“The motels along 41 were once stolid, middle-class motor inns where Northern families would pass a week’s vacation in a state of mutual loathing and general disappointment.” Cusper Lynn
The Occidental Ape
By Cusper Lynn
Note: There are two more chapters yet to post in Cusper Lynn’s serialized novel, after which the entire work will be available for downloading through Weekly Hubris.
SARASOTA Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—9/9/2013—A car is nothing more or less than a means of conveyance. I don’t regard a car as desirable and I don’t have a covetous nature, particularly in the area of cars. But for the second time this afternoon I have been forced to draw comparisons between my circumstances and those with whom I’m involved professionally.
“Damn it, do I have the shittiest car on the planet?” I thought.
“What?” Detective Ballinger asked me as we got out of his unmarked car.
Apparently, I had said it rather than thought it.
“Nothing,” I said.
The shattered window of Gadget’s E Class sedan was beautifully tragic. The elegant line of her showroom-perfect Mercedes Benz was marred by an obscene gash to the passenger side window that only served to underline the sublime and subtle aesthetics of the car’s design. It was lewd, it was obscene, it was . . .
“I was just getting my skates on when Judy and Alex yelled at him,” Gadget was explaining to a patrol officer.
Detective Ballinger charged off to where Gadget was being interviewed. I drifted over to the car. The interior was, save for the shattered glass, pristine. The carpets, the dashboard, even the back seat were without signs of any human habitation. How was it possible not to have a pile of papers, half a dozen partially-eaten potato chip packs and candy wrappers lying in the back seat? Was Gadget a Stepford Wife? Oh, Dear God, was that really a checkerboard hatch pattern in the carpet from vacuuming? Who did that? What sort of anal-retentive deviant would . . .
“Cusper, Cusper, can you believe it?” a distant voice asked.
No, I absolutely could not. A tear was welling up in the corner of my right eye. It was all so tragically gorgeous, this car, and the violence was incomprehensible.
“They took the Leopold package,” Gene said to me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, irritated at having my moment with the Mercedes Benz interrupted by anyone, much less Gene.
“I was here for Gadget’s practice,” Gene said.
I noted the large knot on his forehead where he had been butted by the team captain the previous night. “Are you sure you should be up and walking?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” he said, reflexively touching the bump.
“Did you see what happened?” I asked, returning my attention to the interior of the Mercedes..
“I didn’t see the break-in,” the balding, 30-something, documentary filmmaker said, “but I did see them chase the guy off.”
“Chase him off?” I said, astonished at this notion.
“Yes,” Gene said, pointing at the stairs to the skating rink. “I ran out front there and saw Alex and Judy running after him. Then Gadget came flying out on her skates and passed them. She caught up with him over there at the corner.”
My gaze followed Gene’s outstretched arm to the intersection of Beneva and Bee Ridge and I noted blood spattered on the sidewalk.
“Is Gadget all right?” I asked.
“Bruised a bit,” Gadget said, skating up to where I stood. “The blood is all his.”
Detective Ballinger and the patrol officer were a few paces behind her.
“That’s good to hear.” I said.
“You were showing us where you caught up with the perpetrator?” the patrol officer prompted.
“Sure,” Gadget said, and skated off to the corner where the blood spatters were.
“A word?” Detective Ballinger said, and took me by the elbow.
“What?” I said, confused by the harsh change in the detective’s demeanor and distressed at being led away from Gadget’s car.
“We did not have this conversation,” he began.
“What conversation?” I asked.
“The one we aren’t having now.” he said.
“As I said, what conversation?”
“We are going to wrap things up here, fast and I want you, Gadget and the other guy . . .” Detective Ballinger paused.
“Gene,” I suggested.
“Gene,” he agreed. “The three of you are going to be unavailable to anyone except me for the next 24 hours. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal.” I said. “But . . .”
“Yes?” said Detective Ballinger.
“We have our webinar tomorrow evening and we have to start setting up by 3:00 . . .” I said.
“. . . close enough to 24 hours. Just keep a low profile and don’t make yourself available to our mutual friends from the Bureau,” the detective said.
“Understood,” I said.
Detective Ballinger left me to finish his interview with Gadget and to have a private word with the patrol officer. My surmise as to his warning filled me with a sense of foreboding. This quickly bloomed into a full-blown panic. I desperately needed reassurance, comforting and above all else, sanctuary.
