Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. A trail of seemingly coincidental meetings with a beautiful woman over several years leads to a series of events including Bakoda's cats Ying and Yang being poisoned, an assault with a deadly weapon upon his girlfriend and his home being set on fire with apparently no immediate motive. That was until he began receiving chiding limericks that challenged him to solve the mystery before someone really got hurt.
I was greeted upon my return by Ying and Yang, my cats, brother and sister who had adopted me on a job in the Midwest about two years before and were thoroughly spoiled and knew it
I have known scores of manipulative animals with only two legs over the decades but these two four-legged scamps were heads and tails, literally, more proficient at plying their trade than any of the humans I had encountered.
I no more than walked in the front door of my cottage in Sunnyslope in North Phoenix north on Central Avenue and at the base of North Mountain and had tossed my duffel on the couch than I had two felines wrapping themselves around both of my legs and rubbing me.
I smiled; they were transparent as hell. I had taken this train before and it was no more than thirty seconds later that the caresses stopped and they bounced away toward the kitchen and their bowls, plumped their butts down and starred back at me expectantly in the living room.
I was trained, shortly there was a celebration to commemorate my return. They had milk and a premium grade of albacore and I enjoyed a glass of Primal Roots red blend and contemplated a trip to Safeway up the road and over the mountain to refill my larder and whip up some dinner.
All was well at Bakoda's house. The hunter had returned home.
* * *
The next day I went next door to the neighbor's to thank her for keeping an eye on things while I was gone and tending to Ying and Yang. I gave her fifty dollars for her trouble and another fifty to reimburse her for the premium tuna that they considered their due. At about four dollars or more a day per can and they required two that they shared, these rascals ran up a total of about three thousand dollars a year just for fish, not to mention milk and miscellaneous kibbles. These two strays had it made, and they were worth every penny of it.
I went through my mail that the neighbor had deposited in a basket on the kitchen counter. No surprises there, just the usual.
I had called Darla on my way home from the airport from my cell that I could use now that my assignment was over. Cell phones were banned from use by The Outfit when on an assignment and for good reason. Most people have no idea that cell phones are tracking devices; every time you use one, everywhere you go, you leave a trail and even the secured ones that government agencies often use can be compromised. But I had returned to home ground and there was no problem.
"Get home and settle in with Ying and Yang," she had said. "I'll come over tomorrow. Dinner, a movie and a sleep over?"
"I couldn't ask for more," I said.
* * *
I suppose that Darla and I are very much like the Yin and Yang. We're different yet complement each other in the most important ways.
She had completed university and built a successful business over the last several decades since we both originally met and dated, me at about twenty and her in her late teens a little over twenty years ago. She knew how to court clients and fit into the social networks that cultivate business relationships. I simply was a loner, satisfied to be on my own and mostly to myself. I enjoyed my self-sufficiency and the solitude that it brought to me. Somehow early on The Outfit recruited me. To this day I'm not sure how they found me, but like a lot of things that don't impact my daily life or expedient reality, I stopped wondering a long time ago. I have virtually no friends save a shrink named Watt and a lover named Darla, and a cop named Mark Grant who I like to badger, which he returns in kind and that's fine with me. Just that trio of stalwarts. There are of course the cats, Ying and Yang (yes, I know that I bastardized "Yin" when I named them but I'm continually doing little things that are contrary to the accepted norms). I guess in the mid-twentieth century I would have been considered a non-conformist. One of my favorite books is On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I've changed my name many times over the years. Partly because it maintains my anonymity in my functions for The Outfit, but it began even before I was recruited by them.
So there we are, Darla and I. Her the socially gregarious one with a wide network of friends, associates and contacts and me a man who prefers to remain in the shadows. Other than Dr. Watt, Mark Grant and Darla, those who think that they know me really don't. It goes without saying that nobody who interfaces with me on my home turf have any idea what I do for a living. They just know that I travel a lot and on short notice. I've led them to believe that I'm a troubleshooter for an international concern involved in large-scale construction projects and might be called upon at a moment's notice to straighten out a snarl in a project just about anywhere on the globe that might take a week or a month. Consequently, I come and go.
But as much as we are different, Darla and I are the same in many ways. We both I believe have an ethic at our core that is identical with a critical compass of right and wrong and what must be done to maintain a positive balance.
I killed for her for a just reason, and she killed to save my life once and to save her own on another occasion. We both can execute the task with no hesitation and no residual remorse because it is the right thing to do at the time.
We are completely loyal to one another and yet know that our relationship on a day to day basis requires a bit of distance. Mostly because of the worlds that we feel comfortable in. Darla resides in the desert north of Scottsdale with the mountains as a backdrop in a four thousand square foot or more home and me in Sunnyslope, a funky diverse community in North Phoenix that isn't quite a barrio but is heavily Hispanic and isn't quite Bohemian although it has a substantial amount of arts, history and culture and some good restaurants. I like to think of it as down to earth and real without pretention and my little bungalow built from cinder block back about 1950 is about as down to earth and practical as a home needs to be although, thankfully, a former owner installed central air conditioning way before I bought it. The place definitely could use more insulation though to be more energy efficient.
When we spend time together it is the best, not just sexually but we are as one. We have a spat now and then but mostly in fun or to allow one or the other, mostly me, to blow off steam and we both know it isn't serious. We also know that at a point we must return to our other personal worlds in order to maintain our exclusive world. I doubt we'll ever live together in one place permanently or even marry, but we continue on with what works for us and it has for the last two years since we reestablished our relationship that started so long ago.
Dr. Watt tries to act as mensch like a Jewish matchmaker and tries to get us to conform to a more conventional relationship. Funny, he's so right about a lot of things and has helped me straighten my head out after a catastrophe in my work that cost the lives of two innocents, but when it comes to Darla and I he just doesn't get it. Then again perhaps he does but would just like us living together or more probably married in that proverbial house with a white picket fence around it.
I just chuckle when he broaches the subject ("So when are you and this Darla woman who you say you love and who loves you going to settle down? I've met her, she's smart, beautiful and has a good business. You could do worse, my friend. "), but once a mensch always a mensch.
I always kid him by saying, "But she doesn't cook."
And he always says, "So eat out, just eat out. After all, when someone asks what a Jewess makes for dinner, the answer is always the same, 'reservations.' That worked for my people, it will work for you. You could do worse."
Watt is one of the few people who can make me laugh, even in the cynical and potentially terminal world that I live in. He's funny without even knowing it.