THE RV DETECTIVE
By Sam Marlowe
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to tats. I got one years ago. During Operation Desert Storm. Wounded by a friendly needle so no Purple Heart, just a red one. Fortunately it’s on the back of my right shoulder so I don’t have to look at my ex-wife’s name. Sometimes I catch it in the mirror but it’s backwards. That pretty much describes my marriage. But the girl who was sitting in front of me had a tattoo on her right cheek. She was good looking so I couldn’t help wondering why. Maybe if it was a butterfly but a bumblebee? She opened her mouth that had a small silver ring piercing its lower lip. She said. “You don’t look like a detective.”
“You don’t look like someone who needs one,” I answered, shifting my eyes from the bee to her eyes. They’re deep blue. It sort of goes with the purple streaks in her hair, which is what you’d call a half Mohawk with the left hemisphere cropped and the right anchoring the purple streaked tresses. The rest of her is perfectly proportioned with all the curves in the right places under her white T-Shirt and faded blue jeans. She’s young enough to be my daughter. Fortunately for her, she isn’t. I showed her a seat on the other side of my desk. The desk was also the dining room table and could be also converted into a bed although I prefer the one in the master bedroom in the rear. which is also the only bedroom. That’s when I’m not dozing off in the Lazy Boy that I bolted to the floor just behind the front passenger seat of my RV.
She said. “This doesn’t look like a detective’s office, either.” I followed her gaze around the office, kitchen, dining room and living room of my RV. I’d been in San Francisco for a week and had rented a parking space in a row of food trucks on the Embarcadero near Pier 33 where the ferry to Alcatraz docks. Other than people knocking on my door asking if I sold vegetarian, gluten free, nondairy cheeseburgers it was a pretty good spot. She was my first client although judging from her looks not necessarily a paying one. “It’s a trailer.”
“It’s an RV, a motor home. It’s like the Rockford Files, you know the TV detective show.” I could tell from her blank look that she didn’t know what I was talking about. It was before her time or, maybe, it was on another planet. “Anyway, he lived in a trailer on a beach.”
“But this isn’t a trailer and it’s not on a beach.”
“An RV is a self-propelled trailer and it’s on a pier, which is a beach on stilts. Besides, some people say I look a little like James Garner, the actor who played Rockford.” Her stare shot blanks at me so I changed the subject from dead actors to live detectives. “In any case, this RV is my office. If you’re looking for a detective in a swanky office you’ve come to the wrong place.”
She put on a pout and said. “You don't have to be nasty about it.”
“I wasn’t being nasty I just wasn’t being nice. Nice and detective go together like Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spice Girls…Sugar Ray was a Welterweight boxing champion. Who’d you rather have in your corner, one of the world’s greatest boxers or four girl singers.”
“I’m not here for me but for Thered.”
She saw me writing down Thread on my pad and said “That’s spelled T H E R E D not T H R E A D.”
“Okay, then if this is for Thered, whoever or whatever Thered is, why isn’t Thered here and, while you’re at it, what’s your name?”
“I’m Samantha Marrs, that’s spelled like the planet only with two rr’s, and if Thered could come here he wouldn’t be missing, would he?” She left out stupid, which was polite of her.
Thered is missing, I started to write and stopped. “Is Thered his first or last name?”
“Why do you think that Thered is a male? I mean, why is gender even important?”
“Okay, is Thered human being, or is that not important?”
She twisted a strand of her purple hair. “No, of course that’s important. I mean, how else could you find him if you didn’t know he was a human.”
“You said him and he.”
“Okay, Thered’s a guy.”
“You’re sure? I mean Thered could be a cross dresser or something.”
She smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I’m definitely sure.”
I wrote down Thered is definitely male on my legal pad. I looked up and asked her. “Is Thered his first or last name?”
“He just calls himself Thered.”
“Is it a nickname?”
She laughed. Maybe it was a giggle but at least she didn’t roll her eyes. “It’s not his nickname it’s his gamer name.”
“He’s an online gamer and calls himself that because he has red hair.”
“So it’s not because his first name is Erik, like Erik the Red? He was the Viking who discovered America before Columbus. It was before your time. Mine as well. He did a lot of pillaging and …”
“Erik the Red discovered Greenland. His son Leif Erickson discovered America. Just because I don’t know who this old TV detective, Rockfish, is doesn’t mean I don’t know anything.”
“Rockford,” I said under my breath and then said to her. “A Male with red hair who plays online games and goes by the name Thered. Pronounced thread but spelled T H E R E D.” I scribbled it on the yellow pad that, adding that his first name might be Erik after Erik the Red who discovered Greenland.
She nodded enthusiastically.
“Okay, he has red hair. Can you describe the rest of him?”
“He’s in his early twenties and he’s about six feet tall and he’s kind of cute.”
“Kind of cute isn’t much of a description?”
“Okay, he is cute.”
“Is that cute like a puppy?”
She started laughing and had to put her right hand over her mouth to put a stopper on it. “Not like a puppy, like a man. He looks like Timothee Chalomet only he’s still got freckles and he’s not fat.”
“Timothee Chalamet only with red hair and freckles,” I repeated, as I scribbled it on my legal pad.”
“That’s Timothee with two ee’s at the end not a y.”
I put my pen down. I don’t know who he is, anyway.”
“He’s an actor. He’s really cute. You probably haven’t seen him because you only watch old detective shows on television. Look, I’ve got a picture of him on my I Phone. Maybe that will help.”
“A picture of the cute actor Timothee with two e’s or the cute boyfriend who’s missing?”
“Of Thered, of course, and he’s not my boyfriend. I mean, we’re not a couple.”
A couple of well…Weirdo’s came to mind but then, who am I to call somebody weird? “How do you know him?”
“We work together at an online game start up. Well, we did until he quit a several days
“Why did he quit?”
“I don’t know why because I haven’t seen him since then.”
“Hey, people quit jobs all the time.”
“Not Thered,” she said. “He was the company’s Number One.”
“The top guy and he quits?”
“No, he was the first employee. The entrepreneur who started it hired him. I’m number twenty one.”
“Okay, show me the photo of this number one kid.”
She pulled out her I Phone and fiddled with it then held the screen facing me. “That’s him. Give me your phone number and I’ll text it to you.”
I opened the drawer that was built into the bench that I sat on, then rummaged around before pulling out a cellphone. I turned it on and read her the number.
“You don’t remember your phone number?”