I needed to drive Gadget’s car.
The car did not whine, the suspension did not shimmy when cornering or stopping, and the air conditioner did not spit out bits of debris and small ants. Even with a shattered passenger side window, her car was nearly silent, damn it!
“Cusper,” Gadget interrupted my reverie, “you said you needed to drive so we could talk.”
“I said I needed to drive so I could think and we could talk,” I said.
Again, I was enfolded in the car’s extravagant German engineering and all I wanted to do was cry.
The scene at the roller rink began to play back in my head and I could see it all now. The goateed, 40-something man had followed this car and waited until Gadget was inside the building. He had approached from the east and picked up a small piece of concrete from the neighboring parking lot. Then he walked across the lot to Gadget’s car, looked in the window, applied his jacket to the window, and shattered the glass with a single blow. It was a matter of a moment for him to grab the package off the seat, fold it into his jacket and walk away.
Judy and Alex had witnessed the break-in, and they were the ones who raised the alarm. Then, out came Gene, who had been loitering near the front door, either too shy or too concussed to make Gadget aware of his presence at the practice.
A few seconds later, Gadget sailed out the front doors, cleared the steps and flew past Judy and Alex. The goateed thief was a cool customer, but I couldn’t imagine he’d planned for the possibility of Roller Derby wrath. The first blow, the critical blow, had come when he turned to look behind him. The vision of Gadget, in her full Roller Derby kit, eyes swollen, lip stitched and murderous rage in her heart, must have momentarily immobilized him, because the blow, as Gadget described it, hit him square in the nose. The crunch Gadget heard, she said, was that of his nose breaking. Based on the blood left at the scene and deferring to Gadget’s expertise at breaking noses there were still some points I was struggling with.
“You said he was wearing gloves and he threw the chunk of concrete at you?” I said.
“He was wearing black gloves,” Gadget said,” and he dropped the concrete. It caught the wheels of my left skate, so I was forced to push off to my right foot to recover.”
“And that’s when the car pulled up?” I asked.
“Yes. He jumped in and they sped away, up Beneva. I skated after them, but they lost me at Pinecrest,” Gadget said.
“And no ID on the driver or the car?” I asked.
“No. Just the two letters and a number,” she said.
“You could’ve been killed,” Gene said, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.
A cold silence ensued and I was thankful I couldn’t see the mute exchange occurring in the back seat of the car.
“We’re all in serious trouble,” I said. “This was the second attempt. We don’t know what they’re looking for, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Leopold package.”
“Do you think they’re targeting Gadget?” Gene asked.
“I doubt it. Even if they were, after today I doubt that they’ll be in any rush to meet up with her again,” I said.
“So, I’m fine, you can drop me and my car back off at my place,” Gadget said.
“No,” I said. “Here’s the thing. Detective Ballinger wants us ‘unavailable’ for 24 hours, and he has his reasons. We need to get another copy of the package from Leopold and I need to tie up a few loose ends before tomorrow’s webinar.”
This was almost entirely true. The fact was I still had to pull several thousand dollars out of thin air between now and the next morning. Then there were phone calls to be returned to Blake Morgan and Abby Norman. All in all, there was nothing waiting for me outside of Gadget’s car that couldn’t be more easily ignored by staying in her car and driving around Sarasota.
“Cusper?” Gadget said.
“Where are we going, exactly?”
An honest answer would have been that I had no earthly idea. My inclination was to head for the Interstate and drive a few hundred miles on I-75. I really wanted to feel what this car could do on the highway. But I resisted both the impulse and the admission by asking my own question.
“When you say they lost you at Pinecrest, what exactly do you mean?”
“I couldn’t keep up. The traffic was slow and they were trying to pass the other cars. At Pinecrest, they fishtailed toward me. Two cars veered off the road onto the sidewalk to avoid the collision. Then they floored it. Why?” she said.
“I’m just wondering how badly he was injured. It looked like a lot of blood. Is that normally what you see when you break someone’s nose?” I asked.
“It depends,” she said. “But one thing I should make clear.”
“I wasn’t trying to break his nose,” she said calmly. “I was trying to kill him.”
I understood her sentiments entirely.
“. . . by hitting him in the nose?” Gene asked.
