Gregson drove home, smiling.
When a criminal tells you, they are going to commit the crime of the century, one only needs to wait. It’s just like the hoodlums who wear baggy pants and try to run for it. Ease, Gregson thought. The night was big and dark. Only the headlights from his T-bird cut his solitude; insects attacked him from all directions, splattering like a Pollock painting on his windshield. Gregson turned up his radio and let the narrator indulge his imagination. Most cannot solve crime because their lives are run by schedules and busyness. People aren’t taken in by what they don’t understand. And Gregson continued listening to the conspiracy theorist talk about aliens.
He felt like an alien wherever he went, but there were some exceptions, and these were the places he loved to go. It was the golf course on a sunny day. It was the chess tournament in Chess-field Park where the old men drank vodka and laughed at the children after they said “checkmate.” Or there was the pizzeria Gregson frequented; the woman behind the counter insisted he meet each one of her babies. She had eight now and there were eight fathers paying child support. What a world, Gregson thought. He didn’t fit in, and yet, he could look at it differently because he didn’t fit, and maybe that’s why he solved crime so well.
Gregson drove into Chess-field, and got several texts on his prepaid phone.
“This is Murphy. You free late this evening?” It was sent two hours ago.
Gregson replied, “What’s on your mind?”
“I’ve got a bottle of wine and some business to discuss.”
“Come over to my new place and we’ll talk.”
Friends of the same feather are difficult to find and Gregson looked forward to their conversation. He pulled up to his driveway and spotted the Porsche 911 parked at the curb. Murphy got out. “How the hell are you, Gregson?”
“Retirement has never been better. I’ve been trying to write my memoirs, and since then, the most interesting cases have popped up. Let me get my mail; it’s been awhile.” Gregson picked up a long stick from his front lawn.
“What’s that for?” Murphy asked.
“I’ve got lots of enemies,” Gregson said. He dropped the lid of his mailbox with his pole and nothing happened.
“You got the wine?”
“Yes; it’s a Merlot?”
“Did you come into some money, or something?” Gregson asked.
“Let’s just say it’s a bribe from my employer.”
The inside of the rambler looked like hobos had been living there. “As you can see, I haven’t hired a maid yet,” Gregson said. “Now what do you want to talk about?” He was half-distracted by his mail while he listened to Murphy. It was the usual bills, until he came across a letter. It smelled like a woman.
“It’s a security job. The crown jewels of England are being put on display at Chess-field and I thought you might like to accompany our team with transport. It’ll be two weeks of standing around, but the pay is incredible.”
“Security jobs are worse than watching the grass grow,” Gregson said. He smelled the letter. “Now this is something that merits my attention.” Gregson slipped on his plastic gloves and began analyzing the picture-cypher. It was a fat man with a bird slung around his neck. “An albatross, if I’m not mistaken.”
“So, you don’t want the job?” Murphy asked.
“I’ll think about it. Yes; I’ll think about it.” Gregson was totally absorbed. “How about pouring some of that wine.”
Murphy knew better than to disturb him. Gregson got up from the table and started to play jazz. He played chords like they were creative synapses, firing inside his brain.
“I’ll just leave you to it, then,” Murphy said. “Call me in the morning, if you change your mind.” A crescendo responded to the warm, empty night.