“The only number I remember is the one that connects to my voicemail.”
“What kind of phone is that, anyway. It’s not an iPhone, Samsung, LG, an Android?”
“It’s an off brand. You’ve never heard of it.”
“But it’s a smart phone?”
“It’s a genius. This phone could win the Nobel Prize.”
She looked at me as if she didn’t know whether I was joking or serious. Neither did I. Finally she shrugged and said. “Whatever,” and thumbed the number in and a couple of seconds later the screen on my phone lit up. I put it down and said. “What makes you think Thered is missing?”
“He’s not in his room and hasn’t been for two days according to Celestine.”
“She owns the house where he’s staying. It’s called Celestial B and B only she doesn’t provide breakfast or a bed, just a room.”
“So Celestine called you because she’s worried that Thered is missing?”
“No, she called to ask me if I could take care of Oscar.”
“Thered’s dog. Celestine said that Thered hadn’t been there for three days. That’s when I knew that something must have happened to Thered because he would never leave Oscar.”
“Where’s Oscar now?”
“Outside. I didn’t know if you liked dogs.”
“Sure, I had a dog once. A black lab named Barney.”
“Great. Can you keep Oscar? My cats, Mitzi and Sparkle, don’t like dogs.”
“You can see that this is a pretty small space.”
“Thered’s room is even smaller. Besides, Oscar isn’t that big and it’s only until you find Thered.” Samantha quickly scooted from the bench and opened the door, went out and a second later a small dog, scampered in, stopped and looked up at me.
“He’s a bulldog,” I said looking at the ugly, pug faced mutt.”
“He’s a French Bulldog,” she answered, as if I’d insulted the mutt. “That’s why he’s small. You know, like a French Poodle only not as cute. I bet Oscar knows what happened to Thered.” She stooped down and stared into Oscar’s face. “Don’t you Oscar? You’ll help this nice detective find Thered, won’t you?” She looked up at me. “See, he says yes.” Samantha pushed his oversized head up and down. “Dogs track missing people all the time.”
Bloodhounds not bulldogs, especially French ones I was going to say but looking at Oscar I kept thinking of Barney and…”Okay, but only for a day. You need to find another place for him.”
“A day. Twenty four hours from now. “ She looked at the time on her iPhone. “That’s ten o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“9:30,” I answered, flashing her the dial of my wristwatch.
“Wow,” she exclaimed. “That’s so analog.”
“It keeps on ticking.” She gave me another blank look so I explained. “You’ve never heard of Timex?”
“Whatever,” she shrugged. “Anyway, 9:30 tomorrow, but I know you’ll find Thered before then, and I’ll pay you for the dog sitting. You can just add it to the bill. Do you take Apple Pay?”
“I don’t even eat apples.”
“I don’t know anyone who only takes cash.”
“Now you do.”
“Is there an ATM around?”
“There’s one a half a block to the left.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” She slid off the bench and was halfway out the door. Then she stopped and asked me. “Wait, how much do you charge per day?”
Good question. I figured she couldn’t afford much so I floated a number. “Let’s see, for twenty four hours…how about two hundred dollars?”
“Okay two hundred dollars to take care of Oscar,” she nodded her head and then said. “Would a thousand dollars be enough to cover your detective work? It’s only for one day, of course.”
I nodded, which is what you do when you’re speechless.
She smiled broadly and said. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. You and Oscar can get acquainted while I’m gone.” She shut the door before I could say anything, not that I could think of anything. Less than five minutes later there was a knock on the door. I opened it and Samantha stepped in. “Here it is,” she said breathlessly. Then she reached into the tiny braided purse that hung from her shoulder on a thin leather cord and pulled out a wad of fresh greenbacks. “I got it in fifties because I wouldn’t be able to put it in my purse otherwise. They only let me withdraw a thousand dollars from the ATM so I owe you the two hundred for Oscar. Is that okay?”
“You can keep the two hundred,” I said taking the cash. I felt a little guilty but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if it was saddled with cash.
“You’re sure? I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
“Consider it a doggie discount.”
Maybe a cable car can climb halfway to the stars but an RV is pretty down to earth so I rode my motorcycle to the top of the hill. It’s an old 1955 Indian with a two stroke engine and a kick starter. I didn’t have a car to tow behind the RV so I strapped the Indian on the back. I couldn’t leave Oscar in the RV so he rode along in a backpack. Fortunately he had a big head so I could get my other helmet on him. He seemed to enjoy the ride. Probably born to be wild. Fortunately the kick start started and two strokes was enough to get me to the top of the hill. I wedged the bike between a new Porsche 911 and a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. The Celestial B and B lived up to its name when it came to an out of this world view. It was a clear, day. Sailboats were playing tag with the whitecaps near the Golden Gate Bridge and a ferryboat was plowing a blue furrow to Sausalito. My eyes played across the beautiful vista until they were stubbed by that ugly rock, Alcatraz. Being locked in a room with no view in the middle of San Francisco Bay would have to be cruel and unusual punishment. I walked over and rang the bell on the three story house. It had the gables, turrets and gingerbread siding that seemed to be required by the San Francisco building code.
The doorbell sounded like an angelic choir clearing its throat. A minute later it opened by an attractive woman with pale skin, high cheekbones and hair that was several shades of blond with some gray highlights and looked like it had just been plugged into an electrical outlet. She was dressed in a long, loose garment that could have been a monk’s robe if it hadn’t been tie dyed. A big chunk of crystal hung from her neck by a silver chain.
“Is that your motorcycle?” she asked.
“Yeah, I hope it’s okay to park it there?”
Before she could answer Oscar started barking. He was still in the pack on my back. I took it off and set in on the porch. The woman bent down and pulled Oscar from the backpack. “Oscar,” she cooed. “I missed you so much.”
“Want him back?” I asked.
She stood up and smiled. What a smile. “I wish, but I have too many creatures already. I’m Celestine,” she said.
“I’m Jack Cormack. I’m a private detective.”
“What are you detecting?”
Oscar squirmed out of her arms and leapt to the ground then took off through the entryway, down the main hallway and up a flight of stairs. “I’m detecting that Thered’s room must be up the stairs.”
“You know Thered?”
“Not personally but a friend of his, Samantha Marrs, hired me to find him.”
“Yes, he vanished from his celestial realm three days ago.”
“I don’t call them rooms. Rooms separate you from the cosmos.”