“. . . by breaking the bridge of his nose and fracturing the cribriform plate,” Gadget said.
There was another silence.
“Let’s leave that admission and information in this car, shall we?” I said.
“What are we doing then?” Gadget asked.
“You are going to call Leopold and have him get us another copy of the materials.” I said. “I am going to drive us to the office of a very disreputable doctor.”
“Why?” she asked.
“I have a hunch,” I said. And I wanted to keep driving her car.
Wearing green scrubs, a leather tool belt slung low over his narrow hips, dual scrip pad holsters and the rest of the tools of the trade arrayed about his waist, Dr. Anwar Faizunniza met me at the side door of his practice.
“What’d’ya want, Cusper?” he said.
This is not the famous Dr. Faiz of national cable news fame, the author, the speaker, the international humanitarian: this is his stepbrother. Faizunniza Family Medicine and Pain Center, home to the more discriminating connoisseurs of Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin and the preferred patch-up place for Sarasota’s criminal element was exactly where an injured 40-something assailant would repair if he didn’t want there to be a record of the visit.
“I want to help you out,” I said, slipping my foot into the door.
“Remove it or lose it,” he said, looking down at my foot.
“I expect that’s what she said to you. But I’m here on a mission of mercy.”
“I’m busy,” he said, starting to close the door.
“So are the FBI, and Sarasota’s finest,” I said, pushing the door back. “My bet is that I’m about ten minutes ahead of them. If you haven’t already, you’re going to get a visitor soon, maybe around closing time. He’ll be a 40-year-old male, dark hair, goatee and a nose that has been recently and manually mangled. There will be blood, and a lot of it. Double or triple your fee he’ll pay. One other detail—you’re going to text me when he leaves.”
“Why would I do that?” he asked.
“Because I’m giving you time to get your house in order before the law shows up. They’ll bully you but, if they don’t find anything, they won’t have an excuse to snoop around the place. Not that they need much excuse: they’ll be quoting the Patriot Act, RICO and anything else they can think of, so don’t bother bringing up patient confidentiality to them. I’m serious as a heart attack,” I said. I felt the anxiety of being outside Gadget’s car catch up with me.
He stared at me.
“Don’t be verbose when you send the text. Just a single letter, “L,” will be fine,” I said, removing my foot from the door jamb.
He shut the door immediately.
I returned to Gadget’s car and was pleased to see that the driver’s seat was still vacant.
“Well?” Gadget said.
“Now we go and get the package from Leopold, then we visit Abby.” I was going to keep driving as long as I could. It was the only thing keeping me from screaming.
The flaking stucco and partially-illuminated vacancy sign of Abby’s motel came into view far too soon. Urgent tasks, forgotten errands and other excuses had been jockeying for position in my mind since we’d left Leopold’s house. But each of them popped and fizzled every time I considered floating them. Whether it was a sense of necessity to get down to the basic unpleasantness of life, an awareness of Gadget’s growing discontent, or simply a recognition of her overly precise understanding of cranial anatomy and brain trauma, I’m not certain. Whatever it was, I was resigned to get out of that car, face my fate head on, and start by visiting Abby Norman in his squalid motel room.
I pulled up to the motel, got out of the car and retrieved a handful of Matt Tomlinson’s money.
“We’ll all need dinner and the car needs gas,” I said offering the bills.
“And?” Gadget said.
“I’m giving you money for gas and I’m giving you money so that the two of you can go get something to eat,” I said, realizing I had taken the wrong tone in my initial offer. “Abby and I have a lot to talk about. If you want to come back later, we can work out a plan of action.”
She smiled and took the money. “We’ll get some Italian,” she said, “and we’ll bring back something for you and Abby.”
“Thanks.” I said. “I’m sorry about your car.”
“They can fix it,” she said.
“I know. But still, I’m really sorry,” I said, then turned away after another long glance at the sedan.
I climbed the stairs of the motel. It was just one grade higher than the shooting gallery and hourly room motels wedged into the gap between Sarasota’s prosperous downtown and the next northern gated outpost of suburbia.
