Journal Entry # 1: The Shame of Indifference

My grandfather died back in 2010. I remember feeling mixed emotions about it because I did not consider us close. In fact, most of the memories that I have about him are bad ones, which is odd, considering that he was a Presbyterian minister when he retired. Apparently, he was well-liked by some, but he never had cared for how we, his family, felt about him as far as I could tell.

I was stunned when we walked into the church for the service. It was quite large and mostly full of elderly folks that I did not know. Honestly, I remember it being somewhat empty, which was akin to how I felt about the whole ordeal. As the service went on, I just wanted to leave. Emotionally, I was doing fine until we walked out, and I noticed my oldest brother lightly sobbing just enough that I could hear. After that, I broke down. Nine years later, I sometimes wonder what made it so emotional for me, especially since I am sorry to admit that I felt little more than the obligatory love for the man. To get there, we must continue the day.

After leaving the church, we, of course, arrived at the cemetery. As we approached the gravesite, the horror had set in. There was nobody there. Things quickly unraveled as, if I remember it correctly, we had to go so far as to have my mom and aunt help us carry his casket to the grave. It was somewhat shocking that there was so little emotional investment in this man’s death that his two daughters-in-law had to help carry him for the final time. It was at this point that I thought again about why my brother’s tears set mine off.

Truthfully, I was annoyed by it when it happened because I did not want to cry for my grandfather. I came to the conclusion that his crying reminded me of a genuinely broken-hearted child. I told myself that he must have felt the same as I had. He wasn’t crying for himself, for our grandfather, or for the memories that we had made and shared. He was crying for the ones that we did not and would never have.

Eventually, another sad realization hit me. I barely knew the man. I remember my grandmother or father, perhaps both, asking me if there was anything of my grandfather’s that I would like to have. Since he was a minister, I wondered if there were any sermons or notes that he had written. I just wanted to know him better than I did. I’d be lying if I said that there was no shame on my part for feeling this way, but the truth isn’t something that you speak. Honestly, I hate the phrase people use these days that usually involves a gag-inducing movie scene or social media interaction in which one person encourages another to “speak their truth.” The truth isn’t yours, and it isn’t mine. It simply is.

As I’ve gotten older, I see glimpses of my grandfather in my actions. For example, I have his temper, which is not a good thing and can often be impatient, especially in public settings. I’ve always had some anxiety being in public and now wonder if he possibly had the same issue. I also very often feel misunderstood, which makes me wonder if he thought the same because I certainly never understood him. Besides, I have always been pretty good at putting on a polite show when I do go around town, as much as I dislike doing so. I’ll open doors for old ladies and sometimes guys if they are carrying something. There’s a fine line when it comes to one man holding the door for another. Like my grandfather, it seems that the four moods of happy, sad, tired, or angry dominate me even if I feel that they do not necessarily define me. I do love classical music and give him credit for that as well. I usually explain that I like classical music so much because you can’t hear another person’s voice during it typically.

The real reason for writing this post was actually an idea that I had shortly before or after my first son was born. I wanted to write a journal of sorts, the 100% all-beef version of the diary so that my sons can know just about anything about me that they would want and possibly some things that they will wish that they did not. Considering that my son will be ten years old this year, it was apparent that I had failed miserably with executing this plan. So, this seems to be the first official entry. I decided not to lock it with a tiny key and hide it under the mattress, but you’ll have to bring your own faux leather smell I’m afraid.

 

 

Why the World Actually is Flat

I’m sure that most people have heard that there are pockets of folks around who have rekindled the belief that the world is flat. Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, and many more with the first-hand experience would wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. Physically speaking, the Earth is most definitely not flat. It is a fact. However, the world HAS become flat. Allow me to explain.

Regrettably, technology has very much begun to bite us in the arse. While it’s not the dystopian rule of artificial intelligence that went from cleaning the skid marks from our undies to eliminating all humans to protect us from ourselves, we are still suffering at the hands of technology nearly as much as we are benefiting. Don’t get me wrong; I love tech more possibly than the next person but the time that I went to work and left my phone at home still haunts me. It was not pretty and certainly made me feel silly.