I followed Celestine up three flights that got narrower until we reached a small landing with one door. The door was open. In fact, there was no door, but, then, since it wasn’t a room according to Celestine, it didn’t need a door. I stepped inside Thered’s realm, which had three windows that gave it at least 180 degree view including the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. The only furnishings were a futon with a sleeping bag and a green duffel bag. Oscar was already curled on the sleeping bag.
I asked Celestine, “Do you notice anything missing?”
“Other than his backpack, which he always takes with him, no.”
“Do you know what he has in the backpack?”
“It’s not a big backpack, but other than his laptop computer I have no idea what he carries in it.”
“Mind if I look at the duffel bag?”
“I suppose you can. If Oscar doesn’t object.” I dumped the contents onto the futon. There were a couple of pairs of jeans, several T-Shirts and some underwear. There was also a DVD of the old movie Forbidden Planet. On the cover were the stars, Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Robbie the Robot. It was a classic and one of my favorite sci fi movies. The guy had taste.”
“Is that a clue?”
“That he had good taste in sci fi movies, yeah, but I don’t think the Monsters of the Id got him.”
“The monsters of the id? Sounds Freudian.”
“Yeah, too bad the Krel didn’t have a psychiatrist.”
“They were the original inhabitants of the planet Altair who were all wiped themselves out and the scientist that Walter Pigeon plays, Doctor Morbius…”
Celestine interrupted me. “Maybe that’s a clue. Morbius is the name of the company Thered works for.”
“Worked for,” I said. “He quit the day he disappeared.” I noticed a slip of paper in the duffel that had covered by it. I pulled it out. It was torn from a small spiral notebook. I asked Celestine if I could take it with me.
“What does it say?”
“It says Algorithm and Blues 4:15 today.”
“He was going to meet someone there at four fifteen.”
“Algorithm and Blues is a place?”
“A bar in SOMA. It’s where techies hang out.”
“South of Market Street.”
“Just because he wrote this doesn’t mean he was going to meet someone there,” I said.
“He didn’t…write it I mean.”
“This isn’t his handwriting?”
“That’s in cursive and every time I saw him write he printed in block letters. Young people today only type in their smartphones or computers so they never use cursive.”
“So, someone else wrote this and gave it to him,” I said. “Still, this could be for a meeting a long time ago.”
“Look around, do you see any paper, even a book? Thered was paperless. He wouldn’t have kept it for very long.”
“Okay, Sherlock,” I said, putting the paper in the inside breast pocket of the brown leather bomber jacket I was wearing. “I’ll check this place out.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“What do you mean you’ll go with me?”
“I can direct you. I can be your Goggle Maps or MapQuest.”
“I don't use them. I’ve got a map of San Francisco here, I pulled out a map folded like an accordion.”
“How are you going to read that while you’re steering your bike?”
“I won’t, I can memorize how to get there.”
“Really, getting around San Francisco is like finding your way through a maze. No, I’ll go with you.”
“But I’ve already got Oscar with me. He rode with me in a backpack.”
“There’s still room. We can snuggle on your saddle. Oscar and me, I mean. I can tell you when to turn left or right.”
“You should put on some pants instead of that…” I gestured at the long flowing dress she wore.
“It’s a muu muu,” she said, ruffling it.
“Well maybe it’s good for squatting while milking a cow but it’s not for riding on a motorcycle.”
“Not moo moo like a cow,” she laughed. She spelled M U U M U U and said. “It’s a traditional Hawaiian dress. The flowers printed on it are used for healing the mind and body. All of my muu muu’s are made by a Kupua on Kauai.”
“A whata?” I sputtered.
“Kupua’s are traditional Hawaiian healer who heals body, mind and spirit.”
“Well, if you wear that on a motorcycle you may need a Kapua who does skin grafts.”
“I know. I’ll just put on a pair of Levi’s 501’s. They’re about as thick as a Rhino’s hide.”
“You should put on some sturdy shoes or boots as well rather than those sandals,” I said pointing at the thongs on her feet.
“I only wear sandals,” Celestine said. “Don’t worry, though, I used to ride on Harley's in my bare feet.”
“Back when you were a flower child.”
“You really think that I’m that old?”
“I was including your past lives.”
Five minutes later Celestine’s arms were wrapped around Oscar and me and she was shouting when to turn left or right. Fifteen minutes later she told me to stop. We got off and I put the Indian up on its kickstand between two Teslas. The Algorithm and Blues Bar had big plate glass windows that were clear and clean so you could actually see what was inside before you entered. There was a bar and a dozen long tables with people hunched over computers. It could have been a Starbucks except that the Vente’s were full of beer. I removed Oscar from the backpack, hooked him to the clothesline, and followed Celestine inside.
“Service dog?” The bartender asked looking at Oscar, who I’d placed on a stool between Celestine and me.
“He keeps my mind and body in harmony.” I said.
“Oh, a Shaman service dog,” the bartender nodded.
“Exactly,” I said and patted Oscar. I ordered a beer called Best Byte Bitter, a water for Oscar and Celestine ordered something with Kiwi fruit floating in it. Then I asked him if he knew a guy named Thered. “He’s in his twenties, tall, skinny with red hair.”
“What are his tattoos?”
“I don’t know,” I turned to Celestine. “Did he have any?”
“He’s got one of Thor on his right arm and Loki on his left.”
“Do you know what they look like?” I asked the bartender.
“Sure, who wouldn’t know what they look like. I mean they’re superheroes. Personally, I prefer them in the original Marvel comics not the movies.”
“They were actually Norse gods,” Celestine said.
“Really? I just thought they were superheroes.”
“Anyway, have you seen some guy with red hair and those tattoos.”
“Yeah, I remember him.”
“Yeah, because he was sitting where your service dog, or shaman dog, is sitting and he was with a guy who comes in here all the time. In fact the guy he was with, Zak Ottman, is here right now. He’s a regular. He’s sitting at the end of the table over there. Looks like Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, only not as ripped. You know how buff Bezos is now that he’s divorced and got this hot girlfriend.”
I didn’t know and didn’t care, but I nodded anyway. I looked over my shoulder and saw a short, bald guy in a black T-Shirt and jeans sitting at the end of a long table staring into a computer screen and writing on a pad of paper. After thanking the bartender, I took my beer, and told Celestine I was going over to talk to the guy but that she should stay where she was and look after Oscar. I walked over to where the guy was sitting and stood looking down at him while drinking my beer. He closed the lid of his laptop and the cover of the notebook he’d been writing and looked up at me.
