By now we’ve all worked out what happens next, so I’ll do my best to neither denigrate the actions within nor to boast too bro-fully about how the evening transpired from here on out. While I do not want to be accused of leaving out “the good bits,” I can only agree that they were, in fact, quite good bits, but only in the most relaxed definitions of the words could I claim this was even remotely “work-related,” and more pointedly, it seemed so cliche as to almost be too foregone – and thus, irrelevant – to mention. It is with that in mind that I will be editing my own narrative here to my own taste, if for no other reason than to maintain the sanctity of these highly enjoyable acts.
Sam & I eventually got our food from the Tunnel, ate, drank, and flirted, and stayed one drink past when we should have, which was perfect. I negotiated our tab, and met her outside where she was smoking a menthol and bobbing back and forth. I explained that I was too drunk to drive, and she explained that she didn’t live that far away. I rolled a cigarette and we walked down the sidewalk, occasionally bumping into each other like two spinning tops, that occasionally bounced into each other.
We went upstairs to her place, which largely consisted of a huge living room, a smaller bedroom & bath, and a kitchen that led off to one side. She immediately went to her stereo and put on Funhouse, and as I fumbled around for a hatrack and bench to store my things, she produced a bottle from a modest liquor cabinet, from which she poured us each another drink.
The evening gets fairly hazy from that point on, but soon enough we were sitting next to each other, and from here I’ll let your imagination continue for me. While we were busy imitating teenagers we flipped over a few records, drained another beverage, discussed watching the tape again, but instead found our way into her room, for a little more [censored] and [scene deleted].
Sooner than either of us would like to admit we found ourselves exhausted, the alcohol having as much effect on us than our unchecked libidos. I was of the opinion that I could wait her out, and disappear once I was positive she was asleep, and took in the spare room that contained only a few dressers, two end tables, and the bed. Just as I was sure she was dozing, I found myself too tired to actually go through with it, and found myself too tired to do anything about it. Against my better judgement, I let myself fall asleep, and blissful oblivion overtook me as the various drinks, smokes & food of the day washed over me and did their work.
My dreams were obscene and repetitive, but not unwanted.
When I awoke, two things were immediately apparent: it was light out, and she was gone. I let this sink in as I retraced where I was, and what most likely had happened. It was clear I had been drinking. That was most evident, and soon enough I pieced together the sex and the staying at her place, too. Before long I had caught myself up to the story thus far, and was putting on my pants feeling fairly confident that I hadn’t made any more mistakes that I was used to making anyway.
I texted Suzanne at The Office to tell her I was on the case and making progress, but that I might have to spend a few more days working on a new suspect. It was largely an excuse to get a glimpse of the time, and see if there were any other messages.
Suzanne pinged back, “How tall is she?”
I put my phone away and finished getting dressed. I poked my head out into Sam’s apartment, but she was nowhere to be seen, and there were no sounds for any adjoining showers or kitchen to indicate she was home at all. I combed back through the night, but couldn’t find any reference to her leaving or having an early appointment. I noticed that she had moved my stuff to the couch, and on the stereo she had placed a note, standing up using a cute sort of origami that propped up the back end.
“Feel free to browse. I should be back with breakfast. Work up an appetite Little-man. I’ll certainly be ready for more.”
I took the invitation to nose around the place a bit, but as I expected, there was no way she would leave me here with anything other than the record collection. Aside from wardrobe and various accoutrements, typical kitchenware, and everything you’d find in a usual bathroom, there was little that was unexpected to be found in her apartment. Not that I was the kind of person that regularly found things in women’s apartments that let to me suspecting them of something, but given enough time I can find a few interesting things in just about any place, but this apartment seemed entirely focused on the living room, the record player and the collection.
“Feel free to browse.” Was she giving me a clue? Or was that all there was to find here? There were a few thousand LPs in the collection, and all of them were in meticulous order. Almost, unused. The place gave off the vibe of a prop, or a set, and her nonchalant attitude to the record collection’s safety seemed a little off-brand for her. Any dedicated collector would never leave a stranger – even a fuckable stranger – alone if there was anything of real value here.
I rooted around in the collection a bit, impressed by not awed, and found a cabinet that I opened that contained some CDs, tapes, a few odds and ends, and strangely, an exact copy of the Mission of Burma tape I just bought from You Spin Me Right Round. I opened the case to find a QR code that fell out too. I compared the code to the one in my wallet from my copy, and saw that they were both very different. I put the code and the tape back in the cabinet and paced around a bit. I scanned the QR code with my phone, but instead of the digital data transfer, a flash of magic crossed my screen, and after a few moments, it took me to a page located at fifthelephant.com, and simply said, “Thank you! Your package was delivered successfully.”