The dominance of social media, fake news, alt-facts, and the idea that we can choose the facts that we want to believe and vice versa has created a bizarre ecosystem of doubt, mistrust, and knee-jerk reasoning. People think with their feelings. Somehow, there is a disturbing possibility that more Americans will believe in angels than a round Earth. If by angels you mean the big, funny dude that you went to school with then, yes, I believe in Angels.

Another fact is that you really cannot believe everything that you see or read on the internet. There is substantial misinformation whether it be a mistake, lie, or manipulation. For example, the news people are spreading about the Earth being flat is likely all of the above. Everyone knows that this is true, but it seems now it is being taken advantage of to the point that ANY information on the internet is treated as a la carte. In other words, it’s true if it fits into my view of the world and false if it does not.

Whenever I meet a new coworker, typically a kid in his twenties, I always tell them that if all else fails just play dumb if you screw up. Why? Because people so desperately want to believe that everyone else is stupid, incompetent, or incapable that they will jump at the chance to have that affirmation. What’s more is that people like to have an actual stupid person around to make them feel better about themselves. This is nothing new. It’s akin to the big group of girls with the one ugly friend that has a great personality. No offense, that’s just an example that people get. Don’t shoot the messenger.

We’ve lost hold of things that are real, tangible. Entertainment primarily exists in the ether of the internet, especially books and music. Even friends mostly live online and strain the definition of the word. What happens when the robots stop eliminating the stains from our nether garments and start eliminating us? I don’t know, we need the fancy robots first. The take away is that maybe we should embrace what is right in front of us. Stop telling me to shut up while you have a typed conversation with another person who isn’t in the room. Once again, History is laughing as we endeavor to prove its point yet again. We can always see past that which is in right front of our face and seem to do so simply because we have the luxury.

Copyright © 2017 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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I'm sure that most people have heard that there are pockets of folks around who have rekindled the belief that the world…

Posted by Adam L. Cobden on Monday, December 4, 2017

To Err: Being Human Amidst a World of Intolerance

This sort of post isn’t typically my style, but I’ve been having this conversation with myself lately, which quickly became intriguing. With that in mind, I did some quick and dirty research on the topic of religion. Now, I don’t consider this a religious post, and if you read the entire article, I think that you will mostly agree with that statement. Hey, that’s the best I can do. After all, I’m not perfect and would not dare pretend otherwise.

So it seems that about 85% of the world are religious or believe in a higher power in one form or another, that’s 6 billion of the 7 billion or so people in the world. Of those, there are over 2.2 billion Christians, 1.8 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, 500 million Buddhists, and another 500 million of what is known as folk religions which consist of people from Africa, China, America, and Australia. Sadly, there are less than 20 million Jews in the world. All of these figures are estimates and are likely inaccurate as soon as compiled. For this article, they’ll suffice since they need only portray the world’s religious affiliation as a sketch, which they do nicely.

Now that we’ve laid a foundation, we can come to the question that I asked myself which prompted me to write this post. If God is all-powerful and omniscient, meaning that God knows everything and can do anything, then why do humans seem to think that God is a moron? This question reminds me of a saying that I use that goes like this: “No matter how dumb a person is, they still think they are smarter than everyone else.”

To be clear, I don’t believe that people think that God is a moron. It was simply the question I asked myself that became the steam behind this train of thought. The next part might be where this whole idea can get tricky so I will do my best to lay it out in an understandable manner.

So it seems that about 85% of the world are religious or believe in a higher power in one form or another, that’s 6 billion of the 7 billion or so people in the world.

The majority of people that believe in a God are Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, a total of roughly 5 billion of the world’s population. I can leave the Buddhists out of this part because it is my understanding that they do not believe in a creator. Besides, I’m confident that they won’t mind. Getting back to the point, most religious people believe in a creator so they must believe that God also created the people of other faiths as well. For example, if you are a Christian, wouldn’t you think that God created the Muslims, Hindus, and Jews? Hold that thought.