“Can I help you?” He asked.
“The bartender says you’re Zak Ottman.”
“I understand you know a guy named Thered?”
“If I do why should I tell you?”
“So, he met someone here at 4:15 in the afternoon several days ago and it seems that no one has seen him since.”
“A lot of people meet here. It’s a bar.”
“He came here to meet you.”
“How do you know that?”
I sat down next to him and took out the piece of paper with “Algorithm and Blues 4:15 today” on it. I held it up so he could see it. “You wrote this.”
“What make you say that?”
“Because it’s on paper that looks the same as the paper in your notebook and you’re also writing in cursive, which is what this is written in, rather than printing in block letters. I bet if I checked the handwriting it would be the same.”
“That’s it?” Zak laughed.
I leaned closer and said. “You see the dog over there sitting on the bar stool next to the good looking lady?”
Zak looked over at Oscar. “Yeah.”
“Well he’s Thered’s dog and he can smell his master’s scent on anyone who was in contact with him. Even if they have a shower, a dozen showers. He’s very loyal and upset about his master being missing. As soon as we walked in he was going to run over and jump on you and I don’t know what all but we made him sit on a bar stool.”
“So, he’s sitting there on the stool because the woman next to him is restraining him. I just have to say the word and she lets go and the next thing you know…well, it won’t be pretty. He may be small but he bites above his weight.”
Zak looked at me and then Oscar, who looked back at him, baring his teeth. Beads of sweat formed on Zak’s bald head. “Okay,” he whispered. “If it means so much to you, sure I gave Thered that note and met him here. So what?”
“Why did you want to meet him? Don’t even think of lying,” I added, nodding my head toward Oscar.”
“Look I swear I don’t know what happened to him after we met.”
“Okay, just tell me what you do know.”
“Three days ago he shows up at the place where I work and asks to meet me. He said he had a story that I would be interested in. I said I could meet him later and wrote that note. I’m a reporter for the Daily Disrupter; it’s an online magazine. Our office is a block from here. He told me he wanted to stay anonymous so There’s no privacy there so I told him to meet me here. That’s why I wrote the note.”
“A reporter? That explains why you write in that pad of yours.”
“Yeah, it’s an old habit. I should stop since as someone covering the tech business I try to blend in.”
“Blend in by looking like this guy Bezos, you mean?”
“I went for his look because everyone was doing Steve Jobs with the floppy black hair and black turtlenecks. I actually have a full head of black hair so I shave my head.”
I could see from the belly stretching out his tee shirt that he drew the line at being buff with six pack abs. “So you met here at 4:15 the same day.”
“That would be last Tuesday.”
“What did he tell you?”
“A reporter doesn’t reveal his sources.”
“I already know he’s your source so you only have to reveal what he said.”
“Okay, okay, but you need to tell me anything you found out before you go to any other reporter. I should have the exclusive on this.”
“Sure thing.” I didn’t know any reporters to go to even if I wanted to, which I didn’t.
“Alright, but first of all I should tell you that as soon as Thered told me his name I knew who he was. He’s a legend in online games, both playing and designing but I’d only seen his avatar.”
“Yeah, the icon that gamers use that represents them.”
“Right, that kind of avatar. What was his?”
“It was a Viking with red hair.”
“How do you know it was a Viking?”
“He had a red beard, carried a shield and sword and had one of those Viking helmets on his head. You know, the one’s they wear in Thor with horns sticking out. Other than the red hair Thered didn't look anything like his avatar.”
“But you knew he was and that’s why you agreed to the meeting, is that it?”
“Yeah, I mean, the guy has been a real disrupter in online games and I’m a disruptive reporter…”
“Vikings were known for being disruptive as well. From what I’ve heard some of their disruptions were pretty nasty. A bit of raping and pillaging.”
“Look, we might call ourselves the Daily Disrupter but we have zero tolerance for that stuff.”
“Me too,” I said.
“You don’t need to repeat what I said.”
“I was just agreeing with you. I totally support the Me Too the movement and I wasn’t implying that Thered was that kind of disrupter. I think Thered used that as his avatar because Erik the Red disrupted geography by discovering America before Columbus.”
“Erik the Red discovered Greenland,” I said. “It was Leif Erickson, his son, who discovered America. But let’s get back to what Thered told you.”
“Man, it was strange and I know strange.”
“I believe you.”
“Thered told me that Davros, the founder of Morbius, wanted some algorithms inserted into the program for a new game he had been working on that would make it more addictive and dangerous.”
“All games from slot machines to online video are design to be addictive. They trigger dopamine in the brain. I mean even using a smartphone to look at your email or text can get you hooked but with games it’s all about getting dopamine flowing. A lot of the people that play games all the time are addicted. They go through really bad withdrawal if they can’t play”
“I get it, dopamine and dope are the same thing?”
“Sort of. Hey, let me put that down.” Zak opened his notebook and wrote it down.
“Don’t quote me,” I said.
“I don't even know your name, how can I?”
“Back to the story.”
“Anyway, he said it would be some sort of mass mind control and he wasn’t going to go along with it. He was going to get back to me and tell me everything after he told Davros he wasn’t going through with it. I heard Thered quit his job but I didn’t know he had disappeared. Maybe that explains why he hasn’t gotten back to me.”
“Have you seen any minds being controlled?”
“If it means turning them into zombies I haven’t heard of any recent outbreaks. Maybe he stopped it or maybe they haven't done it or maybe he made the whole thing up, realized what he’d done and ran off somewhere. That would be a great story as well so if that’s what you find out remember our agreement that you have to tell me.”
“I didn’t agree to telling you anything, I just agreed to not tell any other reporter.”
After I got back to the bar I filled Celestine in on my conversation with Zak. “So what do we do next?”
“I drop you off and then we two,” I motioned to Oscar. “Follow up on the lead he gave me.”
“Wait, you’re dumping me?”
“I’m not dumping you I’m taking you home.”
“But I can help you?”
“Celestine, this involves computers and has nothing to do with other universes or past lives or whatever else you’re into.”
She slid off the bar stool and since she was shorter than me by almost a foot she looked up and said. “I was a software engineer. I went to Stanford and then worked in Silicon Valley. How do you think I could afford to pay three million for my house.”
“You paid that much?”
“It’s only money.”
Only people with money claim that it’s only money so I figured she was telling the truth. “Why aren't you still a software engineer?”
