Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chapter 22 -- The Actual Conversation

"Victor!!", erupted the Inspector.

"How did you recognize me so quickly ?", said the bandaged man.

"The way you shifted your butter knife at the table. That, and the fact you're the only
individual on the whole island in dire enough condition to be wrapped in bandages from
crown to fingertips."

"Hnh. Ohh. Don't make me laugh."

Winsteeple had seated himself at Victor Plesch's restaurant table. "Sorry. How are you
feeling? Are you off the liquid diet?"

"Mmn. I think so. I won't know until they serve my order."

"We visited you a few times--whenever i could get away. But, you were always asleep."

"The only time I can sleep now is in the daytime. From being exhausted into insomnia by
the pain at night. But, thank you both for all the flowers."

"At least you're reading again I see", as he reached over to tap the spraddled paperback
to Victor's left. "One of yours?"

"One of Ima Audun's. I was supposed to review it for the local paper. Before 'The Accident'."

"You know, she was declared officially missing a couple of weeks ago, while you were still
in the hospital."

"No." They were both peripherally aware of Officer Glidden watching them from behind the
dusty plastic fronds. (Like some demigod of his friend's fiction, Winsteeple also had acute

"What actually happened to you that night?" asked Winny, carefully.

"Showing the chef how to prepare lamb leg a la paw paw." Plesch quipped through the
muffle of his head wrappings.

"Giving unsolicited advice in the kitchen again?"

"Two words...flambe'. I've since decided epicureanism is for the Great Unsinged. I ordered
the club sandwich."

"Well, I hope you can manage solid food soon. My wife wants you to come have dinner with
us, whenever you're willing and able."

"A liquid die-et is not con-du-cive to socializing." His friend gulped this almost sheepishly,
and the two were almost moved too close to real tears.

After a few beats, Winny absently touched one of the table's settings. "Syrup dishes...", he
whispered. "My wife bought some like that." Then, rousing, he added more wholeheartedly,
"In fact, she's picking me up out front here any minute!"

Before the bandaged man could answer, Officer Glidden came dutifully around the plants
and announced, "Cloxon's man is upstairs now, sir. Two men are helping him move all the

"Not those two that moved the body??"

"No, sir." He smiled.

"VERY good. You can go ahead and leave by the door here, then. It will save you a lot of steps."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter 21 -- Disturbing Words

Down the well-trod steps, and out, into the restaurant.

Around the artificial plants, and there seated at a table, the bandaged man.

A potent, mutual greeting.

'How did you recognize him so quickly ?'

"The way you shifted your butter knife at the table," declared the Inspector, with a slight note
of ironic pomposity.

"That, and the fact you're the only individual on the whole island in dire enough condition
to be wrapped in bandages from crown to fingertips."


A few moments later, Officer Glidden had followed Winsteeple down the same formerly secret steps, but held back, his view obscured by the dusty plastic fronds, on seeing the Inspector
seated with the unusual patron.

His superior had his back to Glidden, so that he could not quite hear easily all that he said to
the man(?), nor could he be certain of his mood. Was this, already, a suspect?

Just as he began to transfer his own unease and curiosity to the bandaged patron, he partly
heard the Inspector ask what, (in fact), had happened to him.

'Shwgth shiff had a three pair of lab legs, Ala Babah,' the impossible reply.

Glidden felt like a child, trying to make sense of such muffled mishmosh, as if he were hiding
from his parents rather than not wanting to burst in inopportunely. Amidst further strings of
muttering, he heard distinctly the words "club", (but unthreatening?), and the more disturbing "die", (said without menace, but with some melancholy or fatigue).

With a few beats more, and the whispered "surreptitious", (so coincidentally & reflectively
accusatory), the officer threw aside his non-professional stance, 'rehearsed' the little message in his head, and came on about to interrupt the Inspector's mysterious meeting.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chapter 20 -- The Inspector's Notion

Winsteeple stood stockstill, facing the hall entrance into Jampers' office. He felt sure something
vital was right in front of him.

He turned to his right a bit, to take in the vacated desk one last time, still thinking about the body. Officer Glidden was down the hall, making sure the van attendants did not need further help.

When the officer returned, he held back, not fully reentering, knowing not to disturb the ruminating Inspector. Winsteeple beefily gestured at the overabundance of cabinets and carafes.
"We'll have to have all these bottles moved. Likely, their contents will have to be checked for
any poison. And tell Cloxon's man to make note of all the dust, especially on the different stoppers."

Almost unconsciously, he planted himself again facing the hallway as Glidden peered in discreetly. Winsteeple again sensed a nascent notion coming upon him like a shroud of light.

At first he did nothing. Then, slowly and without thought, he turned his bald head to the wall
along his left shoulder and saw with new eyes the black and white print on the wall.
Originally a lithograph ?

He knew now it was not the excessive dust that would matter to him--obviously quite old.
It was the picture itself. Of a grimacing, wide mouthed beast, yes, crouching, one long arm
wrapping its knees. Crouching in a dry desert landscape...

Outside the west windows, soon to be greying in the late afternoon sun moving behind it...
the billboard ! He gaped amusedly at the rocking action of its giant salted pretzel and
big (flat) mug of foamy beer. He was getting thirstier himself, just looking at it.

But, if Jampers really drank so much of this water, where did he go to the bathroom??

There were no amenities in the office itself. And he could not see Jampers galumphing down
the stairs to the street to someplace, and then back up again, every time he...

Glidden, who had slipped in by now, (to view the billboard), now watched the Inspector,
with the enthusiasm of certainty, heave himself the few steps into the cramped hallway
directly opposite the door.

With fingers like runover hot dogs, Winsteeple pawed at the edges of the thin wall, searching
for a crevice, punch or purchase.

When the wall popped open with a gasp to match their own, and let in an L-crack of light,
he half-turned delightedly and greedily pulled the door the rest of the way open.

Not exactly a secret door, but so parenthetically set (by someone) it would remain for private use in this little-visited quarter.

The barely carpeted steps to the restaurant below beckoned.

Of course, he went down them.