Turning the key of the worn yellow door, he remembered to put on gloves before reaching for the handle. Practice makes perfect. He thought back to all the messes he had caused in the past due to his forgetfulness.
“Well go on then.”
“I’m going. I’m going. Hold on.” He pushed the door open and looked solemnly towards the open entryway of the first floor apartment as he headed towards the stairs. “What’s the rush, anyway?” He called back. “You’re the one that had to shave before we embarked on this escapade.”
The other boy laughed back, playfully pushing him as he flew past, taking the stairs two at a time. “Shaving makes me feel refreshed and revives my sense of adventure. No other way I’d agree to join you on this little outing otherwise.”
Reaching the top, he sighed, not fully prepared for whatever it was that awaited them in the apartment. The pair stopped in their tracks when they found the door fully open and people swarming around as far as their eyes could see.
“Well. This should certainly be interesting.” He said finally.
“This is a bad idea. We should go back home.”
“We promised her, we’d get her things.”
“That was before we knew there’d be cops. COPS! All over her place!” Throwing his hands in the air before regaining his composure and crossing his arms.
“We’ve done this a thousand times Claudio. This is no different than stopping just before nana opened her eyes and getting her a birthday present.”
“There were no other people around then. Do you realize what’ll happen if we touch any one of those policemen in there?” Turning to face him, arms in full swing again as if they helped to better communicate his point. “Do you understand the chaos we could cause?” He asked gravely, his stare trying to penetrate sense into his thickly perceived skull.
“Then I guess we’ll have to be careful, won’t we?” He winked.
“I would keep trying to help you avoid disastrous occurrences, but this is one of those times my energy is obviously better served elsewhere.” He heaved a sigh. “Let’s go.”
They walked carefully around a woman carrying a clear plastic bag with the word EVIDENCE clearly marked across the top of it, heading for the stairs. Her feet and hands were protected by plastic coverings, her name plate read Davies, and a scowl covered her otherwise pretty face. He noticed a small pendant hanging around her neck, a token reference to one of his favorite television programs and made a mental note to look around for her at the police station to see if she maybe wanted to grab some coffee with him sometime. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time he created the opportunity to run into someone before.
“Found your next victim? Done staring then?”
“Hey! I’ve always been super nice to all my girlfriends!”
“Too nice. You’ve always been too nice and you let them walk all over you, to the point where you get yourself into some situation that I inevitably end up having to bail you out of.”
“Bail out? I haven’t been arrested since Idaho.”
“You mean farm girl? I distinctly remember you being arrested while you dating the fire breather…”
“Questioned. I was questioned, never actually arrested, because I did not a thing wrong.”
“Oh, well, excuse me!” Mock indignation thick in his voice.
“Damn right. Better not mix up the trouble my romantic interludes have caused!” His tone matching.
They paused, looking at what reminded them of a paused movie scene, the same way these things always seemed to. A slew of uniformed policemen and women all with identical jackets, identifying them as police shown across their backs. Very much in the middle of an investigation the men and women, stood frozen in various positions of search across her apartment. They wondered what it was that they could possibly be looking for or how much there could really be to search. Hadn’t she after all said that she had just moved there two months ago? Did they really think there would be something incriminating in this girls house. Granted, she probably wasn’t a criminal mastermind, she had been smart enough to pick the obviously right place to eat pizza, and most of her meals for that matter, so she had to have something going on upstairs. Not knowing what to find odder, the rainbow of different colors that covered the walls and decorations every which way you looked or the serious looks that lay plastered different faces.
He had always taken it upon himself to judge a person’s happiness, both in life and with their current predicament based solely on their facial expression. At this moment, he didn’t know whether these people were simply very focused on what they were doing or if they all just happened to be extremely unhappy with what it was they were doing. He wondered if as a policeman, any one of them could really be satisfied while on the job, as opposed to feeling a sense of purpose and saving happiness for those moments when they found themselves momentarily distracted from anything that had to do with their job.
Hearing his partner in crime breathe in deeply behind him pulled him out of his reverie and he knew he had to brace himself and move forward. There’s a first time for everything. He thought to himself before breaking the silence.
“This’ll be one for the books, eh Clau?”
“I feel very Guy Montag at the moment.”
“She is no Millie.”
“I didn’t say…”
“She’s no Clarisse either.”
“You want to take left and I’ll go right?” He interrupted, smiling at the flustered face he knew he had caused.
Claudio simply nodded, face tight, and made his way cautiously under a tall, grey haired man grabbing at falling glasses, features twisted in mid sneeze.
Walking through the kitchen he tipped his head in greeting to a frozen pair, one reaching up to an open cupboard while the other bent holding a pot on its way off a shelf, momentarily stopped from their methodical search of the kitchen. Spotting the bright blue walls and sunshine yellow bedding, he smiled. Impossibly trying to picture the girl who always wore black, willingly spending time in this place, he walked towards what was more than likely her bedroom. Surprise making his eyebrows rise, he wondered if she had really picked out all the color herself before remembering there was nobody else who could have done it for her.
Where to start, where to start. He pondered to himself, fingers lightly tapping against his chin.
Thinking about the torn pair of sneakers she was wearing earlier, he headed for her closet first and squeezing past a bent over man reaching for a box from under the bed, he was rewarded with finding a large plastic bin, mostly empty. Perfect. He emptied the contents onto the closet floor and placed a pair of worn looking black boots and a newer, bluer version of what she had already been wearing onto the bottom. Seeing a navy blue hoodie with ripped edges reminded him of his favorite sweater and the comfort it brought him and he pulled it off the hanger and into the tub. Carefully carrying the bin above the bent officer, he squeezed back past the bent man, cursing when he almost dropped everything on his unsuspecting head.
