Posts Tagged ‘office


Fate Pays The Rent (The Final Installment)

Clement was at his desk, making notes, and he looked up when Jeff walked in. “There’s coffee in the big pot. I thought you could use some. It’s been a hell of a week, hasn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen you in a week so I have no idea how your life has been.” Jeff pulled open the bottom right-hand drawer and dropped a paper bag into it. Clement went back to writing. Jeff got a cup of coffee, added cream and sugar and sat down across from him. “So, is that all you have to say then? Nothing about what’s happened?”
Clement laid the pencil down. “I’m not sure what you want me to say, Jeff.”
“So you’re going to just say nothing?”
“You know what, Jeff? Typically when people don’t what to say in a situation the experts either tell them to say nothing and wait until the other person brings it up and sets the tone or they tell them to act casually. I’m not sure how to treat what’s happened in a casual manner so I decided to wait and let you bring it up and set the tone.”
“Did you learn that watching Dr. Phil?”
“Did you want to talk about what happened? Do you want to go out and get a real cup of coffee and catch up? I tracked down those kalamata olive, chicken and green pepper sausages. I’m wondering if we should bail on the old Rockin’ Rooster and start selling those. Would you like to talk about that instead?”
“I would like to talk about anything that gives me the opportunity to eventually throw this situation in your face and say, ‘I told you so’.”
“You told me so?”
“About what? You told me the chicken strips were nasty?”
“I told you that Aaron was going to win.”
“How the hell did he win? Jeff, he’s dead.”
“I know that. Believe me, I am very aware that he’s dead. That doesn’t change the fact that Mari chose him over me.”
“How are you figuring that?”
“If Mari hadn’t been so obsessed with him then she and I could be together right now.”
“Technically, right now the two of you wouldn’t be together because you’d both be at work. But even if this wasn’t work hours and you could be together, you’re completely wrong to think that she chose him over you and that’s why you’re not.”
“She didn’t choose him?”
“She killed him.”
“There’s still some doubt about whether she killed him or whether Milagra did. She gave him the coffee drink and the goody that spiked his blood sugar and sent him into a coma and then she left him there to die so she definitely had the intent to kill him. Milagra cut his head most of the way off and sufficiently damaged his spinal cord so he would have been unable to breathe even if they brought him out of the coma and reattached the rest of his head. According to the story she told us, she definitely intended to kill him as a sacrifice to God and Mr. Gomez. So, we’ll see how the whole thing shakes out.”
“Even if Mari did kill him, she didn’t do it out of love for him.”
“She did it because she loved money and hated sharing.”
“If she hated sharing then why was she still seeing Aaron?”
“Okay, she did it because she loved money and she hated sharing unless it was on her terms.”
“I can’t believe she was working on solving one of those problems for the million dollars.”
“I think that was a surprise to everyone except her. And maybe Aaron.”
“She never really seemed that smart.”
“I guess she was and she wasn’t. I don’t think there was much chance she would have had to share the money with Aaron. He had plenty of money of his own and- in the short time I talked with him- I got the impression he mostly discussed those concepts with her because he enjoyed exchanging ideas and because he enjoyed torturing you. He did it because it made them both happy.”
“Yeah, I can see that. Nobody in the world gets happy like Mari.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people get happy but I’ll take your word for it that Mari’s happiness was a unique experience.”
“Nope, nothing like it. Her eyes would light up and she’d squeal or whoop and sometimes she’d dance around.” He took a big swallow of coffee and set the cup down with a thump. “No point thinking about it. It’s not something I’ll ever see again.”
“Of course you will. She’ll be very happy to see you on visiting day. Especially if you bring a cake with a file in it.”
“Couldn’t get it through the metal detector.”
“There is that.”
“Did you actually go see that Mrs. Lamb?”
“Did you see her more than once?”
“Are you guys dating?”
“What part of ‘Mrs.’ are you not getting? Mrs. Lamb is married.”
“I don’t do that. Remember me? The guy who spent almost no time in the principal’s office?”
“So what are you guys doing? What do you talk about?”
“Kids and how they could learn more. We discussed the challenges of where to place a difficult child in the classroom, for example.”
