The Big Wait

I watch the kid, Dwight Peacock. He hands over the capsules to some lowlife in a jean jacket. Like every single night at this time for the past two weeks, the money changes hands. Peacock laughs, shaking his head like it’s on a spring. The lowlife in the jean jacket beats it, shrinking back into the shadows where he came from. Peacock turns and goes back into inside, stupidly counting his money in a wide fan and held in both hands as if no one’s watching. But, I’m watching. It’s from my second floor window room that looks out onto the expanse of green lawn that was spread out under the cover of night, intermittently interrupted by three cones of light coming from the path lighting spaced out at ten yard intervals.

underwood typewriter

(image: Chaojoker)

The capsules are probably valium and ritalin, taken from the pharmacy or maybe even the tray tables of little old ladies here at the Shady Hills Rest Home For The Elderly in Pasadena; my home. Well, it’s been my home for a year at least.

Linda, my wife, died. She was rich. But, a family debt and some shady dealings had wiped her out, and me with it. But, what was left bought a place here, and will keep paying for it unless I live too long. It’s a comfortable place, I guess. But, dull. Really dull. And they don’t take kindly to my love of a good brandy, or the occasional bottle of Old Forester. And as for smoking, I had to give it up in ’68. Actually, I had to give it up about twenty years before that, but I procrastinated. So did Linda. It didn’t quite pay off for her. So, I’m alone again. It’s like life helped me find my center of gravity after she died. This is not to say that I didn’t love Linda. I did, in my way. But, being alone feels natural to me. Being married always felt like I was wearing a suit that didn’t fit me so well, as much as I wanted to wear it. It hung off me like a fancy dress ball costume.

My room here is a double, but I don’t have a roommate. The walls are robin’s egg blue with white molding all around the ceiling, and matching baseboards. The carpet is the color of stale tobacco spilled out of a can. There’s a crude picture of a sailboat over my bed, which I suppose is there for ambiance, but seems to have some metaphorical value that I have yet to put my finger on. It makes me angry, but not angry enough to do anything about it. I have a desk where my Underwood typewriter sits, and where I keep the ghost of a decanter of bourbon and two glasses I once owned. I have a small table where I keep my chess set. The chess pieces wait in their ranks, ready for war. Two chairs, one of which is always empty, face each other adversarially across the table. The squat and ugly radio on my bedside table is always off. The bookshelf next to the desk is made of some cheap chipboard and a fake wood panel veneer with too many repeating grain patterns that make it look like some kind of optical illusion that isn’t very convincing. I keep my books there; poetry, and philosophy mainly. I have no time for fiction. I’ve spent too much time listening to people’s fictions in the line of work I was in.

I was a shamus, a peeper, a private dick.

Linda wanted me to take a respectable job in her daddy’s factory after we were married in fifty-two. But, I couldn’t do that. She knew I couldn’t but she asked me anyway. So,  it was cocktail parties for her, and a client list for me. But, that was a long time ago, it seemed. I’m here now; no client list, no cocktail parties, no Linda. Just Dwight Peacock and his shady little drug business, a crowd of shuffling old people, some nurses, and Ellen Pace the administrator. It wasn’t good or bad. It was neutral. None of it mattered. The world has gotten no better since before the war.

In the thirties, it was guys like Eddie Mars making a killing off of the saps in his casinos with the cops looking the other way. In the forties, it was more frame ups and sex murders, not to mention another world war. The fifties saw in more frame ups, mistaken identity, and murder while everyone was meant to be so prosperous and happy. The darkness just moved underground, under the lawns and the picket fences, waiting to emerge. By the sixties, things slowed down for me, but the world sped right up and seemed to lose its mind completely. There was a president put on ice and a patsy put in place to pin it on. There was a pointless war that was like a bet that the house couldn’t cover that we paid for with a decade of death. Another guy was put on ice just because he was tired of being treated like a sap, along with the rest of his people.

Now its the seventies, and a couple of years ago, a president resigned before they could impeach him for hiring some guys to do something someone would once have hired me to do for twenty five a day plus expenses. That’s chump change nowadays, but it cost him a lot more. But, I wouldn’t have taken his money anyway. A grinning peanut farmer is president now. Before that, there was  an energy crisis not quite as bad as the one now, a shooting of unarmed kids on a college campus, and domestic terrorists named after the weather. That’s about the time my water works began to fail, with my bum leg getting worse all at the same time. So, I’m stuck here, left to watch it all on the too-loud television in the sitting room, as bad as it ever was. It’s not how I pictured things; a bum leg, lousy plumbing, and no smokes. A drink would be nice. What would I have to lose? They don’t allow it here.

