Posts Tagged ‘migraine

13
Feb
10

Fate Pays The Rent (Twenty-third Installment)

“How did we go from your toe-curling love of Mr. Gomez to commands from God?” Josh said.
“All the time I try to talk with Aaron about the building and how I want him to put in a good word for Mr. Gomez and all the time he is busy with his own work. Then one night I come here late at night and his door is a little bit open. The lights are off and he always locks the door so I know he must be in there alone.”
“Weren’t you worried about going into a dark office with a slightly open door?”
“Aren’t you listening, Powell? She was in love.”
“A little bit of light was coming through the blinds and I can see Aaron lying on the floor behind the desk. I think he must have been working and decided to rest here instead of going home.”
“Did you know he suffered from migraines?”
“What?”
“Never mind. Just go on with the story.”
“I walk over to him and say, ‘I need to talk with you about Mr. Gomez and the cleaning’.”
“What did he say?” Gary asked.
“He didn’t say anything. He was looking at me because I could see the light from the window shining on his eyes.”
“Was he moving?”
“No. He was just looking at me and he didn’t move and he didn’t say anything. So I told him again. ‘I need to talk with you about Mr. Gomez and the cleaning.’ And he still didn’t say anything but he turned his head toward the window.”
“That must have been a good trick.”
“Quiet!”
“Then I heard a voice but I knew it wasn’t his. I looked around and there was just me and him in the office and I knew it must be God.”
“Because she has regular conversations with him out loud.”
Clement frowned at Josh. “What did God say?”
“He said to me, ‘If you love me and you love Mr. Gomez and you love your people, you must kill this man.’ I said, ‘Aaron, God is telling me I have to kill you to save the building for Mr. Gomez. What should I do?’”
“Did he answer that time?”
“No, he still said nothing and God said, ‘He can’t hear me because he doesn’t believe. You pray to me and I answer your prayers but this man doesn’t answer you when you are physically in the same room with him. I talk with you because I care for you but this man cares so little about you that he turns his head away when you speak to him.”
“Then what happened?”
“I said, ‘Aaron, why won’t you talk to me? I thought we knew each other but now you don’t even recognize me. Why are you looking out the window instead of at me?’”
“And?”
“And God said, ‘He doesn’t look at you because he feels you are not worth looking at. He has no respect for you or for your people. You must rise up and kill him so people like him will learn to respect you and your people and so Mr. Gomez will be safe. When you do this thing, I will give you a new name. Your name will no longer mean sadness but miracle.’ God told me he would give me the name ‘Milagra’ and I would not be Dolores anymore because I made a miracle happen for me and for Mr. Gomez and for the Mexican people.” Her eyes were shining with tears and Clement realized she wasn’t feeling any regret for what she had done.
“How did you decide on the shovel as a weapon?” Buzz asked.
Dolores looked up at the ceiling. “I knew that if God asks you to do something then you need to do it fast. I remembered how he told Abraham that a sacrifice would be provided and I knew if he wanted me to sacrifice Aaron then he would give me a weapon. I looked around and I saw the shovel shining by the door.”
“You never thought about walking out the door and just keeping going? Did you hear anyone outside?” Clement was thinking of Jeff saying he had almost gone into the building but got scared and left. If he’d actually come in, could he have saved Aaron’s life? Would Dolores have attacked him too or could he have fought her off and called the EMS to counteract the drink Mari had given him?
“God said he would give me a new name and I picked up the shovel and went over to Aaron. Maybe I ran because when he came back with the shovel he was closer to the door than I remembered. He was lying there and the shovel was shining and his face was shining and when I saw his face like that I felt the strength of God flowing through my body and through my arms and a smaller voice in my heart said, ‘Look how his face is shining. You’re going to be sending him home to God.’”
“And then you did it? After the little voice said that?”
Milagra’s face was shining too but it looked as if she was lit up by a spotlight from the inside rather than streetlights on the outside. “I saw his face shining and I felt the power of God in my body as I lifted the shovel and I brought it down with all the strength of God. Then I saw his head sitting on the blade of the shovel and he looked like John the Baptist and I knew he was with God.” She took another sip of coffee.
“That’s a good story, Milagra, but I wouldn’t count on God being too happy with you,” Josh said. “Forgiving sin is one thing but I’ve never heard of him looking kindly on failure.” Milagra’s eyes widened and Clement thought she looked upset for the first time since she’d begun relating what happened. “Yeah. You see, you didn’t do what God asked you to do. You didn’t cut off Aaron Whittaker’s head. We talked to the coroner and he told us the spine wasn’t severed. You have to slice all the way through the spine for it to count as decapitation.”
“I did what God commanded! He told me to kill Aaron and I did.”
“Whether you killed him or whether you didn’t is something a judge is going to have to decide. Aaron Whittaker wasn’t ignoring you; He was in a diabetic coma. If you’d called 911 and gotten some people in here to help him there’s a good chance we’d be celebrating you as some kind of a hero right now. You might even get a city holiday with your name on it.”
“No! I cut off his head with a shovel!”
“No. I’m not sure whether I should say ‘I’m sorry to tell you’ but the fact is you didn’t. In order to cut all the way through the spine you’d have to be a lot stronger or a lot crazier than you are and maybe both. You haven’t saved Mr. Gomez any trouble either.” Milagra threw the coffee at Josh and put her hands over her face. “We’ll be looking into whether or not he knew you planned to kill Aaron Whittaker and if he was involved in your unnecessary mission to save his job. He may not lose any contracts he already has but I’m guessing it will be hard for him to get any new ones.”
Milagra wrapped her arms around herself and started rocking on the chair. “Oh, Mr. Gomez. Mr. Gomez, I’m so sorry. Oh, Mr. Gomez.”

