Cooking with Arsnic - Full fifth chapter

Chapter 5
Going Home
It got dark quickly. I had forgotten how hungry I get when I skip lunch. Fortunately, I found a box of raisins in my pocket. It was still a long night. Some thing to do a second coming for. I was sitting outside the window of a house of a woman whose husband did not care what she did, while she might or might not be hearing important military secrets from an Admiral with whom she might or might not actually be sleeping with, and might be spreading said secrets to the other men with whom she did or did not sleep. I had no trouble, however, believing that she might actually be sleeping with an Admiral. Of course, if it weren't for the fact that my boss and mentor was lollygagging around a boat, busy pretending to be dead for this strange assignment, I would probably delegate this watch to one of the kids. Of course, with my partner "dead", I couldn't exactly involve them in the case. Typical of Hartley, picking a route which creates more work for others, leaving less for himself. Slowly, the lights went out in the house, ending with what must be the servant's quarters. I check my watch, and it's nearing midnight. I'm powerfully hungry, and if anyone else owns the cars, they're staying for the night. Another thing which I find entirely believable. I am consistently surprised at how little people think their neighbors notice over a fence.
If Mrs. Miller's neighbors weren't busy ruining their own pleasant little lives, and that is admittedly likely, they could easily know not only that Mrs. Smith was very busy with other men, but exactly who those other men were, and how little Mr. Smith visited or cared. I once was involved in the case of a sweet little old lady who went into a nice little business for herself blackmail three sets of neighbors, after she, bored one afternoon, simply set out a lawn chair in her own back yard, and watched and listened. She grew addicted to watching and listening, then to the thrill of blackmail, and it was only when that had worn off that she realized just what a predicament she might be in, so she hired us to try to fix her legal problem. We did, by finding out what each house would take to secure the secret of our little old lady's blackmail, and then supplying it. I heard tell they all moved away fairly soon, and that the little old lady, struck deep with remorse, actually gave all the money back anyway. There were piles of it, but people have done stranger things.
Anyway, it was about time I got down out of that tree. Another day I might actually strike up a conversation with her neighbors, or, better yet, her friends. I wonder if the people who receive the gossip of Admirals are as likely to have friends who gossip as anyone else. Probably. It was a fairly and fortunately short walk to the nearest phone booth I could call a cab. I got my taxi, after a wait, got in the back, and was glad of the driver's silence. He drove me to my apartment building in his silent manner, asking me once which way was better. He obviously didn't go to my apartment building often, and seemed distressed to be entering my part of town. It was late enough, all the groceries, food stands, and various other places one might possibly eat were locked up and silent. Otherwise I would have had my intrepid cabbie stop off at the meanest looking one, go in for a quick bite, and come back out, probably to find him gone. Just as well, we went straight to my house, and I held my head as high as I could with thoughts of the pastrami I had stashed at my apartment from yesterday's lunch. It should still be good. That, day old french loaf, a tomato, cheese, a sprinkle of onion. I usually liked my pastrami only with mustard, but tonight I was in no mood to be simple. I wanted to stuff as many tastes into my mouth as it might fit.
I hobbled up the steps to my apartment, legs stiff from a night of waiting and watching, and found, to my surprise, my beautiful young lady, fallen asleep sitting next to my door. Tony, a neighbor poked his head out of his apartment.
"Hey Jimmy, you shouldn't keep her waiting so long."
"I know. Thanks for keeping an eye out."

