The Private Detective
One of the first lessons Eric learned the hard way after leaving the force and going into business for himself was to never ask the client why they wanted his services. The less he knew, the better it was for everyone. Something about this case, and the creepy man who hired him last week, just didn’t sit right though.
As he sat in the old blue Buick flipping through his notes, he saw her coming down the step of the opera house. He snuffed out his fifth camel and started the car. She was all dolled up in a victorian get up. Looked like something out of an H.G. Wells movie. Eric watched as she crossed the street, entered the park, and hailed a carriage.
“Shit!” He couldn’t follow her in the car through the park.
The carriage turned the corner and disappeared from his view!
“Buggerations!” Eric snorted as he quickly got out of the car and hop, skipped and jumped his way across the street into the park. He could just see the end of the carriage as it made its way merrily across the lawn tracks!
As Eric chuffed along behind the carriage, he was becoming more and more startled as he saw smoke billowing from the top of the carriages’ roof, “What on earth?” Eric thought.
After only a few minutes, the carriage came to a standstill beside the fountain of Silver Waters, and she stepped out. Eric quickly hid behind a man selling balloons! He saw her talk to the driver, who doffed his hat and moved the carriage forwards by fifty or so feet before coming to a standstill again.
He watched Vicky [he had called her this because of the garb she had been wearing when he first caught sight of her. He didn’t know her name, Mr Creepy hadn’t passed on that nugget of information, so Vicky would have to do for the time being] walk up to the fountain, and as she approached from within her bulky skirts she withdrew a large bottle of something. The contents he could see were bright green almost luminous!?
“What on earth??” Eric gasped!
Vicky stopped in front of the fountain of Silver Waters and seemed to be speaking to the statue on the top, a funny looking gargoyle [l know, who would have thunk it?] and as she did so, the statue moved and so spake back in a kind of sing song accent and turned and looked at the balloon seller – who was already becoming quite twitchy as he didn’t usually have another man quite this close to him when hiding!
Suddenly the balloon seller disappeared in a plume of green smoke with silvery tinges and Eric saw the balloons take flight to the skies!
“Blimey! That’s burst my bubble of disguise!” Eric thought, “Now what?”
Meanwhile Vicky and the gargoyle were looking directly at Eric and seemed to be speaking in the language of the elephant shrew [Eric knew this as his Son was studying the very same language in the elephant shrew school – l know how freaky as a coincidence is that?] As Eric tried to look as inconspicuous as possible which was somewhat difficult in his bright yellow zoot suit, Vicky and the gargoyle were speaking rather fast now and as they were doing so, the air around them cracked, and groaned, and creaked – yes creaked! The more Eric looked the more he could see wrinkles appearing before his eyes, the air seemed to be visible, the atmosphere was heavy, was that a portal opening, and was that another Vicky stepping out, was that another Vicky stepping out, was that another Vicky stepping out?
Eric closed his eyes for a moment thinking alternative reality and feeling somewhat faint and when he opened them again …
… he sat on his old Harley flipping through his ipad, he saw her coming down the step of the museum. He snuffed out his twenty second Marlboro and started the Harley. She was all dolled up in a Gothic get up. Looked like something out of an old, well Gothic movie. Eric watched as she crossed the street, entered the zoo, and hailed a camel.
“Chocolate Smarty Cake!” He couldn’t follow her on the bike through the zoo.
The camel turned the corner and Eric thought, Thunder Pants and then he started to feel very giddy. What was going on? He was uncoordinated, disorientated and sank slowly to his knees as he lost consciousness.
He woke with an IV in his arm in a hospital bed. A nurse was busy with a chart and it took her a minute to realise he was awake.
“Welcome back! You had us all worried for a bit there!” She chirruped. “What happened?” asked Eric “I’ll see if the doctors here to see you” she replied, neatly avoiding his question as she sashayed out of the room. Eric noticed wryly that her scrubs fit in all the right places – obviously he wasn’t too out of it!
He looked around, bored. The room was a bland, beige, instantly forgettable room with a stunning view of a solid brick wall six feet away. If you weren’t sick before you would be after a couple of hours here he thought.
There was a peremptory knock on the door. Before Eric could respond and officious looking man in a bespoke suit walked in. His shoes looked expensive. Handmade burnished Italian leather glowing as only shoes polished by a valet could. His apparel and demeanour screamed upper class like the foghorn on a cross channel ferry.
“So you’re awake” he barked in a short staccato burst of verbal gunfire. “Do you know who you are?” “Yes of course I do”said Eric giving his full name “Why am I here and where are my clothes?”.
“All in good time my man, you were brought in without any identification two days ago. You were dehydrated and had concussion. Let’s get some details shall we? He proceeded to ask Eric’s full address, profession and if he knew what day of the week it was, what year it was and other questions Eric presumed were to assess his cognition. “What happened do you remember?” the man concluded.
Eric’s Mind was a blur. Full of bizarre dreams – or were they?
“I don’t really know” he admitted. “Do you know why you were in the park?” I was following someone on orders from a client.”
The man leaned forward quivering “Ahh and what do you know of this client? he purred.
Just as Eric was about to answer there was a knock at the door. A short tired looking Indian man shuffled in. “Hello I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I’m Doctor Raina”
Wait! exclaimed Eric turning to look at the first man “If this is the doctor then who are you?”
Just at that moment, everything froze around Eric except for the elegant stranger who seemed familiar to him now. Eric’s mouth opened wide.
“I’m the Time Keeper. You have something of mine. Do you remember what it is? You’ve been jumping from time to time, wandering. It will take you some time, but you’ll remember.”
“What are you talking about? How are you doing all this?”
