The HomecomingMature

I wearily stepped out of the elevator and trod along the corridor to where the doorway of my domicile awaited me. There had been two stops on the way home. One at an all night burger place- I was famished. The other when I dropped off the crowbar at Mike's, a dude I knew from school days who was now a chem major and dabbled with forensics in his spare time.

He was also expert at keeping his mouth shut when the situation called for it.

It was important to determine if the sticky red substance at the implement's end was indeed blood, and maybe take a sample of it for future reference. However, I wasn't ready yet to rattle the more official channels, so the Mike option worked just fine for me.

Now, unlocking the door to my flat, all I wanted to do was tumble into bed.

It had, after all, been a long night.

The tall, bulky figures I had observed talking to each other in a foreign tongue as they scurried by my hiding place in the forest had lost no time in disappearing further down the woods. It sounded like they were speaking in Spanish, but, with my limited command of that language, and the transitory nature of their conversation, the only fragment I could make out was: “Él es jodido el uno o el otro camino...” - ‘He's screwed either way’.

I ended up staying put for a while to make sure they were gone before resuming my own foray.

Currently entering my abode, I flicked on the living room lights and immediately freaked out- someone had tossed the place upside down.

Bookcases were emptied, drawers overturned, sofa cushions brutally slit open. The various paraphernalia in my Hi-Fi niche were knocked down. The carpet was a hodgepodge of books, Cd’s, hi-tech gadgets and brick-a-brac.

By contrast, upside down swivel chair notwithstanding, my PC table looked too tidy. This was because my laptop was no longer there. Aces. Night keeps getting better and better. CD-Roms, USB drives, SD cards- gone. Screen cleaners, headphones, printer perishables and the like joined the rest of the debris down below. Thankfully, my most important e-manuscripts were backed up in a portable drive kept at my safety deposit box down at the bank.

A quick check served to confirm that my kitchen and bedroom had endured a similar fate to my lounge. Just what I needed now- a backbreaking cleaning regimen.

They were obviously professionals, because there were no overt signs of forced entry, and, assuming they came in from there, they had made a point to re-lock the front door in the wake of their departure, to postpone discovery.

What puzzled me was that none of my hi-tech shit was missing other than the laptop (worth maybe $100 in its present condition)- a poor justification for this sort of effort. Oh, and the storage media. Why, even my comparatively valuable coin collection had been upended but not taken.

What specifically were they (whoever “they” is) after? I was just a stupid fictional literature editor (as my dear mother and sister wasted no opportunity to remind me). I hadn't written any bestsellers that would make me a person of interest for book draft thieves. The authors I did work for were mostly of the two-bit variety. None of them had published anything special except for...

On a hunch, I pulled out my previously ignored cellphone. Most of the missed calls pertained to Chris’s efforts to track me down. A couple were from friends. There was also a ring from Molly... and one from Daley Norwood. Bingo. It was dated 6:39 PM of April 9th. A glance at the phone's built-in calendar... last Friday night.

I quickly retrieved the accompanying message: “Hi, Len. It's me. I have something going on that I'm getting feels out of. It's already at the drop off spot, give it love.” End.

Daley was the closest thing I had going to a winning lottery ticket. He was a stellar writer, who was maybe a smidge underrated. Still, some of his books made the NY Times BS list, if not the top 10.

And he chose me.

Because, he told me, I was underrated. Is that zero cool or what?

OK, confession. It wasn't that my editing at large had caught his eye, knocking him dead, and swerving his neck my way. Actually, we met at Dad's wake.

My father had possessed a rare writing talent, and already tucked one #1 bestseller under his belt… before that great granddaddy of all illnesses had taken possession of him. So it wasn't strange for someone like Norwood to have counted Dad among his chums. Still, he had never went so far as to visit us or anything. Ergo, when a tall, fairly muscular man of about thirty five, with short, curly golden-blond hair and unkempt suit approached me where I stood numbly in black next to a floor vase filled with irises- it didn't send a thrill of recognition down my spine.

Nonetheless, it proved a red letter moment in my career, such as it was.

My own writing leaned more towards the 'assists' department. I could take someone's borderline masterpiece and give it the polish necessary to jump start it for a trip up the bestseller lists ladder. Sadly, most authors destined to make that journey prefer working entirely solo, and won't team up with anyone outside the editors provided by the publishing house. But, like I said, this fellow chatted me up during the service, and, one thing leading to another, had ended up checking out my portfolio- and liking what he saw. He said there was definitely a place for my particular talents within the framework of his endeavors. And he meant it.

The aforementioned cell message served the purpose of informing me that, pursuant to (and in culmination of) a lengthy 'dry' season, he had left the draft of his most recent show-piece at our usual prearranged venue- a locker at a bus depot located about halfway between our respective residences. Since Norwood lived in an upscale section of Rawson (our moderate-sized mountain town, sprawled across part of a ridge in the vicinity of Bath, NY), while I founded my own humble abode in a somewhat less ritzy area a considerable distance away, it made sense to split the gap. The relative security those lockers offered appealed to Daley's inherent paranoia of having one or more of his literary ideas stolen from him.

Evidently, I hadn't been minding my cellphone that Friday evening. Which brings me to another person worthy of contemplation- Molly.

If Daley was a windfall, Molly was nothing short of thaumaturgy.

Even if she weren't such a stunner, her ability to draw me out of the shell into which I habitually withdraw would alone have rendered her irreplaceable to me.

The End

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