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.”

04
May
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Twentieth Installment)

“We don’t have hanging in this state.”
“Well, being lit up like a Christmas tree then.”
“Or the electric chair.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve got no intention of dying for something I didn’t do and I don’t want to talk any more about it until I talk to my lawyer and he talks to somebody with the clout to keep me out of this.”
“Where is your lawyer? I can’t imagine what he was thinking letting you come in here and shoot your mouth off.”
“I told him I didn’t need him to come with me. He wanted to but I told him he didn’t need to because I was just going to be having a talk with my old friend Clement.”
“Then as soon as you saw I was gonna be here too you should have called him and had him come in.”
“Yeah, I should have. ‘Woulda shoulda coulda’ as my mother always says. But I didn’t. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t say anything I can’t deny later. I didn’t say anything you can hold me to. The only thing I said for sure is that I did not kill Aaron Whittaker. I don’t like the way this conversation is going and since I’m not under arrest and I have other things I’d like to do today, I would like to get the hell out of here.”
Buzz knocked on the wall beside the door and Mari was let out. Clement saw a gray-haired man come forward and take her arm. “She’ll probably get everything she wants,” Buzz said, when the door was closed.
“Why? How can you promise to keep her out of it when she might be the one who killed Aaron?”
“Because she’s right that the ultimate cause of death was determined to be decapitation.”
“But let’s say she really did do something before the other person came in and cut his head off. What if she did something that made it easier for them to decapitate him?”
“She’s an accessory.”
“What if she thought she killed him or thought she’d left him to die then someone else came along?”
“And finished the job.”
“Yeah, and she didn’t know anything about that until somebody told her. What if as far as she was concerned Aaron was dead or nearly dead?”
“That’s an interesting idea. If there’s any truth to what you’re saying then she must have been awfully surprised when they hauled her off the bus and brought her back and it wasn’t in cuffs.”
“How could she have done it? What’s a way she could kill him without really killing him?”
“Now, you’re confusing me. I gotta ask Sylvia something. You wanna wait out here in a nicer chair in a room that actually has windows?”
“Yeah, that’d be good.”
The two men went into the larger room and Clement selected a chair and a magazine. Buzz walked over to Sylvia’s desk. “Do we have the toxicology report on Aaron Whittaker? Also stomach contents?”
“It’s right here.” Sylvia shifted some papers on her desk and pulled a brown folder from the pile.
“Thanks.” Buzz walked back to where Clement was sitting. He opened the folder and scanned the reports. “She didn’t poison him.”
“The report says that?”
“In so many words. The tox screen was negative on all known drugs and poisons.”
“Damn.”
“Stomach contents consisted of some walnuts, some cranberries, some cream cheese, and bits of a chocolate covered espresso bean.”
“That’s it?”
“Yep.”
“You know, in a way that makes sense.”
“How?”
“Aaron told me he had a migraine. It’s a little weird that he was in his office instead of home or somewhere more comfortable but maybe this was the place he felt the most at home. Or maybe it came on pretty quickly and he didn’t feel able to drive anywhere else.”
“My aunt had migraines that would lay her out. She couldn’t talk, she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t walk. The only thing that helped her feel better was puking.”
“Hey! You said your aunt couldn’t eat.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“So, Aaron Whittaker was diabetic. What do you suppose would happen to someone who was diabetic and who was unable to eat regularly?”
“Obviously their blood sugar would drop.”
“If it gets low enough you go into a coma, right?”
“Yeah. Are you wondering where the walnuts come in?”
“Aren’t you?”
“Yeah. I’m also wondering how someone who couldn’t drive ended up with cranberries and cream cheese in his stomach.”
“And a chocolate covered espresso bean.”
“That too.”
“There’s another thing I’ve been wondering about.”
“Can we talk about it over some coffee and a BLT?”
“Sure. I’m picking the place this time.”
“Any place but Anna’s.”
“What?”
“Hey, I’m all for cleanliness but I like a little flavor in my food even if it does mean swatting a few flies.”
“You’re a cretin.”
“Yeah, it’s healthier that way.”