I move from the chair at the window slowly, and turn toward the bed before I feel sleep weigh too heavily on me. I just about make it to the bed. The rubber sheets underneath the navy blue bedspread make an obscene sound.

I dream long and langourously. In my dream, I wait outside of a house in Rialto in the rain for Silver-Wig to come out with Canino, a guy who sapped me with a roll of nickels. This is not too long after he killed a little guy called Harry Jones, who only wanted to help out a girl he was sweet on stay out of trouble. I was no killer. I myself used guns in the same way a mechanical engineer uses a slide rule. It was just an aspect of my work, and not something I took to because I enjoyed it.

But I was glad to pop Canino. That I had to pop him out of necessity only made it a bonus. I remember thinking that at the time when it really happened to me, and I remember thinking it in the dream too. I remember thinking that I was glad I had to do it. But, in the dream I had another thought; what if everyone at The Shady Hills Rest Home For The Elderly in Pasadena knew I put four bullets into Eddie Mars’ best trigger man and am glad to have done it? I would have done it again, too. They would never have suspected that the little raisin in room 204 could have plugged a guy like Canino and felt good while he was doing it. But, no one knew who Eddie Mars was anymore, much less his trigger man.

Another thought occurs to me just as I’m waking up. What would the penny-ante goofball peddler Dwight Peacock do if he’d seen me at my window looking down on his deal? He’s the son of Ransom Peacock, the real estate baron. Dwight is a twenty year old crumb, a greasy pill with a dirty little line on the side in stolen uppers and downers taken from old ladies, sold to pushers to sell to kids. The elder Peacock owns this flop, and a few others like it. It sticks in my craw that I’m paying both Peacocks to fan their tails out. I never see the elder. I’m stuck here like a sap while with his kid who has the bulge on me and everyone else who lives here. He holds down a straight  job as an orderly here, a job his old man figured would whip the kid into shape. I can’t imagine a sorrier state of affairs for either one of them.

Even here, the shadows have found their reach. As for me, all I could do was try to ignore all the angles; shady characters after hours, irregular deliveries, and the sneaking suspicion that we, the residents, are just a smoke screen. Sometimes, I wished my noodle had started to fail rather than my water works so I wouldn’t have to think about it. Angles and knowing them was my business. It had to be. Once you stopped seeing those angles in my line of work, it was curtains. That’s what I was always good at. It’s what kept me breathing.

When I woke up completely the sun was streaming through my east-facing window, which helped to distract me from my leg, and the discomfort of my goddamned truss. I reach for my cane and get up. I shave using the electric razor they bought me. I get dressed, knowing that maybe I won’t always be able to do it myself, and getting grim pleasure out of doing it. I walk downstairs to the lobby, past the empty reception desk, and make my way into the dining room. Both my legs bring me there as if they are on a timeclock, like factory workers punching in. It’s not like it was in the old days, when I worked for clients. There were no clocks back then. Things needed doing when they needed doing. The position of the sun didn’t have a thing to do with it. These days, there are no irregularities. I like it that way. There are fewer angles to ignore. But, I miss having a client to work for.

But, there’s at least one irregularity this morning. There are cops in the dining room, two of them. One of them is talking to Dinah, who doesn’t hear so well. She was a dancer during prohibition. Now, she’s a little old lady drowning in the shadow of a tall drink of water with blonde hair asking her questions. She pays him no mind. As I glance at her, I stir my scrambled eggs that never knew a chicken. I scoop some into my mouth, tentatively. They taste funny, like they have for the past two weeks. I look into my cup of watery coffee. The sausages on the plate sit in a puddle of their own oil. I stare. Soon, the shorter cop comes over to me.

“Excuse me, sir. I’d like to ask you some questions if you don’t mind. May I sit down?”

“It’s still a free country, Lieutenant,” I said flatly.

