Stuff and Nonsense at Starbucks

Decided to take a quick trip to my not-so-local, but favorite Starbucks.

A fairly new person is on the register, Ty. Frankly, he’s lasted a lot longer than I thought he would – I’d given him until Friday of his first week, but it’s close to the end of his second. Still has no clue. Still slower than any metaphorically slow thing you can think of. Still gets orders wrong the first few times you say it. He asks what I’m having and I give my usual order: iced triple espresso, in a grande cup with extra ice.

‘Okay,’ he says, and starts keying things into the register. ‘So that’s a grande what?’

‘No,’ I say, ‘an iced triple espresso…’

[tap-tap-tap] ‘Caramel espresso…’ [tap-tap]

‘Iced! Iced triple espresso.’

[tap-tap-tap-tap-tap] ‘Okay, iced triple espresso…’ [tap]

‘In a grande cup with extra ice.’

‘Ok’ [tap-tap-tap] ‘So a iced triple espresso in a grande cup?’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘With extra ice.’ [stares blankly into my face] ‘It’s fine,’ I say, ‘it’s fine.’

He does a bit more tapping and I see ‘add shot’ and ‘grande cup’ go across and then everything zeroes out and he starts entering again. Eventually, its over. The price comes out to what I usually pay, so I figure: all good.

Go to the end of the bar to wait for my drink. Eventually, the barista calls ‘triple espresso’ and holds out a hot triple espresso in a short cup – no ice anywhere in the vicinity of the cup. I palm my face and say ‘no, no, no.’ Immediately she laughs and asks ‘what did you really order?’

So, they know. THEY KNOW! They know how bad this bozo is and, still they keep him on.

Noir-ish, Part 5

I was now intrigued by the idea that the hot babe who dropped that explosive load in my office might, somehow, be related to the dead doctor. But how?

As far as I knew he wasn’t married and had no children. I remember a conversation we had one night at the bar across from the train station. He had just moved into the offices next to mine. I spotted him going into Magee’s and thought I’d follow him in and try to get to know him.

I found out his name was Sydney Small and, a couple of beers in, that he was from Schenectady, a city I hate simply because it’s name sounds disgusting. Makes me think of snot coming out of someone’s anus: slimy, and a yellowish brown. Schenectady… yech! But I didn’t mention it.

‘So, Sydney,’ I asked, ‘married? Kids?’

‘Not as far as you know,’ he said. He was right and, at the time, I didn’t care enough to find out, but times change.

The label listed ‘Ima’s’ birthdate as 10 of March, 1992, young enough to be a daughter. I was hoping that, though the name was a fake, the date was legit.

I walked back over to tell Margaret I was off to Schenectady. ‘Eeew,’ she said.

‘I know, I almost gagged saying it. If you don’t hear from me in a day or so, tell Mike where I went. It’ll give you something to talk about – the man’s a horrible conversationalist – and give him this envelope.’ It was a printout of the picture of the label.

‘This about the bombing?’

‘Could be,’ I said.

It was a short walk to Pennsylvania Station from my office across the street. I bought a ticket for the Empire Service. Three hours later I arrived in Schenectady feeling like I should be holding my nose as I step out onto the platform.

Getting out of the station, I hailed a cab. Didn’t hail so much as nearly get run over by an over eager townie in a yellow car. I asked him to take me to the hospital. ‘Hey! I didn’t even touch you!’

‘Just drive, idiot.’

‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Welcome to Schenectady!’ I rolled down the window and threw up on the street.

First opened in 1885, Ellis Hospital is now an ultra-modernized complex of buildings on Nott Street, a street whose name-resemblance to the word ‘snot’ did nothing to help my stomach stop churning at the thought of being in Schenectady. I gave the kid a fifty and told him to wait, and got out of the car clutching my belly, running to the closest trash can.

Once inside the hospital, I asked at information desk for the records department and was sent down the hall. There I was greeted by a petite blond with a nose the size of the M-104 bus. I couldn’t help staring and she noticed, smiled, blushed, and touched her hair in that way that indicates she thought I was staring at something other than her huge honker.

‘Hi,’ I said, ‘I’m up from New York. I’m working a murder case and trying to dig up some information. I was hoping you could help me.’

‘New York, huh. Well welcome to Sch…’

‘DONT SAY IT!’ I shouted.