“I moved on from software to spiritware.”
“It’s the operating system for the universe.”
“My operating system is down to earth, but, okay, the next step is to talk to employee zero.”
“Who is employee zero?”
“Samantha said that Thered was employee number one. I may not be a Stanford grad, but I think zero comes before one.”
I took out my phone and called Samantha.
Samantha picked up immediately and asked if I’d found Thered before I could say hello.
“Not yet but I’m making some progress. I’m calling because I’d like to talk to Thered’s boss. I mean his ex-boss.”
“We don’t have bosses. That’s so, so traditional. Everyone works in teams with team leaders.”
“Who was Thered’s team leader?”
“He was. He was the only person on his team. You would probably say that he was his own boss.”
“He must have answered to someone?”
“I guess that would be Darren, he’s the team, team leader.”
“You mean he leads all the teams?”
“Then he must have led Thered’s team of one, right?”
“Sounds logical but you’d have to ask Darren.”
“That’s why I’m calling, I want to ask him. How do I do that?”
“Come over and I’ll introduce you.” She gave me the address and I repeated it aloud for my navigator, Celestine.
“That’s only a few minutes walk from here,” Celestine told me.
“Oscar needs a walk and there aren’t any hills.”
After a five minute walk we stopped in front of an old three story red brick building. Celestine told me that most of the buildings in the area had once been used for light industry and warehouses but had been converted into office lofts for tech businesses. We walked through the door and Celestine pointed at a directory on the wall opposite the elevator, “There it is, Morbius Games.”
“It’s on the third floor,” I said and pushed the elevator button and the door opened immediately.
Oscar scampered inside the elevator and I followed. I turned and told Celestine, “You stay here while Oscar and I go up. I don’t want to have to explain why I brought Thered’s landlady along with me.”
“But…” she said as the elevator door closed.
The elevator door opened into a room with a high ceiling that was crisscrossed with pipes for a sprinkler system and a wood floor that looked like it had been polished by a century of sweat. Instead of girls sitting at machines sewing jeans there were guys wearing them while sitting in front of computer screens. It wasn’t hard to spot the only female, because Samantha was standing right in front of me when the door opened. She bent down to pet Oscar. After an exchange of doggie talk she stood up and switched to English for my benefit. “I told Darren that Thered is missing and that you’ve been hired to find him. I didn’t tell him that it was me and he didn’t ask, but he might ask you and….”
“Don’t worry,” I cut her off.
She gave out a sigh of relief. “He’s expecting you.”
“As you can see this is an open office that encourages collaboration. We made our way past long tables with guys collaborating with their computers and a ping pong and foosball table where guys were competing. Finally, we stopped at a glass wall. Samantha said, “This is for private meetings. It’s still transparent but it’s soundproof.” A man sitting at a round table that was also glass looked up as Oscar started scratching at the glass wall. Samantha said to me. “I better take care of Oscar; Darren doesn’t like Oscar.”
“How do you know?”
“Darren asked Thered not to bring Oscar to work but Thered told him that Oscar was a member of his design team.”
“You told me Thered was the only member.”
Samantha gave me a got you grin and said. “I told you he was the only person.”
“So Oscar stayed.”
“And Darren stayed away from Oscar and Thered. I think that was the real reason Thered brought him to work.”
I handed the clothesline to Samantha and opened the door. Darren stood up. His too tight tee shirt had the words “More for you at Morbius” printed on it. He didn’t look much different than the guys outside and they all looked the same. He sat back down and motioned for me to sit as well. The chair had enough adjustment knobs that you could practice yoga while sitting in it. I reached into the inside pocket of my brown leather bomber jacket and he said. “We have a no smoking policy.”
“So do I,” I said as I pulled out my notebook and slapped it on the table.
“Sorry,” he said. “Some of our team members have been known to come in here to smoke. Usually it’s pot. For some reason they don’t think that’s included in smoking.”
“I guess people in glass offices shouldn’t get stoned,” I said.
He laughed. “That’s a good one. Mind if I borrow it? We’re a collaborative workplace.”
“Sure,” I said. “And you could collaborate back to me by telling me what happened to your former number one employee who’s missing.”
“I had no idea he was missing. He left here abruptly three days ago…”
“He resigned abruptly without notice.”
“Can you tell me if he gave you a reason?”
“He didn’t give me any reason. I know he went to meet Davros and the next thing I get is an email from him announcing that he was resigning immediately for personal reasons.”
“Davros is owner right?”
“He’s the founder and owner. Morbius is a privately held company.”
Darren half rose from his chair. “You can’t just come in here and call our founder a zero.”
“It’s not an insult. If Thered was employee number one and Davros is the founder than Davros must be employee zero.”
Darren sat down and replied. “He’s not technically an employee since he owns the company.”
“From what I hear the company is doing pretty well.”
“Pretty well, our games are the most popular ones out there. That’s why everyone is waiting for this latest one.”
“Sounds like you’re rolling in dough.”
Darren smiled and said. “Let’s just say that if cash was dough than Morbius would be the biggest bakery around and this new game would be icing on the cake.”
“Icing on the cake,” I repeated, pretending to write it down on my pad.”
Darren nodded. “That’s why Thered quitting is a real blow. Not only was Thered here from the beginning but he was our top game designer.”
“Did you ask Davros if he knew why Thered quit?”
He looked down at his IPHONE on the table like Siri would give him the answer. She didn’t. He looked up and said. “If he thought I should know he’d tell me. Actually he would text or email me. He prefers that method of communication.”
“How come Thered was able to talk to him?”
“They have a special relationship. As far as Thered was concerned his boss was Davros not me. He was right.”
“Sounds like I need to see Davros. Somehow, I don’t think he’s sitting out there with the kids.”
Darren laughed. “Davros never comes here.”
“So where do I find him?”
“He’s missing as well?”
“No, I mean, I don’t know where you’d find him. I don’t even know where he lives. He’s very private.”
“Well, I’m a very private eye.”
I collected Oscar from Samantha and all three of us rode down in the elevator. On the way down I told her what had happened. She agreed with me that Davros might know something about Thered’s disappearance. “But what makes you think he’d agree to meet with you?”
“I’ll figure out a way. First I have to find him. Darren doesn’t even know where the guy lives so he’s not going to be in the phone book.”
“The phone book”
“Figure of speech.”
Samantha said. “Does it help any to know that Davros isn’t his real name?”
