Monday, October 21, 2013

Hercule Poirot, The Letter, Episode 3

“I don’t know what happened, Miss Lemon! I turned my back—”

“Oh really, Mr. Hastings, that’s just the point, isn’t it? He was in a very precarious situation, and yet you—Oh dear, oh dear, I warned him not to go when he got the letter. I am just sick about this. Sick, do you hear? And if you were a child, Captain Hastings, I should send you to your room without any supper.”

“W-well . . . I’m not, now am I, Miss Lemon?  But you are quite right, I should have protected him.”

“There’s the doorbell. It's Chief Inspector Japp. You sit down and don’t move a muscle.” (leaves the room)

(Hastings mutters) “I say, jolly rude that. The day I take orders from a woman is the day I resign from the human race.” (eyes Hercule Poirot’s desk) "Hmm . . . where could that letter be?” (quickly breaks open the lock on a center drawer and pulls out a lavender-scented pink envelope just before Japp enters the room. He shoves the envelope in his coat pocket and hastily takes a seat)  “Ah, good morning, Inspector.”

“Is it? Dragging me out of bed at one in the morning is not my cup of tea. So, the most famous detective in the world has gone missing. You seem awfully cheery about it.” (eyes Hastings suspiciously)

“No my good man, quite the opposite. I'm positively devastated by what happened to my dearest friend.”  (Fingers the letter in his pocket)

“Right. Give me the skinny, then, if you please, Captain Hastings.”

"Not much to tell, really. I accompanied Poirot to his midnight appointment. We were standing there chatting amiably when I heard a noise. I went to investigate. Took only a minute, really. By the time I returned, he was gone.”

(Miss Lemon chimes in) “I still can't believe you turned your back on Mr. Poirot.”

(A huffy Hastings) “You can berate me to kingdom come, Miss Lemon, but it can’t be any worse than what I’ve said to myself a thousand times already.”

(Inspector Japp clears his throat) “Right, right. No need for self-recrimination at this stage of the game. Let’s move on. What did you find when you investigated the noise?”

"N-nothing, really. My imagination must have playing tricks on me."

"Are you absolutely sure, Captain Hastings? It could be a vital clue." (stares hard at the Captain)

(Miss Lemon chimes in) "If you ask me, the 'noise' was probably a cat."

(Hastings flushes) "Really, Miss Lemon. Were you there? I think not.”

(Inspector Japp looks amused) “Could it have been a cat, Captain Hastings?” 

(Hastings squirms as he lies) No. No . . . Certainly not. Although . . . now that I think on it, anything's possible, I suppose." 

“Right." (Japp stares hard at Hastings) "This letter Poirot received. Where is it?”

“I-I’m not quite sure." (Hastings nervously touches the letter) "Poirot wouldn’t let me read it. Said it was for my own protection, or some such nonsense. Contained clues and codes, or whatnot, but I got the distinct impression he simply wanted to keep the information to himself.”

(Miss Lemon snorts most unladylike) “More like he didn’t trust you with that information, Mr. Hastings. And we know why, don’t we?”

(Inspector Japp’s eye light up) Oh right, the case where the Captain here escorted a female suspect into the evidence room and left her alone to . . . fetch a glass of water was it? Then the murder weapon went missing."

(A huffy Hastings mumbles) "I suppose I'm going to pay for that the rest of my life."

"Right. Well, time to hobnob it off to St. Mary Metfelon and look ‘round the premises. Do you mind coming with me, Captain Hastings, seeing as to how you were there when the alleged crime occurred?”

“Not only was he there, Inspector Japp, but you would do well to remember that Mr. Poirot disappeared right out from under his nose.”

(Hastings expels an irritated sigh) “I must say, Miss Lemon, you do on and on about that. Like a broken record you are. Time to lift the needle I should think.”

(Japp’s had enough of the bickering) "Right. We best get a move on then. The more time wasted, the worse it is for our little friend, eh? As you know, the first few hours are critical in a kidnapping.”

“KIDNAPPING? Surely, you don’t think Mr. Poirot was kidnapped? . . . Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” (Miss Lemon wrings unadorned, lily-white hands)

“What else could it be, Miss Lemon? You have any other ideas?”

“N-not really. I’m afraid I’m so entirely undone by what's happened, I’m not thinking clearly. And it’s all so sordid. And sad. He was such a fussy little man, you know. I can’t bear to think he may not be able to groom or bathe himself properly, or eat properly, or even trim his adorable little mustache. He must be suffering horribly right now.” (red-lacquered fingernails agitatedly pull on a lengthy pearl necklace)

He's only been gone an hourMiss Lemon. Chin up, eh? We’ll find him. In fact, we should have a message from the kidnapper soon.”

“Will the kidnapper . . . will he hurt Mr. Poirot do you think, Inspector Japp? Oh, I can’t bear the thought . . . ”

“Now, now, Miss Lemon, don't upset the applecart. You do have the expert help of Scotland Yard at your disposal. Doesn’t get any better than that. Right, Captain? . . . . . . RIGHT, CAPTAIN HASTINGS?”

