"What do you mean solve everything?"
"Well your uncles murder, for starters."
Douglas stared at the woman. "Murder? Uncle Russ was murdered?" He tried to say more but nothing came out.
"Oh my gosh, yes. You didnt know? No one told you?" Edna Bowers set down her glass and leaned forward, gently placing her hand on top of Dougs knee. "Of course I thought you knew. Im so sorry."
Doug shook his head, "Oh no, its okay. Like I said, I really didnt know the guy and hey, hes been dead for years. Really, its alright, Im just surprised." He sighed, finished his glass of wine and held out the empty glass for more.
"I suppose you want the details? Well, he was shot in a hotel room in Singapore. The police suspected his friend Charley Hodge. I heard they found a gun, but they never made an arrest and I know Charley couldnt have done it anyway. Whoever did itkilled Russelldid it for the jewels. Russ had enemiesmy God did he have enemiesbut not in that part of the world. It was a robbery and Russ must have tried something silly and thats it. He bled to death on a hotel room floor." Edna stood up and grabbed the empty wine bottle. "I hope this does not sound rude, but Im having some more. Care to join me?"
Two hours later, Douglas decided that he liked wine. He liked Edna Bowers, too. He liked Fritz and Toni and Carmen and Hani and Shorty and everyone else in the silver-framed photo. He liked Paris, he liked Madrid, he liked that little place in, where was that? Andorra? Well, he liked it wherever it was.
Edna had lots of stories and lots of wine and they went well together. She did most of the talking, which was good because he had no interesting stories to tell. What could he match against her tale about the bullfight and the one-legged barberhis story about sneaking five people into the drive-in? Or her adventures with the barnstorming troupe? Or the fire at the circus, the German landmine, Bobo the gorilla, the Greek pornographer, sailing on the Nile or camping out in the Taj Mahal? He started to tell her about trying to make a still in his garage but that reminded her of the time she and Russ were stuck in Afghanistan with fifty cases of Russian vodka and no truck. She had had the life, he thought. Him? What kind of life do you get when you live in Pottsville?
Its not as if he didnt want an exciting life. He did. He had his James Bond daydreams, his Indiana Jones fantasies. And he had his Walter Mitty life. In high school a teacher had made the class write letters to themselves that she would mail back in ten years, and, true to her word, ten years later he got the letter. After an opening paragraph about how stupid of an assignment this was, he listed twenty things he said he wanted to do by the time he got this letter: "Number One, sleep with fifty HOT women, Number Two, skydive, Number Three, bag a twelve pointer, Number Four, win at Indy, Number Five, see Kiss live . " Ten years later he had accomplished none of them, with the possible exception of the last one: "Number Twenty, be a bum."
But how do you have an exciting life these days? You cant just run off and sign on some tramp steamer. He had obligations, bills, a truck loan. You have to be responsible, not like the old days. The world wasnt like it used to be, at least thats the impression he got when he watched the Discovery Channel.
" so I figure," she was saying, "if youre interested Id pay all the bills and. "
"Im sorry," Doug said, snapping back, "I phased out there a second. Whats this about bills?"
"I was saying that if you wanted to travel around the world a bit, Id pay the bill."
"Whoa, I really tuned out. Can you go over it one more time from the top?" Doug was focused now, drink down, elbows resting on his knees, his hands propping up his chin.
From Relative Danger by Charles Benoit (Chapters 1 & 2, pages 1-16). Copyright Charles Benoit 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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