When a songwriter praises your use of language in a novel, it’s hard not to glow like radium.
“I should say, that is, I meant to say, I removed something and I would like you to put it back.”
He hadn’t added up from minute one. It was only getting worse.
“And the reason you can’t return it yourself is what? They don’t know you took it and you’d like to keep it that way?”
He blushed. Actual pink-in-the-face blushing.
“While it’s more, well, complicated, yes, complicated than that, you could put it that way.”
His predilection for circuitous expression was annoying. And apparently catching.
It pushed him back against the chair.
“What do you mean, why?”
“I get the broad strokes. Give me the details. You said there were details. Share them.”
The sweating and blushing continued. The predilection didn’t.
Coming from the giant moth in my dream, it sounded strange.
Once I got my eyes open and saw it was coming from a thirty-something woman standing a safe distance away from me, looking very proprietary and possessive, it made more sense.
“The gate.” Yeah, my mouth can even do that with total strangers. I wasn’t awake yet.
“Very funny. Who are you and what are you doing in my yard, on my beach, in my chair?”
Millie turned enough to touch Darcy’s face with the back of her hand. “I know, dear. I don’t think you’re in any real danger or I wouldn’t ask you to do this.”
Darcy nodded. “I’ll be okay. I just had to wind up for it.” She smiled a big fake smile at me in the mirror, mussed up the back of my hair, and got out.
Millie and I went off to do battle with the rest of the family.
It wouldn’t stop, though. There was yelling. And a scraping noise.
When my eyes had the strength to open, some of the noises started to make sense.
“Hang on.” I didn’t know if they could hear me over their own yelling. I got my thick fluffy robe, which is far more luxurious than most single guys would have but since I sleep in the same clothes I shower in I keep something posh handy in case of emergency.
The hammering and shoving at the door sounded like an emergency.
“Well, now. I’m not here about what Gil wanted. You’ve clearly already taken care of that, according to the papers. I’m here on my own. He seemed confident you could help him, so I thought, if Gil trusts you, maybe you can help me with a little something.”
It was thin as the decaf in an office coffee pot, but I figured I might as well let her run with it.
“Well, that’s different. Tell me all about it.”
She sure was good at that smile. I kept almost believing it.
“Since Gil is dead he can’t finish the job.”
That settled that.
“I need you to kill someone for me.”
And that, my dears, unsettled that.
I’d given up saving the situation. Yes, I knew, and I hadn’t told her. Yes, this Gertrude and Sam thing was my idea, and we’d blown it sky high. Yes, Darcy, I love you, and you hate me, and once again I’ve managed to destroy the best hope I had for any kind of salvation through a relationship.
She didn’t spit on me. She didn’t slap me. She didn’t even look at me. Or anyone else.
She just walked out, leaving the door swinging open as she went.
Sam started to follow her, but Millie held her hand and stopped her.
I don’t know how long I stood there, but after a few years of it, I left, alone, and took a cab home.
Made a stop on the way there and bought a bottle of Old Overholt.
No point buying something expensive when you can’t be sure any of it is going to stay down.
“Could she have put Gil up to hiring me?”
“Why would she do that?”
I hadn’t thought about it. I was still slapping pieces into the puzzle to see what fit where. Would have been nice if I could see the picture on the cover so I knew what we were trying to piece together.
“No idea. But if she’d wanted him to do it, would he?”
She nodded. “Oh, yes. Absolutely. He believed every word she said, even if she’d said the exact opposite the day before.”
“And does she have reason to wish your father harm?”
That got a shrug. “Who knows? Like I said, we’re not close. She’s not close to father by any means. And it might have cost her a job.”
“Revenge doesn’t always calculate the risks first.”
But then, I hadn’t either, or I wouldn’t be knee-deep in these folks and their shenanigans.
“Come over here and lie down on the bench.” She pulled my arm and the rest of me back to the little corner spot where some folks drank their coffee instead of buying it and going home to make their own.
“There. On your back. These straight edges will keep tearing apart if it’s not taped well, and I can’t do that if you’re standing up.”
I eased down on the bench and put my hands behind my head so everything was out of her way. She did things with wet stuff, cleaning and moisturizing or something like that, then rolled out three hundred yards of gauze and an entire roll of tape. Somehow it all fit on my chest. Somehow, it made me feel a whole lot better. I might even get out of here without too many awkward questions.
“So who knifed you? And why?”