He took him back to Brad and Vicky and the A&W. Except it wasn’t Brad today; it was a red-headed kid named Tanner who was even less ept than Brad. Vicky, who was in charge for the moment, supervised the making of three BLTs before one passed her muster. Both men ordered root beer floats and Clement rocked Buzz by asking for a large Coney Island.
“I can’t believe you frequent a place like this. I can’t believe you’d eat something like that especially when it was made by him.”
“I’m sure, it’s okay; Vicky kept a close eye on him.”
“Oh ho, so you’re a regular.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. I came out here the other day after I had lunch at the school. I was hoping some real food would help me recover from the sloppy Joe I’d had at lunch but then I didn’t have the nerve to put any fast food on top of it.”
“Which explains how you knew the employees’ names but not why you’re sitting there with a giant Coney.”
“Let’s say I was feeling nostalgic.”
“Yeah?”
“We used to go to A&W on road trips when I was a kid.”
“You still see your family?”
“No. We aren’t what you might call close.”
“What happened? Are you the black sheep of the family?”
“You know what? I think it’s a little early in our relationship for you to be psychoanalyzing me. Usually that kind of thing doesn’t happen until two people have slept together which you and I aren’t gonna. I wouldn’t say I was the black sheep, I would say people were disappointed. They thought I was smart and they thought I was probably gonna do great things with my life and make the world a better place for all living things and it didn’t happen. I haven’t made the world a better place and what I do is sell chicken strips that are generally acknowledged to be nasty.”
“How do you feel about selling nasty chicken strips?” Buzz was smiling. “You said you had another question about Aaron Whittaker. You’ve done your part; I’m sitting here with a BLT. Fire away.”
“How did he get there? I didn’t see a car in the lot when I drove up around eight.”
“He could have walked over. He didn’t live far from the office. That’s probably one of the reasons he chose the new complex when he moved the office from downtown.”
“It used to be downtown?”
“Yes, when Whittaker’s father started the business it was right near the center of town. That was partly so customers could find him and partly because at that time that’s all the town there was. A few years ago the powers that be determined the old building could be more useful as condos and everybody had to go. Aaron decided to take advantage of the situation by moving into the new complex which was a medium walk from his home.”
“He couldn’t have walked there after the migraine started, right?”
“It depends on how they are for him. Judging from everything you’ve told me, I’d say he wouldn’t have done much walking if he could avoid it.”
“That means he went to the office before the migraine got really bad. Why? I mean, yeah it was dark there and quiet but why go to the office.”
“Not a place I would choose or many other people would for that matter. But, like you said, it was dark and quiet. It had familiar and comforting things in it, stuff that had belonged to his dad. Mostly, I’m guessing, it was the idea that it was a controlled environment. Nobody knew he was there or expected to see him there so he could be left to recover without anyone bothering him.”
“Right. Just me and Mari and whoever cut off his head with a shovel. Did you guys find out what those rocks were?”
“Some ochre, some malachite, and we’re still working on the blue one. Nothing worth killing anyone over.”
“Isn’t it funny how we say that?”
“What?”
“’Nothing worth killing anyone over’. Like if he’d had different rocks in his office there would be justification for his being dead now. Like there’s a good reason for killing someone, for cutting their head off with a shovel.” Brad and Vicky had competed an order for a family of five and they slid the trays across the counter towards them. Each parent picked up a tray and the mother gathered the children around her and urged them, duck-like, to a table on the far side of the restaurant.

13
Apr
09

Fate Pays The rent (Sixteenth Installment)