The motels along 41 were once stolid, middle-class motor inns where Northern families would pass a week’s vacation in a state of mutual loathing and general disappointment. Being neither “near” the beach, nor a reasonable distance from Orlando, the children would descend into mutinous protests and their fathers would slip away to a bar or liquor store, whichever finances would allow. Mothers would engage in the preposterous campaign of reasoning with everyone by explaining how “lucky” they all were to be even able to drive 3,000 miles round trip to spend a week in a motel anywhere in Florida. Then, the family would manage to get away for a day to the beach at Siesta Key and, after being thoroughly sunburned, they would return to the motel with demands from the children to spend money on one of the roadside attractions. Postcards and faded photographs from the 60s and 70s could never evoke the misery of those trips, but the walls of these motels never forget.
I arrived at room 25 and knocked on the door. There was a shuffling within. I knocked again.
“Just a minute!” someone said.
There was another shuffling and the sound of a metal latch being disengaged. Then the door opened to reveal a bleary-eyed Abby.
“What time is it?” he said.
“Around 8:00. Why?”
“I called you, then I had a little lie-down,” he said, then yawned. “Must’ve dropped right off.”
“You said you needed to talk to me?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, come in,” he said.
I stepped into the room and back in time four decades. The wallpaper, mattress, air conditioner and television were all original and destined to serve the needs of crystal meth addicts and prostitutes over the next few years. But the two items that firmly anchored me in the past were a grey, vinyl-topped card table and a well-used manual Smith Corona typewriter resting atop it. The tan, white and black of the old Smith Corona took me back to my first typewriter, something I’d happily buried in the back yard after the first computers became available.
“Yours?” I asked, nodding at the typewriter.
“No,” he said. “I sweet talked the night manager and she found it sitting in the back of the office.”
“Lucky you,” I said, noting the stack of papers next to it.
“Yes, I’ve never been able to really write on a computer,” he said, picking up the stack of papers.
“So, you’ve been writing?” I asked, not at all pleased about where this was going to take me.
“You said if I wrote it, you would package it in our value-added proposition,” he said, handing the manuscript to me.
I thumbed the edge of the sheaf of paper: it felt to be about a full ream. “Quite a bit to say here.”
“Four hundred and seventy-seven pages’ worth,” he said. “But I cut out a lot in the second draft.”
“Yes, single-spaced,” he said, smiling.
“And you did this all over the last few days on that?” I asked, nodding toward the old Smith Corona Classic 12.
“Yes. A few of the keys stick and I’m not as fast as I used to be. But I can still pound it out when I need to,” he said proudly.
“Well, Abby . . .” I began.
“Sit down. Read it.” He motioned to the rancid, ancient mattress, whose comforter was squalid with the stains and fluids of generations of visitors.
I elected to take the blue vinyl chair situated near the air-conditioner, beneath the hanging light.
The title, I read, was It’s Not Right; It’s Love: Love’s Life Lessons by Abby Norman. I prepared myself to be nauseated. Then I began to read.
It’s easy enough, when we meet someone in their worst moments, to forget the genius and greatness that remains present. They can be outrageous, aggravating and often outright offensive; then they give you something like this.
It was not a beautiful piece of writing. The phrases clearly identified Abby as being from a different era, but what he was talking about and how he explained it was frank, painful and true. I lost track of the time as I went from chapter to chapter. Abby wasn’t offering perfect love or even ideal love. He was, as he gave an unsparing appraisal of his own life, offering a basic view that we are who we are and the sooner we accept it the sooner we can be happy.
Pivotal to his narrative was a period he had spent with a therapist who informed him that he was drawn to narcissistic and borderline personalities. While the therapist’s recommendations had been to undergo a long and expensive process of personal growth so that he could enjoy a more stable and gratifying relationship, Abby had understood the simpler truth: “This may not be healthy, but this is who I am.”
The last four chapters of the book were devoted to his relationship with his latest wife, Leah, whose attributes were exactly those the therapist had enumerated. Abby had consciously sought her out because he finally understood what it was that he was drawn to. Even with everything that had happened, he was not bitter. His final chapter closed with the line that he had chosen for the title of the book; It’s not right; It’s just love.
I turned the last page and looked at Abby, whose eyes were bloodshot, but for the first time in our acquaintance it was not from drugs or alcohol.
“I miss her,” Abby said softly.
“I know,” I said, stacking the papers.
“We can use this?” he said, motioning toward the manuscript.