“What happened? You okay?” Claudio’s concerned voice called from another room.
“Fine. Almost gave someone the headache of the century, that’s all.”
“Be careful. I don’t need to tell you that we don’t need a repeat of Montessori.”
Jacobo groaned. “Always Montessori. Can you believe that?” He said to the man who couldn’t hear him, noticing the distinct smell of garlic coming from his silent friend. “I know. I’ll be careful.” Calling back, he placed the tub at the door and eyed the tall cabinet next.
A woman’s gloved hand sat midair on her way into the top drawer which sat propped open. Her other hand already busy.
“Jackpot. I’ll take that, thank you very much.” Flashing a toothy smile, he plucked a small pile of notebooks out of the officer’s hand, freeing it up and placed them into the plastic tub. Unable to get to anything to anything in the second drawer he opened the third drawer and grabbed what he could reach, pleased when we was able to get everything out of the fourth and final drawer. Things to put on top, things to put on bottom, under things, things for your feet, things for the things that you think. He ticked off in his head, looking around for his next target.
A pink laptop sat on a slim, glass desk covered in fingerprint smudges. A tall man held the charger in his hand, placing it into a clear bag, his gaze focused. He tried pulling at the cord, but the grip was too tight for either of the ends to fit through the man’s palm and he decided he’d have to leave it behind and settle for taking just the computer instead. She can always buy another. No biggie. He picked up the laptop, shutting it closed and slid it carefully between the notebooks and a wall of plastic. Looking around the room again, he bid a silent adieu to his statuesque friends and pushed the plastic bin towards the entrance.
“I’m done. And I’m pretty that I got everything she asked for, so I can’t to see what exactly it is that you’re getting together.” He smiled.
“Bathing things. She’ll appreciate that sort of thing.”
“We have bathing things at home.”
“You use the same wash for your hair that you do on your body.”
“It’s meant for that, that’s why I bought it!” He paused, momentarily pursing his lips. “Okay, I see what you mean.”
“I’ll be out in a minute.”
He sat himself on the floor, a safe distance from the various individuals sifting through the various pieces of her apartment looking for something incriminating. His eyes took in all the different colored pillows that littered light grey couches and the bright paintings that crowded the sherbet orange walls.
Claudio‘s head popped out from around the corner. “Could I get a little help here?”
He stood up, reluctant to stop his visual examination of the living room. Claudio hoisted a blue, plastic box above his head and waited as Jacobo grabbed one side to help him get it over the tall man mid walk in the hallway. Bringing the twin boxes outside the door, he eyed his cousin’s findings.
“Books and bath things?”
“Yes. Glad to see your eyesight still seems to be in perfect working order.”
“Okay then. I’m good. You good?”
“We’ve got all the important things, haven’t we?”
“Now that I’ve grabbed her books we do.”
“She didn’t ask for her books, you know.”
“She was under distress.”
“Distress? You’d grab the books before getting me if our house was on fire.”
“You have legs! The library can’t simply stand up and walk away from a dangerous situation the same way you can. Obviously, I’d go for the books.”
“That’s totally not my point.”
“Anyone who organizes their books using a homemade Dewey decimal classification system would rather have their heart crushed by a stack of dictionaries than to lose their books possibly forever.”
“Calm down there Mencken.”
“Hah! Better to be drunk on books than on whiskey!”
“I’ll keep that in mind next time you fancy me your bartender. Now, let’s go.”
Rubbing his eyes, he sat up in bed groaning. “Wakey wakey.” He croaked.
“You had it too, didn’t you?” The voice sitting in his computer chair said, showing signs of having been awake for far longer than him.
“Better bet your bottom dollar.”
“It’s happening more often.”
“Thank you captain obvious.”
“Jacobo, I’m being serious.”
“About what? So we’re having the same dreams again. So what?”
“Last time …”
“Oh stop that. Last time, we were unprepared and younger, and even so it was a whole lot more fun than the nothing we’ve been up to lately.”
“The nothing, as you call it, has kept us safe and out of trouble.”
“And friendless and to my knowledge you’ve made no further progress on figuring out what it was grandpa wanted us to do or who it was that came after us last time, or whether or not anyone else happens to be in our same set of predicaments.”
“Well I can’t just look it up online, now can I?”
“Because that’s we almost got caught last time! It’s going slower, but I’ve definitely found something, I just don’t know what it is yet.”
“Well, that’s great, super reassuring. You just keep plucking away at those books then. Maybe I’ll be allowed to leave the house again by the time I’m 60.”
“Don’t knock at my books, you know what grandpa taught us.” He snapped, a rigid finger pointing at him.
“Yes, yes.” He said impatiently. “But he also taught us that life was meant to be lived and experienced, and that our gift meant nothing if we didn’t use it to make the world better. I don’t see us doing any living around here.”
“You go to work. You bought the pizzeria, just as you had wanted.”
“That’s not enough and you know it.”
“It needs to be. At least for now.”
“Well according to our dreams, things are going to get a lot livelier around here at some point.”
“Apparently so. I wish we had a way of knowing exactly what it all meant and who it is we’d act that recklessly for.”
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens then, won’t we?”
“Then I’m going back to sleep.” He plopped back into his pillow, readjusting himself under the covers. “You should too, you’re grumpy when you’re tired.”
“I’m always tired.”
“You see my point then.”
“Good night JaJa.” The voice could be heard picking himself up off the chair and slowly walking towards the door.
“Night ClauClau.” He taunted, smiling to himself, happy to let sleep pull him back under.