Just then the elevator stopped and the door opened. I punched the third floor button and the door closed. I said. “What do you mean it’s not his real name?”
“According to Thered, Davros is a gamer name, just like his. In fact that’s how they met.”
“Through a game?”
“An online game, but he didn’t tell me what game. He said that it was only accessible on the dark web so even if you knew the name you can’t find it by using regular search engines like Google.” The elevator stopped and the door opened on the third floor.
“Did he tell you what Davros’ real name was?”
“No, but he did tell me where they were going to meet the day he quit. It was the Musee Mecanique,” Samantha answered as she left the elevator.
“I don’t know,” she said as the door closed.
Celestine was waiting outside. She asked me what happened and I told her that being a private eye I couldn’t tell her. “Besides, if you’re a psychic I shouldn’t have to tell you.”
“I never claimed to be a psychic.”
“Okay, what I can tell you is that Samantha said that Thered was meeting the guy who founded Morbius at a place called the Musee Mecanique the day he quit. Do you know where it is?”
“The Musee Mecanique is a museum with old game machines like pinball. The kind they had in amusement arcades.”
“You seem to know a lot about a place that isn’t exactly celestial.”
“I used to play pinball there. It can be an out of body of experience.”
“You were a real pinball wizard, huh,” I said. “So how do I get my body out of here to there?”
“With me. I’ll give you directions.”
I could have argued. Told her that our bodies should be going their separate ways but I didn’t and I don’t know why. I’m not much of a self-detective. As it turned out the route to the Musee Mecanique was pretty direct. We took the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. I parked the bike and in a couple of minutes we were in front of the Musee.
“It says no pets allowed so you stay out here with Oscar.” I handed her the clothesline.
“Before you do that we should stop at the Surrealistee.” She said, nodding at the tee shirt shop next door to the Musee.
“A tee shirt shop?”
“It’s a Surrealistic tee shirt shop.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Surrealism taps the unconscious mind to create art. You can’t understand it by looking at it with your rational, logical mind.”
I stepped closer and looked at some of the tee shirts on display. “Yeah, I get that I don’t get them. Anyway, I’ve got enough tee shirts and they’re all real except for the holes.”
“You don’t have to buy any. I know the artist who owns the shop and she’s here all the time so I thought she might be able to help us.”
We walked into a small shop with tee shirts hanging from the ceiling and folded on shelves. The woman’s head was barely visible above counter. I thought she was sitting down but when she ran around the counter I realized that she was just short. She smiled broadly and hugged Celestine like they hadn’t seen each other in years. I stood there while they gabbled a bit and then stood some more while the woman showed Celestine some of her new tee shirts. Celestine looked at each of them like they were paintings and gave her opinion. Fortunately, no one asked my opinion, because I would have said what I thought and that was nothing, which would be pretty damned surrealistic of me. Finally, Celestine introduced us. The woman’s name was Jadada. It was probably her Surreal name because it made no sense. She had long black hair, olive skin and oriental eyes. I told her why we there and showed her the picture of Thered that Samantha had texted me.
“So this young man met a man at the Musee several days ago and then quit his job and disappeared,” Jadada repeated what I said.
“The other man was his boss,” Celestine added.
“What does the boss look like?”
“We don’t know,” I said. “We only know he goes by the name Davros…”
“Davros? He’s in Doctor Who.”
“Who’s Hu, a Chinese doctor?”
“Not H U but W H O,” Jadada laughed. He’s a Time Lord and Davros is the evil scientist who created the Daleks…”
“They are like robots.”
“I take it they’re not friendly like Robbie.”
“Oh, Robbie the Robot,” she clapped her hands. “I loved Robbie. Forbidden Planet is one of my favorite old movies.” The way she said old made me feel like a geezer. “Robbie’s the exact opposite of the Daleks. Davros uses the Daleks as his army as he tries to conquer the universe.” She looked at me seriously and said. “You should watch Doctor Who. It’s been on since the 1960’s so there’s lots of episodes.”
“I guess that will be a reason to live to be a hundred,” I said.
Celestine asked. “I wonder if the Davros we’re looking for looks like the Davros in Doctor Who?”
“What does this Davros character look like?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Celestine answered. “I’m not a Doctor Who fan. I’m more of a Trekkie.”
Jadada said. “The Davros on Doctor Who is missing the lower part of his body, has only one hand that works and has a third eye that was implanted on his forehead because his other’s don’t work very well. He was injured in an intergalactic war.”
“Well if we see anyone who fits that description we’ll probably have our man or thing or whatever,” I said.
“I did see this person you call Thered here.”
“Yes, he was looking at my tee shirts and when I asked him if I could help him he said that his landlady had told him about my designs and maybe he’d come back later and buy one. He went into the Musee and didn’t come back here. I never connected that the person he referred to as his landlady would be you, Celestine.”
“That’s okay, I’m not a real landlady,” Celestine said.
“Did you see if he met up with anyone before he went into the Musee?” I asked Jadada.
“I don’t remember, although I certainly would have if the person looked like Davros in Doctor Who.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m going over and check out the place. See if anyone who works there might remember something.” Before Celestine opened her mouth, I added. “Celestine is going to take care of Oscar while I’m gone.”
“Ask for Randy,” Jadada replied, still smiling. “He’s maintains the machines and is there every day so he might remember them.”
There was a woman standing by the front entrance with a badge that said I Work Here so I asked her how much to get in. She told me it was free but you had to use money to play the machines. I asked her if she knew where I could find Randy.
“He’s fixing Laffing Sal and gave me the directions. You can’t miss her, she’s in a glass box and she’s almost seven feet tall.”
“And she laughs,” I said.
“Not right now, that’s why Randy is working on her.”
It turned out I had met Laughing Sal before. She scared the bejesus out of me when I saw her in X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes on late night television as a kid. At the moment, she wasn’t scary or laughing. There was a guy about my age with a little more paunch and a lot less hair working on her.
He turned to me. He was also wearing a badge that said I Work Here on his blue work shirt. I felt like they should hand the visitor’s badges that said I don’t work here. He said, “Sorry for the inconvenience but I should have Sal laughing in a minute here.”
“Take your time, I’m not here for laughs.”
“You can check out the rest of the place and come back here when you hear the laughing.”
“You’re Randy, right?”
“Jadada at the tee shirt place next door told me you knew everything about this place?”
“Sure but I’m not a tour guide or anything.”
“I just wanted to know if you’d seen this person last Wednesday?” I showed him the photo of Thered on my phone.
