, he felt tomato juice running down his chin. He snatched up two napkins and quickly wiped his face. “You know, he didn’t really look the way I’d pictured him. I envisioned him as being a lot more guarded. A man with a past. The keeper of the secret flame. But he wasn’t like that at all.”
“Who?”
“Mari’s ex-boyfriend.”
Jeff’s hand stopped halfway to his mouth. He stared at Clement then at the French fry between his fingers as if trying to decide which to focus on. Clement won and the fry returned to the plate. “You met him?”
“No. I could have met him. Dolores, who works at the end of the third floor and is very protective of the minority-won cleaning contract for the building, wanted me to meet him but he actually was out of the building getting his nails buffed or whatever.”
“So how do you know what he looks like?”
“There’s a very nice picture of him in his office. It’s on the right-hand wall as you walk in. Very ‘founder of this business empire’ touch.”
“You were in the office? Did you get the photos?”
“Yes, I did. I just said, ‘Dolores, you’re right. I was putting one over on you about being a custodial supervisor. My real purpose was to get into this office and steal some nude photos of the owner’s ex-girlfriend. Now that you’ve been vindicated you can go right on back to your office and close up for the day’.”
“So, no then.”
“No. The trip wasn’t a complete loss. I managed to slip this piece of paper past Dolores. It was on the floor behind the desk and I picked it up after I knocked the pencil on the floor.”
“What pencil?”
“The one I was using to write him a note asking him to call and let us know what he thought of our cleaning service. Don’t worry. Dolores says he said he’d be gone until Friday but she didn’t know where. I’ll get the note back tomorrow night, I’ll have made Dolores happy, and no one will be the wiser.”
“Tomorrow night?”
“When I go back in.”
“Why would you? I mean you almost got caught today, right?”
“That’s why I’m going back. It’s personal now. I want to prove I can go in and get these pictures. It’s no longer just about making Mari happy so you’ll be happy. It is now The Impossible Dream and I’m going to achieve it.”
“I don’t think you should go.”
“Too bad. I’m going.” Clement speared one of his own French fries and chewed it thoughtfully. “So, shall we see what’s on this paper?”
“You didn’t look at it yet?”
“I slipped it into my shoe, put the note on the desk, thanked the lovely Dolores for her help and support, told her to keep her eyes on the prize, and hustled over here before you could leave me.”
“Í wasn’t leaving you; I was leaving here. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to sit here so I thought I should go over to the ATM and get some more money.”
“And you waited an hour to do that because?”
Jeff put the abandoned French fry into his mouth and said around it, “Do we have to argue all the time? Are we gonna look at this piece of paper or not?”
Clement reached into his shoe, slipped the paper out and unfolded it. He smoothed it onto the table partway between himself and Jeff. “What do you make of this?”
“Looks like a really big window.”
“So why are there letters in the window?”
“It’s one of those puzzles?”
“I‘m pretty sure you only get one letter in each square.”
“Then I dunno. Maybe it’s one of those Joe-Harvey windows.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Mari talked about them one time. It’s all about your relationship to another person and your relationship to yourself and how they all get along.”
“Wouldn’t it have names or something on it instead of big and little letters?”
“You keep asking me like I’m gonna know. Let me see it closer. B. Br. O. W. ‘Cannot be duplicated’.”
“Where’d that come from?”
“Down here in the corner. See? Under all the windows. It says, ‘Too many possibilities. Cannot be duplicated. Hey, somebody drew a little cat on here.”
Clement shrugged and stabbed another fry. “I don’t get it. I’ll put it back tomorrow when I go for the pictures.”
“Yeah, about that. It’s gonna have to be after lunch.”
“I was actually thinking about doing it during lunch, since I figured fewer people would be in the building, but after lunch works too. Why? You wanna go with?”
“It’s not that. You can’t do during lunch because we have plans for lunch.”