“My teachers didn’t have that problem. They knew exactly where to put me. They usually stuck me next to the biggest suck-up in the room. Nothing like spending six hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year listening to some kid tell you ‘Shut up! I’m trying to hear.’ Or ‘Stop bugging me! I’m trying to get my work done so I can go out for recess.’”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I was the one who had to say that all day of every school year.”
“I guess you and I wouldn’t have liked each other very much if we’d gone to the same school.”
“I guess we wouldn’t have.”
“So what’d you two come up with?”
“For one thing, we’ve decided that it does no good whatsoever to make the challenging children stay in from recess or have them sit against a wall most of the time outdoors.”
“I could have told you that. We gotta get out and run around or we’re gonna go stir crazy. What are you gonna do about it?”
“There’s been some talk among the teachers of having those children run laps or having a similar sort of punishment that has to be completed before the student is free to play.”
“Working it off but outside. Yeah. Maybe.”
“Do you have other ideas?”
“Well, yeah. If you tell Mrs. Lamb about this though you didn’t hear it from me. Okay? I don’t want word to get around that I was helping a principal.”
“You’d be helping kids.”
“Yeah, partly. You promise?”
“Yeah. Of course.”
Jeff swallowed some more coffee. “When I was starting the sixth grade, I was still getting in trouble. I had to sit in the hall a lot. I started to kind of like it because I could see the teachers walking around and the kids with messages would go down to the office and back and I saw the delivery guys bringing in the lunch stuff and it was interesting; There was always something happening. Plus I was out in the hall. I was different. Everybody else was sitting in the classroom doing division and I was seeing the world go by.”
“Not exactly what the taxpayers hoped they were spending their money on but-“
“You wanted to hear this.”
“One day I was just getting bored and wondering what was going on in the hall and what I’d have to do to get sent out there to see and the teacher came over and stood right behind me.”
“That must have put the fear of God into you.”
“Or something. She was this great big woman. She liked to wear a lot of bright colors and she had little curls that stuck out from her head like she wanted to have one of those old-fashioned waves but it didn’t take.”
“Whatever. She was standing behind me and I could feel her watching me. I put my pencil on the edge of my desk and I was pushing it off with the side of my hand when she scooped it up. She leaned over my chair and she said, real quietly, ‘You seem to have a lot of imagination and not much to do with it. I guess I’ll have to help you find something.’ I didn’t care. I heard that before. I figured she’s gonna say I have to discover a new way to clean erasers or something. She said, ‘Come with me.’”
“Did you go?”
“Were you going out to clean erasers?”
“No. Here’s the weird part: she walks me around behind this blackboard and I’m wondering what the hell she’s doing and she pulls out a cardboard box that’s got no flaps and no lid.”
“And she says, ‘Whenever your work is done- and you want something to do that doesn’t involve bothering your neighbors so they can’t do their work- you can come over here and choose something from this box and write about it. I will expect it to be interesting and legible.’”
“What was in the box?”
“All kinds of pictures that somebody tore out of magazines. Like cities and somebody’s front porch and a purple hippopotamus in roller skates and a giraffe wearing a scarf; all kinds of things.”
“Did it work?”
“Yeah. I wrote a whole bunch of stories about the hippo and how he couldn’t get shoes that fit so he had to wear roller skates and he got into trouble. She started sending me to the office too.”
“So you could see what was going on.”
“Yeah. I guess she got me.”
“Yeah.” Both men sipped their coffee. “You feel like making a trip now?”
“To the office?”
“No, we’ve got one stop to make and then we’re going to my house.”
“Your house? What for? And where are we going first?” Clement picked up both cups, carried them in to the sink and rinsed them out. “You gonna wash those now?”
“Nope.” Clement shook the excess water from the mugs and placed them facedown on a three layer stack of paper towels. “First we are going to Eco Meats. Then we are going to my house to grill a taste test.”
“No more nasty chicken strips.”
“We’ll see.”
“I love you, man.”
“Womb to tomb.”
“Sperm to worm.”
“Damon and Pythius.”
Jeff turned off the coffeepot and the lights. Clement closed and locked the door.