Tony was an odd man. I pondered waking the young lady, but decided my chivalry would be challenged either by carrying, or by waking, and it seemed the more gracious thing to do to carry her into the apartment. And so, tiredly bending, I did, picking her up, I felt huddled against her, a bag I did not expect. From it wafted the aromas of fresh cooked bread, and I could only believe that in some strange way, she had sensed my hunger, and come to fulfill it, arriving, sadly, far too soon - or at least at the wrong location. I carried her, while still she slept, into my small apartment. It was half one bedroom, half loft, and I laid her on a mostly empty couch, her head resting on a book or two, and some magazines. Thankfully, they were generally clean. As gently as possible, yet with firm determination, I removed the prize form her hands. It was still warm, huddled as it had been against her sleeping form. I could not wait, and bit straight into the loaf of bread, walking towards my small kitchen as I did. I was only a moment before she woke, turned, stretched, fell back asleep for a few moments, and woke again.
"Hi." She said, as if waking on my couch were completely normal.
"Hi." I said, as if it were not.
"See you found the bread."
"Thank you. I don't deserve you."
"That's right you don't. Leaving me waiting like that."
"Sorry. Had a watch."
"I know. I asked at the office. Maybe I can use this to buy some sympathy with Mrs. Tummley."
"Probably. Easiest way to get sympathy with her is to turn her against someone else. In this case, me."
"You going back out there tomorrow?"
"Fortunately, no. Tomorrow I have to case a few bars. Look into the Heartley murder."
"How are you doin' with that?"
"Kind of lonely, but okay."
"Yea, Mrs. Tummley seemed to take it really hard. McAven said you should take the corner office."
"I just might."
"A little heartless of you, the man still being warm."
"Yea, but it's a great view."
We were silent as I ate more of the loaf, and, cutting off some slices, loaded them with a variety of goods. She took one sandwich, and the only sounds, for a time, were the welcome sounds of the uncontrollable smacking of lips trying to navigate silently the sticky waters of good, fresh bread.
We finished, and still were silent, lethargic in our engorged state. All the blood in my body was rushing to my stomach to deal with the sudden influx of food. I knew I had to get to sleep soon, or I would be awake throughout the ordeal of my body screaming at me for so ignoring it. The pains and wearynesses of sitting in a tree for a whole day catch up quite quickly, but, if sleep can be had, the right sleep, before those pains take hold, one can easily avoid their worst manifestations. One look from me was all it took to convince us both that we had the same thought. Silently, she rose, and I walked her to the apartment she shared with three other girls, three buildings away. We walked largely in silence, and I kissed her on the cheek at the door. Our delighted innocence welled up, but you don’t want to hear about that. Suffice it to say, she went to bed, and I, alone, hobbled back to my apartment through the warm Los Angeles night. Once at my apartment, I went straight to bed, stopping only to strip myself of the day’s clothes, not stopping to put them away properly. My mother would be incensed, I knew. My mother could deal with it, and she never had to know.
The half-room I call my bedroom, with only a wall and no door separating it from the main room was not uncomfortable, taken up as it was, largely by a single bed. I buried myself under the unkempt covers, taking care always to make sure that I was positioned properly. I discovered even in my high school years that there were certain ways of sleeping which would stretch the body properly, helping it to recover from a day’s strenuous exercise, or from the long niggling the muscles receive from the stiff positions of a watch. I positioned myself properly in my bed, closed my eyes, and waited for sleep to come over me.
I waited for a long time, a thousand butterflies in my brain, each one trying to settle itself to sleep, but as each butterfly of thought settled, it turned up another, which, restless, would flap its orange wings of the mind, float, listless in image, sound, or concept across my brain, and hover into rest in a spot calculated to disturb one of the crowded companions of my brain. Every now and again, the floating butterflies would all come to rest, and I would, for a moment, skim across the surface of sleep, feeling the warmth of that glowing ocean call me and reach up from its depths, but, some butterfly would discover, at that moment, that it could not endure the snoring of its neighbor, or that it had not vacated its bowels before settling in, and the wings would stretch out, and the pattern would begin again. Somewhere deep in my stomach, a thunder of earthworms began to rumble, disturbing, now and again, the butterflies of my mind. I grew all too glad that the next day’s work would generally be in bars, which are only profitable for anyone after noon.
My first visits, of course, would be to those half-bars half-cafes so often frequented by military workers on their lunch break. Then there would be a hopefully quiet afternoon, followed by the loosened tongues of the bars around town to which the navy men might resort when they grew tired of their officer’s clubs, which was often enough. Finally, at who knows what time of morning, the butterflies themselves grew tired enough of their shifting that they entered into mutual pact no longer to disturb my slumbers, settled down, rose, bloodily slaughtered the single thought that dared rustle its wings, and tumbled back into sleep, to be shifted only by the strange and tectonic patterns of dream. I slept fitfully, secure in the knowledge that I had closed my blinds, and that the morning light would not intrude too early upon my slumbers.

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