Walt and I were petrified as we continued to stare into the trunk of that taxi. It seemed to have untold depths with only a glint of light captivating us while we squinted in vain to reason out its origin.
“For a second, I thought we were going to find that dog,” Walt remarked. His bravado was unrelenting, but that has always been his defining quality. During the war, I thought the guy had a death wish. More than once he grabbed me by the collar and threw me back into the fray. There never was a particular instance during which he saved my life, but I’m convinced that he did somehow. The cats of this city are undoubtedly grateful, though gratitude and cats are as oil and water in my opinion.
“Is he dead?” I asked, hoping maybe saying so would make it otherwise. The man looked like a typical businessman. He wore a suit and tie with a brown overcoat. His hands and feet were bound in a familiar manner. Unfortunately, I had some personal experience with such bindings. Then, I saw the suitcase, and it finally hit me.
“Maybe we ought to poke him with a stick,” suggested Walt. I asked myself if he was serious, but I’m not going to ask him. I don’t want to hear his answer.
My eyes locked on the man. Just as I feared, the echoes came back. They started off in the back of my mind and gradually intensified until it was the only thing I could hear. Walt’s voice was but a murmur muffled under layers of sonic pollution. Suddenly, I reached for my flask but, as soon as I touched it, the realization that it was empty mocked me. The feel of the cold, hard metal of the flask was an equally brutal reminder. Not only was I an emotional weakling, drowning my sorrows in poison, but I was also too inept to provide myself with the instrument to do so. In truth, my sorrows were drowning. Each time I swam the fermented seas to save them, they pulled me under with ease. Whenever I empty a bottle, I always lose a piece of myself to its void. This pace cannot go on forever, at least not as far as the universe is concerned, but it can go on for my forever, whether it be weeks or years. The universe is concerned as if the universe can spare some concern for a bum like me.
Wouldn’t you know, Walt grabbed me by the collar. I immediately snapped out of my trance. “Snap out of it!” he yelled, which was quite apropos.
I put my hands around his wrists. “I’m okay,” I said as he loosened his grip. Eventually, he let me go, but he did not mention anything. Walt was hardly the sensitive type yet somehow he knew when to keep quiet and when to get in my face. This situation called for the former. “I think this is the passenger that helped toss me in the trunk last night. I won’t lie; I love the irony,” I said as I studied him.
“This is the first time I’ve heard about this. Apparently, you made it out alive. That’s something,” Walt remarked. It never occurred to me to look at the bright side, unless it involved surrendering to the moonlight, and I certainly did not expect to be reminded to do so by Walt of all people. “Are you sure?” Walt asked. I couldn’t be sure whether he asked out of his curiosity or because he doubted my state of mind.
I think it might be time to do some detective work. With that in mind, I approached the trunk and began to rifle through the man’s pockets.
Walt seemed uneasy. “I’m going to get some air,” he announced.
“Who’s a jumpy girl this time?” I asked only to ridicule him. Truthfully, Walt is not a squeamish man in any sense, but he always had a problem with scrounging from the dead. During the war, he beat a man half to death for taking a pack of smokes from a fallen comrade. Eventually, he adopted a pragmatic viewpoint on the matter, but it always made him uncomfortable. At least he stopped piling up casualties of his own before a court-martial resulted.
He winced as I continued to search the man. “I’ll be close by,” he said before disappearing.
My search was rather disappointing. Amazingly, there was not a single drop of blood anywhere in the trunk, and I only found the things I would expect to find in anyone’s pockets such as money, a watch, a handkerchief, and a few other baubles. Suddenly, I had an excellent idea, for better or worse, so I quickly and calmly reached into the inside pocket of the victim’s overcoat to see the results of my panning. I may have been calm in my actions, but inside, my heart burned with the shoveling of a thousand stokers, and the fruits of their labor were bound to erupt from my ears momentarily. I was relieved to find that the man did not carry a flask even though I desired it to be otherwise. Instead, I procured a small brown envelope. I opened it up and found a picture of myself inside. It was an official photo that the Army took of me when I came home. Since that was going on five years ago, I was happy to be recognized by it. I flipped it over to discover that my name and the address of my apartment, which had been crossed off, and the office had been written down. I guess there was no denying that this was one of my kidnappers. For good measure, I checked the other pockets of his overcoat and discovered a book of matches from a local bar called Lucky’s. America’s pastime may well be baseball, but mine was such that I knew my bars all too well. When Emily came to me, she mentioned that she frequents a bar from which a man was presumably stalking her. They say the best lies contain a modicum of truth; this book of matches might be the lead I was hoping to find.
Suddenly, I heard sirens and the screeching tires of hard braking. I went over everything in my mind. I had my investigator’s license, my gun is registered, and I was hired to come here, technically. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I filled out any paperwork regarding Link’s favor. Depending on which coppers come through that door, my life might soon become immeasurably complicated.
Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.
“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”