~Jeff Clement, whose name the author unintentionally borrowed, is a catcher who spent most of 2007 playing for the Tacoma Rainiers, the farm team of the Seattle Mariners. He was called up to the Show on September 4th. He was traded during the 2010 off-season and will be catching for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

~Maya Angelou, the poet, worked as a conductor on the cable cars in San Francisco. She was the first woman and the first person of color to do so.

~Shari’s restaurant chain was started in 1978. The first restaurant was in Hermiston, Oregon and a second was opened in Sherwood, Oregon within a year. The restaurant was named after one of the founders whose name was Sharon but who went by the name “Shari”. The Shari’s Clement is visiting opened in 1983. Many of the restaurants, including this one, have a raised grassy area outside some of the windows. The tables near these windows are less popular than others due to the high concentration of birds looking for and finding worms.

~Bernard Grimes Rhodenbarr is a charming burglar who was created by Lawrence Block. His first appearance was “Burglars Can’t Be Choosers” which appeared in 1977.

~The original Piggly Wiggly was opened in Memphis, Tennessee on September 6, 1916. It was the first grocery store that had carts and open shelves and allowed customers to shop for themselves instead of giving the list to an employee who selected everything. The creator’s dream was a fully-automated store but mechanical difficulties prevented his ever attaining it.

~Anna’s had started life as “Anna’s Banana Burgers” a name which the owner hoped to combine with homey furnishings to attract the kind of moneyed hippies that mark a place as happening and guarantee a retirement in warmer climates. Unfortunately, the couches became napping places for kids waiting for their parents to get home or buyers waiting for the guy with the stuff. A city renovation and revitalization grant, the same one responsible for the office complex Clement had so recently visited, had funded the remodeling and cleaning up. Now the little money from even those undesirable customers was gone and the place resembled a nearly deserted hospital cafeteria. Regular visits from the Health Department inspector guaranteed the food made up in sanitaryness what it might lack in savoryness.

~ “Goat’s Head Soup” was released in 1973 as a follow-up to “Exile On Main Street”. Billy Preston, also known as the Fifth Beatle, plays on several tracks. On “100 Years Ago”, he plays the clarinet.

~This appellation is given to several young men in the writings of P.G. Wodehouse but it was Wilmot Byng, the golfer in the short story “The Letter of the Law”, inspired the naming of this character.

~”Aaron” is the name of the waiter who served lunch to the author and her mother at Beaches restaurant. Several people had made suggestions regarding what this character looked like and when the waiter arrived he was perfect. He agreed to allow his photo to be taken and his name to be used as long as he gets some money out of it someday.


Ceci N’est Pas Ma Chat

Lethe is the name of the brown cat
in the carrier on the floor across from me.
She’s not happy and she’s complaining loudly
to her owner. The woman is making shushing noises
and little clucks and murmuring “There, there”
and “I know, baby.”

Beside me a man, who could double for Santa, speaks
soothingly to a black and white cat with folded down ears.
He says she’s not used to other cats or to people
but she seems fond of him as she stretches out
one velvet paw to pat his snowy whiskers.

I look down at the cat in my carrier. She’s not complaining,
not talking, not even looking at me; we might be strangers
waiting at a bus stop. I feel I should explain to
someone she’s really my parents’ cat and that’s why
we lack chemistry. But there’s no time. The vet comes
to the door and calls us. I pick up the carrier and
walk into the exam room leaving the people behind
us to think whatever they will.



The man in the blue suit stopped just outside the glass doors and scrubbed his sweaty hands on his pant legs. “You’re acting like a schoolboy on his first date,” he said. “Just go in there, tell them who you are and take her home.”

Flinging the door open, he walked to the desk just inside and announced, “I’m Howard Wallace and I’ve come for Mariah.” The woman behind the desk gathered her curly gray hair into a fist at the nape of her neck then pulled it so it was all back over her shoulders. Faint smile lines traced the sides of her mouth and her eyes twinkled even as she frowned at Howard from beneath straight brows.

“Howard Wallace,” she repeated. “Could I see some identification?”

“Is Mariah here?” Howard asked. “Can I see her?”

“First things first,” the woman said. “Some identification please.” Howard’s hands were damp again and he fumbled with his wallet. He opened it and handed it to the woman across from him. She glanced at it then nodded for him to put it away. He’d stirred up a small breeze and the woman’s soft perfume came to him along with enough disinfectant to make a lesser man swoon. “Mariah is here,” the woman said. “She was picked up this afternoon.” Seeing Howard’s shoulders sag in relief, she added, “But I’m not sure she’ll be leaving with you.”

“But why? I’m her owner.”

“Mr. Wallace, Mariah is very young and she needs someone looking after her.”

“I know. My neighbor was supposed to be watching her.”

“Mariah was found wandering in traffic four blocks from your home, Mr. Wallace. That’s a lot of ground for a small dog to cover all alone.”

