I was not looking forward to that evening.
I had already proved that spying in the tavern was a fool’s errand, and fruitless.
I needed a new plan, or a new course to take, but it was not readily available in my mind as it so often is. It was therefore obvious to me that I had overtaxed my mind again.
While my lady and my rival were no doubt socializing, I was writhing in bed, restless and unable to make an intelligent enough plan. What constantly came into my mind was that I should just kill the man, at once, and taking the woman for myself.
But could I get away with it? Was it too risky? I could not say either way, so I decided to take a little walk, in the direction of his house, and if an opportunity to enter before him presented itself, perhaps I would take it. Surely he would have a knife of some sort to complete the deed with or some other sort of carpenter’s tool. What a fool.
What kind of fool would leave his house unlocked? It was all too simple to dispose of this simpleton, and as I left the little dog to his corner, I was repulsed at the thought of the ease of this solution. I had wanted something more elegant, something I could show to Angelica, that would prove my intelligence over his, and a simple walk to his residence followed by a simple bash in the head wasn’t a good enough story. Deep down, I desperately wanted a worthy opponent.
I grumbled these things to myself as I trudged in the dark to the neighborhood of this blue eyed simpleton, and when I came to his house, which was dark, I had the overwhelming urge to turn around. It must have been something noble from my soul, or a guardian angel, if I believed in such nonsense, but in any matter I disregarded it and circled round and took up my spot beneath the window.
It was quiet and dark and after waiting a little while to make sure he wasn’t home, I went around to the door and knocked softly. I had the plan that if he answered, I would pretend to be lost, and if he didn’t answer, I would enter. He didn’t answer, and so I entered.
There was enough moonlight to avoid bumping into the furniture, and also enough that I found a candle and matches in the kitchen. However, I decided not to make an unnatural light, to avoid detection from a distance.
I walked around the house but nothing was too unusual. His bedroom was simple, with only a bed and a dresser, and the kitchen which I just mentioned, had a little round table and two chairs.
There were three knives and I considered taking one, but I decided it was probably unnecessary. I had worked myself up a little, a little too much perhaps, and dealing with this insignificant fool would hardly require violence and the risks inherent in it.
I left the house untouched and went to the tavern.
When I arrived I looked in through the window, and to my slight surprise, I did not see the man, though I did see Angelica. I decided to go in and see her.
“Piper!” She squealed happily when she saw me approach.
“Yes, dear, we’ve seem to have found each other once again.”
“But where is my little prince?” she said, and looked down to my ankles.
“I left him comfortably at home in his corner. I do not like bringing such vulnerable and fragile things into rough places like this.”
“I see, yes, that’s very smart. Would you like a drink?”
“Sure sure, whatever you think suits me.”
She took a moment to pour and I took the time to analyze the room. You must always analyze rooms when you go into rough places my young fellows, so that you know where the trouble is likely to come from.
“Here you are,” she said, and handed me something very dark.
“Good and strong,” I said after a sip.
“You like it?”
“I do,” I said.
I wondered if she was going to ask for money, but it seems she forgot and her forgetfulness was my fortune.
“Oh, look at them, I’ll be busy all night I’m afraid,” and I saw that she was looking at a large group of young lads that had just entered the establishment.
“That’s the way these things are, I’m afraid, but I’ll go and wait in the corner if you get a break, and perhaps I’ll have a story for you.”
“I’d like that,” she said, and as she prepared herself for the oncoming crowd, I retreated to the corner to watch.
They were half my age, this new crowd. I haven’t told you as of yet, but I myself am a very young looking 47. I follow all the latest health trends that are published in the papers, and I’m often mistaken for someone in his thirties. I have a habit of asking you see, for I find the difference between truth and appearance fascinating.
I may have mentioned it in passing, but I have a wide variety of clothes, that I have organized into highly sophisticated disguises. I would like to tell you about them, but I wouldn’t like to be recognized, so I will not. Rest assured, they are extravagant.
They young men were bubbling and bobbing their heads, and laughing loudly and making passes at all the women who passed them.
More and more people came, until I could not see Angelica at all without standing up. So instead of looking in her beautiful direction, I watch the door for my rival. I was there for over an hour and he did not come, and when my drink was all drunk up I left, though I resumed my waiting outside.
For another hour I was steadfast in my watchfulness, but the man never showed himself. I therefore resigned myself to home, content with meeting Angelica again on the morrow, at our usual place.
The dog was fine and I slept well.
“Hello, piper, and hello my little friend,” said Angelica upon our meeting the next afternoon.
“Good afternoon,” I said.
“We were quite busy last night after we talked, and when the crowd thinned out I couldn’t find you.”
“Yes, yes, I left. I had to get back to your little friend there remember? I left him all alone at home.”
“Oh, that’s right. And I’m sure a cute little thing like you wasn’t any trouble at all.”
“No, no trouble. None at all. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling that the young prince is a homebody and prefers a warm fire to the dark and murky streets.”
“I wish I could get a homebody dog,” said Angelica.
“And why can’t you?” I asked, ready to volunteer a purchase.
“They don’t allow them where I’m living.”
“Ah, I see, well, you’ll have to move to a new place, where you can have one.”
“Yes, maybe I will in time,” she said, and I must say she looked very wistful.
“Speaking of places of residence, would you like to hear about the blue eyed demon? I followed him home last night.”
“You did? But you were with me, weren’t you?”
