Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
I worked late into the evening running down names. I remembered to call Cecelia about sundown – it was unusual for me to not remember, or to nearly not remember, but I almost forgot again – and talked to Darlia as well. I got about what I expected from the names. These were Larry's friends and acquaintances, people who lived in various levels of middle class neighborhoods, people whose only contact with crime was liable to be getting a speeding ticket or someone tagging their fence ... though in Albuquerque getting a speeding ticket isn't all that common, given the way APD mostly ignores speeders.
I got no joy. No one knew anything unsavory about Larry. No one had any connections to serious crime. No one knew Larry had been in debt to a minor loan shark, nor that the shylock had sold the bad loan to a real live genuine thug. No one had expected Larry to commit suicide, no one could believe he had, and no one could think of any reason for anyone else to kill him. Assuming they were telling the truth – and for once I thought that was a valid assumption, for most of my questions required answers that wouldn't be embarrassing or incriminating – none of the people I caught up with were any help at all.
Well, maybe they were, in a negative sense. They helped confirm that Larry had fooled me – and apparently others as well. They, like me, had been unaware that Larry was gambling, or that he owed gambling debts. But that confirmation wasn't all that much help; it indicated that my conclusions thus far were valid, but my conclusions were still merely starting conclusions, not finishing ones. I wasn't anywhere near done with the case; I'd simply discerned which way I needed to carry the inquiry.
It was long past dark when I got home that night. I'd pushed it as hard as I could, but after getting one man out of bed – I had seen a light in the living room, and thought he was still up – and finding three houses in a row as dark as a tomb, I gave it up. It was chilly when I got out of the Blazer, and through the light pollution that every city creates I could see overhead a clear sky with a few stars shining. I remembered the brittle spangles of winter skies in Lanfair Valley, when billions of ice chips glittered overhead, releasing the cold to chill the Joshua trees and send the reptiles into their winter torpor.
Cecelia was in bed when I got inside. She'd left the light on over the sink, and its soft yellow glow seemed warmer by comparison with the chill outside. There was a note on the dining room table: My husband, I have prayed for you and I firmly believe that God has protected you through your labors. Welcome home. There is quiche in the refrigerator. Come to bed after you've eaten. I have missed you these hours. And of course her signature.
I grinned as I remembered the book from some years back, Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. Maybe I'm not a real man, but I do. On the other hand, I don't much care whether some eastern smart aleck thinks I'm a real man. The only people I have to please are Cecelia and Darlia; if I make them happy, all the writers in the world can use up the world's supply of vitriolic ink printing smears against me and I don't care.
I got the quiche out of the refrigerator, saw that it was in a metal pan, and set it in the oven, which I turned on the lowest setting, our gas equivalent of Warm. I went back into the living room and pried off my boots, and pulled my socks off. I left the socks in the floor in front of our bedroom door as I went into Darlia's bathroom to take care of business; I'd pick the socks up and put 'em in our hamper when I went to bed.
When I came out of Darlia's bathroom I turned on the light in the living room and picked up Pegasus Descending. I was getting toward the end of it, and figured that I'd finish either tonight or in the morning ... though I hadn't yet decided how I wanted to start Monday. I remember somebody did a song back in the 80s – I think it was the 80s – called "I Hate Mondays." Was it the Clash? I couldn't remember; it was a band I'd never cared for, anyway. Then there was the Carpenters' song about how "rainy days and Mondays always get me down." That one I knew, for I like the Carpenters. The only problem is that every time I listen to their music I get sad because of Karen Carpenter's tragedy. Anorexia may be something the rest of us can't fathom, but it can be very literally fatal. I wonder how many cases of anorexia nervosa might not occur if our society didn't put such insane emphasis on women being skinny, regardless of whether they're healthy. We've become a nation of extremes – people are either enormously fat or ridiculously skinny, and the skinniness falls hardest on women. You've got to wonder about the so-called men who inflict this on women – at least I do.
But it was too late, and I was too tired, to indulge in doom-and-gloom for long. I read my book, and periodically checked my quiche. After a bit it was warm, so I slid it out of the pan onto a plate, and sat at the counter and ate it, and drank a Coke. When I was done I put the pan, the plate, and the fork in the sink, finished off the Coke and put the bottle in the trash, and went off to bed.
I'd set the alarm for seven, and dragged myself out of bed when it went off. Cecelia was up already, having gotten to bed earlier than me, and was getting Darlia ready for school. She heard the clock, and then my fumbling in our bathroom, and came in and stood behind me as I combed my hair. "Darvin, what are you doing up so early?"
"Gotta get to work, C."
"After the late night yesterday? That is foolish, Darvin. You need sleep – as you very well know. How many times have you thanked me for teaching you to get enough sleep?"
"'Bout 85 billion, I guess. But this is important."
"And so is your health. You need your sleep now just as surely as you need it when you don't have a dead friend." She was looking over my shoulder at my face in the mirror, and I saw her face tighten when she heard herself. "I'm sorry, Darvin – I had no business saying that." She touched my shoulder briefly. "But my point remains valid. You ought to get back into bed and sleep until you are rested."