“I know. I know. The girl let her out to do her business and then I don’t know what happened. I guess she forgot her. I’m not sure if her boyfriend came over or the phone rang or-”

“It doesn’t matter what happened or how it happened,” the woman said, waving a dismissive hand at Howard. “The fact is Mariah, who’s a beautiful little dog by the way, was alone and lost and could have been hurt or killed or caused someone else to be hurt or killed. That’s not responsible pet ownership and I just don’t feel comfortable releasing her to you.”

Howard took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He could hear the lost and homeless dogs barking in the next room and tried to hear which one was Mariah. He let his eyes roam the pastel walls and light for a second or two on each of the bright posters before he looked back at the slight woman behind the desk. “The thing is,” Howard began, “I’ve got to have Mariah back. She was a pre-retirement gift from my daughter and she’d kill me if anything happened to her.”

“Good thing it didn’t and a doubly good thing we reached you first then.”

“Yes,” Howard said. He looked at the poster behind the woman’s head again then back down at her face. “And there’s another reason too. I mean another reason it’s good nothing happened to her. I mean besides the obvious.”

“Which is?”

“Well… I love her. I love Mariah,” Howard said all in a rush. “I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe. It’s hard even for me to believe, I mean, when I’ve known her only two weeks. But somehow that little girl has worked her way into my heart. She’s the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning and the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. I didn’t even know if I wanted a dog and now I’m counting the days till I’m retired and we can spend all our time together.”

“She’s a dog, Mr. Wallace. She’s not a person; she’s just a dog.”

“I hear you but you’re wrong,” Howard said. “She’s a dog to you. You see a lot of dogs every day so maybe they don’t mean much to you anymore. But Mariah isn’t just a dog to me. She’s my friend now and in two weeks she’ll be my sole traveling companion.”

“To where?”

“You’ll think it’s silly but I’ve always dreamed of sailing around the world. I know Mariah’s just a small dog but I’m going to teach her to swim and buy her a little life jacket so she’ll be safe. I’ve got a tether for her and a hammock for her to sleep in in case she doesn’t want to sleep on my berth. We’re going to take some short trips at first to see how we like it and then we’ll be man and dog against the elements on the high seas.” Howard chuckled at himself.

“That’s pretty ambitious for an old man and a small dog.”

“Maybe it’s being away from civilization for so long or maybe it’s the idea of spending so much time with me. I don’t know but I’ve spent years looking for a woman who’d like to make that kind of a trip with me. I never could find one. But now it doesn’t matter. See? I’ve got a girl to keep me company. She just happens to have four legs and a tail.” Howard laughed again then bent over and looked the woman straight in the eyes. “So you see, I’ve got to have Mariah back. She’s part of my dream now and I’m only two weeks away from it.”

“A little dog like Mariah could get into a lot of trouble in two weeks,” the woman said. “How long did it take before she was out in traffic this time?”

“I’ll find a good kennel,” Howard promised. “I’ll hire a professional dog-sitter. I’ll take her to doggy daycare.”

“Or she could stay here with me.”

“What? But I…”

“You’re right, Mr. Wallace, I do see a lot of dogs every day but if they didn’t mean something to me I wouldn’t be doing this job. We could keep Mariah here and try to find a better home for her but I don’t suppose we’d find someone as crazy about her as you are,” she smiled at Howard. “At the same time, she’s a very special little dog and I wouldn’t want to take another chance on something happening to her. Especially when you’re only two weeks away from your dream. So what if she stayed in the reception area with me while you’re working?”

“I don’t know. That seems like a lot of trouble for a man and dog you’ve just met.”

“Not really. I’m here from eight to five anyway Monday through Friday. I have to warn you though if you’re late she goes home with me.” The creases at the corners of the woman’s mouth deepened and an Orion’s belt of stars danced in her eyes as she waited for Howard to say “Yes.”

“Where do you live?” Howard asked. “In case I’m unavoidably delayed.”

“Don’t be,” the woman said, “but I live at North Cove Marina almost all the way to the end of F dock.” She smiled again at Howard’s look of surprise then motioned for him to follow her as she walked back to the dog room and opened the door. A young man dressed in colorful scrubs nodded to them as he walked past and took the place at the desk.

“Do you believe in love, Mrs. ummm?”

“Miss umm Grace Marshall,” the woman said. “And yes, I do believe in love. But first I believe in walking dogs and drinking coffee.”