“Yeah, I saw him, why?”
“He’s been missing since then and I’m a private detective who’s trying to find him.”
“A gumshoe, huh. Well he hadn’t disappeared when I saw him or I wouldn’t have seen him.” He turned and fiddled with something and the box lit up. Sal bent toward me, her hands stretched in front of her like she was going to grab me, opened her mouth, which was missing a tooth, and gave out a crazy laugh as she rocked back and forth. Randy said, “Just a test. Hope I didn’t scare you. Actually, I hope I did, because that’s sort of the point.”
“Yeah, a little,” I said not wanting to hurt Randy’s feelings. “Was there anyone with him?”
“He was with a guy I’ve seen here before. I guess he’s sort of a regular. They played some pinball and then left together.”
“You know his name?”
“Nope. Never talked to him.”
“Can you describe him.”
“He’s pretty average looking. In his forties, just shy of six feet, skinny, losing his hair but still has more than I do,” Randy laughed and ran his right hand over what little hair he had. It’s pretty long, like he’s going to make the most of it while he has it and it’s got some gray.”
I wrote it in my pad and said. “That’s a pretty good description.”
“Well, like I said, he comes in here fairly regularly. Just plays the pinball machines. Always by himself until last Wednesday.”
“You think he lives around here?”
“No idea, but he drives a Tesla X so he has some money. I saw him driving it once. Didn’t look like he was actually driving, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“His hands weren’t on the steering wheel. Might be one of those self-driving jobs.”
“You didn’t get his license plate number did you?”
“Hey, you’re the gumshoe not me,” Randy said with a big grin.
“Okay, thanks for the info.,” I said.
“You didn’t ask me where I saw him in his Tesla?” Randy called out.
I stopped, turned around and walked back. “It wasn’t here?”
“Nope. It was in the Presidio. I was roller skating there.”
“Yeah, it’s a great place to roller skate. My boss, the owner, uses roller skates to get around here so I decided to take it up. “I’ve lost twenty pounds already. Anyway, the Presidio is a great place to skate because it used to be a big army base so there’s all sorts of interesting roads. Anyway, I was skating along with my earbuds in listening to Bruce Springsteen and I see the guy pass me in his Tesla and I decide to see how long I can keep up with him. Sort of a challenge. The speed limit there is pretty low and they really enforce it so I figured I could stay with him for a few minutes if I put my heels to the wheels. Then he turned into a gravel drive that disappeared into a grove of Eucalyptus trees. I couldn’t follow him on my roller skates even if I had been tailing him.” He stopped and added. “I didn’t see any buildings in the direction he was going or any signs so I don’t know where he was going.”
Randy gave me the location where he’d last seen Davros in his Tesla and I thanked him again. I also told him that he could go to Surrealistee and pick out any tee shirt he wanted. It was on me. He said he knew just the one, which was one more than I knew. I had no idea if Davros was going home or some office or just taking a tour of the Presidio but it was a lead and since I didn’t have any others I thought I should check it out. I returned to Surrealistee and asked told Jadada I’d promised Randy his pick of one of her tee shirts.
“I know the one he wants,” she said. “He’s asked me if I’d lower my price but it’s a hand painted limited edition and I told him I couldn’t go lower than eighty dollars.”
Just my luck he’s want the most expensive tee shirt, I thought, but I handed her the cash. Outside the shop I told Celestine what Randy had told me and where he’d seen Davros in his Tesla. She told me the Presidio was close to where we were and that we could get there in less than fifteen minutes. I didn’t argue with her about who we was this time and as soon as Oscar was back in the pack and she was in back I kick started the old Indian and we headed in the direction of the Golden Gate.
We were at the entrance to the gravel drive in less than twenty minutes. I puttered up the gravel through the grove of Eucalyptus trees that smelled like a cough drop orchard. The grove opened into a clearing with a concrete bunker on the far side. In the middle of the front of the bunker was a large steel door. I figured it must be one of the artillery batteries that used to guard the entrance to San Francisco. After we dismounted and I let Oscar out of the backpack we followed the tire tracks in the gravel. They ran straight into the steel door Oscar started barking and scratching at the steel door.
“Thered might be inside, otherwise Oscar wouldn’t be acting like this,” Celestine said.
“I guess it’s blast proof but not smell proof,” I said inspecting the door, which was fairly new. There were rails set into the ground so it could slide open.
“How do we open it? Can you jimmy the lock? Isn’t that what detectives do?”
“In the movies. In any case there’s no lock that I can see to jimmy. I don’t see any keypad, either. It must be an electronic opener like a garage door.”
“So what do we do?”
Fortunately I didn’t have to answer because it started to open. “I think we better hide quick. Someone inside might have heard Oscar barking and they’re coming out to check. I took the handlebars of the bike and pushed it into the bushes, where I was joined by Celestine. The door stopped after it had opened a couple of feet and a man walked out. He looked at Oscar who continued to bark. He matched the description of Davros. He bent down and reached out with his right hand toward Oscar. Oscar immediately bit the hand. As the man yelled in pain, Oscar shot between his legs and through the opening of the door. The man turned and ran after him.
“I’m going inside,” I said. “You stay here and if I don’t come back out in fifteen minutes call the police.” I didn’t wait for an answer but ran toward the door and squeezed through the opening. The door closed behind me and I found myself in a large room occupied by a Tesla. There were steel blast doors on either side and in the far wall there was an open passageway. I could hear Oscar’s bark coming from the passageway, which was lit by lights set about knee high in the walls. The passageway was about twenty feet long and slanted downward. I decided to let the air out of all of the tires. Tesla’s engines may not need gas but their tires need air. Then I crept along it until I got to an open steel door at the end.
I looked through the doorway. There was a windowless about twenty feet deep and twice that wide. The walls had been drywalled and painted white and the floors were a gray tile. Large computer screens were attached to the far wall and there were half a dozen computer workstations. At one of the stations was a man with red hair. The ankle of his right leg was in a handcuff that was attached to the leg of the workstation. Oscar was barking at the man who stood behind him, who matched Davros’ description.
“This is your dog?” Davros asked Thered.
“Yeah, his name is Oscar.”
“How did he find us?”
“He’s got quite a nose.” I said, stepping into the room.
“Who the hell are you?” Davros asked.
“Someone you didn’t expect. I’m a private eye and I’ve been hired to find Thered. Looks like I succeeded.”
