Every weekend I publish a bite-sized chunk of my serialized comic novel "Four Bidding For Love." (Those who find absurdist humor and adult situations offensive, please read no further.)
Ross was still savoring his winning bid for The Thief of Baghdad movie poster from GreenDollGal when Kylie's unique knock sounded on his door. Without waiting for permission Kylie burst in and blurted her news before he could even greet her. "I'm meeting her tomorrow to buy the shoes," she said breathlessly.
Though her hair was pinned up and she was now wearing blue jeans and a loose oatmeal-colored sweater, in his mind's eye Ross still saw her sans towel, and he turned in embarrassment back to his computer screen. "You mean GreenDollGal?"
"No, I mean Alexia," Kylie announced proudly. "Also known as GreenDollGal. I'm meeting her at a store on Union Street tomorrow afternoon."
"Excellent," Ross replied in a voice of mock evil, and then opened his battered wallet to remove three $20 bills. "I see she's too careful to meet you at her house," he remarked as he handed the cash to Kylie.
In a tone of supreme self-satisfaction, Kylie replied, "You'd be surprised how well I chatted her up. I found out this store is where she sells her second-hand shoes."
"Ah, so that's it," Ross exclaimed sagely. "And here I thought she was just another shrewish shopaholic. It's her business. That's good. Then she's used to dickering."
Kylie's triumphant glow faded and she asked worriedly, "Should I mention trading the toaster for the poster after I buy the shoes?"
Ross slumped back in a thoughtful pose and twirled his battered chair slowly from side to side. "I haven't thought that part out yet. It might alienate her to know the shoes were just a setup to get the T-20Z."
Kylie's dark brows knitted and she asked, "But if she has ESP, won't she already sense that?"
"You're right," Ross sighed. "I didn't think of that."
"Then how do I bring up the toaster?" Kylie asked. "'Oh, I just happened to run into my neighbor who just happens to have that movie poster you lost on eBay?'"
Ross's face crinkled in exasperation. "I don't know. I haven't gotten that far yet."
Turning to his computer, he typed in a search string and clicked the mouse a few times. "Here's the shop, and voila, here's her home address," he announced flatly. "Green Street, not far from her Union Street shop."
Don't tell me you're thinking of stalking her," Kylie said accusingly, and Ross lifted his hands in a gesture of innocence. "No, of course not. It was just a point of curiosity."
Kylie pursed her lips worriedly. "I'm no good at bargaining."
"You've got woman's intuition; you'll do fine."
Kylie wrinkled her nose peevishly. "Then why am I unemployed?"
As Ross rolled his eyes in frustration, his computer chirped to announce an incoming email. After glancing at the missive, his posture of listless defeat vanished and he chortled with evident satisfaction.
"I guess prayer works after all," he said in muted wonderment. "The answer to our dilemma just arrived."
* * *
Alexia was surprised to hear her doorbell that evening, and even more surprised to find that it was Robin. Dressed in a casual white turtleneck sweater and pressed khakis, he looked even more like a Bollywood star than in his usual button-down Oxford shirts.
"Good news," he reported, and his large eyes widened in excitement. "I found out quite a bit about your axe murderer."
"The easy way," he replied. "Spend a few dollars for an Internet search."
Her failure to think of such an obvious path irked her, and Alexia said, "I'll pay you, of course. So what did you find?"
"His name is Ross Tozaj, and he lives in Berkeley. Divorced, no real estate owned, currently on temporary disability, declared bankruptcy late last year."
"I gathered that from his eBay history," Alexia remarked.
Her insight into WolfgangSuchard from just his bidding history knocked the edge off Robin's grin and in a deflated tone he said, "I don't think a disabled person would make much of an axe murderer."
"Maybe he has carpal tunnel in his left wrist but throws hatchets with his right," Alexia suggested, and instantly felt a pang of guilt at the dismay this grim supposition ignited in her helpful young neighbor.
"And I was just feeling more confident he was harmless," Ross said wanly. "You see, he already agreed to negotiate with me for the poster."
Alexia patted Robin's arm and said, "Don't worry, we'll do everything through email and you won't ever have to meet him."
Robin's expression transitioned from dismay to anxiety and he hesitated a few anguished seconds before saying, "No, he insists we do it in person."
Doubt crept into Alexia’s voice. "Well, that does change things, doesn't it? But really, I'm sure he's just a harmless old Berkeley eccentric."
"With a huge collection of razor-sharp throwing hatchets," Robin said hollowly, and their conversation ended on this sober note.