“Well, you can sure tell who your supposed friends are and who’s being paid to talk to you. My lawyer was here hours ago. Where were you? Out eating lunch? You know what I had for lunch?” They were sitting in a light-blue room the size of a guest bedroom. Clement and Buzz were on one side of the table, Jeff was across from them. All three of them had coffee and Jeff’s agitation, the slight tremor in his hands, and the half-dozen paper cups empty and discarded at his feet clearly showed this was not his first of the day. Buzz nodded at Clement.
“Yeah, funny thing about that, Jeff, because we wanted to talk to you about food. Well, food and Aaron.”
Jeff thumped the table and some of the coffee sloshed from his cup. “I’m tired of talking about Aaron. Do you realize all I’ve done all day is talk about Aaron? I’ve never talked about anybody so much in my life. And, like I said before, where the hell were you? Where’s Mari?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is she okay? Is she dead somewhere too?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t you think somebody ought to find out? Like maybe me since I’m her boyfriend? I am still her boyfriend, right?”
“Yes. If you haven’t heard from her then just assume everything’s okay between the two of you.”
“Oh no no. You know better than that. Even you know better than that. You can’t just assume that because a woman hasn’t said there’s something wrong then there’s nothing wrong.”
Buzz leaned forward. “Jeff, I understand you’re probably very tired of talking about Aaron Whittaker-“
“You got that right.”
“But we need to talk about him a little more. Just a little and then we’ll leave you alone and we’ll put some people to work looking for your girlfriend.”
“I don’t want some people to go looking for her. I need to do the looking because I’m the one that knows her. She’s my girlfriend. I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t do anything while I’m in here. I can’t find Mari. I can’t sell any chicken strips. Who am I kidding? I wasn’t selling chicken strips anyway. My life is a black abyss and it’s just spiraling downwards.” He sat down at the table again, folded his arms and laid his head down on them. Buzz nodded at Clement.
“Jeff, I know you wanna get out of here but the thing is right now this is the safest place for you to be.”
“Oh yeah, and why is that?” Jeff lifted his head and glared at Clement.
“Well, to put it bluntly, they think you killed Aaron. You said you were in his office-“ He held up a hand to quiet Jeff and continued, “I know what you’re gonna say, ‘he was alive’. That means you were probably the last person to see him that way except for the person who killed him.”
“I didn’t see him alive or dead because I wasn’t in his office last night.”
“Your car was spotted in the parking lot about ten,” Buzz said.
“Yeah, I went over there. I parked in the parking lot. I walked around the building.”
“Why?”
“Because I thought about how I felt when I told you we didn’t have to worry about the pictures and the truth is I felt really good. I thought maybe I actually could go over and talk to him and ask him to leave us alone.”
“You didn’t like him still talking to Mari all the time, you were the last one in his office and you could easily have made a copy of the key before you gave one to me.”
“I didn’t kill him. I didn’t even go in. I started to go in but everything was dark and I got scared and left.”
“I hear you but you being there at ten makes you the likeliest suspect. What you also have to understand is that makes you the likeliest target.”
“Target for what?”
Buzz stood up, walked to the wall, and walked back to the table. “Let’s assume you didn’t kill Aaron Whittaker.”
“Yeah, let’s assume that since it happens to be true.”
“If you didn’t kill him then somebody else did since even someone with a migraine would have a hard time committing suicide by decapitating himself with a shovel.”
“Right.”
“As long as we’re focusing on you then the person who really killed him thinks they’re gonna be okay.”
“And if they think they’re gonna be okay then they’ll go out and do something stupid and then you can catch them. I watch TV, ya know. There’s a problem with your plan though.”
“Jeff is right. There is a problem.”
“Thank you, Clement. I thought maybe having lunch with this guy made you go clear over to the other side.”
“Shut up, Jeff. The problem is something like that only works if the person who was murdered got killed for the insurance. They figure someone else got busted for the crime and they wait a little while and think they’re home free and then they start spending the money and bam!” Clement hit the table and Jeff startled. “But there’s no indication anybody killed Aaron for the insurance. We don’t even know if he had insurance. We don’t even know why anyone killed him or would want to kill him.”
“That brings us back to you,” Buzz said. “You’re the only one with a motive. A bunch of people- definitely more than I’d like- had the opportunity and the means was right there in the office. You are the only one who’d be better off because you wouldn’t have to worry about sharing or losing your girlfriend.”
“But I wasn’t worried. She’d been talking to Aaron all along so why would I get worried and kill him now?”
“Wait a minute! We don’t know if there was any insurance but there is somebody who might have had a reason to kill him for money.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t know about any-“
Clement stood up and leaned over to Buzz. “I’ve got an idea but if I just spring it on Jeff without giving him any warning first he’ll come unglued.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Is there any way you can leave us alone for just a minute and then come back in? Maybe get us some more coffee?”
“You’re that sure about him?” Clement nodded. Buzz sighed and said, “I could use another cup right about now. Anybody else?”
“I might have had enough,” Jeff said.