“Oh . . . what? Applecart? Where? . . . I mean right. Help. Of course. Yes.” (itching to open lavender-scented pink envelope. Crumpling it nervously.)

Miss Lemon wrinkles her nose. “What is that vile lavender smell?”

(Hastings is unpleasantly startled) “Smell? I don’t smell anything, Miss Lemon. Do you smell anything, Japp?”

“Hmm, yes . . . there is a lavender scent . . . mixed with . . . tobacco, or maybe day-old cheese. Certainly not my wife’s type of perfume.” (eyes Miss Lemon)

(Miss Lemon crosses her arms indignantly) “Well, it's most certainly not mine! I wear Chanel. Mr. Hastings knows that quite well.”

“Er yes . . . I do. I think. Well, off we go. Cheerio, Miss Lemon.”

(Japp starts to walk out with Hastings, but pauses to speak with Miss Lemon) “Now mind you, stay close to the phone and the post box. Be sure to let me know right away when the ransom demand comes in.”

“Of course, Inspector Japp." (whispers right before closing door) "And do please remember not to let Mr. Hastings out of your sight.”

“I must say, that is jolly well rude!” (Hastings lifts hand to ring the bell)

“Don’t push it, mate. (snort) Women. Like wind-up toys. Don't get them started, eh?"

Author note:  There is a jolly good reason why Dame Agatha Christie was the wonderful author of the Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings short stories! Do you know why? I do. Now.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" Part 31

Silver Spring MD
Another session, another $90. Therapists. Spouting crapola by the dollar. I slouch in my seat and fidget, most desirous to run away and never come back. But I’d made a vow, and, much like the flying nun, I’m seriously dedicated to seeing it though. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Pen notices. “Tell me what’s happening, Liz. You seem a little anxious tonight.”
I cross and uncross my legs, tap my foot, lean forward and study the floor. After a few, I sit up straight and zone in on my savior. “Didn’t go so well this week, Pen. I’ll be honest with you, I thought by now I’d start to feel better. I was doing really good for awhile there.”
She looks down at her notes, then scratches her head. “What happened?”
I study the ceiling. Blah paint job. Hate it so bad. Looks the way I feel, and even worse, reminds me of the hospital. All that’s missing are those demons crawling along the ceiling the last time I was there. I yawn and mutter, “I’m remembering things in a vague sort of way. Kinda scares me, I guess.”
Pen jumps on that right away. “Are the memories related to what we talked about last week?”
I shrug. “Yeah. Seems like every time I sit down to draw or write, a memory crawls out of the woodwork.
She leans forward. “Tell me exactly what you’re remembering.”
“I’m starting to hear this male voice in my head spout things like “you hear me girl,” followed by some God-awful racist crap. It’s sick really.” I abruptly get to my feet and pace back and forth.
“Do you recognize the voice you’re hearing?”
“Sure. Mr. M’s.” I stop my horse trot and paw the floor with my right foot several times before mumbling, “You don’ never forget a voice like that.” I clear my throat and plop back down. “Listen Pen, my brother says it’s not good for people to rehash this stuff. He says you’re opening up a Pandora’s box. Thinks it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.”
Pen smiles faintly. “Well in your case, Liz, the sleeping dogs woke up. Unresolved trauma, particularly the kind you suffered in your childhood eventually surfaces. It’s not going to stay buried. I think you understand that now?”
I nod slightly. Yeah, yeah, she’s right. Brother’s dead wrong. As per usual.
“Can you give me some specific details about these memories?”
I don’t waste anytime. In short order, I recite verbatim Mr. M’s racist threats, and my run-in with Ruby Pickens.
Pen takes a minute to reply. Her lips are pressed so tightly together, she’d give a dry cleaner a run for his money. “What happens after the flashbacks hit you? How do you feel?”
“I hate it. Start to panic. Get nauseated and go on a floor cruise.”
“So the act of drawing triggers these flashbacks. Do they occur any other time?”
“Um. Rarely, though.” I explain the flashback I had as I loaded the dishwasher. I leave out what had happened as I picked up the broken glass. “So what’s going on here, Pen?”
Now it’s Pen’s turn to clear her throat. “Tell me more about Mr. M. Last week you mentioned that everything went dark when he approached you. How often was that?”
“I don’t remember. But I got a lot smarter after that first time. Did everything I could to stay out of that man’s line of vision. Like, no more staying home from church. At bedtime, I’d hide in the closet, or under the bed. Sometimes, I even went over to this vacant house behind Mr. M’s and hung out there. After school, I stayed outside and wandered around the neighborhood. Met a lot of nice African-American families that way. I think they felt sorry for me. They knew who Mr. M was, yet they still talked to me. What does that tell you? It certainly didn’t jive with what that man was trying to teach me.”
I hear a loud buzz in my ear. I plug the ear with a finger and add, “Of course, staying away from Mr. M didn’t always work. Like at dinnertime. Then after dinner, he’d take me to his meetings and stuff. And I don’t remember the meetings, Pen, so don’t bother to ask me about them. Although I can tell you they were real scary, more scary than a—” 
Choke it, Lizzie. Now!
Pen jerks forward. Her voice drops to a cottony whisper. “Than a what?” . . . “Liz? . . . LIZ?”
Liz, the robot, answers, “Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight is sixteen.” Swallow hard, and continue. “Two times two is four, four times four is eight, eight times eight is sixteen—” Cold fingers do a tap dance on my jean-clad knee. 
“It’s all right. You’re safe now, Liz.”
That quickly snaps me out of my daze. “So, how do I handle these flashbacks, Pen? Got any good ideas?”
Pen does the blinking thing. God, she’s good at that. But she quickly transitions into sympathetic therapist stance, and tells me to expect more memories to surface as therapy unfolds. She explains how to better handle them. Through visualization and breathing exercises. Reminds me of yoga. I hate the very thought of yoga. So, I tune the woman out as she drones on and on about these techniques.
After she’s finished, I pounce. “Hey GTK, Pen. I’ll put that in my FYI file.” I take out a piece of gum and start chomping. “Speaking of which, let me show you my new FYI file.” I put the tape recorder on the edge of her desk. “See, here’s the thing. As soon as I walk out your door, I forget everything you tell me. But not anymore. With this handy dandy tape recorder, I can record the sessions just by pressing one magical button. Voila, playback. And that’s not all. This handy dandy tape recorder is very versatile. I can even use it to record my thoughts during the week. It’s so blissfully easy to talk into. Better than getting writer’s cramp, that’s for sure.” I smile broadly at Pen’s grim look. Don’t think she likes the idea of the tape recorder, Lizzie. Boo hoo. Too bad. “I’ll show you what I mean.” I push the play button. A few seconds later, I begin to worry about Pen. She doesn’t look so good.
Hot diggity dog, Lizzie! That must be some record color drain. Is there, like, a vampire in the house?

