Disclaimer –Derek's work has been registered at the U.S. Library of Congress, so it would be a terrible financial idea to plagiarize or use any of the material found on this website for your own purposes. Nevertheless, enjoy the writing!
I’d been on some wild goose chases before. Somewhere along the line, I had developed the reputation, I always felt wrongly, of taking the odd jobs that no other investigators would take. But I got results. When I was asked to find Hoffa, not only did I find Jimmy, but I found his twin brother Samuel, and I found them both buried deep within the Earth’s mantle after following a hunch I had while eating beets. I’ve tracked most every legendary creature from leprechauns (six to date) to the Loch Ness Monster (caught twice) to Bigfoot (have a photo of me giving him an Indian rugburn) to the feared Chupacabra (I bedazzled him and he’s now my pet I call Simon.) I’ve solved the JFK murder though, for legal reasons, I must say that it merely had something to do with a malfunctioning jam spreader. I won’t take just any old case, though. When presented with the challenge of locating Justine Bateman’s career, I declined and told Jason he should stop rubbing it in.
This one was different. There had been no concrete evidence for years that the Theme-mail was still alive. It had traversed numerous states, even countries, and had changed so much in its twelve year existence, it’s hard to say where it would be now, if in fact it was still active. Imagine trying to find a specific phone number by looking in the phone book. Actually, imagine trying to find a phone book. That’s pretty much the task I had in front of me, only without the charming whiff of nostalgia.
I lit a cigarette and leaned back in my chair. My office was pretty pallid with dust and smoke. After all, I’d based my operations for over a year there. I was supposed to move a month ago, but because of the ineptitude of the lender I was using, I was still based out of my tiny office. My wife and son were none too happy. I stared at our sofa with the loveseat overturned on top of it to allow more space to pack boxes. Why I lived out of my office, I’ll never quite know. I sipped my Mountain Dew, having forsaken coffee when I realized it tasted like ‘boogers covered in muddy lava.’ My lip curled slightly. Somewhere, out of my periphery, a leaf blew off the only tree outside my window. It collapsed to the ground only to be tread upon by countless self-righteous passers by. I knew how it felt.
I had to talk to her again. I needed to find out what she knew. We were to meet over drinks at The Dank Reverie. I choked back my faux excitement and put on a second tie, just in case.
She strode into The Dank Reverie wearing a little blue number, not like 6 is a number, but more like musicals have numbers. Her dress seemed to function more like a cladding around a veneer than a tool of seduction. I didn’t come to gander at her pins, though. I came to get information. She made her way over to me after being impregnated by a patron.
“What do you know about the Theme-mail?”
While her candor might have been refreshing, her repetitive nature made me want to pour shellac down her throat. I resisted the urge, mainly because I didn’t have access to a funnel. When her gaze met mine, I slapped her across the face with my eyes, a gesture I swear she reciprocated by visually choking me with a slinky. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d anticipated. I took out a wet-nap and added some dampness to my forehead so I’d have something to wipe away later at an opportune moment.
“Why do you want it?”
“It’s good times. Do you need more reason than that? There’s a missing element of my life that can’t be filled by reading the funnies or looking at someone’s Facebook status.”
She adjusted her flapper hat, which clearly was as uneventful as it was anachronistic. I wasn’t learning anything. I lit a second cigarette to show her I meant business. Either she didn’t notice, or she did notice. My intuition was suffering in the oppressive stuffiness of the bar. I probably should have conducted this interview in my office. Only, my office didn’t have finger foods and the restroom there housed more fungi than at Toad’s bar mitzvah.
“Do you know when it was last seen?”
“Must’ve been the middle of 2007.”
“Lady, there’s a thin line between optimism and naiveté.”
“Thanks, Pops, I’ll remember that when I take my curmudgeon classes.”
“Are you enrolling in the spring, or taking them now?”
“Any theories as to why the Theme-mail disappeared?”
“I don’t know. You’re the investigator.”
The sultry tones of the big band decrescendoed and fizzled off, only to be met with appreciative applause. They weren’t Count Basie’s boys, but they blew a pretty mean horn. I threw them a twenty and asked them to play either “Mister Won’t You Please Help My Pony” or the Word Girl theme song. They obliged by taking my money and doing a reprise of Sing Sing Sing, mainly because their drummer had come up with a few more difficult drum fills that he really wanted to try out. It wasn’t Word Girl, but it would suffice. I’d ask for a refund later if they didn’t get around to my requests, or, if they broke into Glen Miller, I’d break into their faces.
The bartender, a boxy man with a nose so upturned that it could hang coats, came by and plopped two drinks on our table. He briefly acknowledged a wiry gentleman at the other end of the bar. The gruff gentleman smiled and coughed politely. This caused him to cough impolitely and try to recover with a wink. It came across as both endearing and very very creepy.
“Courtesy of the gentleman. He thinks you’re cute.”
The dame and I exchanged looks, but since our looks were both confused, it wasn’t noticeable. I sipped my drink around its colossal umbrella and she poured hers into her purse. I don’t think I’ll ever profess to understand women. There was so much I needed to know, but so little I wanted to ask. I figured I’d cut right to the chase.
“So who has the answers?”