“Forty-five minutes?”

“I’ll just be closing up,” Grace said. A young woman unlocked Mariah’s enclosure and Grace put her gently into Howard’s arms then escorted them to the front door. “Don’t be late,” she called as man and dog climbed into the car.

“You know,” said Howard as he pulled out of the lot, “We’re a pair of very lucky dogs.” Mariah yipped and licked Howard’s ear then curled up on the seat. Howard threw back his head and laughed, shedding the years like so much extra fur. He felt giddy and light as a boy with new sneakers and a secret.


Fate Pays The Rent (Twenty-second Installment)

Dr. Phillips filled three cups with coffee and gestured to the sugar. “I have milk too but maybe you’ll be a little hesitant to take things out of the refrigerator here.” Buzz helped himself to some milk and held the small carton to Clement who shook his head vigorously. “I have to say I take exception to all this I’m reading about this young man being decapitated with a shovel.”
“Why would that be?” Buzz stirred his coffee and leaned against a counter.
“Because it isn’t true.”
“How do you figure that, Doc? A man’s head is attached and then it’s detached. It didn’t happen by itself ergo he was decapitated.”
“But it wasn’t completely detached. It would be almost impossible to remove someone’s head with a shovel. There’s a very tough assembly of muscle and bone in the spine a person would have to cut through. They’d have to be incredibly strong.”
“What if they were just crazy?”
“Or on drugs?’ Clement added.
“It’s possible but that isn’t what happened to this man. His spine is severely damaged but it was not cut through.”
“So was he killed with a shovel?”
“I would say that having his head nearly removed from his body definitely contributed to his failure to continue living. Add to this the fact that he was in a comatose state which he was unlikely to emerge from without medical assistance.”
“A diabetic coma?”
“His blood sugar level was incredible.”
Clement took a step forward. “I’m pretty new to this whole diabetes thing so let me ask you- if someone had a migraine and was basically unable to eat all day or maybe he ate something earlier in the day and then he threw up-“
“A common situation in a migraine sufferer as it sometimes takes them more than one incident of vomiting to feel better.”
“And if into this essentially empty stomach they were to put a white chocolate mocha and some kind of goody made with cranberries and cream cheese?”
“Their blood sugar would skyrocket and they would go into a coma.”
“Making it very easy for someone to come along and almost cut off their head with a shovel,” Buzz put in.
“I would say so.”
“So, which was it? The coma or the shovel?”
“As I said, it would have been difficult for this person to emerge from the coma without medical assistance. The shovel did not remove his head but it did damage the autonomic nerves meaning even if he emerged from the coma with help he would be unable to breathe for himself.”
“Not to mention he’d have a hell of a scar where they had to reattach his neck all the way around like he was Frankenstein’s monster.”
“Yes, that too.”
Buzz patted the coroner on the back. “It’s been fun but we’ve gotta go talk with a little lady who used to call herself Dolores.”
“Ah, yes. The woman with the shovel.”
“Wait a minute,” Clement said, “How would you know that?”
“It’s very simple. My walls have ears.”