He makes a squeak of a sound which I interpret as an acknowledgement of thanks. And then he makes another noise that reveals that he’d been embarrassed that he’d made the first noise. He smiles stupidly at me, thinking me stupid also. That what all stupid people do. I hold back my thoughts about him. He’s just a kid. Well, he’s just a kid to me. The police had always resented my presence. Now it was sought out. I want to see how it’s going to play out. So, I settle in, and cast another glance over at Dinah, who’s smiling at the tall cop who’s smiling back. Some ember inside of me flares, and I’m curious.

“We’re asking the residents if they happen to have seen anyone suspicious yesterday, particularly around nine o’clock or later.”

“What department are you in, Lieutenant?” I push a bank of scrambled eggs from one side of my plate to another. I look into the cop’s eye.

The cop smiles. He’s got a bush of black hair in tight curls that grows outward rather than down. He’s got a pointed beard and a black moustache that droop down his face like that of some renaissance figure. He’s like some Portuguese explorer sailing to the edge of the world. He’s not stupid after all. He just wants me to think he is. He’s good. He’s good because he doesn’t answer my question too quickly. The other cop over at Dinah’s table gets up and moves on to Ralph’s table. Ralph was once a pitcher in the minors who almost got his ticket to the Big Show before he got into a fight in a bar and wrecked his arm. Frank is sitting there, too. Frank was a forest ranger in Oregon who once fought off a grizzly bear with a flaming tree branch. Neither of them can figure out what the big cop is there for. They don’t react to him, but they don’t react to much these days. I take in the scene in an instant, and then turn back to my cop.

“Well.” I say. It’s not a question. It’s just a word that I put out there for the cop to take off the table like a card dealt to him. He doesn’t take it.

“What’s your name, sir?”

I tell him.

“Well, I’m just wondering if you’ve seen anyone around here that made you feel strange. Yesterday. Even during the day?”

“Feel strange? That’s my natural state these days, Lieutenant …?” I leave space for him to fill in his name like a government form, since he won’t play cards with me.

“Barron. Lt. George Barron. Here. Here’s my card.”

I look at it. He’s homicide. It was not even a real question when I posed it. I just wanted to hear him say it. I read it and grunt. I put the card in my shirt pocket. Then, I  bring the fork down on one of the sausages, break off a morsel, spear it and raise it to my mouth. I chew, then swallow, making him wait for me to look up at him again. He doesn’t.

“Does it shock you, talking to me? To a homicide detective?”

“A lot of people die here, Lt. Barron. Mostly, it’s expected. I’m wondering what happened that was unexpected enough to bring you and your lanky pal over there all the way out to an old folks’ home in Pasadena. I’m wondering what connection you’ve got to let you in on who’s killing who at Shady Hills.”

Barron laughs, but there’s no warmth in it. He means business but he’s taking it easy on me because I’m an old man. I’ve never been very good at giving cops straight answers before I know all the angles. That will get tired for him pretty soon. I better get him to tell me everything he knows fast before the sand runs out of the hourglass.

“I can’t tell you that. I can’t tell you anything. We’re still conducting our investigation.”

“Then, no.”

“No, what?”

“No, I haven’t seen anyone who made me feel strange. Or at least not any stranger than I normally feel. That’s what it’s like, if you’re wondering.”

The young cop leans forward in his chair and looks into my eyes.

“What what’s like?”

“Being old. It doesn’t feel like it’s you. But, it is. I hope you get to learn what I mean, a guy in your line of work.”

“What line of work were you in?” Barron asks, genuinely interested.

“Me? I was a mechanical engineer. I carried a slide rule with me wherever I went, just in case.”

“You said “then, no” when I told you I couldn’t tell you anything about our investigation. Would you have said anything differently if I told you what we were investigating?”

“No. Since you’re homicide I figure someone’s taken a dirt nap. Beyond that, what should I expect you to tell me?”

“You sure you didn’t see anyone suspicious around here yesterday?”

“I don’t get many visitors, Lieutenant. So I don’t look for them.”

“That’s not what I asked, but that’s too bad. About not getting visitors.”

“I’ll muddle through somehow.”

Barron smiles again, politely this time.

“You’ve got my card. Call me if .. call me if you remember something.”

Barron leaves and so does his tall drink of water partner.

The day is spent in a whirlwind of tasks, none of them amounting to much. But, as night falls, I sit by window looking out onto the grass again. Dwight Peacock is nowhere to be seen, just as he hadn’t been seen all day. I have my answer. This time, I don’t make it to my bed before I fall asleep in my chair.