The point that I am getting at is this: an all-powerful, omniscient entity knows what it is doing. People all over the world speak different languages, dance their dances, sing their songs, and make vastly different meals. Of course, that is merely the tip of the iceberg, but you can see where I am going with this. The world is full of people of varying cultures, and we are often more than happy to take the parts of other’s culture that we like and make it a part of our own. When that happens, it is quite beautiful and flattering; one would hope.

If God is all-powerful and omniscient, meaning that God knows everything and can do anything, then why do humans seem to think that God is a moron?

With so many cultures and languages in the world, it’s easy to understand that we may not often figure out why one group feels this way, another feels that way, and “we” believe the correct way, for instance. “We” being the holder of the point of view in any given situation. Even within Christianity, half of which are Catholic, people differ in the proper manner to practice the faith which is why Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists exist. Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so, and I will even take it a step further, perhaps two.

A Christian, Muslim, and Hindu walk into a bar. Who precisely knows what to say to each of them to make them believe in something bigger than themselves? Survey says—an all-powerful, omniscient being. Some of us speak English, Russian, Chinese, or Spanish, and even with a translator, the meaning of words, phrases, and sayings are not always adequately conveyed. Hence the phrase “lost in translation.” A supreme entity can take one group of like minded people and reach them through Christianity, another group through Islam, another with Hinduism, and yet another through Buddhism, perhaps. Cultural and linguistic differences are powerful enough to cause confusion among people of differing societies. Not only that but once you factor in schools of thought and traditions, it gets increasingly difficult to communicate effectively especially on matters as dearly held as religion or spirituality.

When it comes to religion or spirituality, perhaps the only question that can be asked of anyone is: Are you happy? If a person is content with the route that they take to spirituality, then that should be enough for the rest of us. Obviously, there are extremes at play in regards to almost anything, religion and spirituality are no different. Are you saying that it’s okay to worship Satan as long as the worshipper is happy? That is an example of an extreme, in case that is somehow not obvious, and does not apply to most people. What I am saying is, it’s probably none of my business, and I am in no place to judge, though most of us do anyway.

If a person is content with the route that they take to spirituality, then that should be enough for the rest of us.

I’m not here to tell anyone what to do or when to do it, or how. If you do believe in a great big sky daddy in one form or another, maybe you should give this entity of extreme power the benefit of the doubt. Some folks love dogs, some cats, and some hate pets altogether. There are even some weirdos that like any and all pets. That could be an oversimplification, but, as a parent, even I know that I have to handle my kids’ moods by employing different methods. So, when approached by several groups of people that live in completely different places and in different ways, is it so far-fetched to believe that a being of such power would know that a different approach just might be the way to reach them? In conclusion, I’m just going to repeat that saying that has come to be a favorite of mine.

No matter how dumb a person is, they still think they are smarter than everyone else.

Copyright © 2017 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

I’d appreciate a like and/or share on Facebook. I will provide a convenient link to this article’s Facebook post below. Thanks!

Copyright © 2017 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #15. Check out my book, available now on Amazon.

“I’m not the person that you think I am, and I’m not the person that I thought I was. Let’s see who I will be today.”

–  Adam L. Cobden

Detective Darby #14 – The Awakening

Upon waking up, the first thing that I noticed was, once again, the blinding brightness of the light. I cannot seem to escape its assault on my senses, sight specifically. Secondly, the realization that I was on a couch hit me, but it was not the couch in my office. As a matter of fact, this place had all the tells of a woman’s touch. No offense to Linda, but it was on a whole new level and even smelled of candles, baked goods, and potpourri, I assume. My expertise lends itself more to liquids and wisecracks than decorating although I do often precede my name with the word detective for a reason. And I don’t mind reminding people of that fact, even myself.

I leaned up placing my elbows on my knees so that I could bury my head towards the floor. As I stared at the thoughtfully chosen rug, my thoughts dug their way into the cold, dusty earth, approximately six feet down. Despite the fact that someone, at least one person, cared enough to scrape me from the sidewalk outside of Cavanaugh’s should have been uplifting in some way. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how misery operates. Better that I’d have fallen through the concrete and reeked my last bit of havoc clawing helplessly towards an escape that was not to come. I fail to think of a more fitting end since that is precisely the manner in which I have lived life since I crossed the Atlantic.

