The library was cold and dark. I forgot how much it cost to heat the old building and fall comes late in South Mississippi. I bundled myself in front of the computer I moved into the office, the blanket and robe draped around me and chewed on a cocktail of antacid and aspirin. The headache would not leave me today.
The banging on the front door started at ten in the morning. A persistent banging that continued for twelve minutes. I ignored it.
Two hours later my headache was gone and I began drinking the last of the whiskey from the night before. I am not proud of days like this, am not proud of much in general any more. But I pass the time.
The banging started again at noon, this time loud and hard. I was reading something on a medical website about brittle bone disease. I was not sure why other than it seemed to be entertaining at the time. Anything is entertaining on a cold, misting afternoon with a stomach full of whiskey. And canned spaghetti. I found the can at some point while finding the whiskey.
The banging at noon rattled the door in the frame and the glass. I knew that banging.
“Detective Parker,” I said to the bald man as he stepped away from me. Gerald Parker hates me for many reasons and I bet I smelled like a dorm room, so take your pick as to why he stepped back. “Detective Parker,” I said, “What can I do you for?”
Parker stared at me, at the fake Navajo blanket across my shoulders, the brown and stain colored robe and the pajama pants I wore, turned and left.
“He’s all yours,” he said.
“About goddamn time, Ev,” a girl’s voice said and it was my turn to recoil.
“Jesus, Imp,” I said, my headache returning, “I forgot all about you.”
“I bet you did,” said the wiry girl in front of me. Ilene Banned, the girl I called Imp and my cousin, put her hands on her hips and stared at me from behind too much makeup and not enough clothes covering her thin frame.
“You look cold,” I said. I did not wait for an answer, but left the door open as I walked back to the office behind the circulation desk. I heard her grunt and something slide across the floor. That made me turn.
Imp drug a large chair with red cushions and dark mahogany wood into the library. It looked like a throne for a homeless king. The batting puffed from one edge of the seat cushion and duct tape covered one arm.
“What the hell is that?” I said.
“This,” Imp said, turning to close the door against the wind, “Is the chair that has been sitting outside your library all morning in the rain, cuz. Good thing he’s not coming until tomorrow.”
“Do you have a hair dryer?”
“Imp,” I said, “I’m drunk and I’m asking you to focus. Think about that.”
“I called you. You said it was all good.”
“You called, I remember that,” and I did. She had called Friday and again yesterday, “Said you wanted to help the library. But you never told me what the hell was going on.”
“There’s um,” Imp bit her lip and twisted her hair while she stared at the chair, “I met this guy and he wants to give me some money for a job. You money. Us money.”
“For the chair?”
“What? No. He needs help building something. Some kind of… thing.”
“An Indian thing.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Imp pulled over two chairs from the makeshift computer lab. The three computer desks looked bare now with only one chair and one empty desk, all power cut from them and cables leading away and into my office. She sat in one of the chairs and patted the seat of the other.
I dropped into it.
“Comfy?” she said.
I stood up and walked to the office. I grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels and a glass. Walking back into the main room, I poured some of the amber liquid into the glass.
“None for me?” Imp asked.
I handed her the glass and took a drink from the bottle. “What the fuck is this about,” I said.
Imp took a sip and made a face that squirmed, “Ech. I told you. I met a guy named Ben. Ben Tobias. He owns the chair. He wants to build a thing and you and me are gonna help him.”
“What kind of thing?”
“Whatever. A mound or statue? Something like that.”
“That makes no sense. What’s with the throne?”
“I’m helping him and he likes to have his own chair.”
I tried to take in all the information I had just learned. The whiskey was easier to take in. I took a drink and stared at Imp.
“He’s legit. Not like the last time. Swear. He hired me from this temp thing to help out for the taxes change stuff. I told him all about the family and the library and he got real excited. Asked if we had books and stuff on the area. I told him, yeah, all kinds of shit. Only I didn't say ‘shit’ cause he’s all proper. Probably gay, too, dude never looks at my tits.”
I stared at her until she stopped talking. She stared back at me. A thought crossed my mind about taxes.
“Has he ever been around here before?”
“No, don’t think so.”
“Where’s he from?”
“How much is he offering for the work?”
“That answer’s not supposed to be a question.”
“I don’t know, okay? He sent me down here to get him a place to stay, to set up the chair and all. You said you were cool with it. And speaking of which it is freezing my nips off in here. What’s up with all this?”
“The library closed after the fire,” I said. I doubt she kept up with the family business, it not really being her family business and all, but still. I guess this is what happens when people stop writing family news in Christmas Cards. Also, Christmas is six weeks away, so I need to stop drinking so much because I am rambling. I told her about the fire, leaving out the crazy hillbillies and the cult, how the repairs bankrupted the library and the city dropped our funding.
“All the money’s gone?” she asked.
“Yeah. Nothing really, but some I put back. You had to hear at least that much from your mamma. So why are you really here? Who’s chasing you?”
“Nobody. Swear. It’s true,” she said, looking away, “Heard you were in some money trouble. Told you that, too. Just thought we could help each other. And I missed you.”
“Yeah, missed you too, Imp,” I said, “So he’s already coming?”
Her head nodded.
“Fine,” I said, standing, “I’ll pull all the local Native American stuff and start a fire.”
“You’re gonna burn the books?” she asked.
I stopped and stared at her. She looked at me with enough sincerity to fill a goldfish bowl. I pointed toward the old fireplace that sat to the side of the great room.
“Oh, yeah, right. You won’t regret this, Evan. I swear,” she said.
Word of advice: If someone says ‘You won’t regret this,’ kick them in the balls and run screaming. If they don’t have balls, aim for the heart.