Sunday 14 July 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day – A Study in Sin by August Wainwright

Chapter 2 - The Pluto Incident

We met at the apartment the next day. There was a narrow door between the front of the bakery and the tailor’s shop next door. Remy used her key and we ascended the dark staircase to a single steel door. I flicked the light switch at the top of the stairs, but none of the three bulbs that hung overhead came on. The narrow hall was perfumed with a thick musky smell.

Once we were inside, I was shocked at the size of the place. The room was one large space, with tall picture windows that covered the entire back wall, bathing us in afternoon light. There was a small hallway to the left of the entryway that contained a single closet and full bathroom. Further down the left wall was a door leading into the bedroom, which happened to be the only separated space in the apartment. There was a galley style kitchen to the right with a long bar top counter that divided the kitchen from the rest of the room.

Other than those details, and the fact that a layer of dust lay on top of every surface, the entire place was empty. The main room had old hardwood floors and brick walls that stretched up to the celling hanging twenty feet above. Every step echoed like a gunshot. The ducting and wiring were all exposed in the ceiling area and gave the room a modern industrial feel. I found out later the bakery owner had used the room for storage after she bought the building, but eventually paid a contractor to add the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen for her brother who needed a place to stay a few years back. He moved out after less than a year and it had been empty ever since.

The apartment was so amazing, and the price so cheap, that we immediately told the old woman we would take it. I wasted no time, and started bringing things over from my shitty old place later that same night. Remy followed suit the next morning. For the next few days, we spread our collected belongings throughout the apartment and it quickly began to feel like a place I could call home.

I expected an awkward conversation when it came to the lone bedroom. The single room meant limited privacy for one of us and I suspected Remy would claim it, being of the female persuasion and all. But, even after insisting multiple times, she would hear none of it.

“I sometimes keep very odd hours, and although you don’t sleep much, I would hate to wake you by bursting out into the living area.”

She chose the far corner of the room, farthest away from the front door, and sectioned it off using two sets of tall divider screens that were a dark hand carved wood. I thought they were quite nice, so it worked out well. She fit her bed and large chests behind the screens and had her own secluded space which she seemed very comfortable with. Who was I to argue?

On the far wall, next to Remy’s makeshift bedroom, she installed an entire workstation, complete with three computer monitors, two laptops, and multiple other electronics.

“Do you have your own computer, Jay?” she asked me a few days after we moved in.

“Yea, I have a laptop I use.”

“Good. I’m sure I can trust you, but I would just appreciate it if you didn’t make a habit of using my workstations. I keep things a very specific way.”

“That’s no problem,” I answered. Her only response was a small smile as she went about her business.

In no way was Remy a difficult person to live with, even with her many eccentricities. Her schedule was fairly regular; many nights she would stay out long after I went to bed and would be gone when I woke. Sometimes I would hear her come back in the middle of the night, but she was always quiet and respectful towards me. And nothing could derail her when she put her mind towards something.

She would go non-stop for days on end. By the third week, I was convinced she only slept an hour or two a night. Her energy levels never ran low, that is, except for when she would enter into one of the episodes she had warned me about. When that happened, it was like living with an entirely different person. Dr. Jekyll and little Ms. Hyde. Remy would curl up into a ball on the couch in front of the wall of windows and stay there for hours, sometimes days. Her bouts would always follow the same pattern: First, she would curl up and go silent, and she looked as though she was suffering from one of the worst flu epidemics of all time.

Next, she would sit up, open the window nearest to her, and stare out at the street below. It would be the first sign of life, sometimes in a day or two, and would act as a false hope for progress. Because within an hour of opening the window and letting in the fresh air, she would become irritated at the commotions, slam the window shut and curl back into the fetal position. Finally, she would go to the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee, always hazelnut, and after finishing exactly two cups, she would look around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time. A few minutes later, she would be up, bouncing around like nothing had ever happened. If I didn’t know better, and if it had been absolutely anyone else, I would have sworn it was the effects of a drug withdrawal.

As the days and weeks went by, my fascination with Remy only intensified. Never once did we discuss what had happened the day we met; hell, we never even acknowledged it. I would find myself looking her up and down as she worked at her computer, wondering why she had kissed me and what it meant. I wondered what was wrong with her and I wondered why she smelled the way she did.

Remy carried her tiny frame with a grace that I found extremely appealing. In spite of the fact that I never saw her spend more than a few seconds getting ready – she never wore makeup – somehow she always looked attractive. Not gorgeous, maybe not even beautiful, but there was something undeniably alluring about her. Saying that she was confident in herself would be the equivalent of saying a lion on the plains of the Serengeti is capable of finding its own meals. On more than one occasion, I was online submitting my resume when I looked up to find her walking naked, with only a towel wrapped around her wet hair, directly through the middle of the living room. Whether she did this on purpose, was completely oblivious to the fact I was present, or simply just didn’t care, I’ll never know. But if it wasn’t an issue for her, then there was absolutely no way I was going to voice a complaint.

Seeing as how I was finding it difficult to locate even the slightest hint of a well-paying job, I immediately took notice of the fact that Remy never lacked for funds. Her computers and electronics had to have cost thousands and she never objected to going out for meals, many times, paying the bill behind my back when I got up to use the restroom . Yet, no matter how much I watched, or what questions I asked, she wouldn’t talk about what it was she did.

College was out of the question. Although Remy spent hours reading science journals and skimming through books that induced yawning just by reading the title, she never stayed on any one subject for long, quickly moving on to something completely unrelated. At one point, I was certain she was a freelance programmer because she stayed on her computer for days, going through screens of code line by line. So I asked her if she was a programmer. She looked at me for a moment, or better yet, she looked through me, and then turned back to her screen. I took it as a no. The idea struck me that whatever she was doing, it might not be what one would define as legal. Whatever her reasons, I knew that nobody would put in the effort Remy did if there wasn’t an end goal in mind.

She was educating herself but didn’t go to college. She spent hours behind her computer, but it wasn’t her job. She had “appointments” that kept her out at all hours, but no friends to speak of. She had money but didn’t answer to an employer. I was beginning to question my certainty that drugs weren’t involved when things suddenly changed.

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Genre - Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Rating – PG13
More details about the author & the book
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