There was a coffee table just in front of me and, before I knew it, someone slid a cup on the table right in front of me.

“Thanks,” I replied without looking. I grabbed the mug and held it close to my nose. The aroma of the beans reminded me of the relief that typically followed such a scent and seemed to have triggered an endogenous reaction. I can safely accuse myself of overthinking things, perhaps that’s why I’m a halfway decent detective, but, whatever the cause, the smell of that coffee cheered me up even if it is just enough for me to notice. That’s twice now that I’ve patted myself on the back for my sleuthing skills despite the fact that I had no idea whose couch in which I was cutting a groove. It’s funny how the mind functions, malfunctions in my case.

“You’re welcome,” replied a woman’s voice, which made the hairs on my arms seem as if they were intent on running away. As my heart began thumping, I wondered for a second how I haven’t died from a heart attack, considering my addiction and the war especially. “It’s two sugars, just as you like it,” she added.

I knew that voice quite well. I’d like to think that it sounds exactly as I remembered it from my dreams, night or day, and as I had imagined it many times. It was Alice Grace. Now seems like an excellent opportunity to skip mentioning how good of a detective that I am.

“I think he likes it better with a bit more Irish in his cup,” Stan sarcastically announced. I’m not surprised that Sarge is here, he’s her uncle after all. There was undoubtedly a lecture to follow, but I can’t say that I appreciated being embarrassed on so many levels so early in the day if at all. If only I possessed a skill set germane to avoiding surprises.

“I don’t think that’s helping,” Alice remarked, kindness lining her words. Maybe I just hear what I want to when it comes to her. Truthfully, as cruel as it might sound, her voice was the last one that I wanted to hear today.

“Do you suppose he’s helping himself?” Stan asked, raising his voice. “He’s certainly helping himself to a bar stool,” he wittily added. As I finally lifted my head, I was greeted by the angry face of Sarge, complete with hands on his hips.

“I don’t know, but yelling at him isn’t helping. When you told me that you saw him the other day, wasn’t it you that mentioned how long it had been?” Alice asked, laying down the law. No pun intended. The anger drained from Stan’s face, and shame began to fill that void. I appreciated her defending me, but this isn’t something that I wanted to see. My problems being laid at the feet of another, one that I cared for no less. “Didn’t you tell me that he still uses your old office? I can’t imagine it’s all that hard to find,” she continued, multiplying the shame further. When I saw Stan begin to put his head down, I felt that I was sharing his humiliation at this point, rightly so. I had seen and heard quite enough.

“Hold on,” I announced as I began to stand. An intense pressure rushed to my head as I rose to my feet, and I can only imagine the funny face that I made in an attempt to fight it off. It certainly undermined the credibility of what I was about to say, not that my credibility accounts for much these days. “Listen, guys, I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say,” I said, not the eloquence that I was hoping for. I saw a flash of anger return to Sarge’s face, and he pointed towards me as he opened his mouth to speak. However, he stopped at the last second and said nothing.

“What happened to your partner?” Stan calmly asked. At this point, he seemed content to jump on Alice’s bandwagon by finding some more excuses on my behalf. I am indeed coming up on rock bottom.

“Well, he left about the time things got heavy. I spotted the girl, but I lost her,” I explained if only a little.

“That’s unfortunate. What now?” Stan asked. Before I could even begin to think of an answer, Alice slammed her mug on the coffee table. The spoon clattered against the cup as the act got our attention, undoubtedly its intention.

“Are you really going to talk shop—now?” Alice angrily asked. She had a point. Any question as to whether the elephant in the room had been addressed was just answered.

“She’s right, you know,” Stan agreed as he walked towards me. “There’s a man that I want you to see. Remember?”

“Now?” I asked, my disdain evident.

“We had a deal,” Stan sternly replied.

“This deal is getting worse all the time,” I muttered aloud. Based on their expressions, I don’t think that Stan and Alice cared for that comment, yet another example of my exceptional skills. “Okay, what did you have in mind?” I asked, conceding the standoff.

