Tales of the Storage Space, Part 80

Hank choked back a few sobs, staring at his ragged clothes and all the liver spots on the backs of his hands while pummeled by the memories of a lifetime of defeat.

Sobriety was way overrated.

That, at least, he could fix.

He dug around in the tattered garbage bag that now served as his kitchen cabinets and bureau drawers.  Pair of holey socks, stiff with dirt?  No.  Dog-earred love letter from an ex so ex that she’d not only run off with some younger rich guy, but buried him and died herself in a nursing home?  No.  Ah.  The cheap hooch.  He yanked the bottle out, expertly judging from the heft and the slosh that enough remained to do the trick.  But his hands shook and he dropped it.

“Clumsy, Hank, clumsy,” he admonished himself…as he did almost continuously since he was always dropping things…but, saints and gutter rats be praised, the bottle didn’t break.

Second potential consequence:  discovery.  Had anyone heard that bottle hit the floor?  He looked around:  no one in the hall.  Then he heard sounds in Unit 38 again, but that was nothing new.  Whoever was in there had been in there so long he figured it was another bum who’d scored, relatively speaking, a penthouse suite.  Or should he say…”homeless person”?  “Accommodationally challenged”?

Damn hands.  Still, despite the shake, he managed to connect the open bottle with his mouth.  Then choked, remembering as he always did, getting gasoline in his mouth when siphoning it out of someone else’s tank in the middle of the night.  First pull of such cheap shit was always tough.  But soon, very soon, it wouldn’t matter.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 79

Karen fancied that of the three of them…the old homeless woman Amelia, the detective with a sweater amazingly identical to the one she’d made for ex-best-friend Marie, and herself…Karen was the one most astounded by her own confession.

But even Amelia’s gorgeous voice lost luster as she stuttered, “You…killed…someone?”

The detective’s jaw hung open.  What kind of detective had never heard a confession before?

Stupidly, illogically, Karen’s mind skittered away from the enormity of having just confessed to murdering Irwin by fixating on that damn sweater.  Had Marie donated it to a thrift shop?  Karen managed to get upset about that slight and feel nothing about her confession.

Amelia put a hand on her shoulder.  “You…had a…good reason?”

Karen frowned.  Uh…actually she did!  What had she been thinking?  Why hadn’t she just called the cops herself?  Not that she’d had a phone but…

Opening her mouth to spill out the whole story, she turned hopefully toward the detective in Marie’s sweater.  And stopped cold.  The detective’s jaw was no longer hanging open.  Instead she was staring at Karen with eyes that kept getting wider and wider with what looked like absolute terror.

Karen knew her thinking was still foggy but what did this detective know about her chances of escaping very serious consequences for her confession that Karen didn’t know?  Plus that detective’s look of terror was stirring some reasons Karen had had for not confessing, even if she was now feeling too faint again to remember.

Amelia took Karen gently by the shoulders and pushed her back to a seated position.  “There, there, Sweetheart, better to sit before you faint again.  I’m sure you had a very good reason.  And I’m sure this detective will understand that.”

A yearning screamed through Karen, so strong it hurt:  Karen wanted more than anything in the world to believe Amelia.  Her voice was so beautiful, like a full symphony orchestra.  But there was one harmonic, one instrument in that orchestra, that was off…as if out of tune…and Karen knew what she was hearing:  doubt.

Amelia massaged her shoulders.  “It’ll be okay.  I promise.”  But Karen felt the tremble in the ancient hands that massaged her.

Karen opened her mouth again.  “Thanks for seating me.  I’m sorry I got to feeling faint again, or I would have told you both right away that I wasn’t serious when I made that ‘confession’!”

Both of the other women sagged with visible relief.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 78

Martin checked his new, trusty to-do list.  The first entry read:  If it isn’t normal, ignore it.

She was treating him to a really expensive meal at San Francisco’s best:  The Bimini Twist.  Head honcho Don had just, himself, brought out oysters on the half shell and was telling them all about sustainability.  The wine was excellent.

She was excellent.  Her skimpy black dress had a V-neck that dipped all the way to her waist.  Every guy in the place had his eyes on her, though one just looked confused.

Her eyes were only on Martin.  “Whatever happens after this…Randolph,” she said in the velvety deep voice she sometimes used, “I want you to remember this night and please believe me when I tell you how very much I’ll always love you.”

Martin, yet again, cursed inwardly over not even knowing her name, as he struggled to figure out what to say in return.  Bloody hell!  He could never find anything like her purse or mail when she went to the loo.  She lived in this town; why didn’t she ever introduce him to her friends, one of which was bound to utter her name at some point?  Why, for that matter, didn’t she ever even get any phone calls or texts or anything?  He raised his glass, about to toast her with words he still hadn’t figured out, when he caught something in his peripheral vision:  the confused man was no longer looking confused.

“Officer Ann Worth!”  The guy was on his feet, running at her with what now looked like murderous intent.  “The homicide detective who commits homicide!”  He was almost frothing at the mouth now.

Head honcho Don must have signaled someone.  What were obviously bouncers pounced.  The guy was literally dragged out screaming.

Martin looked at her.  Ann? 

But just then Don put a comforting hand on her shoulder.  “This dinner is on the house, with our apologies since we should have spotted that crazy.”

Maybe not Ann, Martin thought.  Crazy bugger they’d hauled out had obviously lost the plot.  And she bloody well did not look homicidal.

Starved, he popped one of the now-free oysters into his mouth.

Was it his imagination or, when he bit into it, did he feel it squirm?

Martin tried to pull himself together and put a comforting hand on her other shoulder, then looked up at Don.  “Oysters on the half shell…are still alive?”

But again he caught something in his peripheral vision and looked back down at the remaining oysters.

One wasn’t an oyster at all; it was Karen’s eye, winking at him.

Martin ignored it.