From the collection "A Girl in the Moon" by William Estabrook
I am I, the first person. It all filters through me. I send it out and I take it in, and at the intermix of those actions is where you will find me. If something is not there then it is not anywhere in the world that I am in.
That was one of the thoughts that were not so much running through my head as lying about in there and striking casual poses, only to move on then and re-arrange themselves in ways that were new and unforeseen. It was, you see, another very quiet day. Before the next thought could assume its final form, my office door opened and a woman walked in. She was thoroughly young. She was also definitely a woman, no more and absolutely no less.
“Hi,” she said. “Busy?”
Her hair was jet black. It was too long to be short and too short to be called really long. Two eyes, both large and blue and set at a perfect interval from each other, lay in place under her clear dark brows and were fixed on me. Her skin was as pale as it could be without losing color altogether. Her lips? Full and startlingly red. At the moment they were arranged in a smile. In a word, she was stunning, and I could do nothing but sit there, stunned.
“Hello?” she spoke. “Anybody home?”
“Oh,” I said. “Sorry. I was just finishing up a thought.”
“You are Robert Harold, the private eye?”
She took the chair that I was still not sufficiently recovered to offer her.
“Great,” she said. “The thing is, there is somebody out there who I believe means me no good. And I was hoping you could help me.”
She crossed her legs, as if to add emphasis to what she had said. And then she smoothed her skirt, as a signal that it was my turn to speak. It was the semaphore peculiar to the female of the species.
“Your name is?” I poked at her.
“Smith. Remember Smith.”
“It’s a hard name to forget.”
“No, I mean that’s my name. First Remember and last Smith.”
“I can certainly remember Remember.”
“Swell. How much do you have to know about the person who is out to hurt me?”
“Everything would be a good starting point.”
She told me his name and his age and his address and what it was that she believed he intended to do to her.
“And why would anyone want to do a thing like that to a lovely young lady like you?”
“We were together once and I guess he never got over it.”
“But since you know who he is and where he is and what he wants to do and even how he plans to do it, what is it that you need me to find out?”
“I can certainly do that.”
“What I want you to do is stop him.”
“I see. You mean, go and talk to him?”
“That would never work. I think he should be taken out of the picture.”
“Deleted? Erased? Removed?”
“And how do you propose that I do that?”
“I’d rather not know. As long as it gets done. That’s my only concern.”
At that point she was speaking to me in two languages. First there were her words, all clear and neatly articulated. Then came the important part. It consisted of her eyes and those legs that she had now crossed for a second time and her lips and the sound of her voice and the sweet aroma of her that was penetrating over to me and threatening to take me into custody.
“That’s not actually the sort of thing that I do,” I explained. “Eliminate people. I can curtail their activities, and I often succeed in doing that, but they always survive the experience.”
“I have access to funds.”
“Perhaps I can find a way to persuade him to leave you alone, without going to the extreme that you suggest.”
“That won’t work. He keeps coming back. It’s like a game with him.”
“So it’s all or nothing?”
She flicked an imaginary speck from her skirt. It was the most extraordinarily fascinating gesture that I had ever beheld.
“You know of course,” I volunteered, “that what you want me to do is quite illegal.”
“Only if somebody catches you at it. If they don’t, then for all intents and purposes you weren’t even involved.”
“You have a point there.”
“Tell me, you have a weapon, don’t you?”
“May I see it?”
I opened the middle drawer of my desk and drew out the firearm that I kept there. I offered it for her inspection and she took it.
“Yes,” she murmured. “It’s quite nice. Small enough but big enough.”
“And it works every time.”
She returned the piece to me.
“How soon could you do it?” she asked. “Today?”
I felt suddenly like a rafter approaching the rapids, fearful yet elated.
“Where would I find him?” I said.
“He works at home. Something with computers. It’s totally illegal.”
“And why is that?”
She explained to me the illicit nature of his activities and I had to agree with her that he was indeed a very evil person.
“So you’ll do it for me?” she asked.
It was the moment, precisely then, that I realized that Remember represented all that was good and pure and proper in the world. And she was in danger. I was her champion. I had to act. That is what those thoughts in my head were telling me. There was no way that they would permit me to refute them.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said to her. “Why don’t I go over there and sort of scope the area out and just get a sense of how things are?”
“Perfect. Shall I wait here?”
“Sure. Why not? If the phone rings just tell them I’m out of the office and take a message. OK?”
“Help yourself to the coffee. And there are donuts in the file cabinet. Top drawer.”
“And the rest room?”
“Right down the hall.”
I removed my jacket and strapped on my shoulder holster. Into it I inserted my weapon. With the jacket buttoned up again there was not even a bulge.
“How long do you think it will take?” she asked.
“A split second, once everything’s in place.”
“I’ll be so happy when it’s all over.”
“So you just sit tight and I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
I rode the bus to within a block of my destination. I dismounted and walked to the address that the lovely Remember had provided for me. I knocked on the door. He opened it. I explained why I had come there, but in words that persuaded him that he should allow me to enter. Once everything was in place, the act did indeed require only a split second. I walked from there back to the bus stop. Within a few minutes I had completed the journey to my office.
“Hi,” she smiled up at me from my desk. “All set?”
“Great. That’s a load off my mind.”
She surrendered the desk to me. I laid the weapon back in the center drawer and removed my shoulder holster and put it away.
“Coffee?” she smiled. “I made fresh.”
“That would be great.”
She poured a cup for me and one for herself and brought mine to me. I tasted it. Just as I had anticipated, it was far superior to anything that I had ever created.
“So what do I owe you?” she asked.
Her question took me aback. I did not know what to do with it, as if it were fluttering about in me and could find no resting place. And then it became perfectly clear that she owed me absolutely nothing. Actually, it was I who owed something to her. I could, however, not define exactly what that thing was.
“That’s OK,” I told her.
We sat for a while and chatted. And then Remember had to be on her way. She stood up and we shook hands across the desk while she smiled at me and then she turned and walked to the door and opened it and stepped through and was gone.
I returned to the place where my thoughts were waiting for me. We remained together through the afternoon and deep into the evening.