They both seemed happy to hear my surrender. However, with me, it was unlikely to be unconditional. Stan finally sat down to relax, and I noticed Alice slowly moving towards me. She seemed as unsure how close that she would get to me as I was. Honestly, my stomach immediately knotted up as I approached petrification. Once she got within a step of arm’s reach, I circled away around the coffee table and sat down in a chair in the corner.

After all this time building up to this moment, I was infinitely confused about my feelings having finally seen and spoke to her. It was not at all how I had imagined. Alice did not collapse tearfully into my arms, slap me in the face, or give me the cold shoulder. Instead, she was willing to help me and lived alone. It doesn’t take a great detective, luckily, to see that Alice Grace might still have a place in her life for a bum of a man such as me.

Copyright © 2017 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

I’d appreciate a like and/or share on Facebook. I will provide a convenient link to this article’s Facebook post below. Thanks!

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #15. Check out my book, available now on Amazon.

“I’m not the person that you think I am, and I’m not the person that I thought I was. Let’s see who I will be today.”

–  Adam L. Cobden

Detective Darby #13 – The Quench

As the bartender humored me with a refill yet again, I took a moment to ponder that first drink of the morning that started me down this road. To clarify, it is not a path to redemption or anything as uplifting as that but a fork in the road and very much a beaten path when it comes to personal experience. I’ll tell you one thing; the bartender is playing perfectly to my paranoia with his silent treatment. I swear that he hasn’t said a word to me, but it is entirely possible that I have simply been too far gone to notice.

By this time, the bar had been something of a whirlwind. Patrons had come and gone appearing, disappearing, and sometimes reappearing in and out of a hazy hurricane of which I had become the eye. At times, it was quite crowded but, as far as I was concerned, there was only me and the glass sitting on the bar in front of me.

I stared reverently at the bronze tint of the liquor as if it were primed to reveal lost secrets from a time forgotten. Perhaps the shadows covering the dark corner in the room were harboring them, and one need only shed some light on them. But how? To that end, I hoisted the glass once again to my lips and let its majestic contents slither down my throat. I’m not going to lie; it felt fantastic, almost euphoric. After the usual gulp, however, I immediately felt the crushing shame of the act.

The burning wetness slowly crept into my eyes and sinuses. The warmth of the emotion was cruelly cold and the more that I thought about it, the more I perpetuated it. Suddenly, the sight of the glass in my hand was something of a shock, and it jolted me as if it were hot enough to melt. When I set it down, I looked up and caught the reflection of the mirror behind the bar. It reflected back to me an image that was all black and white save the golden color of my drink and the natural color of my eyes. The rest of the scene was like an abstract watercolor painted in an infinite variation of gray shades. It wasn’t as clear as real life, but real life was rarely clear and often without beauty.

The bartender was right on time. As he began to pour, I clutched the bottle, stopping him. He did not say a word and showed no emotion one way or another. We both held onto the bottle, and neither one of us attempted to claim it away from the other. I hesitated to meet my eyes with his, but something convinced me that it needed to happen. I slowly lifted my head to look into his eyes and quickly discovered that his eyes were nothing more than a black void. After mere seconds, he turned loose of the bottle and quietly walked away, the sound of his footsteps disturbingly absent.

I pulled the bottle close to my body, embracing it. It might have been my imagination, but every patron in the bar appeared to have stopped and stared at me. With an audience, I began to pour until the glass overflowed. The voice in my head told me to stop, but I continued to pour until the bottle was empty. A large puddle formed around the glass and quickly spread to the left and right. The act seemed to satisfy the onlookers because none of them appeared to notice the mess that I had made. That or none cared.

I stumbled out of my barstool and to my feet, reached into my pocket, and half-heartedly counted out a few dollars for the barman. After carelessly tossing them on the bar, I realized that they landed in the puddle that I left behind. I didn’t care but had enough presence of mind to know that I probably should have. For a moment,  I watched as the bills soaked up the liquor and began to sink into its depths which were physically shallow but psychologically immeasurable. For some reason, the sight of the alcohol soaked money sickened me with an unjustifiable disgust.