I wake up sore, still in my clothes. I shave. I reach for my cane, and go downstairs to the front desk. I talk to Rita who’s at reception. She’s the best thing about this place.

“Morning, angel.”

Rita smiles. She’s twenty-seven, skin like flowing caramel, with a bounty of curls framing a tall intelligent forehead. You could get lost in her almond-shaped brown eyes. Her mouth is a sensual delight. She’s been here about a month. “Phil, have you had  your breakfast?” Her voice is as smooth as bourbon. I stand there and drink it in, wishing I was young again.

“I’m like the rainforest. I live on pure sunshine. I need to talk to Ellen. I have a proposition for her.”

“Well, Ellen’s busy, Phil. Why don’t you leave it with me, OK?”

“What if I told you it had to do with our visitors from Homicide yesterday?”

Rita smiles again. “From where?”

“Homicide. I’m referring to a certain Peacock who didn’t show up for his shift yesterday. A sticky-fingered bird who knows the value of pharmaceuticals to the right class of lowlife.”

Rita’s face clouds over with a mixture of confusion and concern. “Why don’t you get your breakfast, Phil? I’ll see what I can do about Ellen.”

I go into the dining room and eat. It’s porridge. I’m not hungry. There’s something inside of me that it boiling like a furnace. Food doesn’t compare. My leg doesn’t even hurt that much today. The piped in music in the dining room today is Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade”. I like Miller alright. But, I’m more of a Count Basie man. Miller’s music sounds like a freshly-pressed shirt; good in its place and appreciated, but otherwise unremarkable. I taste the porridge, and like the eggs the morning before, it tastes funny.

I wait for Ellen and she comes, her face flushed red. Ellen Pace is in her fifties and wears her hair like an ash-blonde helmet, as if she’s always about to go to war. Her glasses are too big for her face and makes her look like a prudish owl. She wears a brown turtleneck that looks like it’s making her too warm in weather like this. She’s wearing it out of sheer bloody-mindedness, along with a tweed skirt and sensible shoes. Ellen is a very sensible person, which is what makes her such a good administrator of this place. I look up at her standing over me with her arms folded, shoring up for that war she’s always ready for.

“Ellen. Thanks for joining me. Why don’t you sit down?”

“Thank you, Phil. But, I have a very busy schedule today. I don’t have much time for you.”

I let the double meaning of that pass and smile at her. “I’ll make it worth your while. Sit down.” I make the last statement sound like an invitation and an order at the same time. She gives me a cold stare and sits down like it was her idea.

“Rita mentioned something about a proposal.” She says that through pressed lips that are turning white around the edges.

“Yes. I have information that I am willing to sell.”

“Information about what, Phil?”

“About missing drugs.”

Her face blanches. It is laced with guilt, and I find that I am not surprised. But, I should have seen this coming.

“Phil. Your appointment with Doctor Kaplan. It’s later today. I’ll come and get you when it’s time,” she replies. It’s an odd segue. I don’t remember any appointment, or a Doctor Kaplan.

“The cops came here yesterday, asking questions. I suppose you know more than they were willing to tell me. Let’s compare notes at least.”

“I think,” she pauses, “I think you’re confused again, Phil. I’m sorry. There are things that need to be … clarified.”

“Clarification is why it’s a good idea to sit down and talk to me. I am willing to offer my services, such as they are. They are services that I’ve worked long and hard at, long and hard enough not to give them away for free. If you really want to know everything that goes on here, you’d do well to consider my offer.”

“What could you do for me, Phil? What is it that you think you know?” she asks it as benignly as she can, trying to hide her contempt. As good as she is at her job, she hates it. I’m her job, and people like me. She doesn’t much care for the work so long as it’s attached to a bunch of people who find themselves waiting the big wait. Maybe it reminds her that we’re all waiting that big wait, whether young or old. A thought like that is easy to a guy like me. But, it’s terrible for a person who is a creature of day to day details like Ellen Pace. A thought like that can drive some people crazy, stuck in a dead end job, surrounded by those who will soon to be discovered dead in their beds at any time.

I stare into her owlish eyes and wait for her to make up her mind.

“I’m sorry, Phil.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, Ms. Pace. Thank you for your time. You know where I am if you change your mind.”

“Yes. Phil, I’d like you to get some extra rest today. I don’t want you to excite yourself. It’s not good for you.”