Friday, October 04, 2013

Hercule Poirot, The Letter, Episode 2

“It’s dashed cold and dark out here, Poirot. Five minutes to midnight, and not a soul around. I think this was a very bad idea.”

Mon ami, you merely have, how you say, the heebie jeebies. I too have the cold feeling, but as to the other, well, that is where you are wrong. Someone is here and watching us. Someone I think, who is not the author of the letter. And someone . . . to whom it is the real reason I am here. ”

“I don’t understand, Poirot. You know who you are meeting? I thought the letter was anonymous.”

“Yes, my friend, it was. But Poirot, he knows everything. He sees everything. In the letter was a code, and clues I could read without my glasses. That is why I could not permit you to read the letter.”

“Really, old boy, surely you can trust me by now. Have I ever disappointed you before? I think not.”

Eh bien, I must beg to differ. There was the time you took a lady friend into the evidence room, and then what happened, mon ami? Please to refresh my memory.”

“That was different. How was I to know Ellen was an integral part of the case? You’d have to be psychic. I am a gentleman first and foremost. Or I like to think I am. The lady needed a drink. I think you would’ve done the same thing, old man.”

Non, I most certainement would not!!! For one, I would never escort a lady into the evidence room. NEVER! For two, I have no need to show off my ego to a woman in such a fashion!  . . .  But, I can well understand your failure in this matter, Hastings. Women, they are like the sun on a warm day, until when the rain, it comes it pours, n’est ce pas?

“Well, no point in arguing about it now, Poirot. I did learn my lesson.”

Oui, I am quite sure you did, Hastings. But the raison d’etre I do not wish you to read the letter? It is for your own protection, mon ami.”

“Oh . . . well, that does make me feel somewhat better, old chap, but you know I’m not worried about myself. Your safety is of paramount importance to me. Always has been.”

“Ah, mon ami, it does me much good to hear such declarations of loyalty from you. It would appear we are, how you say, riding in the same car. Of course, it is to be understood that you are the chauffeur, Hastings.”  

“I am? Oh . . . right. I say, Poirot, where is Chief Inspector Japp? I hope he is hiding somewhere nearby.”

Non, I have sent him a note canceling our appointment.”

“You what? Have you gone completely mad, Poirot? I fear your little grey cells went on holiday.”

“Hastings, I will tell you why I have called off the appointment. I am convinced there is no danger because, as I have eluded to before, I am quite sure I know who it is we are meeting.”

“Care to enlighten me on the who, then, Poirot?”

“That I cannot do, my friend, but I will tell you this, it is from the past that you will find the answer to almost all mysteries which occur in the present; and, I will go even further to say, that almost all mysteries in the future can be solved by using the blueprint from the past. Alors, look to the past, and you will find the answer to your question.”

“Problem is, Poirot, I don’t know what past, or whose past you’re talking about. I need more clues.”  

“No, you do not, mon ami. The clues, they are there. It is for you to figure out where they are, what they are, and what they mean. Of this I am sure. Now, we must be quiet Hastings; it is the midnight. And it is imperative that you see, listen, and smell;  these are the senses upon which you must concentr—”

“Did you hear that, Poirot? A hissing sort of sound! Over by those hedges! I’d better investigate! . . . . . . Oh, it was just a cat. A black one at that. You know, I’m not usually the superstitious sort, but . . . Poirot? Poirot? Where the devil are you? . . .  POIROT? . . . Oh dear, I think I’ve gone and done it again!”