“At the White House? Why are you talking in code? I feel like I need a Navajo to come in and tell me what the hell you’re saying.”
“That’s because you’re not going to like what I have to tell you.”
“But I’m going to like it so much better if it’s presented in the form of a riddle. Okay, I’ll play. Animal, vegetable or mineral?”
“Chandler Elementary School.”
“Okay, that probably counts as animal and mineral. Chandler Elementary School what?”
“Chandler Elementary School is where our lunch plans are. While you were out retaking that office building for the white majority, the boss called.”
“No no no. We had to go last time. They can send somebody else this time.”
“They’re sending everybody.”
“What? All the schools are having Career Day on the same day?”
“It’s not Career Day. We really are having lunch there.”
“With the kids? I got jelly thrown at me already this week; Now I gotta get hit in the back of the head with a buttered roll?”
“What?”
“That’s what kids do to you if they don’t like you. They throw a buttered roll at the back of your head. You never even know it’s coming until it hits you and then you have to walk around the rest of the day with this greasy spot in your hair. It doesn’t matter if you go to the bathroom and try to wash it out. You can use hand soap. You can go beg the cafeteria ladies to use dish soap. You can ‘borrow’ some rubbing alcohol from the library. You can try to comb it out or comb your hair over it. Doesn’t matter. You’re gonna have that wet slimy place there and everybody’s gonna know you got hit with a roll.”
“I never heard of that before.”
“You never got hit with a roll in the back of the head?”
“No.”
“What? Did you go to private school?”
“No. I just didn’t go to a school where they let the kids hit each other in the back of the head with bread products. We weren’t allowed to throw our food.”
“You never had a Jell-O fight?”
“Where did you go to school? The zoo? Did the students also pee in the corners to mark their territory and throw feces at the teachers when they became distressed?”
“Where’s this coming from? Is this because I got you to admit you’d like to beat that guy to death?”
“No. I’m just wondering what kind of things a child could learn in that sort of environment. Apparently you students were only this far from being completely feral.” He held his thumb and forefinger apart so light was barely visible in the space between them. “I hope the kids aren’t like that tomorrow. Maybe we should wear our company gimme caps just in case.”
“It’d give them something to aim at but it might deflect a little of the grease.”
“You going home after this?”
“Yeah. You? Going out with Mari?”
“Nah. She’s meeting some friends. Some female friends.”
“What do I care? So what are you gonna do?”
“Go home and read.”
“Right. What?”
“It’s a book about a serial killer who’s also a cannibal. You know, like Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s fascinating though because all through the book they put in some of his recipes.”
“That’s disgusting. What’s the name of this crap?”
“’Goat’s-Head Soup’.”~
“That’s the name of a Rolling Stones record. What the hell? Does the guy eat goats?”
“No, it’s a metaphor. Metaphor? You know, a symbol.”
“For what?”
“The author says that serial killers aren’t really bad because everyone would kill a lot of different people if they had the guts and thought they could get away with it. Serial killers are the scapegoats that carry out the bad thoughts everybody has.”
“So the serial killer is the goat?”
“Right.”
“And the serial killer isn’t the one that gets eaten?”
“Right.”
“Then it’s an even stupider name for a book because it also doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah?”
“Calling it ‘Goat’s-Head Soup’ makes it sound like there’s a soup and in the soup is the head of a goat. But if the cannibal is the goat then it’s the goat’s head that’s doing the eating. See my point?”
“It’s still a good book.”
“It’s a disgusting book. This whole thing makes me wish I hadn’t had dinner. Or maybe it’s good I had dinner because I won’t be eating anything for a while. Especially because it’s gonna be hard to eat tomorrow when I gotta keep one eye on the back of my head the whole time.”
Jeff started laughing and Clement punched him in the arm. “Ow! What’s wrong with you? You said something funny. If you say something funny then I’m gonna laugh.” He rubbed his arm then pulled up his sleeve and blew on the red mark. “Ow! Why are you hitting people?”