And then I knew that things were bigger than I thought. Peacock was dead. I was sure of that. I could smell it, even if no one had come out and said it yet. As for Ellen, she knew plenty.

I sat. I needed to think. Ellen knew about Peacock. She knew about the drugs. I thought about what I was going to do next and came up empty. There was a murder and a dirty deal. But, there was no client, nothing to hang anything on to anchor things down to the ground. Apart from knowing the angles, having that anchor was necessary. It always had been. Knowing who I was working for, who I would never betray, was my way of keeping from drifting. I felt myself floating downstream, pulled by some undertow. Things began to get hazy then. And I started to remember things. They were things I’d forgotten, and forgotten on purpose.

Another name. Another life.

I shake it off and push the bowl of porridge away from me. I get up and wander back to the front desk. Rita is there, and she looks up at me fearfully. She’s never looked at me like that before. The light was gone from her eyes. I look at her and walk past. Before I get to the stairs, she speaks.

“Don’t turn around, Mr.Marlowe. I’m frightened. I’ve got to tell you something. I don’t know where else to turn!”

I do as she says and don’t turn around, my good foot touching the first stair.

“Then tell me everything, angel. Don’t leave anything out. If you do, I can’t help you and you’re on your own.”

“OK, OK! I’ll tell you everything! Just don’t turn around! I don’t want you to look into my face when I tell you.”

“Whatever you say, precious. I’m listening.”

“That cop says they’ve been watching the place for three months. They know about the drugs. They know that Dwight was in on it. So, they know I was in on it, too. I just wanted to make some extra money. When Dwight told me he needed a lookout, I told him I was in. There was no harm in it! I didn’t think there was any harm in it! But, there’s something else going on. We found a shipment of morphine that wasn’t on the books. Dwight found out it was the Syndicate is running it through the pharmacy. That’s how they move it! Ellen knows. So does Dwight’s dad, Mr Peacock! Dwight found some and dipped into it. He sold some of the morphine, along with the other stuff. I told him not to do it, that it was too risky! But, he told me that the price on the goods was triple on the street for morphine than it was for the other pills. Then last night they caught up to him. They found him in the dumpster yesterday morning, early. Someone beat his head in and broke his legs. I don’t know what to do, Mr. Marlowe! I can’t go to Lt. Barron! I can’t go to jail! I’ll die in there! But, I’m not safe from the mob, either! They would have made Dwight talk before they killed him! He would have told them about me! What do I do, Mr. Marlowe? Can you help me?”

So, that was it. She was in on it too. Everyone here knows what was going on; a kid selling stolen drugs, bumped off by some bigger fish, with a line in drugs bigger than the kid even knew about; a huge operation funneling legal drugs through an old folks home, or a chain of them, and selling them on the black market. But, I don’t really know for sure if Rita is on the up and up. Maybe she bumped him off to get a bigger cut. I don’t know for sure. I can’t know, stuck here on a track between my room, the dining room, the too-loud TV room, the garden. I’m adrift on the tide, lost, with no compass to guide me.

I turn to face her. Her eyes are down, her expression blank, a phone receiver under her perfect chin. It’s as if she hadn’t spoken to me at all. I smile at Rita, grimly. There’s nothing I can say. Then things get really hazy, like when you’re watching a TV show and you begin to nod off. The plot of the story begins to break apart. I taste that funny taste that’s been in my food lately, and realize that I’ve been duped. My head goes light. Things morph and shift, and it feels like my head is slipping under the waves. Then, it does. I am gone again.

“Phil?”

It’s the Doctor. It’s Doctor Kaplan. I’m in his office. How did I get here? Doctor Kaplan has got a bush of black hair in tight curls that grows outward rather than down. He’s got a pointed beard and a black moustache that droop down his face like that of some renaissance figure. He looks like that cop, like Barron. But, who is Barron again? How did I forget about him? How could I think all of those things I was thinking?  I can’t seem to focus on which man is real.

“Yes. I drifted away again, didn’t I?”

“Well, it’s not your fault, Phil.” His tone is like Egyptian honey, locked in a pyramid for three thousand years.

The door opens and a tall drink of water comes in. He looks familiar too. He was talking to Dinah yesterday, wasn’t he? And to Ralph and Frank. He’s a policeman. I think he’s a policeman. No. He can’t be.