“I personally smell best seller,” I said. It was true. any work that could defend the indefensible stupidity of life decisions with such maudlin pap as “It’s just love,” and bring a believer’s tear to my eye would find a ravenous audience. But there was, of course ,the problem that we weren’t going to be able to have a webinar, sales or a sales rush.
“Funny thing,” Abby said. “I just finished writing that this morning. Then the FBI comes by and brings me in to ask me questions about Leah and Barry.”
“Barry?” I asked.
“Barry—the CFO who ran off with the money and Leah,” Abby said, raking his white hair with his hand.
“Sorry, I forgot his name,” I said, and began to run the last 24 hours’ events through my head.
“They wanted to know if I was in contact with them. What my relationship with them was. Then they started asking me about Liberty Reserve,” Abby said. “I had no idea what they were talking about.”
“Well, they must’ve believed you,” I said.
“Why do you think that?” Abby asked, sitting down on the bed.
“You’re not in jail,” I said.
“Suppose you’re right,” he said. “So, tomorrow at 3:00? I’ve got my lucky suit and tie pressed and ready to go.”
I was going to have to tell him. It was clear he didn’t know what had happened with Matt and he had no way of knowing what had happened to me. I was going to have to let him know. My phone rang. It was Gadget.
“Hi,” I said.
“We’ve got your dinner. But there’s someone down here who wants to talk to you,” Gadget said.
“Is it someone I want to talk to?” I said, remembering my promise to Detective Ballinger.
“It’s someone you need to talk to,” Gadget said.
“I’ll be right down,” I said, then hung up. “Gadget’s bringing up dinner for us. She got Italian.”
“Great,” said Abby. “Did she bring any wine?”
“No idea,” I said, but I hoped she hadn’t.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” I said.
“But you’re going to use the book?” Abby asked again.
“We can have the manuscript scanned, laid out and in print by Tuesday,” I said. “So, yes, we will use it.”
“I really appreciate it, Cusper,” he said.
I felt the hole I was digging deepening into an abyss. “No problem.”
I stepped out of the room and onto a walkway enveloped in the darkness of the late evening. My path to the stairway was illuminated only by the lights of the few occupied rooms on the second floor. The lighting in the staircase was spotty, but at least I could see my way forward. When I arrived at the first floor landing I was greeted by Gadget, Gene and a third party whom I had never seen before. He was on his cell phone and having a rapid conversation in what sounded to be a Slavic language.
“The Oracle Delfina sent him,” Gadget said, indicating the man on the phone.
“She would,” I said. “Abby’s up and starving. I told him you brought some dinner.”
“Do you want us to wait for you?” Gadget asked.
“No, I’ll be fine,” I said, and waved them on. “But watch your step. Most of the lights are out.”
The stranger on the phone continued to talk for several more minutes after Gadget and Gene left us, then ended his call.
“You’ve kept me waiting,” he said, by way of greeting.
“I have?” I asked.
“Yes, but Delfina said to expect that. She also said you would forget to call.”
He took a piece of paper from his trouser pocket and unfolded it. “I’ve given your number to Cusper Lynn. He has a problem you will find most profitable to solve. He will ultimately forget to call you so you will need to be at this address at 11:00 p.m.,” he read.
“Can I see that?” I asked.
“Sure.” He handed over the paper.
I took the crumpled and dampened note I had received from my pocket and flattened it out next to his note. Side by side, in what admittedly was poor lighting, I could see the handwriting was the same. I could also see the phone number I was to call. I passed my note over to him.
“Is that your phone number?” I asked.
He looked over the note and passed it back. “Yes,” he said.
“You’re not at all surprised that your note was written a day before mine?” I asked, handing him his note back.
“Nothing about Delfina surprises me anymore,” he said, pocketing the note.
“Well, I’ve no idea what I’m supposed to do or tell you at this point,” I said, stuffing my note back in my pocket.
“Let’s start with what you need,” he said.
“I don’t even know who you are,” I said.
“Denis Thatcher, entrepreneur, author, and attorney-at-law,” he said, offering me his hand.
“Well, Denis Thatcher,” I saidm shaking his hand, “I’m Cusper Lynn, purveyor of vintage, high-mileage, well-used motivational speakers and infopreneurs. And, at this moment, I’m irretrievably fucked.”
“Not a great statement of opening positions for negotiations,” he said, letting go of my hand.
“I wasn’t aware that we were negotiating anything,” I said.
