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“Aardvark . . . it’s aardvark.”

A man sat sprawled out on a long leather couch, slowly closing and opening his eyes.  He was an average sized man with an average sized build.  His green, beady eyes snaked this way and that, examining every detail of the odd word.  His exposed hair resembled a short, trimmed hedge line.  His ears perked up upon hearing a response.  Immediately his face took on a distasteful look, as if he were swishing vinegar. 

“Are you sure it’s aardvark?  That doesn’t seem right.”

He was speaking to a slender, professionally dressed woman, slouched down in a large arm chair.  Her long, pampered hair fell loosely, and was made even more stunning by her deep, brown eyes.  She was carelessly holding a dictionary in one hand while working on a crossword puzzle in the other.  Her demeanor expressed the obvious—she was both annoyed and bored. 

“Thomas, it’s always been aardvark.  Why would aardvark come after alligator in the dictionary?  And besides that, there’s got to be a million words between them.”

Thomas sat up slightly in his chair, his face adorned with a cheesy grin.  His mind was crafting a playful jab of sarcasm. 

“It’s not the order that matters; what matters is that it’s there.” 

Barb put down her crossword puzzle slightly.  She gave him a look of complete annoyance.  Her eyes danced up and down while her brain continued to process the ridiculous remark.

“Honestly, why do you come in here?  You know this place costs a fortune, just for you to play games.  But yet, here you are, week after week.  I just don’t know what you want from me, Thomas.”

Thomas looked out the window by the plush leather couch.  He saw two small boys running down the street without a care, streaming two hovering balloons in the air behind them.  He felt introspective, but just not enough to care. 

“I don’t know . . .  just trying to figure myself out.  Figure out why my tick doesn’t tock.  And my girlfriend says it helps level me out.”

Barb rolled her eyes. The crossword was now sitting in her lap of finely sewn linen. 

“Level you out?”

Thomas glanced back at the sudden spark of interest that had pried its way free. 

“Yeah, she says I’m more bearable after I come in here—whatever that means.  I guess it just is what it is.”

“That’s putting it lightly.”

The heavy handed remark struck dead on.  Without hesitation, a look of concern etched its way across Thomas’ face.

“Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side.  What am I paying you for here?”

BARB flung her head back and took a deep breath.  Her professionalism was fading into a pit of childish indulgences.  She was done playing nice but knew that monetary constraints contractually obligated her to behave civilly and they tightened around her like an anaconda. 

“Oh, I don’t know . . . to help you . . . help you discover the inner you that’s just dying to get out.”

Her comment had bin dipped in a viscous vat of sarcasm.  The poison apple had been delivered; now she was just waiting for Thomas to bite. 

“You know I’m getting engaged, right?”

Suddenly, Barb’s sarcastic facade was crumbled by the sheer force of her insatiable feminine curiosity.

“You’re getting engaged? To an actual living, breathing woman?”

Thomas stood up and adjusted his finely pressed suit.  Inside his pocket his badge shifted loose, slightly peeking itself over the brim of his pocket.  He quickly put it back inside. 

“You know, maybe it’s you that should be in this chair sometime.  Those claws are razor sharp.” 

“That’s great, Thomas!  This could be a real breakthrough for you.  This could help you overcome the trust barrier we’ve been . . . I’ve been talking about.”

Thomas looked lost in thought.  In his mind, he was sucking in all of the interesting details of the room, one-by-one.  So many oddities that his mind just couldn’t let go.  With lightning speed, he was dissecting each thing with surgical precision. 

“What happened to your little boy toy?  I don’t see any of his pictures, and you have a bunch of things missing that I’m assuming were memoirs of good times.  I really miss that picture of you two and the cat.  That was a really fat cat.  You know . . .  they can have heart attacks too, right?”

Barb got off her couch and crossed her arms. 

“Thomas, seriously—I don’t think that is any of your business.”

Thomas paced around in small circles.  His brain was doing it again; there didn’t seem to be an off switch.  There were so many questions that needed to be explored logically.  The details of the room were all fighting for prominence in his queue of thought. 