In my haste, I turned towards the door and promptly bumped into a patron. Before I could make an apology, the man turned to dust and scattered to the floor. I raised my hands to eye level in disbelief as the remaining patrons all began to stare at me just as before. One notable exception was the bartender who was preoccupied wiping down the spillage from atop the bar. He paid no attention to me or the pile of ashes at my feet.

By now, I am more than a little spooked and increased the speed of my exit. Upon doing so, I bumped into another patron and two others that seemed to be blocking my path, and all three collapsed to the floor just as the first one had. The rest of the patrons continued to watch me, but none said a word or tried to stop me.

At last, I came to the large, heavy door and leaned face first into it with moderate force. My heart pounded with such a fury that some of the beats blended.

“Why didn’t you stop me?” I beseeched the door. Suddenly, I fell helplessly forward blinded by the purest light and felt the thud of hitting the ground. The force was unmistakable, but the pain must have been absorbed by the impurity of my blood. Then, I felt myself being carried away not unlike the previous time that ended with me in the trunk of a taxi. While my cup runneth over with poison, the people near me crumble to ashes and fate carries me blindly away to uncertainty.

Copyright © 2017 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

I’d appreciate a like and/or share on Facebook. I’ve provided a convenient link to this article’s Facebook post below. Thanks!

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #14. Check out my book, available now on Amazon.

“I’m not the person that you think I am, and I’m not the person that I thought I was. Let’s see who I will be today.”

–  Adam L. Cobden

Detective Darby #1 – The Dame

The morning was so bright; I almost thought it had a beef with me. Nature should offer cloud cover until 10 am for all of the night owls. To be fair, I had yet to surmise the time and typically call morning whatever time I manage to wake up.

I reluctantly eased up from the well-worn couch in my office. The smell of the leather always brought me an odd sense of comfort. Perhaps it was the sweet reminder of a more prosperous time tapping on my mind’s shoulder. Somehow, a quilt I previously took as payment from a cash-poor but lovely woman covered me. I shudder to think how my pants managed to be laid out over the back of my office chair.

As I made my way to retrieve my pants, I could see the silhouette of Linda, my secretary, in the lobby, if you dare call it that. More people have fit into a campus phone booth I bet. She worked harder to find me work than I did to complete the work that she found for me. It was mostly trivial stuff that even a desperate jerk like me felt was beneath my dignity. To be clear, I made rent this month, barely, by finding some old lady’s cat. To be even clearer, I took the case, walked down to the corner, lit up a smoke, and the crazy cat walked right up to me. I still accepted her money; I even got a bonus. Truthfully, I thought I’d get a second quilt out of that deal.

“Chet, are you decent? There’s a woman here to see you,” announced Linda.

Damn them both for preempting the first cup of coffee of the day. “Gimme two minutes, sugar,” I replied as I hastily fumbled into my pants. Speaking of sugar, I glanced over at the fire escape and gave further consideration to that cup of coffee.

“Chet, did you hear me?” she asked, knocking on my door as if I owed her money. I probably did, though.

“Hold on,” I said desperately. I had no clue how ragged I might have looked so I tried my best to comb my hair by running my hands through it a few times. I couldn’t do much about a shave, but a shot of whiskey for me seemed better than a shot of morning breath for a potential client, at least that’s what I told myself as I poured it. I sat down behind my desk and downed the whiskey. “Come in,” I announced as I shuffled the whiskey bottle and glass into a drawer. I wasn’t fooling anybody save me.

Linda opened the door and gestured for the woman to enter. Once she took a few steps, Linda scowled and pointed her index finger at me, which seemed eerily long and foreboding at that moment. The woman stopped after a few steps as if to give me a chance to drool over her. They always do that, the cute ones. Her skin was far too creamy and delicate to withstand even a few minutes of this wretched sunlight, I thought. Oddly, her flaming red hair was a brilliant contrast despite my previous thought. Beyond that, she was so beautiful with her sculpted cheekbones and celestially orchestrated figure that I instantly found her annoying, because I was sure I had sized her up in a flash.

I did not bother to stand up; I still needed my coffee. “I’m Chet Darby, Private Detective. What can I do for you, miss?” I asked. I could sense that she picked up on the lack of enthusiasm in my tone so I motioned for her to sit down hoping that would prove sufficient distraction.

