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 got what I needed to know from Hickey’s father, but not for his lack of preventing me from it. The man could convince an instruction manual it didn’t know what it was doing. I gotta give credit where credit is due; his lips wouldn’t sink any ships. In fact, the information I got from him wasn’t even spoken – it was derived by my expertise in extrapolating. For instance, when he said “These are some mighty fine pretzels,” I was not only able to guess Hickey’s approximate location, I was able to pinpoint which room in his apartment he was in. I’m not just good at reading between the lines, I’m good at reading between the spaces between the lines, and the lines between those spaces, and the spaces between those lines.
The drive I had ahead of me was daunting, and to compound matters, I only had one cassette with me: 95 South’s 1993 hit ‘South Quad City Knock.’ I tried listening to the radio, but ‘Whoot, There it Is’ was playing anyway, and the entire ordeal felt pretty self-deflating. I would have tried talk radio, but seriously, who can stomach that? I clicked off the radio and pulled a cigarette from the box. I set it ablaze, savoring the tar first, and the nicotine second. With my free hand, I began tapping on the steering wheel in a hypnotic rhythm, hoping it would keep me awake. Odd thing about hypnotic rhythms – they do very not that.
After pulling my car out of the ditch and putting some gauze on my second-degree burns, I got back on the road – after all, I had a date with destiny. But what would meeting with Hickey even accomplish? If he killed the Theme-mail, he certainly wasn’t going to admit it to me. And if he didn’t, but knew something about it, would I just hear more excuses? “My dog ate it.” “I’m thirty years old, for heaven’s sake. I have a life now.” Bah, it was all jabber. It didn’t mean anything. All these contingency plans mean nothing when you’re face to face with a meteorologist, so the phrase ostensibly goes. In retrospect, I should have realized that was in over my head all along.
I slapped my Dr. Two-Brains air freshener, as even the agreeable fragrances of Word Girl could not keep at bay the stench of this mystery. I’d only had the case for four days, and already my eyes were sagging like a hipped roof with rotted ridgepoles. I rolled down the window and let the biting cold snap my face hither and thither, but more thither than hither. Biting wind doesn’t really ‘do’ hither. The sobering chill awakened me so thoroughly, I doubt even an Enya album would have done any serious damage, aside from the aural pain. I was ready to confront him. My panties were, in essence, not in a bunch.
But was he waiting for me? I slowed my car momentarily to allow for clearer thinking, much in the way turning the radio down allows for better navigation. This could all be a trap. Why would Hickey’s father give me information, even if he was giving it under the guise of smalltalk? Surely he’d know that I could see past ‘Where’s the potty?’ to deduce his true meaning. I have a reputation, after all. I didn’t discover the lost city of
A panic attack was coming on strong, I could sense it. This is just how the Portland Pleather Incident began. Only it was raining then. And just as I managed to calm myself, my fears became fact – a solitary drop of rain ended its life on my windshield, followed in accelerating fashion by the cessation of life of many of its brothers and sisters. It was all starting again. I kept seeing things from the corner of my eye – was that a pot-bellied pig? Suddenly, everything got unbearably hot. I could hear, vaguely at first but growing exponentially louder, the jeers from the congregation: “You’re on fire, you’re on fire!” My clothes felt glued to my body, just then, and entirely too constricting of my giblets. My fear of spools virtually exploded in my face, making me fatally afraid of haberdashers. Was there one in the backseat? I had to look, but as with all my panic attacks, I could no longer see if I turned around. Making matters even worse, I got a sudden feeling of the exact opposite of déjà vu, which I would explain more thoroughly if it’d ever happened before. “I am the very model of a modern major general!” And that’s when I lost control of my legs – no longer able to distinguishing my right from left. Gas, or brake? Clutch or just mashing my Captain Huggy Face doll that had fallen to the ground? The glove box. For reasons unknown to me, I had to get into the glove box. I just had to get into the —
Then, as quickly as it had come on, it stopped. I regained control of my senses and, though I did assuredly see a pot-bellied pig on the side of the highway, I pressed on, flicking my wipers on high. A certain serenity came over me, and I clutched my cigarette once again. Before taking a drag, though, I thought better of it, and took a nip from my flask. If I’m going to make it through this night, I thought, I’m going to need fermentation over inhalation. I merely hoped it wouldn’t lead to annihilation. Anything was possible on this goose chase. To find something that had been dead for 30 months! How did I get into this?
Still, my impulses were very rarely wrong. I felt I should at least check out the glove box. I glanced in and found an automatic rifle. I closed the compartment without taking the rifle, mainly because it was way too large to actually extricate. I could see a possible need in the future for this powder-infused backup, but not now. That’s what I had my Fun-Dip for. In the event of another panic attack or other such crisis, however, I knew exactly where to get a dozen guns. No, just one gun. Why was I thinking about eggs again?
The rain picked up, coming down in sinewy sheets, threatening the integrity of my windshield. Even at the fast speed, the wipers had trouble keeping up with the torrents as they obscured my view. Fortunately, the roads were empty – there was some football on, after all. I was making great time, but my mind was working overtime, all the time. Time. I didn’t have much of it. Who knew how long that dame was gonna be around?
Why was I thinking about that dame? She was nobody. I was doing a job for her, nothing more. Her hair, for chrissake! That… that… hair. It was like an opulent chatri, framing the caryatids of her jawline. What? What was I saying?! Dames like that are a dozen dimes. Hey, just because she got money, and just enough sass, and buttocks like a voluptuous oriel protruding over a façade —
This was getting bad. I had to find Hickey before it was too late.