rick had never been much of a reader, but he asked eddie what the the book was about.
eddie picked the book off the counter so rick could see it.
the book was called - “the life and death of adolf hitler"
rick had heard the name hitler many times but he was not sure who he was. or if he was a real person. was hitler another name for the devil? he did not want to look stupid and say something that showed he didn’t know who hitler was so he just nodded.
but eddie looked like he expected rick to say something about the book.
rick was given a respite by a customer coming in. an old man in an old-fashioned suit - but not so old-fashioned as to be wearing a hat or tie - who looked like he was not quite a bum.
“just coffee?” eddie asked the old man, like he recognized him and was familiar with him. eddie’s tone wasn’t friendly or unfriendly.
the old man just nodded. eddie put the book face down on the counter and went to get the coffee. he got rick’s coffee too and gave it to him after he gave the old man his.
another customer came in - a woman neither old nor young, who looked like she probably worked in one of the office buildings in the area. eddie greeted her politely, like he didn’t know her. she started ordering something and eddie began writing it down on a little pad.
then a third customer came in - a bag lady. then two more, a young man and young woman together, both well-dressed.
rick decided he better get going. eddie would be pretty busy and rick didn’t want to hang around taking up space in the little diner.
also, rick wouldn’t have to admit to eddie that he didn’t know anything about hitler even though eddie seemed to think he would and should.
rick finished his coffee - it was not that hot or that good - and left his money on the counter and left. eddie was busy with the young couple and rick did not try to get his attention.
outside the air was bright and cold. it was almost noon, and the streets were filled up with people.
rick decided to go to the library. he often went there to pass the time. sometimes he read the newspapers if they were available. he read the sports page - even though he was not that big a sports fan and never bet on games or played in fantasy leagues. and didn’t really give a shit who won or lost the games.
he would read the comics, even though they almost never made him laugh.
he liked the old-fashioned comics with continuous stories, like the phantom and mary worth. he wished there were more of them. he liked them better than television.
the want ads in the papers were useless. if he forced himself to look at want ads, he used a computer terminal, if he could get one.
what he spent most of his time in the library doing was reading the magazines, especially ones with pictures. like the national geographic, his favorite. sometimes he would kind of nod off, just looking at the brightly colored pictures in the national geographic.
once, at home, he had mentioned that he liked to look at the national geographic and grace had laughed.
rick wanted to know what was so funny about that, and grace had finally explained, in a very roundabout way with a lot of eye-rolling, that she thought national geographic was filled with pictures of “native women” with their boobs hanging out.
rick had been looking at national geographic in the library for at least three years and never seen a single bare tit. he tried to explain this to grace, but she just rolled her eyes, like, yeah, right.
why did people have to be so ignorant, and so mean? rick never forgot grace laughing at him. he never forgot anybody laughing at him. anybody, for any reason.
but today, he decided to do something different.
he decided to look at the hitler book eddie had. it was a big library, it had a lot of books. rick figured it must have every book that was ever written.
there was a young woman , not half-bad looking, at the front desk. rick had seen her before but never spoken to her on his way to the periodicals room.
“i’m looking for a book,” he told her. he wondered if that was a dumb way to ask, but she smiled politely enough and asked , “yes, sir, a particular book?”
“a book about hitler.”
did he see a flash of contempt in her eyes? if he did, it was quickly gone, and she asked politely again, “a particular book about hitler?” she swiveled a computer terminal towards herself and hit a key on it to bring up the screen.
“uh, yeah.” what was the exact name of eddie’s book? “the life and death of adolf hitler.”
the young woman pecked at the screen. “by robert payne?”
“yeah.” he guessed that was it.
“i’m afraid that’s out. and it has a couple of holds on it.”
rick wasn’t sure what that meant . he nodded.
“we have some other books about hitler. would you like one of those?”
“there is one by ian kershaw - that is out too. it is kind of new.” she scrolled down on her screen.
“here is one by john toland, it’s in two volumes. that is in. oh, wait! here is a paperback copy of the payne book, that is available.“
“i’ll take that.”
the young woman pointed. “the paperbacks are off to the left, behind the large print books.” when rick looked a little uncertain, she added. “they are in a rack. they are supposed to be in first letter order, but are kind of jumbled up. ask at the reference desk. if you can’t find it.”
“thank you.” that wasn’t so tough, rick thought, as he moved away.
he found the book by himself after spinning the racks a few times, and took it to the furthest table, where nobody else was sitting.
rick opened the book to the first page and immediately saw a couple of sentences highlighted in bright pink.
he was a law unto himself, and unlike other men. very early in his life he saw that he was alienated from other men, shared few of their enjoyments and ambitions, and could dispense with their company. he lived alone, cherishing his loneliness and his singularity, reaching out to other men only when he needed to use them.
carter mcdowell williams was a disgusting person .
one day, after cleaning his apartment to remove the traces of his recent disgusting behavior, he was walking down the stairs when he encountered the building superintendent.
the building superintendent was a fellow named bill, and carter had up to this point found him to be agreeably able to mind his own business.
“good morning, mister williams, “ bill greeted carter.
did the fellow want something? carter merely nodded.
“do you mind if i ask you a question?” bill continued.
i surely do, thought carter, but he answered evenly enough, “what is the question?”
“has your wi-fi been giving you any problems?”
wi-fi? that was something to do with computers, was it not? “i don’t have any wi-fi, thank you.”
“but of course you do! didn’t you see the memo i sent around last year? the whole building has wi-fi and has for over a year.”
carter was not sure how to respond. “i do not have a computer, so it is - it is not relevant to me.”