“I’m not hitting people; I’m hitting you. The reason I’m hitting you is because you’re deliberately misunderstanding what I say so you can laugh at me.”
“I’m a person and we don’t hit people.”
“Thanks, Mom. I didn’t- You know what? It’s not worth it. Just take me back to my car.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a green thing with wheels and an engine that travels on roads but that’s not important now.”
“So am I allowed to laugh at that? You’re being intentionally funny? I wouldn’t want to misunderstand.”
“I’m intentionally trying to say it’s been a rough couple of days and you don’t deserve everything I’m throwing at you. Some of it? Yeah.”
“You’re such a jerk.”
“Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.”
Jeff placed the tip under a corner of his plate. Clement added a dollar and rearranged the bills so they were at right angle to the napkin dispenser. Jeff got to the door first and started to hold it open.
“You know, last time someone held the door open for me I ended up nearly wetting myself so I better get that.”
Jeff stepped aside with a bow, both men walked through and continued to Jeff’s car. “Did they really throw buttered rolls at your school?”
“No, some were the throwers and some were the thrown at.”
“Oh.”
“That’s right. I was a thrown at. Once you’re a thrown at you don’t move to the other side. Even when you move on to junior high.” He sighed. “Even when you move on to high school.”
“And that’s why you’re such a jerk.”
“That’s why.”
“It’s a heart-warming story really. It’s a lot like that show with Mickey Rooney where you find out how the baby grew up to be Santa Claus.”
“It’s exactly like that. Thanks for noticing.”
“I have another book at my house if you wanna come over for a while.”
“Jeff, we’re not bonding; I am just trying to let you know what we’re in for tomorrow and why you shouldn’t be surprised if I grab a kid by the shirt-front and march him backwards to the principal’s office.”
“Okay okay. So how are you planning to get back into the office tomorrow and return that paper?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“But it’s my girlfriend and her pictures.”
“No. This was about your girlfriend and her pictures but now it’s not. Now it’s about me being able to get in there without having to ride the bus for hours and without having to explain what the hell I’m doing there. I told you before: It’s personal now.”
“She’s still my girlfriend.”
“I understand that. You have to understand that the fewer people who know what I’m planning to do the better it is for everyone. You asked me to do you a favor and now I’m doing one without being asked.”
“I don’t get it.”
“If I tell you when I’m going into that office and how and then something happens and the police find out that you knew ahead of time and didn’t tell anyone then it’s gonna be bad for you.”
“Right.”
“But if I don’t tell you and you don’t know then if the police come to you and ask if you knew anything you can truthfully say ‘no’. ‘I have no idea. He said something about red geraniums and asked me about the best thing to use if he wanted to bleach his hair. Didn’t mean anything to me. I told him to get some Summer Blonde and a heat lamp and call his mother’.”
“What if something happens to you?”
“Nothing happened to me last night. You had no idea where I was or what the hell I was doing until I came in this morning and told you. I guarantee tomorrow’s going to be a day at the park after that.”
“Let’s stop at Walgreen’s and get you one of those medical alert bracelets.”
“What the hell for?”
“Let’s say somebody comes up behind you and hits you on the head with something harder than a buttered roll. As you’re headed for the ground, just before you lose consciousness, you press the button and the emergency people come.”
“No, they don’t. An ambulance comes. Maybe a fire truck comes. No police will be coming to rescue me. The police don’t go to alert calls where somebody fell and broke their hip and can’t reach the phone. Anyway, what’s with all this talk about me getting hit on the head? It’s an office. It’s located near other offices. I’m not going into a war zone. I’m not doing anything dangerous. Nobody’s even gonna know I’m there so who would hit me?”
“I’d just feel better if you told me.”
“No. You know my lunch plans and that’s it.”
“Your lunch plans?”
“Yes, idiot. You’re going to be there too.”
“Oh, yeah.”