The radio was on, the music floated in the background, while Henry was relaxing with a bit of light hand planning. The last couple of months had been just the way he liked them. A few easy cases kept him in the black. Two wives wanting to know if their husbands were cheating on them and a couple who needed Henry to find their daughter. Henry had bad news for one of the wives, and was pleased to inform the other, that her man was simply taking dancing lessons, so he could surprise her on their 10th anniversary. Both ladies cried at the news. The daughter had run off with a guy who didn’t have much money, but looked like James Dean. She came home after realizing that life with her rebel, would not have a happy ending.
The sound of Patty, Maxine, and LaVerne hanging out with Bing Crosby, and asking the question, “Is you is or is you aint my baby”, made Henry stop planning the piece of walnut and he set his old Stanley No. 5 on it’s side. The Philco 90, sat on a table, next to the closet door, and he reached over and turned up the volume. It filled his shop with memories. Henry shuffled about in the saw dust, spinning about with the broom in the corner. He wondered what Luna was doing. He had seen her only once in the last couple of months. She had brought him cookies, they had eaten lunch, and made promises to find the time to get together. He thought to himself, “I should give her a call.”
The song faded and Henry set the broom back up against the wall. His feet were still shuffling. The Philco played a catchy tune for Jell-O and then a voice told Henry about the weather in Brooklyn. Henry had gone back to planning, when the next song started. Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom, and Henry stopped. He didn’t move. Those first notes pounded into his head, and as the Chordettes continued to ask “Mr. Sandman” to bring them a dream, Henry felt a wave of time thrust him back to the previous year.
The single had climbed up to #1 in the US and it seemed to be on the radio all the time. Henry didn’t buy too many records, but he did have a record player, and when the 45 arrived with a letter, he was caught off guard. He couldn’t remember anything about that day, just that when he had gotten to his office, he found the single and a letter, which someone slid under the door. He had opened the letter. After reading it, he immediately went home to his city apartment, where he read it a hundred more times, while the Chordettes sang.
Henry stayed in the city about one night per week. Most days he preferred to head home to his house. The house was quiet, almost nobody knew that he had this second place, and this is where he kept his tools for woodworking.
The letter was from another time in his life, before he was a detective; before he had closed himself off from all but a few of his closest friends. It was from a time when the world was at war, when there was a feeling of unity and purpose. It was from younger days. The handwriting was unmistakable, though he had only seen her scrawl once before. That letter too, had been read a hundred times, probably more.
Henry was not one for waxing nostalgic. In fact, he didn’t talk about his past, or think about it. For Henry, the best place to keep the past, was out of sight and mind. Big Mike loved to talk about the good old days. When Francis was missing Paris, he would drink, eat, and tell tales of his youth, and continue until he passed out. The last story would usually be entirely in French. Henry didn’t mind listening to others recount their glory days, but would change the subject, when asked about his own past. He had been this way since 1942.
The song faded and Henry turned off the radio and headed upstairs. He grabbed his jacket from the hall tree, took the gloves out of the pocket and slid them on his hands. As he headed out the door, he grabbed his fedora and ran his hand across the brim as he put it on. Music can be a powerful trigger and Henry felt that being alone at home, wasn’t as good as being alone in the car. The sound of the engine starting felt soothing, but it only nipped at the edges of the pain, perhaps the drive would make him feel better.
Henry thought about suffering. It wasn’t like having a cut or broken bone. It wasn’t the sort of hurt, which Mike had endured. It was, as a poet might say, bitter sweet. He turned left, then right, and finally got out of the neighborhood. Henry didn’t think about where he was heading, but instinct took him into the city. The traffic wasn’t too bad at this time of night. The lights of Manhattan were familiar, the sound of the wheels on the bridge, seemed to sing the blues. It was as if somebody had plugged Henry’s senses into a light socket. Bam! Sight and sound, all seemed to mix with the strange sensation deep down in his gut.
His car found it’s way to the apartment. He climbed up the stairs, noticing that it was quieter than usual. The key in the lock seemed to echo in the silent hallway. Henry set his keys on the kitchen counter, then went to the bookshelf. He removed the book she had given him, and let the two letters fall from its pages. He set the letters and book on the kitchen table, then turned on his record player. The 45 of the Chordettes were still waiting to be played, and he set the needle down carefully.
Henry pulled out a bottle of vodka and placed two glasses across from one another. He poured a shot in each. Sitting down, he closed his eyes, picked up the 1st letter with his left hand, downed the shot, and then opened his eyes to read again.