‘Oh my! Are you all right?’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘it’s been a long train ride. Anyway, I hoping to see your birth records for March 1972.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, but I can’t show you those.’

Giving her my best, trying not to look nauseated, smile I said, ‘Oh c’mon, surely you can do something. This is a murder investigation I’m on.’

‘Well, maybe I can ask Minerva, my boss’ She turns around and calls out to the other office, ‘Minnie, can you help me? I have a detective from the City here and he needs to see some records.’

From the other office out steps the pierced and painted beauty who’d so beguiled me earlier that morning. The name etched on the frosted glass in the door was ‘Minerva Small.’

‘Minnie Small,’ I said to myself, ‘you’ve got to be shitting me.’

Noir-ish, Part 4

The name on the label, ‘Klein II, Ima’ rang both a false and an oddly evocative note; like it should’ve meant something. To be sure, I walked over to the Doc’s office to check with Margaret.

‘Hey,’ I said, walking in. ‘You doing all right?’

‘Oh, you know… just another normal day at the office. Shit explodes here every day!’

‘Okay, okay. Sorry. Listen, Maggie…’

‘Uh oh, you called me Maggie. Last time you called me that, I couldn’t sit down for a week. What do you want?’

‘No, no… nothing like that. It’s just, I think I remembered that the dame who left that sample in my office might have said her name. Wanted to check with you before I told the cops. Did Doctor Small have any patients named Klein?’

‘Hah, that’s funny! I don’t think so,’ and as she said that, I realized what nagged me about the name.

Where I grew up in South America everybody spoke German. Everybody, expect the occasional Hebrew speaking Israeli visitors who always seemed to swoop in at night and just as suddenly vanish along with someone’s grandfather. Anyway, it suddenly dawned on me that ‘Klein’ means ‘small’ in German and, now, the fake name made sense: ‘I’m a Klein, too!’

‘Guess, I was wrong. Thanks, Maggie! Gotta go!’

‘Lou, wait!’

‘What?’

Margaret looked troubled. ‘Your friend, the detective…’

‘Mike?’

‘Yeah, Mike. He left me his card.’

‘Yeah, cops do that. In case you remember anything you forgot to remember when he asked you if you remembered anything.’

‘Well,’ she said, still troubled, ‘on the back of it he wrote “I enjoy ‘a dish best served cold’.”’

‘God, that’s a lot of single and double quotes for one sentence, Maggie!’

‘Hey! Don’t blame me. Anyway, under that he wrote “call me.” Do you think I should?’

‘Listen Margaret, Mike is an a baboon of a man, who couldn’t detect a fart in a crowded men’s room. He’s sloppy, old fashioned, somewhat illiterate, and uses trite, antiquated expressions; but he’s my best friend and he’s good people. Sure you should call him. Just don’t ask me what.’

‘Uh, ummm. Okay…’

I left and went back to my picture of the label. Let the detecting begin!

Noir-ish, Part 3

I was back at my desk five minutes when there was an explosion next door. Doctor Small and his examination table came flying though the paper-thin wall separating our offices, the table landing on his head.

I ran out to check on Gloria, who was running up the hall from the elevators. She was just about to go out to get some lunch when it happened.

The fire department came, cops came, soon there was even the FBI. Detective Mike Johnson, hard-nosed cop and and some-time friend, came in to give the doctor a once over. ‘What happened over there, Mike?’

‘Looks like someone placed some C4 in the lab box. The receptionist says that there was only one thing in there: a stool specimen.’

‘C4, huh? That some powerful shit’ I said.

Mike smiled. ‘The dame tells me you brought in the goods to the doc’s.’ (Mike got his detective training from 1940s movies).

‘Yeah, that’s right. It was left with me by mistake. Woman came in, thought I was the doctor, I guess.’

‘Know who it was?’

‘No, Mike. Never seen her before. Good looking dame if you like tall, tattooed brunettes with multiple piercings – some visible, some more probably hidden under a tight t-shirt and jeans.’

‘I see,’ he said jotting something down.

‘I do, by the way.’

‘Do what?’

‘Like tall, tattooed brunettes with multiple piercings. I asked Gloria if she could tell me anything about her, but she went ethical on me.’

‘Gloria. That’s the dish next door?’

‘Yeah, Mike. You hungry?’

‘I’ll say,’ said Mike.

‘Careful, that’s one meal you don’t want to burn.’