“You’re right—I apologize—I know I can be difficult.”

Barb took a deep, meditative breath and sat back down in her chair. 

“I just don’t understand why you come here wanting help but then just spend your time autopsying my room while memorizing a dictionary.”

“Room I can’t help; the dictionary is to level me out.  If I can target something then it calms me down.  Plus it’s just good practice.”

Barb crossed her legs before adjusting her tight skirt around her waist.  Her long legs gleamed in the room’s carefully directed light.  She let out a tiny sliver of a grin at his comment. 

“Well, you suck at it.  At least you can’t seem to put things in order.  But it would be more advantageous, if you will, to actually focus on your real issues from time-to-time, don’t you think?  I mean, look at some of these words in here—aardwolf, abbozzo, abyssopelagic—what does that even mean?”

Thomas raised an eyebrow as if it was obvious. 

“Page twenty six—abyssopelagic— of, like, or pertaining to the depths of the ocean . . .”

Barb looked slightly impressed by the absurd answer, but she quickly dismissed it as she had long ago become accustomed to his circus act.

“Why on earth would you remember that?”

Again, Thomas conveyed with body language his disbelief.

“Abyss, the movie, I loved that movie.  That’s how I remember that page, word, and definition amongst the others.  It’s just a simple relation.  Eidetic correlation is what they call it.  Just has to stick out.”

As he stood still pondering all of the other words and their attached definitions, he couldn’t help but feel a weird sense of being.  Just what exactly was his problem?  Years of living with his freakish ability had led him to be both praised and ostracized.  But what else could he be?  The answer would have to wait.  His phone was ringing.

“Oh, no  . . . we were just starting to connect,” Barb said sarcastically. 

Thomas gave her a snappy look of annoyance.  He couldn’t help that he was the way he was.  Slithering his phone from his pants pocket, he answered. 

“Tommy, you know that place down on second Ave., the big office building that smells like old donuts?”

Now this was his language.  He was horrible with directions, found them to be completely boring.  But a giant building that smelled of old donuts was a clear map. 

“Yup . . .”

The phone clicked and went to a harmonious chime. 

“You leaving so soon?” probed Barb, twirling her pen in her hand and now sitting comfortably back in her chair, working on her crossword puzzle.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, Barb.  Men like me just can’t get any breaks.  Besides, those crossword puzzles aren’t going to finish themselves.”

Barb rolled her eyes before sinking even further back into her cushy chair.  She stuck one hand high up into the air and gave a firm goodbye wave. 

“Good luck on your engagement.  I’m sure it’ll be the most romantic bucket of banter I’ve ever heard come next time.”

“Barb, you’re far too sentimental.  You’ve got a legal battle on your hands, anyways.  I hope you get that porpoise feline back.”

Barb’s eyes narrowed.  She refused to look up but it was obvious the comment had struck a nerve.

“I’d ask how you figured that out, but I know it’s pointless.  Just know your special aptitude has a way of especially pissing me off!”

“It’s in the details, Barb . . . always is.”

Thomas walked out of the office looking down at his watch.  Thirty five minutes and thirty five seconds.  Thirty five, thirty five—he’d done it.  The brief moment of complex pleasure created a moment of reprieve.  What a silly thing to care about; matching minutes to seconds.  But he was jubilant in the moment.  Now it was time to be normal; normal enough to get to the old donut building.  To do this he’d need to put his cluttered brain noise on mute.  And then there was the driving. He hated driving, passing so many interesting things without stopping to delve a bit further.  It was torture. 

Heading to the office, his phone buzzed again.  This time it was a simple text message that had come from his girlfriend. 

C U Later LUV U

The simplicity of the message was beautiful in its apathy.  So much time had been saved by merely using the correct letters.  The brain could do the rest—one C, three U’s, one L, and just one coherent word—there was so little and yet so much. 

“Hey! Watch out, moron!” screamed a man jumping out of the way of his car.

Thomas shook his head.  Had he really just lost his focus to a text message?  Looking back, he saw the man give him a furious gesture of approval while standing dead center in a cross walk.  This came as a bitter realization that made him cringe. 