“Thered’s working on an important project for my company, Morbius.”
“Do you usually handcuff your employees to their desks. In fact, didn’t you quit, Thered?”
Thered nodded and said. “Yes. We met at the Musee Mecanique and I told him I was quitting rather than finish the game. He agreed to destroy the game if I would stay on. In fact, he said he’d drive me back to Morbius so we could destroy the game program. After I got in his car he pulled out a gun...”
“You mean this gun?” Davros said, pulling a small Beretta Pico out of his right front pants pocket.
Thered looked at Davros, then at me before he continued. “He pulled at the gun he’s holding, handcuffed my leg to this workstation and told me I had to finish the game. Then he used my iPhone to send out an email to Darren saying I’d quit Morbius.”
Davros said to me. “Speaking of quitting, how much do you want to walk away and forget all of this? Just name your price. A half a million? A million?”
“Before we discuss severance packages, why is this game so important?”
“It’s not just any game,” Thered answered. “The people who play it will become addicted to the point that they need to play it all the time. When there are thousands of people playing all over the world…”
“Thousands, there will be millions of players,” Davros said. “It will spread all over the world.”
“What happens when you reach the magic number?” I asked.
“I will threaten to end the game unless the players follow my commands. They’ll be so hooked they’ll do anything I want to keep playing. They’ll be like sheep.”
“And you want to fleece them.”
Davros smiled broadly and said. “Fleece them. I didn’t know detectives were so humorous.”
“That’s because we deal with a lot of funny business.”
“Why don’t you just name your price and just walk out of here so you can be rich as well as funny.”
While Davros was talking I stuck my right hand into the pocket of my bomber jacket. I extended the index finger and pointed the pocket at him. “Why don’t you unlock Thered and he, Oscar and I walk out of here.”
Davros stopped waving his pistol and said. “You know this bunker isn’t just blast proof it’s soundproof. It’s where they kept the shells for the big guns that were mounted above us. The walls are six feet thick concrete. No one will hear any gunshots.”
“Except us,” I said. “It will be a hell of an echo chamber in here if we start blasting away at each other and I forgot to bring my earplugs.”
“Why don’t you show me the gun you have in your pocket.”
“Why, you want so see who’s is bigger?”
“How do I even know you have a gun.”
“If you point that peashooter at me you’ll find out.”
Davros started to slowly raise and swing the pistol in his right hand in my direction. I pushed my extended index finger against the inside of my pocket and tracked his pistol. “You shouldn’t try to bluff a game maker,” he said. I was beginning to think he was right as the barrel of his pistol was almost pointed at me. Then I noticed Thered bending down and whispering in Oscar’s ear. Oscar leapt into the air and clamped his jaws on Davro’s right wrist. The gun fell to the floor as Davros shook Oscar off. Oscar picked up the pistol in his mouth and started running around the room. Davros ran out of the room. I could hear his footsteps echo in the passageway, then a car door opened and closed followed by the sound of the bunker door sliding open door. I didn’t hear the Tesla of course. Oscar came over to me and dropped the gun at my feet. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Thered told me where Davros kept the handcuff key and I unlocked him.
“Aren’t you going after him?” Thered said, standing up.
“My job was to find you not Davros. Still, we might as well go outside. This place is giving me a serious case of claustrophobia.”
We walked through the passageway and then the large room where the Tesla had been parked. Celestine was standing in the open doorway.
“Celestine?” Thered said.
“I missed you,” she said as they hugged.
“You saw Davros escape in his Tesla?”
“I sure did. The door opened and he came out like a rocket.”
“Too bad he got away.”
“He won’t get far,” Celestine said. “I could see that his tires were flat.”
I was back in the RV the next day sitting in my Lazy Boy. I’d just poured myself a whiskey. It was a local brand called Krobar, not that I was thinking of going on a bender. I was just looking forward to some quiet contemplation facilitated by mild inebriation. Suddenly there was a rap on the door. I yelled that I wasn’t selling tofu cheeseburgers but the door opened and Celestine walked in. So did Samantha and Thered and, bringing up the rear, Oscar.
“They caught Niles,” Celestine announced, looked around and then walked past me and sat in the drivers seat. Thered and Samantha crowded onto one of the benches at my kitchen table-office office desk and Oscar jumped on my lap and started sniffing the glass of whiskey that I’d placed in the cupholder of the Lazy Boy right arm. If he’d been a Saint Bernard he would have brought his own.
“Who’s Niles?” I asked.
“Niles Naughton is Davros’ real name,” Thered answered. “He’s probably going to plead insanity: That only an insane person would think they could use a game to unleash an army of cyber zombies on the world.”
“He’s got some high priced lawyers representing him.” Samantha said and rattled off a bunch of somebody, somebody and somebody names. “It’s one of the oldest firms in San Francisco. It’s been around for more than a hundred years.”
“So he hired a firm of dead lawyers who are going to claim that the idea of cyber zombies is crazy. Doesn’t sound insane to me,” I said.
“Sane or insane the aura that he gives off shows that an evil spirit is at work.”
“Speaking of which, can I offer any of you some of this spirit?” I reached for the bottle of Krobar that was in the Lazy Boys left hand cupholder. “It seems to work pretty good.” No one accepted my offer so I poured myself a little more and said. “In any case, even if the insanity plea is accepted he’ll be locked up for a long time.”
“Well, we just wanted to let you know and thank you for rescuing Erik,” Samantha said.
“What happened to Thered?”
“”I’ve decided there’s more to life than playing games,” Erik said, standing up beside Samantha and putting his arm around her waist.
“Erik is moving in with me,” Samantha announced.
“What about Oscar? I thought your landlord didn’t allow pets.”
“We were thinking that since you and Oscar hit it off so well you might take care of him until we find a place that allows pets.”
Before I could say no, Oscar barked twice, then settled into my lap. Maybe my judgement was bent by the Krobar, but I said. “Okay, but just until you find another place.”
Celestine joined Samantha as Erik opened the door. I would have gotten up to say goodbye but I didn’t want to wake Oscar. “Looks like you’ve got a vacancy at the top of your Celestial B N B,” I said.
“I’ve always wanted to turn the space into an observatory so now’s my chance,” She answered and then hesitated and said. “I hope you come up and see me sometime.”
I raised my glass in a toast. “Here’s looking at you.”
She smiled and left. I wasn’t sure if the smile was real or surreal, but, I’m only an RV Detective so what the hell do I know.