For the previous four posts, CLICK HERE. Otherwise this will make no sense whatsoever.
I was thrilled when Jackie-O called to say he finally had a way for me to pay off my debt to him. He'd been holding that damned obligation over my head for four years, seven months, and...what is it 11? No, 12 days now - but who's counting?
For over four and a half years I had to live in that rat-trap of an apartment above Consuela's Liquor Emporium and Pet Store to make it look like I didn't have a dime to my name. If he knew I was worth anything he would have asked me to do alot more than just get a little info out of Dickie Science, and he'd have had the right to too after what he did for me. But my legs wouldn't look like this forever. A girl's got to look out for and provide for herself. I learned that the hard way from Marty. Maybe Jackie'd have asked me for more, much more. Maybe he'd have wanted me to put him through college so he could get a doctorate on those Ulster-Americans he was always going on about. If the only program offered was in Botswana, it would have been worth the tuition plus a one-way ticket. There's actually a guy in Botswana who owes ME a favor for teaching him to speak fluent English through a series of Dolly Parton tapes I'd given him.
Don't get me wrong. I know I owe Jackie a lot, heck, more than a lot. And I know he deserves more than some lousy information I can get for him in the blink of a Tourette patient's eye. It's just that I'm not the overly appreciative type. I've lived in this dump all the while squirreling money away into investments in the foreign market - orange textiles mainly - and it paid off. It paid off big once orange was finally recognized as "the new black." But I earned it. I earned it myself. As I see it, the years of living squalor were payment enough for anything - even murder. Besides, even though I knew in my gut Jack would probably not have asked for anything more extravagant than a few grand in gin and threads, Rev. Transit would definitely have other ideas for my money if he knew I had it.
I rummaged through my purse past the orange-knit holster and matching billfold Dickie's aunt had given me to find my keys. Aunt Charlie was blind as a bat but she knew my favorite color, even if she'd never actually seen it. She must have had someone pick out the color of the yarn, but I was certain she picked out the skein - it was soft as kitten fur. Made me want to learn to knit just so I could run it through my fingers for hours on end. When all this was done, maybe I would.I entered my apartment to find Aethelred waiting for me. He led me to his empty food dish as I shed my coat and dropped it and my purse onto the only chair in the place. I was scooping Iams into his dish when the phone rang. I may have to eat Kraft Mac and Cheese and Ramen noodles - diet of champion college students everywhere - to keep up the appearance of being poor as dirt if Jack dropped in unexpectedly, but my Aethelred would eat a proper diet. It was worth the risk. Besides, the Iams bag was orange. I liked to have as much of that color around me as possible to physically brighten my world until I could escape my current predicament and do so spiritually. At least my legs would score me the occasional dinner at a restaurant where I could get a vegetable in me that wasn't fried.
I lit up a cigarette, poured myself a scotch and let the machine get it. I hated scotch, but liked the sound of it. Scotch. Sounds like it should be sweet, smooth, warm and tasty, like liquid butterscotch. Every time I take a sip I expect it to taste like the most heavenly ambrosia. Every time I take a sip I'm shocked by the horrible reality and have to squeeze my eyes shut to keep them from tearing and ruining my mascara. I walked over to the couch, kicked off my shoes, and dropped myself backwards over the arm without spilling a drop. It was all I could do not to grab the receiver in the middle of my mom's message and tell her the good news - not only was her daughter going to be moving out of "that scary neighborhood full of hoodlums and prostitutes" in a few days - 4 at most - but I'd be taking her with me somewher nice. Maybe Oxford. We'd both be living like queens. She'd find out just in time for her birthday.
I took a sip of my scotch and was brought back to earth with a grimace. I had work to do. This detective might be more clever than his looks led me to believe. One of the degrees on the wall behind his desk was from MIT, and it wasn't the novelty kind you buy in a Cambridge gift shop. It was held in the most simple frame in an inconspicuous part of the wall underneath and to the right of a gaudily framed online degree printed from a shady forensic studies website. I thought about the information Jackie wanted me to gather from him and caught myself becoming intrigued with Dickie Science, which rattled me. I'd never met him before, only his aunt, and I'd only visited her accompanied by Jack. Maybe I'd have to pay her a visit on my own sometime soon. I mentally invisioned my calendar and pencilled in a visit with her in the following afternoon during Jack's regular racquetball workout.
Aethelred had finished eating, and I realized I was hungry. I also realized I didn't feel like macaroni and cheese.