Seriously, Tommy, a text message, it’s just a stupid text message.  What’s wrong with me?

A small dose of adrenaline hit his head from the close encounter, jostling his brain a bit.  He needed to stay focused.  He was now on the job and heading to what undoubtedly would be another heinous crime.  He needed to get it together.  He needed to make a phone call.  Letting his phone dangle near his ear as he struggled to navigate through the crowded streets of the city, he pressed the call button and waited.

“Tommy, I’m already at the door.  You want to carpool this one?”

“Like always, I’ll pick you up, you drive.”

He clicked the phone shut and threw it down onto the car seat.  Within a few moments he arrived at the doors of a large office building.  There standing in front was his partner.  He wore a fine, pressed suit that was much like  the man who wore it.  His hair was carefully groomed, as was every other detail about him.  He frowned upon seeing the front of the car.  Quickly, Thomas got out, taking a deep breath in an attempt to shed himself of all the anxiety he’d built up on the way there. 

“What’s this?  You ding my car, Tommy?  You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Thomas looked at the front of the car and suddenly remembered the tragic demise of a metal trash can that he had sent barreling into a dark alley when he failed to stop soon enough.  He had been caught up in thought, trying to understand why some of the sidewalk slabs appeared to be equally spaced while others weren’t.  Was there a reason for this?  What was it trying to tell him?  The trash can’s fate at that point was text book.

“Oh, that . . . I don’t know what that is . . . wasn’t it like that before?”

The man circled over and snatched the keys from his hands. 

“You know, there are two hundred and six bones in the human body, but we’ve only got one car.  Maybe it’s only fair I break one of those bones every time you screw things up!”

Thomas ground his teeth, realizing that the impact left a scar far worse than he’d expected.  Why did they make trash cans so hefty? 

“Your right shoelace is coming undone.  I’ve seen it slip ever since you started moving.  And it’s good to see you too, Bob.”

Bob got into the car, as did Thomas.  Bob looked completely frustrated. Unable to resist the temptation any longer, he glanced down.  Sure enough, his right shoelace was on the brink of coming undone.  He hated the awkward feeling of realizing that such a minute detail had escaped him.  But when working with someone like Thomas, it was an everyday occurrence.

“You know, they should lock people like you up; just amazing to me that you even get out of bed without counting the threads of your sheets.”

Thomas began to respond but was cut off by a sharp, pointed finger.  The answer to that was obvious, as was the feather count of his pillow.  This and many other useless details came flooding into his mind.

“Shut up.  I don’t want to hear it.”

The two of them sped off towards the predefined location to fulfill their professional obligations.  As they drove, Bob began to rant about his day thus far.  The politics in the force had driven him to confide in the least likely candidate to care.  But he needed to vent somewhere.  He smelled of a mixture of spearmint and coffee, with a hint of cheap deodorant.  Screeching the car to a sudden stop, he abruptly stepped out, and began walking into a large building. 

Smells just like old donuts.  Actually, come to think of it, when have I smelled old donuts? thought Thomas.

He followed Bob’s lead, trailing him up a short flight of stairs into the edifice.  Once inside, they were greeted by a vibrant, bright-eyed young officer.  Both he and Bob flashed their credentials before the man spoke.

“They’re upstairs.  It looks pretty nasty.  Hope you’re okay with blood.”

Instantly, Thomas cringed.  The thought of blood made his toes curl; such a thick liquid that held so many intimate details.  It was a gross understatement to say that it didn’t repulse him.  He’d always hated having to deal with it, and it was severe irony that now he had to deal with it almost all the time. 

“Blood, you hear that, Tommy?  Hope you brought your mittens.”

Thomas shot Bob a nauseated look.  He was going to be fine.  He would just deal with things, articulately.

“I’ll be fine, let’s just get this over with.”

Into the elevator they went.  Once inside, Thomas watched Bob push the number twenty-three.  In his mind the number’s relevance began to grow and grow like a snowball as it rolled around in all the sticky correlations.  By the time the doors chimed and slid open, he had sapped every bit of information   available from the elevator’s seemingly meaningless role. 

