The Raven in the Window
By the time Seymour had parted with Henry at the inn and returned to his flat, it was nearly two o’ clock in the morning. The wind had picked up to a stinging gale, drawing clouds across the golden, slightly distorted disk of the moon, which had by then risen further and appeared to have shrunk. His face and hands had gone numb, but he didn’t notice until he had arrived in the shelter and relative warmth of the building.
His flat was a mess—more of a mess, that is, than its usual condition. He hadn’t had the time or energy to organize it recently. He didn’t particularly care—not as much as he should have, at least. Seymour de Winter had other—higher—priorities. Priorities like sleuthing. And pondering the mysteries of life. And trying to wheedle as much liquor as possible for as little as possible from the short, fat man in the dark, dingy shop across the street and down the alley. There simply was no time for washing dishes and sweeping floors. He was beginning to find that there was scarcely time for eating—and certainly not enough money for it.
Pushing back the thought that the disastrous state of his living quarters was a perfect reflection of the current state of his life, Seymour shut the door behind him and removed his cloak, tossing it at the sofa rather than investing the effort required to hang it upon its hook. Then, in the semidarkness, he picked his way through the clutter of boxes and bags and odds and ends lying in varying states of dustiness and decay on the floor. Upon reaching the end of the room that served as a makeshift kitchen, he lit a fire in the woodstove. Then, ignoring the precarious mountain of moldering dishes stacked upon the table, he crossed to an overhead cabinet and flicked the door open.
The contents of the cabinet, in contrast to the rest of the apartment, were organized to almost military precision. Two rows, straight lines, the taller ones in back and the shorter ones in front. Not one was out of place. And certainly there were none lying about the flat. No, for reasons Seymour did not care to consider, they had to remain hidden. He did not want to see them.
That reason he did not care to consider? Anyone could have told him it was shame. He could have told himself, if he had allowed it.
Seymour selected a bottle at random and quickly shut the door.
He took the bottle to a place at the table not already occupied by pots and pans and sat down. It was quite dark in the flat, but Aechyeds have exceptional night vision, so he was able to make out his own faint reflection in the colored glass of the bottle as he pulled out the stopper.
“Shit, Seymour,” he muttered to his image, distorted in the curvature of the bottle. “When did you last eat?”
That morning, perhaps. He could vaguely recall nibbling unenthusiastically at a slice of brown bread. Did it count if he had thrown it up again a few minutes later?
“Shit, Seymour,” he repeated, then raised the bottle to his lips and forced his concerns to the back of his mind. It would all work itself out, one way or another. He would shortly go off on this lunatic mission, and if he succeeded, he would come home with quite a sum in his pocket. Then, he reasoned, he would have enough money for food.
If he failed—well, he wouldn’t have to worry about such trivial things as starvation anymore, would he?