G is for Gumshoe - Page 2/98

We took a few minutes to survey the site, Henry explaining in detail all the hassles he'd gone through with the City Planning Commission and the Architectural Board of Review. I knew he was just dragging out the explanation to pump up the suspense and, in truth, I was feeling anxious, just wanting to get the whole thing over with. Finally, he allowed me to turn the key in the lock and the front door, with its porthole-shaped window, swung open. I don't know what I'd expected. I'd tried not to conjure up fantasies of any kind, but what I saw left me inarticulate. The entire apartment had the feel of a ship's interior. The walls were highly polished teak and oak, with shelves and cubbyholes on every side. The kitchenette was still located to the right where the old one had been, a galley-style arrangement with a pint-size stove and refrigerator. A microwave oven and trash compactor had been added. Tucked in beside the kitchen was a stacking washer-dryer, and next to that was a tiny bathroom.

In the living area, a sofa had been built into a window bay, with two royal blue canvas director's chairs arranged to form a "conversational grouping." Henry did a quick demonstration of how the sofa could be extended into sleeping accommodations for company, a trundle bed in effect. The dimensions of the main room were still roughly fifteen feet on a side, but now there was a sleeping loft above, accessible by way of a tiny spiral staircase where my former storage space had been. In the old place, I'd usually slept naked on the couch in an envelope of folded quilt. Now, I was going to have an actual bedroom of my own.

I wound my way up, staring in amazement at the double-size platform bed with drawers underneath. In the ceiling above the bed, there was a round shaft extending through the roof, capped by a clear Plexiglas skylight that seemed to fling light down on the blue-and-white patchwork coverlet. Loft windows looked out to the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Along the back wall, there was an expanse of cedar-lined closet space with a rod for hanging clothes, pegs for miscellaneous items, shoe racks, and floor-to-ceiling drawers.

Just off the loft, there was a small bathroom. The tub was sunken with a built-in shower and a window right at tub level, the wooden sill lined with plants. I could bathe among the treetops, looking out at the ocean where the clouds were piling up like bubbles. The towels were the same royal blue as the cotton shag carpeting. Even the eggs of milled soap were blue, arranged in a white china dish on the edge of the round brass sink.

When the inspection tour was complete, I turned around and stared at him, speechless, a phenomenon that made Henry laugh aloud, tickled with himself that he'd executed his scheme so perfectly. Close to tears, I leaned my forehead against his chest while he patted at me awkwardly. I couldn't ask for a better friend.

He left me alone soon afterward and I went through every cabinet and drawer, drinking in the scent of the wood, listening to the phantom creaking of the wind in the rafters overhead. It took me fifteen minutes to move my possessions in. Most of what I owned had been destroyed by the same bomb that flattened the old place. My all-purpose dress had survived, along with a favorite vest and the air fern Henry'd given me for Christmas. Everything else had been pulverized by black powder, blasting caps, and shrapnel. With the insurance money, I'd bought a few odds and ends – jeans and jumpsuits – and then I'd tucked the rest in a money market account, where it was merrily collecting interest.

At 8:45, I locked up, looked in on Henry briefly, and fumbled my way through yet another thank-you, which he waved away. Then I headed to the office, a quick ten-minute drive into town. I wanted to stay home, circling my house like a sea captain preparing to embark on some fabulous voyage, but I knew for a fact I had bills to pay and telephone calls to return.

I dispensed with several minor items, typing up a couple of invoices for two standing accounts. The last name on the list of phone calls was a Mrs. Clyde Gersh who had left a message on my machine late the day before with a request to get in touch at my convenience.

I dialed her number, reaching for a yellow pad. The phone rang twice and then a woman picked up on the other end.

"Mrs. Gersh?"

"Yes," she said. Her tone held a note of caution as if I might be soliciting contributions for some fraudulent charity.

"Kinsey Millhone, returning your call."

There was a split second of silence and then she seemed to recollect who I was. "Oh yes, Miss Millhone. I appreciate your being so prompt. I have a matter I'd like to discuss with you, but I don't drive and I'd prefer not to leave the house. Is there any chance you might meet with me here sometime today?"