“I second that. My eyeballs are about to start floating.”
“All right, coffee for one.”
Clement sat down at the table and Jeff grabbed his arm. “Where’s Mari?”
“I told you I don’t know.”
“Do you know why she left?”
“I don’t know anything except Buzz is gonna come back in a minute and I’m going to have to tell him something you don’t want to hear.”
“It’s about Mari, isn’t it?”
“Yes.”
“You think she killed Aaron.”
“I don’t think anything. I’ve got no idea if she killed him or if she didn’t.”
“How can you say that? You know her. You’ve been with us for hours. You can’t tell me that in all the time we spent together you saw anything that would make you think she’d cut someone’s head off with a shovel. She’s not even that big.”
“You can do anything if you get enough leverage. If there really was money involved that’s even more reason.” Buzz had returned with his coffee.
“I don’t want to believe that Mari killed him any more than you do but if you didn’t kill him and she had a good reason then we have to look at everything.”
Buzz sat down and sipped his coffee. “Tell me about this money. It’s not insurance?”
“Mari, wouldn’t get any insurance. They weren’t even together any more.”
“No, this isn’t guaranteed like that; it’s more of a gamble than anything. Jeff, you remember the pieces of paper we’ve been finding?”
“Yeah, there was one of a beehive and one of a cat and then the one I found yesterday.”
“Right. When I had lunch with those two boys yesterday the older one explained what we were looking at.”
“How did he do that?”
“Because he’s a really smart kid who’s insufficiently challenged. If I ever get out of here I’m gonna go see his teacher and the principal and maybe we can get things fixed. Anyway, he explained what was on the paper and he told me about something called the Millennium Prize.”
“What the hell is that?”
Buzz whistled. “It’s a million dollars and international fame.”
“For doing what?”
“Solving one of the six math problems on the list.”
“Math problems? Like what?”
Clement reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper folded lengthwise. “Proving or disproving the hypothesis that all nontrivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have a real part of ½.”
“And you think Mari had something to do with that?”
“Yes.”
“There’s no way in hell.”
“She’s the one who was working on the other things we found. Those pieces of paper were notes she jotted down.”
“She got those from Aaron Whittaker. She had to have gotten them from him.”
“Why?”
“Because Mari wasn’t that smart. She isn’t that smart. I guess I should watch how I say things. After all, I’m already in here for one murder.”
“How do you know she wasn’t very smart? Did you ask her?”
“Did I ask her? I didn’t have to ask her. If it wasn’t on Oprah, Dr. Phil, or ‘Entertainment Tonight’, she didn’t know about it. She could barely walk and carry on a conversation at the same time. I told you how she nearly blinded me with the perfume.”
“You just knew, huh? Or maybe you assumed like everybody assumed Aaron was married. He wasn’t, by the way.”
“Okay, so he wasn’t really married. Why am I on trial here?”
“There were no pictures either, Jeff.”
“Okay.”
“Well, if you knew there weren’t any pictures how come you spent so much time trying to get me to go in and get them back?”
“I didn’t say I knew there weren’t any pictures. You just told me there weren’t any pictures and I said, ‘Okay’ as in ‘That’s very interesting. Thank you for enlightening me. When can I get the hell out of here?’ Like that.”
Buzz turned his chair around and straddled it. “I understand this may be a hard thing for you to think about but is there any way you can imagine- no matter how dense you think she may be- your girlfriend killing Aaron Whittaker?”
“No, of course not.”
“Not for a million dollars?”
“No! She wasn’t very smart but she wasn’t stupid enough to think she could get away with murder.”
“Jeff, did you know Aaron was a diabetic?”
“No. How the hell would I know that?”
“Mari told you what TV shows he liked and when he got his hair cut so I thought maybe she told you that too.”
“Well, she didn’t.”
Buzz stood and put his palms on the table. “Did she tell you he was afraid of needles?”
“No, she didn’t. Where is this coming from? Why does it matter if he was diabetic and afraid of needles? Did somebody take a big syringe in first and scare him to death before they cut off his head?”
“Not that we know of but we’re checking into everything.” Buzz looked at his watch then at Clement. “You’ve got another appointment this afternoon, don’t you?”
“What is it? Are you meeting Mari? You really do know where she is?”
“No, it’s not with Mari and I really don’t know where she is. Buzz here is going to get some people to help us find her though.”
“Absolutely. The more I hear about her the more I can’t wait to sit down for a chat with her myself.”
“I can’t believe you think she’d kill Aaron. She had no reason to kill him. She didn’t care about money.”
“Jeff, look. In order to get in and kill him the person had to either have a key or be somebody he knew well enough to let in or to leave the door open and tell them to come in. Mr. Gomez the custodial supervisor and his people had a key. Dolores worked down the hall and she had a key. I had a key that I got from you. Mari had made a copy from the original. Maybe you made a copy before you gave the one to me.”
“Mari gave the copy to me and I-“
Buzz put his hands over his ears. “This is something I don’t need to hear right now. I have a couple of things to check into and I think you two should get some rest.”
Jeff held his hand out to Clement who shook it then allowed himself to be pulled into a hug. “You’ll find Mari?”
“I’ll try.”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“I hear you.”
“You’ll come back?”
“As often as they’ll let me.” Jeff extended his hand to Buzz who also shook it but did not embrace him. Buzz knocked on the wall and two of the men left by one door and the third by a different one.