“oh.” bill looked mildly bewildered. “oh yeah, i think you mentioned that before.” he gave carter a big smile. “well, sorry to bother you. have a nice day.” and he stood aside to let carter pass.
“have a nice day.” carter detested the phrase, but he had learned to use it.
carter continued down the five flights of stairs to the street. outside, the day was bright and sunny, but did little to lighten his mood.
carter never went anywhere without a destination, and his destination was the large supermarket on the corner of the next block.
how he hated the supermarket, and how he missed the good old days when one did business face to face with an honest tradesman, or at least one whose honesty one could then judge for oneself!
entering the supermarket, carter availed himself of one of the horrible brightly colored plastic baskets and headed for the produce department, to select some ingredients for a salad.
carter had for some time been subsisting on fruit and vegetables, not out of any namby-pamby vegetarianism but because it was no longer possible to find a decent cut of real beef.
suddenly he heard a voice behind him.
carter did not turn around. although he was naturally suspicious of his fellow humans, and acutely sensitive of what he took to be their instinctive contempt and revulsion for him, he had learned to be cautious in his reaction to perceived insults or accusations.
more than once in his younger days he had blundered into uncomfortable situations when he had reacted to something either intended jokingly or harmlessly, or not addressed to him at all.
then he heard easy laughter behind him. as he leaned over to inspect an almost acceptable looking cucumber, he stole a glance behind himself and saw a trio of youthful humans of indeterminate sex laughing and punching each other on the forearms.
it was obvious that “that’s him!” had referred to some interchange of sensibilities among themselves, and nothing to do with him.
carter did not breathe a sigh of relief. he was too old a hand for that. instead he deposited the cucumber in his red plastic basket and calmly moved a few feet away to inspect the lettuce.
did he need to buy salad dressing? he had completely forgotten to check before he had left his apartment.
he decided to buy some dressing if it were on sale, otherwise to take his chances.
immersed in his calculations, carter was unaware of the young man standing to the left of the prepared salads section, who was eyeing him intently.
morley had been waiting patiently to talk to detective fletcher.
about the book he was writing about larry landsdowne, a little known serial killer who had been convicted of murdering seven young woman but was thought to be guilty of murdering as many as a hundred more.
morley had first approached the police about his book a few months earlier. he had found them polite and helpful, despite his lack of credentials and qualifications.
detective fletcher had been especially helpful, answering many of his questions - which were mostly general questions about police procedure and not specifically about larry landsdowne.
but when morley returned a second time he did not feel he was so welcome. he thought detective fletcher had seemed a little impatient, and not so friendly, especially when he tried to ask more specific questions about murders possibly involving larry landsdowne.
later he found out that a reporter for an omaha newspaper was also researching a book about larry landsdowne. could that have been the reason for detective fletcher’s coolness - that she had promised, or been forced to promise, exclusive information to the established reporter?
he had hesitated about returning for a third time. but had decided to, at least to get an idea of where he stood.
also, he thought he had discovered a couple of good leads, which the police might appreciate his sharing with them.
he had been cooling his heels waiting for detective fletcher when the flabby guy in the old fashioned suit had come in and told the young officer at the desk that he wanted to help find missing children.
the flabby guy was told politely to take a seat - and he took one on the bench on the other side of the room from morley.
the young woman who had been at the desk disappeared into the back of the station.
morley got a good look at the guy on the bench.
and morley knew.
he just knew - that this guy was the real deal.
a serial killer if there ever was one.
morley’s heart beat a little faster. he almost forgot about larry landsdwne and detective fletcher and whether she would be polite and helpful.
he had to find out who this guy was!
unfortunately he had not given his name to the young woman at the desk. morley could not very well ask her to give it to him.
even less could he go over and ask the guy himself for his name - that would get him suspicious right away.
morley thought. if the flabby guy had driven over morley could get his license number and find out his identity from that.
there was a mcdonalds across the street from the police station. morley would wait in it by the front window and when the guy came out, if he got in his car morley would get his license number and if he walked away or waited at the bus stop morley would follow him.
this was the real deal! the newspaper man in omaha could have larry landsdowne, and if detective fletcher blew him off, well, wouldn’t she be surprised when he solved this brand new case all on his own!
morley continued to glance unobtrusively at the flabby guy - who was waiting expressionlessly on the bench across from him.
what a creep! he had probably killed a hundred hookers or young men or whatever and buried them on an old farm about ten miles out of town.
suddenly detective fletcher appeared, accompanied by the desk officer. she did not look over at morley but at the flabby guy.
she asked the guy to come with her. that was quick! morley thought. maybe they already have a line on this guy.
but he pushed away the thought that maybe he was too late to catch this guy on his own. the guy had not identified himself, or indicated he had ben asked to come in to the station. what could the police kmow?
detective fletcher turned and saw morley on the other bench. she gave him an are-you-still-here? glance.
morley stood up . “i can come back later,” he told her. “if it’s not convenient right now.”
“yes,” she answered politely. “that might be best.”
morley smiled and left, secretly delighted. now he could go ahead with his plan to follow the guy.
the flabby guy needed a name until morley found out his real one.
gorbachev. that was a good name. morley had heard the name somewhere but was not sure where. it had a serial killerish sound.
except for serial killers and rap stars and porn stars, morley was a little shaky about history and who famous people with famous names actually were.
outside the police station, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.
morley checked out the cars in the parking lot an in the street, wondering which might be gorbachev’s.
an ancient ford mustang - about 20 years old? - streaked with dirt, looked like a good candidate.
morley went into the mcdonalds. he bought a crispy chicken sandwich and a cup of cofee and took a seat by the window and waited for gorbachev.