“Ah,” says Doctor Kaplan. “Phil, I hope you don’t mind. But, this is Doctor Reese from the university. You might have seen him when we visited the home yesterday. He and I went to school together. But, now he’s in neurosciences. Do you mind if he sits in on our session today?”

“Sure. I mean, no. I don’t mind.”

“Now shall we get down to business? How do you feel today?”

“I’m fine. I had a nap in the car. But, I can’t remember what happened before then …” I trail off. My head is still light. And my voice sounds funny. It doesn’t sound like my voice.

“Yes. Fine, Phil. It doesn’t matter. Listen, there is something I need to ask you, Phil.”

“Yes?”

“I’m wondering if you remember where you put your pills.”

“Pills? What pills, Doctor?”

“Your anti-psychotics. You haven’t been taking them. You refused to take them. You tricked the nursing staff. So, we had to get a little sneaky on you in return. I’m sorry about that.”

“Sneaky?”

“Yes. We’ve administered your course in your meals, Phil. Again: I’m sorry about that. It was necessary. Now, if you could tell me where you put your original course of medication, please. It’s important that you answer that question to the best of your knowledge.”

“They’re under my Underwood. I hid them there.” And I had. The voice that doesn’t sound like mine coming out of me is telling the truth. Doctor Kaplan knows that too. He was expecting me to answer that way. It was a test.

“Your typewriter. Yes. Good. Now, we can’t have any more of that, agreed? You need to stay on your course, Phil. It’s important.”

“Important? To whom?”

“Well to all of us, Phil. But, mostly for you. They help you stay lucid. They help keep you anchored in reality. So you don’t drift. We’ve all got to face reality.”

The tall drink of water Kaplan calls Reese pipes up, whispering but loud enough for me to hear. He thinks I’m an idiot, whispering like that so loudly.

“What happened with his original course?” Reese asks in a dull monotone.

Kaplan turns to him and smiles, embarrassed. “He hid his pills from the nurses, and he reverted. When we approached him, he told us about a drug theft. He said that there was a mafia drug ring operating out of the home.”

Reese nods like his head is on a spring, like a goddamn jack-in-the-box. Kaplan turns back to me as if I never caught the exchange. He talks to me like I’m a child.

“I’m just explaining to Doctor Reese about the incident with your medication, Phil. It was a mistake. It was our mistake, Phil. It took us a while to find out what happened. Really, Phil it’s not your fault. It was our mistake.”

“OK.” I say. It’s like he’s telling me a story that happened to someone else.

“Now I have to ask you a few questions just to make sure that your new course is taking hold, Phil. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind.” My voice is flat and disembodied. I feel strange. I’ve been drugged. That’s what Kaplan said. But, even though he said he was sorry, he’s not. I look into Kaplan’s eyes. They are dead.

“What’s your name.” he asks.

“I’m Phil. I’m Phil Davidson.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m seventy-four.”

“Where are you now?”

“In your office, Doctor Kaplan.”

“What did you do for a living before you retired?”

“I was a mechanical engineer.”

“OK.” He pauses. “And who is Raymond Chandler?”

“An author of crime stories. My favourite author.”

“And who is his best-known character?”

“Philip Marlowe.”

“Are you Phillip Marlowe, Phil?”

I pause. I want to say something but I stop myself.  I wait to hear what Phil Davidson will say about me, but he lets me speak for him. He leaves it up to me. Then, I realize that what I needed was here all the time. Phil Davidson is my client. He’s my anchor. Phil has the same first name as me. He’s the same age as me. He lost his wife like I did. He was in the Great War and was sent home with shell shock when he was sixteen. He’d lied about his age to get into the war. Everything in the world scared him, and he retreated into his work, and into books. That’s where we met. I’ve worked for him ever since.

These grinning sawbones birds want me to sell him out. I won’t.

“Doctor Kaplan. How could I be a character in a book? I’d like to go back home now. I’m still feeling groggy from my nap.” I do a perfect impression of Davidson. I’m getting good at it.

Doctor Kaplan and Doctor Reese glance at each other, smiling. They’re satisfied.

I stand up with the help of my cane. I leave Doctor Kaplan’s office and walk toward Ellen in the lobby.

“How much do I owe you, Marlowe?” I hear Davidson say.

“Twenty-five a day, plus expenses. But, I’ll put it on your tab, Davidson.”

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