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
Mar
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Thirteenth Installment)

“Why do you work here?” Clement placed a bottle of Diet Coke and a can of Red Bull on the counter. The Bi-Lo Market was the quietest he had seen it. There were no cars outside and besides himself and the cashier there was only the young man drinking a Liquid Charge against the ice-cream case. Clement had been asking the cashier, wearing a faded “Barkley” jersey over a black hoodie, but it was his friend with the drink who answered.
“Why you wanna know? You looking for a job?”
“Maybe I am. Is this a good one? Why do people work here?” He selected a candle with a painting of Saint Jude on it and put it on the counter beside his own drinks.
“What you gonna do with the votary, man?”
“I’m going to light it for someone who needs it.”
“Are you Catholic?”
“That’s kind of personal, isn’t it?”
“Because if you’re not Catholic then you should put that back. You can’t just walk in and buy stuff and start pretending.”
“God doesn’t listen if you’re not Catholic?”
“No, because he knows if you’re not Catholic then you got other stuff you should be doing. You can’t just take our way of doing something and do it too.”
“Why are you here?”
“This is where my friend is.”
“Right. He works here. Why are you here? Why are you drinking that in the middle of the day?”
“What? Are you my mother? How come you’re not at work?”
“Because I was at work and now I’m out looking for a different job. Do you have a job? Maybe I’d like the one you have.”
“Yeah, man, I got a job.”
“It looks pretty good. I think I’d like to stand around drinking caffeinated beer all day. What do you do at this job?”
“I do whatever needs to be done, man. I help people out. Why you jamming me up about the beer? You see a car out there? No, you don’t. Because I didn’t drive here. I walked here and I’m going to walk home.”
“What if you get a call and somebody needs you to work?”
“You know what, man?” He set down the can and moved toward Clement. “Maybe you own this country but you don’t own this store. You’re not the manager here. This isn’t your business. You’re a customer just like me.” He jerked his head at the counter. “Only sometimes he lets his friends be here, too. You don’t seem like a friend.” The silent cashier put Clement’s items into a brown paper bag and held out his hand. Clement gave him the money, dropped a quarter into the Humane Society jar, and put the rest of the change into his pants pocket.
“You’re right; it’s none of my business. You gentlemen have a nice afternoon.” He unlocked his car and set the bag on the passenger seat. He placed the can and bottle on their sides on either side of the candle to keep it from falling over.