“Twenty-three like MJ, the angel number twenty-three, or the axis of the earth which is twenty-three point five degrees.  But the point five seems off.”

Bob looked down at his gun then back at Thomas. 

“I have enough bullets, should I do you or me first?”

 He then shook his head and pressed forward into a room filled with commotion.  Investigators darted this way and that, all burying their heads in paperwork and deep thought.  All seemed blissfully unaware of the others’ presence. 

“Just let me do the talking, like always.  You can alienate everybody later.  For now, we at least need to know what’s going on.”

Thomas rolled his eyes.  He started to respond with his own witty remark when his eyes scanned over a trail of blood that had deeply stained the fibrous white carpet.  The blood had been there for quite some time, its darkened color divulging its timeline to a trained eye.  From there it led towards the center of the hustle and bustle that shrouded the remainder of the clues in mystery. 

“Detectives, it’s good to see that you both made it safe and sound.”

Out from the midst of the crowded room, came the towering figure of a very heavy set man.  His oversized body breached many points of his undersized shirt exposing the skin below.  He came at them quickly, stuffing a chunk of his shirt clumsily into his pants.

“Pete—Pete Smith—still have no clue how a guy like that hit the top of the food chain around here,” mumbled Bob.

Thomas remained silent.  He was looking over Pete in great detail.  He looked well fed, as usual, as well as rested and uppity.  His skin was slightly tanned and he had actually added a few extra pounds to his already abundant figure.  The jiggling movement of his gut mesmerized Thomas.  How many fat cells were in there?  Had Pete always been so jiggly?

“As I live and breathe, Bob Smith and the legend Tommy Gun.”

As his decree bellowed through the room due to his powerful voice, he looked at Thomas strangely, who was still staring at his stomach.

“My face is up here; you like the package so much you’re going to have to sign.”

Bob elbowed Thomas in the side.  Immediately he came back into the moment feeling very embarrassed.

“It’s Thomas Ghune—the g is silent—I got it from my great granddad.  So it’s actually Thomas Hune, or Hoon, I guess.”

Pete looked perplexed by the pointless correction of pronunciation.  Of course he knew that his real name wasn’t Tommy Gun.  But Tommy Gun stuck.  It brought to him nostalgic memories of a time long since passed.  Shrugging it off, he continued.

“Got a real busted watermelon over there . . . I suggest you keep yourselves near a trash can; especially you, Tommy.”

Thomas waived the comment off.

“I’ll be fine; I’m working on my gag reflex.”

“Right, whatever, but really guys, this one is looking to be your standard popped top.  Big cat on Wall Street poised to make it big suddenly tanks, is my bet.  Then, Pow! Puts one right through the temple door.”

Pete made the motion of a pistol being pressed up against the head using his thumb and forefinger. 

“We’ve got this place pretty scrubbed, but as always, it awaits some of your special feedback.”

As Pete spoke, he locked his gaze upon Thomas.  Without saying the actual word he had just called him a freak. 

“Feel free to roam.  I’ll do my best to clear a path.”

Pete clapped his hands and turned.  As he did, the chunk of tucked-in shirt fell loose and began dangling in the air. 

“With his paycheck you think he could afford to buy a shirt that fits,” said Bob, rolling his eyes. 

“Yeah, well, we can’t all look as good as you in a five dollar suit,” retorted Thomas, sneaking past him.

He immediately began to scrutinize the room in its entirety.  A large corner office filled with never been touched books and pretentious nick-knacks, the ideal dwelling place for a money-hungry up and comer.  The room was perfectly organized.  Every little item had its own place, all meticulously organized to the highest degree.

Where to start?

Now his mind’s cogs and gears were spinning.  This is what he lived for.  The nonstop prompting and begging of his brain for an audience was gloriously hushed and content.  Things were just starting to pick up.  Walking towards the center of the room he immediately caught a glimpse of the bloodied corpse.  The hollowed out fragments of what once was the man’s head sat like a thousand pieces to a puzzle strewn about the floor.  Without warning, he was on the verge of throwing up. 