I paced around again. I couldn’t trace the spell, but I can only assume that Marcus Little recieved something.
I checked the fridge, but it was no wonder that Sam had left to get food, so I put on Nation of Ulysses The Embassy Tapes, grabbed my bag, retrieved one of the joints Miles gave me, and my mind twitched. Something didn’t seem right. Of course, long ago I realized that I can’t trust my own mind, especially given the abuse I’d been putting in through recently. I texted Sam, “There’s a rumbly in my tumbly. What’s the 411?” I sat in thought, and puffed.
“I got held up. I might have to cancel breakfast.”
“But I’m horny now.”
“Haha. Maybe after lunch? My morning got complicated. Sorry.” And that was followed by an emoticon that completely failed to communicate to me anything useful.
I took a few more puffs on the J, then stubbed it out and applied some air-freshener to the area before closing the window. I let the album finish, then made my own piece of origami for Sam that read, “Just let me know when I can get a rain check.” I did another search of the place that revealed nothing useful, then I split. It was at that moment that my phone started ringing, over and over again from a number I didn’t recognize, and was not leaving a message. It persisted for quite a while, and I debated blocking it, but after five attempts it quit. I made it a policy to never answer a phone number I didn’t recognize, and in particular to never do it while high. I can only assume this practice has saved my ass innumerable times.
The truck was just where I had left it, with the addition of a parking ticket. I climbed in and got myself settled, and plotted my next move. It seemed worth it to get in touch with Miles again. KLOW and Angie seemed to be connected in some way, and it might be worth it to get a little background on Dig Your Grave and see if there’s anywhere to move in that direction. Plus, it would be nice to get some more cash and grass for my troubles. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Sam yet, but so far I was committed to finding out as much as possible.
It seemed odd that there was a magic imbued QR code in my Mission Of Burma tape, and I couldn’t quite make sense of what that was supposed to mean in the way all of this played out. Sam didn’t strike me as the type who would fuck around with magic, and it was certainly not a part of the way that tape was originally packaged. With magic involved as a part of the case, it sort of upped the ante. This could be bigger than philanderous employees and a few broken sales dates. What kind of spell would someone buying video tapes at a record store want to purchase? If someone was using the store as a front, it seems like a very limited customer base. There’s not enough traffic to indicate drugs, or worse.
I stopped in at one of the hundreds of breakfast food carts and consumed two waffle and sausage items that soaked up the remaining alcohol quite nicely, and made me feel human enough to want a cigarette. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, as a CRX came up in my blind spot when I tried to merge back into traffic, but when I tried to make the vehicle again I couldn’t find it. Darren couldn’t be that good of a tail, so it must have been another car. However, a few blocks later it surfaced again, and this time I was absolutely sure. I must be really around the bend this morning, because I didn’t even notice him. My phone rang again.
I played a hunch and pretended I didn’t see him, and he seemed to get comfortable, so much so that he wasn’t even letting a car between us. I shook my head internally, but my hunch paid off, as he suddenly peeled off my tail when it became apparent where I was headed. My guess was that he didn’t have an endgame ready for when I stopped my car, and whatever connection he had to all of this was in danger of unraveling if he tried to keep an eye on me at The Record Store.
I was feeling very confident for the next couple of blocks, but when I started noticing police as I got closer, a sinking feeling collected in my being that got worse when I got closer, and found an ambulance outside the store, too. Part of me wanted to just keep driving, but as this thought crossed my mind Detective Fish made eye contact with me, and his jaw dropped. I parked the truck, got out, and strolled over with a cup of to-go coffee and said, “Well, what’s all this, then?”
Fish turned to Fred and said, “Cuff ‘im.”
“Excuse me?” I asked. Fred came over and whispered in my ear, “Don’t push it.”
Fish glared at me. “Turning up at two different crime scenes – randomly. Most people would get the hint the first time.”
“I’m not most people.”
“You certainly don’t answer your phone like most people.”
“You should try leaving a message. I’m pretty quick on the response.”
“Well,” Fish said, and smiled angrily at me, “then you should be able to answer this very quickly: where were you last night.”
“With a friend,” and my heart sank. A gurney began to move through the doors of the record store, and I knew instantly who was on it.
“And they can provide a pretty solid alibi for you between Midnight and 6 AM?”
I looked around, and stuck out my hands. “Well, if you’re going to cuff me, get it over with. I’m not gonna get any less guilty in the next few minutes.”