“Damn! You’ve gone in too deep. I tried explaining it to you. You didn’t give me enough time. You just had to run after her, didn’t you? They’re going to kill you if they find you, you know that?”
“Eric… you don’t remember the vault? You don’t remember the lock breaking and Lydia disappearing? You don’t remember taking the compass from my office? Eric… you’re in danger and I need the compass back to find Lydia.”
“Stop! You’re a mad man! You’re the devil!”
“You don’t even remember my name, do you?”
Lost and confused, Eric got out of the bed, pushed the stranger aside running out of the room. He became dizzy as he tried walking passed the still figures in the hallway. Indeed, time had stopped somehow. Everyone in the hospital had stopped in their place, their space. The elegant stranger ran after Eric hopeful that he would wake up to full memory. He needed that compass.
“Leave me alone! I don’t know anything about a compass!”
“I can help you! Just stop for a moment! Let me help you!”
Eric ran outside and stopped in his tracks. He was stupefied. The air seemed to be missing and nothing was moving. Birds locked in midair, sound in a vacuum, a single leaf traveling to the ground was floating still before him. All living things stood motionless before him, as if wax figures stood in their place. Even the motionless buildings looked different, shifted somehow and he noticed a curtain in one of the houses stopped outside its window as if held out by an invisible string, the dead wind. How was this possible? Somewhere in his head a familiar connection began to emerge. He knew something about this magic, but it was still a blur.
“I’m Logan. I’m your Time Keeper. You’re a time traveler. We try to set things right in the world.”
The elegant stranger, a stranger no more, put his hand on Eric’s shoulder. Eric’s breath was heavy, and his mind was racing in the still of time. Something began to stir in him as he turned to look at Logan. His breath grew stronger and he broke down in tears.
“Lydia!” He gasped.
“Yes! You’re remembering! It’s okay… it takes time. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve traveled for months looking for her, chasing the wrong woman. I had to get you to stop somehow. This was the only way.”
“The institution, the visions. The client.”
“The client… he has your compass.”
“No! What did you do?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know. Oh God!”
“That was no client, Eric! Do you realize what they’re capable of doing with that compass! If they have Lydia, if they touch her… Eric! You have to remember where that client is. We have to get that compass back!”
Eric looked at Logan, took one last breath and disappeared. Logan fell to his knees as everything came back to normal. Movement… time resumed, but Eric was gone… again.
Eric watched the tea lap against the edge of the mug as he dropped in another cube of sugar with a reassuring ‘plink’. His mother had always said what when in doubt sit down and have some tea, preferably in a cup and saucer, and it will help to put things into perspective.
Unfortunately the diner didn’t have any saucers, or decent china cups for that matter, so he settled for a plain white mug of something approaching a loose description of tea and some silent introspection.
A large breasted, friendly faced waitress walked over and asked him if he was ready to order. Eric shook his head.
“No thanks, just the tea will be fine thank you.”
“Suit yourself darlin, you let me know if you change your mind now’” she said with a wink and a smile and sauntered back over to the long counter that ran the length of the room. He continued to watch as she took a pot of coffee and filled a cup for herself.
Returning to his thoughts Eric took a sip of his tea and considered recent events, not least how he had ended up in the diner, fully clothed and with a pocket full of cash. As diners do it was a nice enough place, stereotypically so in fact with just the right amount of plaid shirted trucker looking types, chequer board flooring and a good selection of pies.
He searched his memories but could not remember how he had got here. Staring out of the large window into the half full car park beyond he stirred the tea again, allowing fragments of memories to come back to him. The spoon swirled through the hot dark liquid as mysterious strangers compelled him, gaping hospital gowns left him feeling rather exposed and the smoking of rather a lot of cigarettes left him feeling that perhaps some life changes might well be in order.
The memories were jumbled and overlapping, nothing seemed to be in the right place and everything seemed to contradict itself. There was also a most uncomfortable feeling that he had lost something and really needed to find it.
He looked up as the waitress walked past again and smiled. He smiled back and noticed her name badge.
‘Lydia’. Nice name he thought.
Staring back into his tea, Eric realized her name sounded somewhat familiar but he couldn’t quite place where he had met her.
“Lydia” he thought. “I know that name, don’t I?”
Curiosity got the better of him, and he called the waitress over to ask. Watching her sashay, hips moving in a rhythmic dance, Eric was a bit mesmerized by her. She watched as his eyes glazed over, then brought him back to reality. Moving in closer, leaning down across the table, she smiled and asked him what it was he really wanted. Eric smiled back before he came to his senses (whatever they are) and abruptly stood up, threw some cash on the table and made a beeline for the door.
Outside, he could feel the beads of sweat rippling down his neck. Wishing he had a napkin or handkerchief to dry himself off, he turned to look at the diner. No way in hell was he going back in there. He’d deal with the sweat the best way he could. He picked up his pace along the cobblestone street, and thought to himself “since when does New Jersey have streets like this?” Looking around, nothing seemed familiar at all. Where was he and why was he here?
Scenes kept playing in his head. He saw an office, a woman, smoke, statues, balloons floating into nowhere, a nurse and finally, a waitress, who he seemed to think wanted more than to just take his order. Sensing he was losing his direction, something, a vision, came to him, something round, with an arrow and letters. What could it be, he wondered. He tried his best to bring it to life but it kept fading into a blur. Suddenly, he remembered what it was, and just as he was about to write it down (lest he forget again), everything turned to black (damn, again?).
Finally waking up in a dark alley, Eric found a woman standing over him, mouthing something he couldn’t quite understand. It was then he realized that…
the story died here it seems
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