“Yes, but when I left you I felt a creak in my knees and I sat down on a stoop within watching distance of your establishment. It was there that I saw this wild man peer in at the window in his queer and crude way, with his neck turned in ghastly positioned and his eyes bigger than any jungle monster you could imagine. Why, I even saw him pawing at the glass with his evil twisted hands.”
“How frightful! I wonder what he was looking at?”
“Yes, very frightful I imagine for the object of his stare. I thought about confronting him then and there, but as I was getting up he started to creep toward me.”
“Yes, but he walked right on by like I was invisible. Not right in the brain no doubt, no doubt at all. Unawares of his surroundings, but lucky for me I suppose, since it made my following him that much easier.”
Angelica was nodding with her big beautiful frightful eyes, and they disarmed me so that I paused in my recollections.
“What happened next?” she asked.
“I followed him home. We went a long ways, keeping to the shadows and alleys and back ways and side streets. This time though, he did not go to a building. He went totally outside the city to the darkest woods, where only the moon’s pale light shone.”
“Oh no!” she exclaimed.
“Oh yes! The trees were twisted and the silence was ominous. I dare say that not a living thing lived there, beside the monster. Anyhow, the ground became muddy, and I thought the sloshing and mucking of my feet would alert him, so I went slow and followed his tracks. As I had necessarily lost sight of him, so that he would lose sight of me, I became paranoid that he would jump out and attack me at any moment. My imagination told me that he could have made a very slight, long circle, so that at any time he could end up behind me, despite me following his tracks. So I went slower and braced myself for battle.”
“How frightening! At least I know it has a happy ending.”
“You do? How could you know that?”
“Because you’re here and alive and well, and so is little Archie.”
“Right, right. Yes, well it wasn’t a totally happy ending. You see, when I came up on his liar, which was something like a cave, in the hollow of huge tree, and surrounded by briars, I could see that his tracks went inside, but then some tracks went on into the forest. I therefore surmised that he had gone into his cave, then left again. Therefore, it was safe to explore his filthy lair, as long as I was quick about it.”
“But, but, what if he came back when you were there? What if he saw your tracks?”
“My dear, I’m an old man, and I was prepared to end my life in a battle against pure evil. At the very least I would injure him and make him think twice about attacking humankind.”
“But didn’t you say he was a man as well?”
“Yes, yes, but he changed, into a wolf man, I’m sure you’ve heard of them?”
“Yes, but I didn’t fully believe, but now, is it really truly so?” asked Angelica.
“Yes, I’m afraid so. The wolf man is no myth, but a changeling fueled by the moon and human blood. Now as I was saying, I went into his evil reeking abode, and my stomach churned. By the smell yes, but also of what I saw. There was a large fire at the center of the hollow, and I looked up, and somehow the smoke went up and disappeared into the tree, no doubt some evil witchcraft to bend the will of the tree to evil. However, around the fire, were bloody, ghastly, horrifying human limbs.”
At this point Angelica clutched the dog tight and gasped and I was happy that I had made such an impression on her.
“Yes, that foul wolf man eats fingers and toes, but I saw no head. Perhaps he had already eaten them, I can’t say, but as I did say previously, this was no happy ending for the souls who had grown those fingers and toes.”
“I’m going to be sick,” said Angelica.
“Surely, as I was. Appalled at the wickedness before me, I did not have it in my heart to continue with this gruesome beast, and I left the way we had come. Do not think me a coward, dear girl, for I am merely planning and strategizing, so that my attempt at my holy quest does not fail and result in more death. Since only I know where this evil thing lives, the lives of the entire city are upon my shoulders. I must correctly anticipate his every move and calculate all the possibilities before I enter once more into that dark and ominous forest.”
“I see, but you mustn’t take Archie, will you promise me?”
“Yes, yes, I promise not to take the little dog. In any case he’s too small to be any help against the monster and I wouldn’t want to trip over him by accident.”
“Good. So you made it out all right? Are you going back tonight?”
“Yes, I’m fine, but again tonight? I’m not entirely sure. As I said, I must plan carefully, and how about you? Are you working again?”
“I’m afraid so. I only get Sundays off.”
“Well, perhaps I will stop by for another drink, unless of course you mind?”
“No, not at all. It’s very lonely at times you know, standing there while everyone else is drinking gaily.”
“I imagine, no I more than imagine come to think of it. My entire life has been the same, you see, for I sit on the streets and watch all the people going by, going god knows where, and they and I have nothing much in common at all. Some of them try to speak to me, because they see me as a wretch and they have pity, but they never have anything interesting to say. They give me some money, and ask how I’m doing, but you see, they can already see how I’m doing. The conversation always grinds to a strange lull, and they wish me goodbye, and they leave. It must be the same with you in your establishment, but now that I think of it, the whole city is my establishment. Interesting.”
Angelica nodded but it took a little while for her brain to process everything I had said. I don’t blame her, for as I’ve already demonstrated, my brain is a churning whirling dervish and I’ve met no man or woman who could keep up with me.
“You’re the most interesting man in the world piper, I’m sure of it. Who would know, looking at you, that all these wonderfully brilliant thoughts were running through your mind? The whole city is your establishment, how very, what’s the word? Profound?”
“Yes, I believe that is correct. However, I think you overrate my profundity as I was merely thinking aloud. Deep and great thoughts must surely come from much rumination and reflection.”
At this point she made some more awed groveling remarks, which I don’t think I need to repeat. We continue in the next chapter with my return to the carpenter’s shop.