The clock tower downtown was striking eight and Clement should have heard it. If he had been downtown, he would not have been opening the door of the third floor center office that belonged to Aaron Whittaker. The lights were off, the room was silent, and he knew from Dolores that Aaron would be gone at least one more day.
“Come in, close the door very quietly, and sit in the chair to the right of the door. If you turn on the lights or make any sudden or noisy moves, I will shoot you through the heart even though it would probably kill me too.”
Clement did as he was told. The voice, deep and melodious despite its violent warning, seemed to come from the floor behind the desk. “I thought you were gone.”
“You thought wrong or you were given incorrect information.”
“You’re Aaron?”
“This is Aaron’s office and I am lying on its floor. From this we can surmise that either I am the owner of this office or I am another wandering soul who broke in before you did and was knocked unconscious and am just coming to or I arrived early, found nothing of value and decided to steal forty winks instead.”
“I didn’t break in here.”
“No, that’s right. You have a key. Maybe you’re Aaron Whittaker and this is your office and I broke in. In which case, I should probably apologize.”
“Do you really have a gun? Would you really shoot me through the heart? Shall we turn on the lights and find out?”
“You’re much crueler than I was led to believe.” The location of the voice had moved as if the speaker was now sitting up. “Geez, that was a bad idea. I hope that if I have to break off our conversation to vomit, you will take advantage of my absence to remove yourself and whatever it was you came in here to get.”
“Why are you here?”
“I heard from Dolores- among others- that someone was keeping an eye on my office and I decided to find out why. You didn’t really expect her to buy that story about checking with the tenants to see how they liked the cleaning service?”
“Somebody told me I shouldn’t just come in here and I needed to have a shtick.”
“That somebody would probably be Jeff. I’m not saying it was bad in theory and it might have worked with someone less zealous about protecting minority rights than Dolores.”
“She’s a real terrier about it.”
“Yes, she is. Mr. Gomez should be glad to have her on his side. His team’s work is competent but not spectacular which is a good thing as we’ll never have anyone better for the job so long as Dolores has a space in this building.” Clement heard sounds of stretching then a thump. “Oh god. This is better and worse than I thought.”
“What is?”
“I know you’re probably going to kill me although I’m not sure why you haven’t done it already. It’s probably part of that cruel streak I’m discovering. I know I’m seriously inconveniencing you by being here when I wasn’t supposed to be. That’s probably a cruel streak of mine. But seeing as how we’re both here and both still alive, could you do me a favor and by that I mean do exactly as I ask you to?”
“Why not?”
“Stand up and take three large steps to the right. Take care not to mistake your left for your right or you will knock over my father’s coal-mining shovel and we’ll be back to the bullet through the heart scenario. Walk forward until you reach the wall. You can see the merest amount of light around the edge of the blinds and that should help. On the left-hand side of the blinds is a hard plastic rod hanging vertically. Grasp the rod, turn it smoothly but quickly to the left so that the slats pass through the evenly horizontal position and are tilted upwards. That will give you enough light, without rendering me prostrate with pain again, to locate a thermos on the desk. Please pass the thermos to me and return to your seat by the door.”
“Why would I do this?”
“Because you’re filled with the milk of human kindness? Because you’re curious about why all this is happening? Because you want to get close enough to see if I really have a gun or if you should just knock me on the head with the thermos, ransack the place and leave? I haven’t actually seen you yet and couldn’t identify you to the police so really any of those answers is a viable one.” Clement did as he was told. Aaron opened the thermos, took several gulps, and offered it to Clement who shook his head. “Why did you do it?”
“Maybe I’m curious. Maybe I did want to see if you had a gun. I didn’t see one but it could be under the edge of the desk or in your jacket. I’m not familiar with your condition but from the noises you made when you were sitting up I can’t imagine you’d have anything you needed real far from you.”
“But the coffee was on the desk.”
“You wouldn’t want to take a chance of knocking it over. Maybe you set it on the desk and then the pain got worse and you couldn’t get up high enough to reach it. I guess you’re pretty lucky I came along.”
The two men sat in the almost darkness. Outside, the traffic swished by; Inside, the wall clock ticked and Aaron swallowed coffee from the thermos. He pulled a napkin from under the blotter and mopped at the rug where some of the coffee had run down the side of the thermos onto it. “You ever hear the story of David?”
“You mean in the Bible?”
“Yeah. There’s something I never got about that.”
“The whole David and Jonathan agape love story?”
“No, David and Saul. The story goes that Saul used to get these terrible moods. I think he had migraines. If they’d invented coffee sooner, his life would have been a whole lot better.”
“How do you figure?”
“Coffee constricts the blood vessels and prevents the pain from getting through.” He took several gulps from the thermos. “If that stupid goat had eaten those beans a little earlier then things might have been very different.”
“So, what happened?”
“The only person who could make him feel better was David. He used to do it by playing his harp and most of the time it worked pretty good. Every so often though, and this is what makes me think he had migraines, Saul would draw his arm back and try to bounce some furniture off of David’s head. He’d just throw a chair or whatever across the room and David would have to dodge it. I guess Saul could really bring it.”
“Must have gotten tedious.”
“You’d think so, huh? One night they’re out late hunting or maybe they had been hunting earlier in the day and had gotten lost. David finds his way home first then he goes out looking for Saul and he finds him. Here Saul is, the king of Israel, and he looks like a nearly drowned cat: He’s cold, he’s drenched to the skin, he’s starving. And here’s David who has been fed and is now appropriately dressed for the weather. It was just the two of them, mano a mano. Imagine David all alone with the guy who’s made his life such a hell for so long. He knew he was gonna be king after Saul.”
“He knew this how?”
“God told him. God had already told him that so he was basically just waiting till Saul got out of the way.”
“Right.”
“Here’s David who’s all dry and refreshed and feeling good and Saul who probably wished someone would kill him so nobody could see him plus I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had a migraine starting by then.”
“And?”
