Labor Day Weekend election ennui astrological alignments a YouTube vortex ... okay, laziness on my part (and a touch of writer's block), this week's chapter will be delayed until morning.
The staff apologize for any inconvenience this causes the patrons, and the writer will be punished.)
And here it is, finally, with special thanks and kudos to Jen for helping me:
It had been a quiet week in the city in the mountains. The final paperwork had gone through on the inheritance, and I found out I would only have to sell a third of the paintings and other artwork to pay the taxes, so that was good. Arianne and I were settling back into our relationship comfortably, and had decided to go up to the house on Beech Mountain for a few days. I had hired an assistant, a young man by the name of Albert Cerrano, and told him to keep my desk chair warm and refer any clients to Fizzy Joines, a private investigator that I had worked with often in the past.
So we threw some stuff in the back of the Woody, Arianne grabbed her laptop, and we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Banner Elk and Beech Mountain. Like a lot of the homes up on the mountain, Dirk's house had been available for weekend rental during the times he wasn't using it. We figured we would do the same, so once we got to the top of Beech Mountain, we pulled into the lot of Beech Realty to sign the paperwork and pick up a set of keys to the house.
Arianne decided to go next door to the General Store while I took care of things with the Realtor, so I was alone as I walked into the office. I didn't see anyone, so I called out - "Hello?"
"Be with you in a minute," I heard a woman's voice call out from behind a closed door. Then I heard a flush and the door opened. The woman who walked out of the bathroom wasn't what I expected in a Realtor's office. She was dressed conservatively, as Realtors tend to be, but something about her gave me the impression that she would be more comfortable in a logging camp or on a soccer field.
"Whew! Hope you don't need to use the facilities, friend," she said, waving her hand in front of her face. "That's why you don't light a candle in the bathroom," she added, then burst out laughing.
"Janey Hicks," she said, holding out her hand and taking mine firmly. "How can I help you?" She stepped over to the front window and saw the Woody in the parking lot. "Oh! You must be Mr. Noir. I recognize Dirk's car. So sad to lose him, but life goes on. Let me get the paperwork and we'll be done in a jiffy. I'm sure you want to get on over to the house and check it out."
We were going over the documents when her computer beeped. While I continued reading the rental details, she opened the incoming email and read for a moment. "It's from my worthless ex boyfriend," she said to me. I could tell just by looking at her that, after reading the email, she wanted to reach through the computer screen and smack him for his burning stupidity. "Best day of my life was the day I told him what he could do with himself. We were at the marina over to Watauga Lake, waiting for some friends we were gonna go boating with, and I just had enough of him. He was drunk again - as usual - and when he tried to paw me right there in front of God and everybody, I punched him in the gut, smacked his face and shoved him in the water. Bam, pow, oof, splash!"
I smiled with her and then she burst out in a loud guffaw, "You probably think I'm an awful person, don't ya!"
"Not at all, Ms. Hicks. Sounds to me like he had it coming. So, I just need to sign here?" I added, wanting to finish up and get over to the house.
"Yep. That takes care of things at this end. As soon as you and your ladyfriend figure out when you're most likely to want to come up here, you just let me know, and we'll block those dates from the rental schedule. Welcome to the Village of Beech Mountain!"
It shook her hand again as she handed me the keys and took my leave, smiling at the Mountain Woman image made flesh. Arianne wasn't back to the car yet, so I walked across the parking lot to the store. As I was climbing the steps up on to the porch, I heard a voice cry out, "Stop him!" and a young man came barreling out the front door.
My finely honed instincts kicked in and I reached out to grab the fleeing miscreant. He goosed, then ducked. Unluckily for him, though, I'd been nabbing perps for longer than he'd been alive, and was wise to their tricks. I tackled him, and the package he had tried to get away with went flying.
The rogue lay there for a moment, stunned by the impact with the sidewalk, and then moaned loudly. He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eye - there was his other eye, looking back at him. He reached out and picked it up - I could see it was glass at that point - and popped it back into the socket.
The Village Police Station was just on the other side of the real estate office, so it took only a moment for an officer to run over and take control of the would-be (and, frankly, not very intelligent) thief. As the cop was securing the prisoner, I could hear the young man babbling. Much like the Internet, there was some useful, possibly even vital information hidden amid the rambling and bravado. He swayed on his feet, clearly intoxicated, and let loose a spew of colourful bile on the sidewalk - it furthered the metaphor, and I was delighted.
Arianne stepped out the front door of the store as the crook shouted something along the lines of "It's in the lutefisk!!" and jerked his chin toward the package, which had burst open as it hit the concrete sidewalk. Arianne walked over to it and I joined her there.
"What is he talking about, Guy?" she asked me.
"Not sure," I replied, squatting down to look at the contents. It had the consistency of pudding, but the scent wafting off its quivering bulk spoke volumes about un-emptied dumpsters and forgotten stacks of crusty socks. "Definitely lutefisk," I said, moving to stand upwind.
"I'm gonna snitch a bit of it so we can check it out," Arianne said, pulling a small plastic container out of her shopping bag.
"I'm on vacation, Darlin'," I said as I smiled at her, knowing that she knew that I wouldn't be able to resist the mystery implied in all these goings on. She scooped some of the fishy stuff into the container, and stood as a man in dark glasses came out of the store and strode directly to the package. He quickly gathered up the contents, and carried the mess back into the store, without saying a word or even looking at us.
I had to make a statement to the cop, but there was no problem once Janey came out of her office and vouched for me, and then Arianne and I headed on over to the house.
I had been to Dirk's house several times, but it was Arianne's first visit. She was quite impressed as she walked through the rooms, and positively thrilled when she saw the hot tub on the deck off the master suite upstairs.
"I think that, after the drive and the excitement at the store, we deserve to ... relax... in the tub for a bit," she called to me.
I walked out onto the deck to join her. "Sounds good to me, but you better read the house rules over there," I said, pointing to the carved sign hanging on the wall.
She stepped over and read for a moment, then turned to me. "Naked?" she cried, aghast. Then she burst out laughing and quickly stripped down.
All I could do was join her....
Some time later, Arianne was looking around the house and found an old microscope that Dirk had used on a couple of cases involving priceless collectible Tibetan Hopping Spiders.
Few are privy to the inner workings of the insular world of competitive arachnid collection, but Dirk had shared a few anecdotes with me at the time. I knew, for instance, that the insanely intricate yet frequently modified qualifications for any given year's Prize Specimen made for lively discussions and heated controversy at the biweekly meetings. All in all, the Arachnid Fanciers' gatherings were a morass of strong opinions loosely held - and loudly expressed.
On a shelf beside the microscope, Arianne discovered a prize specimen specially mounted in a small glass box. She slid it under the lens and bent to the eyepiece.
Looking into the microscope, her first thought was how much the spider looked like Dame Penelope's insufferable Yorkie, Ewok...but with more eyes.
To be continued....
Sunday, August 31, 2008