“Trash can, where’s a trash can?”

He plowed his way towards what appeared to be a trash can and let it all loose.  The purge brought a wave of relief.  Taking a few deep breaths, he got back up onto his feet.

“Tommy, you just puked in a vase!” yelled Pete, shaking his head.

“Sorry, must have been something in the air.  I’m good now.”

A group of officers gave him a very concerned look before shaking their own heads while mumbling streams of obscenities.   It was clear that they would much rather have him incarcerated than to be allowed to freely roam their precious crime scenes. 

Looking up from the vase, he followed a row of books that were randomly spaced apart.  His eyes darted back and forth, taking in all the interesting details.  There were history, law, medicine, and finance books, all carefully bound in rustic looking leather.  What a waste.  Their order was categorized carefully, their orientation all the same.  All the same except for one—a law book detailing investment legalities.  It was out of order sitting in finance; perhaps placed there by mistake, but in lieu of the painstaking order of everything else, it seemed odd. 

“Tommy, you going to come take a look at this guy, or not?”

Thomas closed his eyes.  He knew it was going to be difficult to keep from spewing his anxiety.  But he had a job to do.  Gathering himself up, he stepped up to the dead man’s body.  Instantly, he could feel the sea of apprehension locked in his bowels begin to swish around.  Swallowing a tennis ball-sized lump in his throat, he began investigating the scene. 

A man in his forties, dressed to kill.  His perfectly polished shoes gleamed against the room’s light.  Everything else appeared to be, much like the room, in perfect order, with the obvious exception of the chaos that was his head.  Words could not adequately describe the carnage that a well-placed bullet had inflicted. 

“Weapon; where’s the weapon?”

A man came forward holding a plastic bag gingerly.  He put it in front of Thomas to view.  It was a beautifully designed pistol, most likely custom.  A large bored-out hole on the gun divulged the powerful caliber that it was equipped for, a weapon that had some serious fire power. 

“How many shots?”

For a moment the man fumbled around as if trying to ask the gun how many bullets it had left.  But then his memory brought back the answer.

“One, just one—in fact, the clip only had one bullet—must have kept it empty except for the one that did him in.”

Thomas shook his head.  Something seemed off about that description.  Why was he keeping his gun empty up until now?  Most guns held some sort of protective purpose; what purpose did an empty gun have?  Perhaps it was more decorative than purposeful.  A lot of ideas were beginning to pool in his head, drowning out the commotion around him.  Standing back up, he walked around to the desk.  The man had shot himself in front of it, or so it would seem.  On the desk were piles of papers, notices, fancy pens, staplers, and a computer.  It was the computer that peaked his interest.  Looking down at the keyboard he shifted his head slightly to let the light reflect at an acute angle.  Most of the keys were gleaming with reflected light, but some were heavily fudged from repetitive use by a human hand.  And a few looked to be recently wiped.  The oily residue was pressed all about, leaving a strange, texture less pattern

Good ol’ QWERTY never lies.

On the screen was a log in prompt.  It stared back at him defiantly, daring him to find the right password to unlock its secrets.  Again he looked back at the papers.  They all appeared to be neatly stacked, all organized into distinct piles.  Without hesitation, his hand wiggled its way down to one of the top drawers. 

A man this organized probably keeps the good stuff inside. 

He tugged on a few drawers only to find them locked.  Out of frustration, he grabbed hold of one tightly and began to bang it back and forth.  A few of the men in the room turned to face the calamity.

“Hey, careful buddy; this is a crime scene, not your apartment.”

Thomas pretended to smile at the ill intent expressed in the comment.  One day they’d just shut up and let him work.  As his hand crept to one final drawer, he tugged and miraculously it came open.  Looking inside he could see a sloppy, messy, pile of paper and objects.  All were completely out of order, obviously disturbed.  Letters, legal documents, stat sheets, and account ledgers created the sea of sharp edges he was now captivated by. 

Hello there, Mr. Wall Street.  What have we been up to?