“All life is a negotiation,” he said, and stepped around to the far side of a beautiful black Audi sports coup. “Let’s go for a ride.”
“OK,” I said.
I might well be going to hell, but at least I was going there in decent cars.
We were heading east on University Avenue and he had not hit a single red light. I was beginning to suspect that Denis Thatcher was the beneficiary of a malevolent force.
“Three-hundred and fifty per cent,” Denis said, apropos of nothing.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Money. Whatever money you need, you’ve got it. No problems.” Denis said.
“And the 350 percent?” I asked.
“Interest. No problem,” he said, his accent perceptibly shifting.
“Denis, I notice that when you say ‘no problem,’ your accent changes,” I said.
“Really?” he said, surprised. “So, when I’m talking like this I sound like . . .”
“. . . you’re from Ohio or somewhere in the Midwest,” I said.
“And when I say ‘no problem?’” he said, his voice sliding off into a Slavic accent.
“You sound Russian,” I said.
“Oh, good. That’s because I am,” he said.
Wonderful. The Oracle Delfina had set a Russian lawyer-loan shark on me, perfect.
“Denis I appreciate . . .” I began.
“Cusper, relax. I’m here to help. There is nothing to worry about,” he said in his Middle American accent. “Here, look at this.”
He handed me a hardcover book, with a slick dust jacket. On the front it read “The Principled Purpose: Prospering Through Service.” The author? Denis Thatcher.
“I was on four bestseller lists with that three years ago,” Denis said.
I turned the book over to find his head shot smiling back at me.
“Then I had a few setbacks,” he said vaguely.
I read the back of the book and was filled with a cold terror.
“Denis, if you can just let me off at the next corner that’ll be just fine,” I said, setting the book down.
“No, no, it’s OK,” he said.
“Look Denis, I can deal with loan sharks, I can deal with motivational speakers, even lawyers, but when you throw in corporate lawyers I’m out,” I said.
“No, Cusper, it’s cool, really it is. I stopped practicing law when my book came out. That was when I set up my speakers’ bureau and television marketing group,” he said.
“Then why do you want to help me?” I asked.
“Look at the cover of the book. That wasn’t just a title: that’s my life philosophy,” he said.
“OK, let’s assume I believe that. What’s in it for you, besides the whopping interest rate, to help me out?” I asked, knowing that anyone who stated interest up front wanted something else.
“Cusper, as I said, I’ve had some setbacks. I want to be part of this,” he said.
“What exactly does that mean?”
“It means I will not only send every member of my mailing list to this webinar, I will personally MC it,” he said.
“Assuming I could even make that happen, why would you want to do that?”
He slowed the car and pulled over to side of the road. “I believe in the redemptive opportunity afforded by good works,” he said, giving me a deadly stare. “I know that it is only when we go outside our comfort zone that we begin to grow. This project is way below my professional profile, but I know that I need to do it to show the Universe that I’m serious about succeeding.”
I stared at him.
“And all you want is 350 percent interest and to MC the webinar?”
“There you go,” he said. “No problem.”
“One question,” I said.
“Yes?” He eased the car back onto the road.
“Why Denis Thatcher?” I asked.
“We stayed in London for 14 months before we came to the US. My mother liked the name so, before I went to law school, I had it changed. More Anglo,” he said.
“It’s definitely . . . Anglo,” I agreed.
“So we have a deal?” His Slavic accent came sliding back through.
“Do you drift into that accent often?” I asked, considering his role as MC for the webinar.
“Only when it suits me,” he smiled, his accent once again flawless Duluth.
“Then yes, we have a deal,” I said.
A few minutes later, he dropped me back at the motel.
“I’ll pick you up in the morning,” he said.
“Eight-thirty,” I agreed. “The bank opens at nine.”
“No problem,” he said. “Oh, and there will be some paper work for you to sign. Promissory notes, lien agreements and assignment of contract.”
I shuddered. Russian accents were far easier to deal with than contracts drafted by corporate lawyers.
“Don’t worry. It’s standard stuff. No surprises for either of us.”
“Yes, no worries,” I said and he pulled out of the parking lot.
I started up the stairs to the second floor when I felt my phone buzz. I took it out of my pocket, and saw that it was a text message comprising a single letter. “L.”
Note: Image by Jesse Wagstaff.