The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was not so far gone that he did not hear about the Saint’s arrest. He had been transported out of Kenilworth by the Ponytailed Cop, but Kenilworth was not so large that he couldn’t walk right back. He had a good thing going by the dumpsters in the little town of Kenilworth. When one dumpster became empty, as did the one behind the Epiphany Café after it closed; there was another dumpster nearby, providing every good thing that life has to offer. Everything but vodka. That’s what the Saint was for. God provided vodka through the intercession of Kenilworth’s Resident Saint.
When the Saint failed to come by that morning, he went looking for her, asking about her to everyone her met. People hadn’t liked talking to the Weather-Beaten Man with a Cowboy Hat since he took up residence by the dumpster, no one but the Saint, of course. Anyone who saw him coming, tended to go the other way. He couldn’t sneak up on too many because, since he took up residence by the dumpster, he had acquired a scent that warned them he was coming. The people he was able to sneak up on, by coming on them downwind, behind their backs, tended to give him money without even listening to his question, as if money was the answer to everything. Money isn’t the answer to everything; but, as it turned out, it was the answer to this problem. After he had snuck up on enough people, the Weather-Beaten Man with a Cowboy Hat had plenty of money to buy his own bottle of vodka. It was from the man at the liquor store that he learned that Kenilworth’s Resident Saint, the liquor store’s most regular customer, was in jail for the death of the Lisping Barista.
His first thought was, how will I get another bottle? Please don’t judge him too harshly on this. For, while he did not have too many needs at this point, this one concern was not negotiable. When it comes down to it, we can all do without a lot of the things we have grown accustomed to; but, for an alcoholic, alcohol is not one of them. He’d rather do without a dinner than the beverage that accompanied it. He’d rather fail to wake up the next morning than do without a buzz that made it endurable. You mustn’t think that drinking was an indulgent thing that made him feel good. It was an obligatory thing that kept him from feeling anything at all.
He had a second thought, once it occurred to him that, if he could scrounge up enough money for a bottle today, he could do so tomorrow. The second thought was, it was a damn shame that such a fine specimen of woman-kind as the Lisping Barista was dead. He liked the Lisping Barista. If it wasn’t for those pesky ghosts, he would have fucked her. He’d been hoping he might get a chance to fuck her again, sometime when he could be sure the ghosts had gone away. Indeed, many times, when he was whiling away the long hours of the night in an alcoholic haze, by his dumpster, he imagined fucking her again. He won’t be able to do that anymore because imagining fucking a dead person is perverted. No, he would never be able to fuck her again, in or out of his imagination. That was a damn shame.
His third thought was on the absurdity that the Saint was accused of murder. He couldn’t conceive of why she would ever want to murder the Lisping Barista, or why anyone would accuse her. But, if he has his secrets, so would she. Just as no one would have known he was a killer of dogs, and a second-hand killer of a person; no one would have expected this about her.
Normally, three thoughts were enough for one day, but they kept coming. Before he was halfway through the bottle, he had a plan to get the Saint released. He would solve the crime of the Lisping Barista’s murder and earn the everlasting gratitude of someone given to giving him vodka.
The only problem was, he didn’t know who killed her, and he was already halfway through the bottle.
Not to worry, said a subsequent thought, you know a famous solver of crimes, a man so intelligent, so perceptive, with such abilities of induction and deduction that no crime was safe from his scrutiny.
Who is this remarkable person? He asked the thought. Is this Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, or Sam Spade?
No, said the thought. You can keep your Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Sam Spade. You don’t even need a Columbo, a Charlie Chan, or an Inspector Clouseau. You already know the granddaddy of all detectives, or at least someone who played him on stage. He is none other than William Gillette, the actor, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes; or, at least, he’s his ghost.
This would not be a good enough plan for a sober person; but, the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was not a sober person. He was a drunk person; and, to a person who is drunk, any idea, even one voiced by a sketchy subsequent thought, was a good idea. Or, at least one that seemed so at the time.