“And nothing. David didn’t kill him. I’ve never gotten that. Saul didn’t get it either. ‘Why don’t you kill me? Why don’t you kill me?’ David could have done it right then and put Saul out of his misery and been king that much sooner but he didn’t do it. Why? Because he was cruel?”
“Maybe because Saul was a human being.”
“Is that why you haven’t killed me?”
“Why would I kill you?”
“You’d make a lot of people happier. I’d be happier because my head would stop hurting and the room would stop waving. My landlord would be happier because he could charge more rent. Mari would be happier because she wouldn’t have to split the money. Your friend, Jeff, would be happier because he’d never have to worry about me and Mari getting back together. By now, who knows if even you wouldn’t be happier if I was dead.”
“If Mari, didn’t have you she’d resign herself to life as an airhead. If Jeff didn’t have you, he’d find someone else who’d been with Mari to hate. If I kill you, I wouldn’t make anyone happier but you. I think you’re tired of this whole mess.”
“So you’re going to be like David.”
“Somebody probably will kill you but it’s not going to be me. It’s none of my business. I didn’t even know you’d be here today.”
“That’s the perfect time to kill me- when everyone thinks I’m out of town. They wouldn’t even be expecting to see me for at least another day.”
“I told you it’s got nothing to do with me. I’m not looking to kill anybody; I’m just here for the pictures of Mari.”
“The pictures?”
“The naked photos you took of her while she was asleep. Somebody told me you took them and they’re afraid you’re going to post them to be rated on the Internet.”
“That somebody would be Jeff again.”
“Having met you I don’t disbelieve him for a second. That seems like exactly the kind of thing you’d do, anything to keep torturing him.”
“If you came here for the pictures, you’re in for a big disappointment because there aren’t any.” Clement took a step back. “You’re not surprised. You’ve had doubts from the beginning about whether or not there were any photos. Just like you’ve had doubts about how tightly-wrapped your friend Jeff is.”
“Let’s suppose you’re right. Why would he send me over here and why would I come?”
“Why he sent you over here should be obvious. So you’d be seen in the area, so people would recognize you, so if anyone did happen to kill me and the men in blue came around with your picture the neighbors would say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s been hanging around for weeks.’ Why you came may be less obvious- to you anyway. You came because you are that biggest of saps- a friend- and you are a person who wants to believe. You want to believe that everything works for the best in this best of all possible worlds and a cord of goodness runs through humanity. You want to believe that Mari would never deliberately hurt Jeff. You want to believe that Jeff is a little high-strung but not a psychopath. You want to believe that women, including Mari, are essentially decent but confused and that children are not evil but misunderstood and unchallenged.”
“You’re wrong.”
“What you don’t want to believe that is true is some children are misunderstood and unchallenged but others are born with a tendency to do bad things just like some people are born addicted to alcohol. Mari chooses to hurt Jeff. She does it because he leaves the cap off the toothpaste, because he drops wet towels on the floor, because he lets the $25 a bottle conditioner run down the drain, or does a million other bad things; most women don’t need the box score to see who’s up and who’s down. Jeff is not only high-strung, he’s one of those kids who was born ‘bad’. He’s high-functioning but nuts and it’s that unpredictability that keeps women like Mari interested.”
“What about you? What’s your secret?”
“My secret isn’t so much about me as it is about you. See, no matter how much you deny it- even to yourself- you’d like to kill me because I make you question one of your very biggest beliefs.”
“Which is?”
“You should know. You want to believe that people are either good or bad. Maybe you think I should die for my sins and maybe you don’t but you can’t convince me or yourself that I haven’t sinned. I’ve made the people you care about unhappy and that makes me bad. But you were right before: I give Mari someone to talk with about math and science and something other than the Hollywood gossip and that makes me good. If Jeff didn’t have me to keep track of, he’d spend a lot of energy and money looking for one of Mari’s previous boyfriends to watch. He might even lose his job because he was working so hard on this side project. I’m near by and I keep in touch with Mari which gives him a close target and easily accessible information. I’m keeping his mind active- no doubt contributing to the prevention of Alzheimer’s- and helping him stay employed and that also makes me good. Probably even Saddam Hussein once helped a little old lady cross the street.”
“I won’t believe that.”
“You claim to believe that hitting people with buttered rolls is wrong and yet you gave a roll to a child with a reputation for launching them.”
“How do you know that?”
“Jeff talks to Mari and Mari talks to me. You also say you want to get the photos for Jeff and Mari so they’ll have peace of mind when the real reason is you love Mari and you’re hoping if you do this she’ll get wise about Jeff and realize you’re a much better person.”
“That’s going too far!” Clement brought his fist down on the desk.
Aaron winced but continued to look Clement in the eye. “Really? So do something about it. Why don’t you kill me and make everyone happier and make the world a better place? Dolores says that’s everybody’s job, right?”
“You may be right about Jeff and Mari. Hell, maybe you’re even right about me but you’re the one who was born bad. If I kill you then you win and whoever put in all the work to set me up wins too. I refuse to die so the two of you can win especially when I don’t care about you enough to kill you.” Clement took his keys out of his pocket and walked to the door.
“You’re not as good as you think you are. Nobody is.”
“Maybe not. But I’m not bad either and I’m not a sap.” He gave the shovel beside the chair a hard kick. The handle slid down the wall until the blade clanged dully on the carpeted floor. Aaron chuckled and as Clement was pulling the door closed he heard the warm voice say, “We’ll see.”

03
Mar
09

The Morning After The Morning After The Migraine

And I’m still feeling a little stoned.
I didn’t enjoy this a quarter century ago when it involved a bong,
Fried frozen pizza, and an exterminator;
I’m liking it even less now.
It’s not pot this time; it’s Promethazine and I have a prescription.
As long as you have a prescription it’s fine.
Ha! Isn’t that what they always say?
It’s an anti-nausea drug but now I’m wondering
If throwing up might have been better.
Promethazine takes away most of the urge but the pain stays.
And you’re foggy for two days after.
Vomiting hurts like hell at the time but the pain, the tension and the fog leave.
It’s like your whole system gets flushed along with the toilet.
You wake up the next morning feeling like I did in Mojave.
The air was clear; my head was clear.
There were no jobs but there was no pain.
There were no plants and I could breathe.