The following is the 2nd assignment I did for my creative writing course. We were instructed to write about our hobby or passion.
“So, you are sticking to your story?” the man trying to be the good cop, Detective Darnell, asked in a much angrier tone than the last time he asked me the exact same question. I make a mental note that his brown suit, which matches the color of his skin, is too big for him. I can tell he is new to this process.
We have been through this three times already tonight. The lights shining in my face are hot. I can feel the dampness in my underarms and around my collar. I am nervous. I shouldn’t be, but, I am. I have to remember what Dave told me. I need to be more convincing. I need to use my nervousness.
I lean across the worn wooden table and stub out my cigarette into an overflowing ashtray. The hazy smoke lingers in the stale air. My palms are getting sticky. I rub them on my thighs hoping to dry them off. I try to swallow my nerves but my throat is dry.
“It is not a story. I am innocent.” I claim, hoping that the other people watching believe me.
“That’s bull!” barks Special Agent O’Malley from across the room. She is trying to be the bad cop in this scenario. She is dressed in a black cotton pantsuit. She continues “We have six dead citizens who have absolutely nothing in common except you. Can you explain that?”
“Coincidence?” I ask knowing my cue to piss off O’Malley.
“Don’t be cute.” She huffs. She has been doing this for a long time. She is good. “We know that you are a collector of sorts. We know you have a soft spot for paintings done by early nineteen hundred illustrators. We know that you attended estate sales of each victim, that’s right, victim, and purchased, at pennies on the dollar, rare paintings. We can now pin you to being in three of their homes prior to the so called sales. They are dead and you end up with their art collections and you want to say coincidence? I don’t think so. ”
She is an old pro and I am impressed. I let her bask in her moment. When Dave asked me to be involved with this project I did not know I would be facing someone as good as O’Malley. She has more to say. I need to stay focused on her.
With a dramatic flair O’Malley throws a docket of manila folders onto the table. Black and white crime scene photos slide from their casing. I can see a coffee stain on the corner of one of the folders. This is her moment. She takes a deep breath and continues with her evidence. “We can prove Mr. Rupert Cadell was strangled with a rope we found in your garage. We can prove Hal Carter was poisoned at a picnic. A picnic you attended. That Dexter Haven was drowned. We can prove that you killed each of these men.”
I can get out of this. “I don’t know what you are talking about. Yes I collect old prints.” I said. I then realize I was not supposed to say prints. I was supposed to say artwork. I try to fix my mistake. “Yes I purchased some of their artwork. But I had nothing to do with ....”
“We know you did not work alone.” blurts Detective Darnell a little too quickly. He cut me off. Now he needs to explain that he is my friend and that he is going to help me. “We can make a deal. I am sure that there is someone pulling your strings. If you are scared we can protect you. Just tell us who you are working for.”
Dave wants me to be very methodical with my explanation. I collect old art prints. I enjoy going to estate sales. I like to see the items that people leave behind. I want to guess at why people collect what they do and make guesses as to their motivation. I feel like an archeologist. I never realized that my hobby, my passion would take me away from my family for so long. My wife is going to be so mad at how late I am going to be getting home. She told me I was going to let this hobby of mine consume me. I am in trouble but I have more to worry about right now than being home on time for dinner or tucking the kids into bed. If I do this right I can get out of here soon. I have to remember what Dave told me.
I start slowly, “Detective Darnell. Can I really trust you? I am a collector. That is all.” I need to pause a moment for effect before I continue. “I have told you, I look up estate sales in the newspaper and on the web. The sales are posted a few weeks in advance. The web provides pictures of what’s for sale. On a few occasions I have gone to the houses asking for an early preview.”
I can feel my energy building. Dave wants me to remain calm. How did I ever let him talk me into this? That’s right; he knew I had a passion for this kind of stuff.
Darnell half-sits half-leans on the table facing me. His jacket is too big and covers his gun just inches from my hand. I can’t see it but I know it is there. I hope he did not snap the clasp on the holster. I hope he did not engage the safety. That will make what I am about to do more difficult.
Dave wanted me to stay put this entire time but I feel the need to get up. I feel the need to move. Panic starts to set in. I am hot. I am going to go to jail for this. Fear is bubbling up inside me. I quickly grab the gun from Darnell’s side and point it at O’Malley.
“Step back!” I shout as O’Malley reaches for her gun. Her weapon gets caught on the jacket of her suit. I pull the trigger. Nothing happens. I squeeze the trigger a second time, but again, nothing. With nothing else to lose I yell, “Bang! Bang!”
Darnell and O’Malley both crack up laughing. I start to chuckle myself.
“Cut!” booms a voice from the darkness. “House lights please.” Dave, the director, is clearly annoyed. He leaps onto the stage just as the house lights come up and the stage lights dim. He calls backstage “Who in props is responsible for loading the gun? We can’t have a dress rehearsal if the gun is not loaded.”
Dave gives us a few more directions and a couple of notes before returning to his spot in the audience. “Bill, I am getting the sense you are not fully into the character. Try to remember your characters inner monologue, not yours, but your characters.”
The thrill of performing in front of a live audience is intoxicating. I love theater, acting, being on stage. I love the hot lights and the smell of fresh paint and make-up. I love playing different characters. My wife was right; this hobby of mine does consume me.
Dave takes his seat and calls out one more time. “Someone needs to fix Darnell’s costume. He is practically swimming it. Okay, let’s run it again.”
I guess I am going to miss tucking the kids into bed tonight.