He reached towards the drawer, and then stopped. It suddenly hit him.  His brain had brought back a stream of relationships that it was tying together on its own.  He didn’t need to look inside.  Instead, he shut it and returned to the dead body.

“Married, significant other?”

This time another onlooker glanced up to see him. 

“Are you talking to me?”

Thomas shrugged. 

“I’m talking to anyone.”

“Forgive my partner—he’s a little off today,” said Bob, suddenly rushing to Thomas’s side.

“I thought I said let me do the talking . . . didn’t I say that?” 

Thomas stuck his tongue in his cheek.  He was trying to prevent all of his logical vomit from pouring out.  He had so much to say, but needed just a few more things. 

“Was this fat cat in some sort of relationship?  That’s all I was asking, seems pretty tame.”

Bob put his eyes back in his head.  It was clear that he thought it was anything but, coming from such a human oddity as Thomas.

“No idea. Let me check on that.  And please, for the love of sanity, just keep quiet until I get back.”

Thomas nodded, but it was just an automated response.  His eyes had caught something else—the man’s ring finger.  An indentation of skin creased up in two spots making a subtle valley of flesh.  The spacing was adequate enough to fit what most would call a band of devotion, a ring.  But the ring was missing.  It seemed odd that someone so meticulously put together would forget such an emblem of conviction.  Or had it been purposeful?

Now why did you go and take that off?

It was now becoming quite clear, at least to his relentless mind.  He rose up just in time to have his partner cue in some additional details.

“Married, and happily from the sounds of it.  At least that’s the story his mortified wife is giving.” 

“Or at least that’s what it looks like” added Thomas.

Thomas dug his fingers inside the dead man’s pants.  Everyone in the room froze.  Their jaws dropped to the floor in disgust.  Gasps could be heard throughout the room.  Here they were professionally piecing together a case and Thomas appeared to be busy fondling a deceased man’s private area. 

“Detective Ghune, just what do you think you’re doing!?” screamed Pete, barely able to catch his breath from the shock.

Ignoring everyone else, Thomas reached down around the inner line of the man’s pockets—and there it was.  It was slender, unobtrusive, and well hidden; a nicely sewn in pocket to keep anyone who might be interested guessing.  A pocket put there with a tight-lipped purpose.  As Thomas ripped his hand free from the deceased man’s pants, he threw it out into the open, elated.

“Gotcha! I knew it would be there!”

One of the men in the room braced himself against the wall, looking poised to faint.  The lack of professionalism on full display was overwhelming.  Many looked away, trying to shed themselves of all the awkwardness that filled the room like a sweltering, hot air balloon.  Doing his best to take a diplomatic approach towards Thomas, Bob whispered into Thomas’s ear.

“And just what did you find there, crazy man?  The rest of us would like to know seeing that you just groped a dead man.”[B1] [PMACUAA2] [B3] 

Thomas looked down at his hand and cringed, realizing just where it had been.  But his mind was locked on its target and wasn’t about to let go.  Like a streaming torpedo, he moved about the room as all looked on.

“This wasn’t a suicide.  This man was murdered.”

Instantly the room began to buzz with commotion.  Questions and angry remarks flew through the air like fiery arrows.  Bob grabbed Thomas by the collar and drug him over towards the door.  There they were joined by a wide eyed Pete who was wheezing frantically. 

“You boys sure know how to throw a party.  I’m assuming you can back some of that up?”

Bob hurled his hands into the air and moaned.

“Talk to the freak—I need to sit down.”

Pete looked at Thomas with a shocked expression imprinted on his face.  One of his juicy, fat lips drooped slightly open to one side.  He spoke with a patient drawl, trying to bring himself back together.

“Okay, Thomas, let’s hear it before somebody gets burned at the stake.”

Thomas lifted up the ring.  His eyes narrowed in on it making him practically go cross-eyed.

“It’s the ring.  I found it in one of those inside pockets that I’ve never understood why they exist.  That with the books, computer, desk, position of the body—it’s pretty obvious really.”

Pete slapped a hand to his face.  Thomas’ banter had lost him completely.

“Tommy, you’ve got to explain it to us humans, alright?”