“I’m not sure how to begin. I’ve never done this before,” the woman replied. Her voice was slightly seductive even though I believe she came by it naturally. Part of me hoped that she sounded like a diseased baboon that somehow learned to speak. That much perfection always leads to trouble, which is evidenced by her presence alone.

“Well, usually a client tells me about a problem or task that they need help with, then they lie about it making my job harder, we agree to terms, and I get to work,” I explained sarcastically yet accurately, in my defense.

She was shocked by my frankness. “Are you always so callous?” she asked.

It was a fair question. “No, sometimes I am much worse,” I joked. She giggled cutely, of course. The joke’s on her because there is often plenty of truth hidden behind a jester’s whimsy. “Talk to me.”

She took a deep breath. “I go to a bar nearby several times a week after work. Sometimes we stay out until dark,” she began to speak but paused for a second deep breath. “Somebody has been following me home, and I think it’s the same man, a man from the bar,” she said timidly.

I enthusiastically nodded, because it seemed simple to me. “That’s good,” I said, and she appeared to take it the wrong way. “What I mean to say is that I can help you,” I clarified, which repopulated a smile to her face.

“Thank you, but how will you help?” she asked, her smile going as easily as it came.

“That’s easy. What time do you get off from work?” I asked.

“I came here as soon as I got off,” she replied.

My confusion transformed to shock. “Uh, what time is it?” I asked and winced at the upcoming response.

“It’s almost 5:30 pm,” she replied, which was admittedly hard for me to hear.

It was my turn to take a couple of deep breaths. “Okay, here is the plan,” I announced though I felt quite a blow to my credibility, even as a social crusader for cats. “We will go to the bar together, and you can point him out to me. I’ll get a feel for him and then we will decide whether we leave together or you lure him out for me. What do you think?”

She seemed relieved, I can only assume, by my decisiveness. “That sounds perfect. I could use a drink,” she replied.

I stood up and realized that I had no shoes on, was wearing my undershirt, and had failed to zip my trousers. “Can you wait with Linda for a minute while I freshen up?” I asked. I would have been embarrassed had I not lacked the presence of mind. She graciously obliged, and I quickly threw myself together.

I burst through my office door to find Linda and the client looking at me as if I were a Martian. I instantly realized that I didn’t even bother to ask her name. Luckily, I had a plan. “Did you get all of her paperwork in order?” I asked Linda, and she promptly handed it to me. I managed to pull her name from the papers, but Linda had me pegged from the start, as she always does. “Emily, are you ready to do this?” I asked, hoping that I didn’t over-enunciate her name.

I offered her my arm, and we briskly set off. As we entered the hallway outside my office, I quickly noticed the elevator was out again. Luckily, I couldn’t afford anything higher than the second floor. When we hit the stairs, the sound her heels made against the floor echoed an unknowable truth, inexplicably filling me with dread. I could not help but stare at her heels, hosiery, dress, and even her hat. She looked back at me, and her smile seemed to enchant all of my worries into submission.

Once we got outside, I began to look for a taxi. I looked to my left and then my right. Fortunately, there was a taxi parking just down the street. We hurried after it but the cabby got out and opened the trunk, so we slowed down. The passenger got out and retrieved a suitcase. By then, we were standing right behind the taxi. I stopped with the intention of hiring the cab, but Emily kept walking and left my arm. As I turned, I saw yet another scowl, this time of the sinister variety, peering back at me. Before I could speak, Emily blackjacked me with a force that I’d swear she hadn’t the capability.

My vision was blurring, but I had just enough sense to witness the cabby and his passenger carry me while my legs dragged across the sidewalk. The scraping noise that my shoes made against the concrete seemed to echo with a similar profundity as Emily’s heels had upon the stairs. They unceremoniously heaved me into the trunk, and the last thing I saw was the cabby’s fist before the darkness claimed me.

When I finally began to regain consciousness, I thought the echoes were coming back for me. As my vision cut through the blurriness, my other senses followed. I could hear the roar, feel the heat, and smell the gasoline. If I wasn’t already amidst the fires of Hell, I need not wait long.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

-Albert Einstein