‘I’ll keep that in mind. Anyway, the lab box and its contents were completely destroyed. The label on the specimen was burned. FBI are here trying to get a bead on where the C4 may have come from – they say that they might be able to tell from the chemical signature or something. The receptionist says she doesn’t remember the name. Did you look at the label before handing it over?’

‘No, Mike. Wish I had thought of it.’

Mike said ‘ok’ and turned to leave. ‘See you at the Social Club?’ I asked.

‘Mebbe.’ Mike likes saying ‘mebbe.’ Picked it up from some Raymond Chandler novel, he tell me.

After he left, I took my phone out of my pocket and opened the photos app. The picture I took of the label was clear. Name, date of birth and patient ID. Sorry, Mike; this case is too interesting to pass over to professional idiots.

Noir-ish Part 2

She looked up from the desk as I walked in. ‘I don’t have time for your crap this morning, Lou.’

‘You’re in luck, Gloria,’ I said, holding out the bag I‘d been left holding. ‘ This is someone else’s crap. Woman left it in my office by accident.’

‘Humph!’ She took the bag out of my hand and turned to put it in the pick-up box for the lab pickup.

I’m a man who appreciates the finer things in life. As she bent over to put it in the box, I appreciated how fine a figure she had.

‘Well?’ This wasn’t the playful ‘well’ from I got from the girl before. This was an the ‘well’ of a woman who’s welcome I had overstayed the second I’d walked into the door.

Gloria didn’t much care for me. It hadn’t always been that way. When I first moved into the office next door, I met her in the elevator going down to lunch. It wasn’t long before we were going down to eat things that weren’t on any restaurant menu. I’m a bit of a klutz, however, and one night I guess I burned her ass one too many times with the curling iron (long story) and she told me she never wanted to see me again. Mistakenly, I assumed she meant she wanted me to blindfold her during sex. She didn’t.

‘I wonder what you can tell me about the woman who left that. I suspect she may be tied to a case I’m working on.’

‘HIPAA,’ Glori said.

‘Yes, they were nice,’ I said, ‘but what can you tell me about her?’

‘You idiot, HIPAA; not hips! Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It means I can’t discuss our patients with you or anyone else. I don’t think I can ever tell you whether she’s a woman or not.’

‘Oh, she’s a woman, all right.’ I said, perhaps with a little too much of a gleam in my eye.

‘Case, huh? I’ve seen that look before. Get out of my office, da Silva.’ As I started out the door, she called, ‘Hey, Lou’

‘Yeah.’

‘Don’t get her too near the toaster oven.’

Noir-ish Part 1

The cigarette hanging from the sneer of her mouth said she didn’t give a shit. The stool specimen she held out to me indicated otherwise. I took it from her and we looked at each other for a moment before she said ‘Well?’

‘What?’

‘Do you think it stinks’ she asked.

My clever retort: ‘If it’s Your’s, I’m sure it does.’

Smile, wink, ‘hell YEAH, it does!’ she says before blowing me a kiss, turning and walking out the door.

What I didn’t know was why I was so suddenly attracted to her that I needed to find out who she was and where I could go to see her again.

What she didn’t know was that the doctor’s office was next door. She’d accidentally come into mine: the offices of Lou da Silva, Private Detective. Sniffing out shit is my business.

2019.01.16: Chapter Thirty-Four

(34) One night a monk was reciting a sutra bequeathed by Kashyapabuddha. His tone was so mournful, and his voice so faint, as if he were going out of existence. the Buddha asked the monk, “What was your occupation before you became a monk?” Said the monk, “I was very fond of playing the guitar.” The Buddha said, “How did you find it when the strings were too loose?” Said the monk, “No sound is possible.” “How when the strings were too tight?” “They crack.” “How when they were neither too tight nor too loose?” “Every note sounds in its proper tone.” The Buddha then said to the monk, “Religious discipline is also like unto playing a guitar. When the mind is properly adjusted and quietly applied, the Way is attainable; but when your are too fervently bent on it, you body grows tired; and when your body is tired your spirit becomes weary; when your spirit is weary, your discipline will relax; and with the relaxation of discipline there follows many an evil. Therefore, be calm and pure, and the Way will be gained.”

— From ‘The Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters’ in Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot by Soyen Shaku (tr. D. T. Suzuki)

Wanted to share a passage encountered in my reading this morning. This one, I think, provides one of my favourite illustration of the middle way.

My second or third round with this book.