“Why do you keep calling me Dolores when I tell you my name is not Dolores?”
“Ma’am, we’re calling you by that name because that’s the name that’s on your ID.”
“Yeah, but that’s not what God told her it was.”
“Josh, could you please see if there’s some coffee around?”
“Yeah, sure.” Josh’s eyes widened when he saw Clement and Buzz. “Hey look! It’s The Napper.”
Buzz looked from one man to the other. “What? How’d you two meet?”
“Clement was taking a nap in his hash browns a few nights ago over at the Shari’s. He didn’t seem to be drunk or on drugs so we gave him a ride to the bus stop. What’re you doing here, Clement?”
“I knew him.”
“Who? The dead guy?”
“Good friend of yours? Were you over here checking things out the night we found you?”
“No, I only met him once and I was kind of looking around over here. He’s the ex-boyfriend of the girlfriend of a friend of mine.”
Buzz stepped forward. “Have you started asking Dolores any questions yet?”
“Not so you’d notice. Which is to say we found out her name isn’t Dolores any more and we decided to give you a call.”
“Josh, how’s the coffee coming?” Josh made a rude gesture behind his hand and left the room.
Clement and Buzz walked over to where Josh’s partner sat with Dolores. Keeping one eye on Dolores, the man stood and extended his hand to Clement. “We met the other night but it looks like there’s been a serious change of circumstances. I’m Gary Roberts.” Clement shook his hand and nodded to Buzz. “Buzz and I know each other already. How’s it going?”
“It’s going.”
There was a wail from behind Gary. “Why are you all standing around and making new friends? Doesn’t anyone remember me? I’m the one you should be talking to.”
Josh came in with three cups of coffee. “Gentlemen, may I introduce the woman formerly known as Dolores Aceveda.” He handed a cup to Gary and set another just out of Dolores’s reach. He set the third on the desk in front of him and began adding sugar.
“God’s work is nothing to be joking about.”
“God’s work?” Clement asked.
“Yes,” said Josh, “Milagra here believes she tried to cut this guy’s head off on orders from God. It’s been ages since God told a woman to cut a guy’s head off and even then I don’t think she did it.”
“I don’t ‘believe’ I was on orders from God. I heard the voice of God and did what I was told to do.”
“Why didn’t you just stab him with some scissors? There’s scissors all over the place.” It was Dolores’s office. They were sitting in the outer room and Clement could read “Bliss In A Basket” on the door with the second line “Aceveda and Davidson, Props” just beneath the first. Spools of ribbon hung from rods along one wall, their tails waving brightly whenever there was sufficient breeze. Baskets, large and small, were piled along another wall. The fragrance of the handmade soaps and lotions nearly blotted out the smell of the not quite stale but definitely past fresh coffee in the cups Josh had carried in.
Buzz grabbed two chairs, put one behind Clement and sat on the other. “Can we start at the beginning? Were you angry with Aaron Whittaker for any reason?”
Dolores sighed. “Is that cup of coffee for me?”
“It was, but now I’m afraid you’d throw it,” Josh said.
“Preventing me from quenching my thirst is the beginning of the torments I must endure for carrying out God’s words?”
“It’s not worth all that. Just drink it. I suppose you want cream and sugar, too.”
“No, I will take my coffee as black as your heart seems to be.” Dolores sipped the coffee then set the cup beside her.
“So, you and Aaron Whittaker had an argument,” Gary prompted.
“No, there was no argument.”
“You just walked in and cut his head off for no reason? ‘Evening, Dolores.’ ‘Evening, Aaron.’ Slice!”
Dolores sighed again and took another sip of coffee. She gestured at Clement. “I see this man around this neighborhood several times. I know all the people who work here so I start to wonder why he is here. Then one day he comes into the building- a friend called me and I was at the elevator and ready to intercept him- and he is wearing coveralls and pretending he works for Mr. Gomez. I know Mr. Gomez would never hire someone like him and he is lying about why he is here. Mr. Gomez had to work very hard to get this building to clean and I know people were not happy when he did so I have been waiting for someone to come and try to take it away from him.”
“But I never talked to Aaron Whittaker so why would you think he had anything to do with it?”
“Because you and he would stick together and try to take away the building. You are like the people who did not want him to have the building in the first place.”
“You mean we’re white?”
“I tried to talk to Aaron about the building. I tried to ask him to put in a good word for Mr. Gomez but all the time he was busy with his own work.”
“I don’t understand,” Buzz said. “Why is it so important for you to have Mr. Gomez cleaning this building? Why do you care who does it as long as they do a good job?”
“Is it because he’s Mexican?”
“She’s got the hots for him.”
“Josh!” But Dolores’s bronze face was turning pink.
“And he doesn’t know about it. Ha!”
“Yes, it is as he says. I love Mr. Gomez.”
“That doesn’t really explain why him having this building is so important.”
“I told you. He doesn’t know and she can’t or won’t tell him.”
“Why couldn’t she? Um why couldn’t you?”
“Because I work in an office and Mr. Gomez cleans the building. I was in an elevator in a building downtown before it was torn down and I saw him there and suddenly I was in love with him. I tried to forget him and they tore down the building and I thought I would be fine because I would never see him again. Then I heard he was trying to get the contract for this building and I was so happy because I would see him when I came to work. He would say ‘Hello’ to me in the hallway or when he came to empty the wastebaskets. He hired more people and he only came by once in a while but it was enough. Then this man came and he and Aaron were trying to get the building taken away from my Mr. Gomez.”
Buzz eyed Gary’s coffee enviously. “Did you kill Aaron Whittaker to protect Mr. Gomez?”
“I killed him because God told me to.”


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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Who called it in?”
“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.”
“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.”