Thomas rolled his eyes.  He was frustrated with the slow progress around him.  He carefully explained his reasoning to Pete in an attempt to free himself of the sticky attention he’d gained.

“The books are all in order except for one; a book on investment law.  No surprise there. This guy had investments . . . a lot of them.  But he wouldn’t have put it back there.  He would have put it back in its place.  Everything here has a place—even his stupid pens and staplers.  Someone else had obviously put it back.  But that wasn’t all; there was the position of the body.  Why leave his desk, his comfort zone, to do something very, very uncomfortable?  Easy—he was led there by a very seductive, habitual routine.  Then there was the computer.  People use certain keystrokes over and over again, leaving a tiny layer of residue behind.  Nothing special about that apart from the few keys that had been smudged.  I found it odd that they were smudged, which to me meant one thing—a glove.  But why would someone need to wear a glove? Because that someone didn’t want to be found, of course.  Then I looked into the drawers; all locked except for one broken drawer at the bottom that had been forcefully opened.  A mess of papers, someone had been searching for something.  Then, of course, this resolved the question I had about the gun—a decorative gun that blasted just one single bullet?  I don’t think so.  This thing was planted.  It’s probably got more of his prints on it than his toothbrush.  And then last but not least was the ring.  It really came down to that.  The indentations on his finger were subtle, but present.  This guy was happy—happily cheating on his wife.  Why else would he need to take it off?  Who was he hiding it from?  But I wanted to see it for myself.  Once I did, this thing was old news.  His lover dropped him like a bad habit.  She came in ready to do the job under the cover of another one of their late night visits.  Only she hadn’t thought it all out.  Had he erased all of their emails?  What else held a memory of her in his desk?  I have no doubts that his cell phone is probably missing as well.  She must have thought she had cleaned up every shred of evidence and removed her gloves, but she had forgotten one thing; one damned book.  Out of habit, she had picked it up and put it back without thinking.  She knew him well, well enough to form such a habit.  He’d probably asked her to do it a million times.  This means she’s close—any attractive secretaries in this place?  You’ll probably find her prints on the book.”

Everyone within earshot sat quietly.  The long winded explanation had them dumbstruck.  No one was quite sure what to say; the logic seemed sound enough, but the amount of information that Thomas had gathered so quickly was staggering.  After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Pete finally resumed being himself.

“You heard the man, scrub!  I got to do everything around here?”

The room erupted back into a flurry of movement.  People looked both upset and yet impressed at the same time.  Pete grabbed Thomas by the shoulders and looked at him smugly. 

“That’s my boy.  You’re worth that stupid high grade paycheck we give you every month—every penny.  Just one thing I don’t understand.  Why did she do it?  What was she aiming to get out of this?”

Thomas put on a prideful smirk.  He responded boldly.

“I don’t know.  That’s not what I do.  Do I look like some freak that can somehow understand these psychos?  You’re barking up the wrong tree.  I look at the details and facts—that’s it.  Figuring out the motive and all that sentimental crap is your job.”

Pete looked surprised for a moment, but came back warmly.  The entire event had excited him so much that beads of sweat had formed and were plopping down his round face.  He dabbed at them with a small neckerchief. 

“Well, I’m glad you do what you do.  Sure speeds things up.  Why don’t we meet up later, drinks on me?”

Thomas shook his head. 

“Can’t—got a big night planned— finally going to pop the question.”

“You’re really going to do it?  I still can’t believe that you found someone that you think will say yes.  You didn’t mail order her, did you?” interjected Bob, encroaching on them.

Thomas curled one of his lips up in annoyance.  He didn’t like anyone talking that way about the woman he would soon be asking to marry.  But he knew Bob and knew that he liked to push buttons.  Bob behaved, at times, like a two year old on a piano; mashing all the keys together just trying to get the biggest reaction out of it. 

“Have a good one.  Let me know how this goes and if I nailed it.  Also, let me know who the woman was.  I live vicariously through these people.”

 [B1]Whose hand is Bob ripping = his own or Thomas’? And who is Bob whispering to? This all needs to be clarified.



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