‘The Case of Curious Eddy’

23:44 Wed 04 Jul 2007. Updated: 01:39 14 May 2010
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Curious Eddy was dead. At least that’s what Mrs. Curious Eddy said to me. She seemed sincere, but I’d learned to never take anything for granted. I told her I’d ask some questions, see where some things stood, and get back to her on whether I’d take the case.

The first stop was the morgue. Wilson was the local pathologist. He knew me, and showed me Eddy’s body. We agreed between ourselves that it was Eddy, and that he was dead. “Another one to put through the wringer, Rick?” Rick’s my name. Rick Remontaine. I told Wilson I owed him a drink, and left. I didn’t ask him the cause of death questions. Those would come later—maybe.

Those questions are what Mrs. Eddy probably thought I’d be asking. “How’d he die?” “Was it natural causes?” “Did someone dose his dog’s leash with a contact poison they bought in Marrakesh without realizing that it can only be purchased there, making it obvious that the killer is the person in this room who travelled to Marrakesh last week?” That kind of thing. And that’s what I used to spend most of my time doing. Now, though, there was a more important question that needed to be answered before I’d get into any of that.

Did Curious Eddy deserve to die?

That was the big question. If he did, then who cared about the rest, who killed him, whether or not someone killed him at all, how they did it, what kind of infernal pact they’d made with the Department of Traffic? The question was whether he had it coming.

Now I knew he was really dead, I went over to Jakobs in the Hall of Records. Jakobs walked with a limp and spoke with a lisp, and every time I saw him I tried to convince him he should switch that around. To be more accurate, I’d done that once, just once, the first time, because it seemed funny right then, they’re just a letter apart. But then he got into it whenever I saw him, every time, the same routine. So I stopped asking him to go drinking. Then I had to start avoiding the bars he went to. Eventually I gave up drinking entirely, and that’s one of the things that led to my changing the kinds of questions I would ask first about cases. But I still had to see him when I wanted records, so I steeled myself. Sure enough, no questions about where I’d been, or comments about how he hadn’t seen me around—just the same old lines about the limp and the lisp. I thought about blowing him away and leaving town, but I had rules about that.

Once we were done with it, he got me Eddy’s records. Eddy was 44 when he died. That made it more likely that he deserved it. Really, once you’re past 25, you’ve probably done enough stuff that you deserve to go. There are exceptions—exceptions both ways, as I’d seen plenty of cases where 20-year-olds got what was coming to them in ways I never bothered figuring out.

Beyond that, he was from Texas. Another black mark.

While I was there, though, I went through the rest, like the criminal record. The sheet wasn’t that bad. Some robbery, some fraud, some forgery. Nothing uncommon. There were some murders as well, but I had no way of knowing whether or not those victims deserved it, and really I didn’t want to complicate matters by getting into that, and I just left those aside. So the criminal justice system called him a liar and a thief.

But what if that had all been a setup? What if he’d been framed, made to take the fall for some other nefarious actor who knew how bad the whole coming-from-Texas thing would look? Damn. I wished I hadn’t thought of that, it meant I couldn’t trust the criminal record at all, which meant it wasn’t any help, which meant I hadn’t needed it, which meant that there’d been no need to subject myself to excruciating conversational ritual with Jakobs.

I knew that if it ever came up, I’d have to conclude that Jakobs absolutely did have it coming.

His record listed his known associates. Most were in prison, and I couldn’t talk to them without having to deal with whether they deserved what they were getting, and that was a labyrinth. I knew that lesson from a high school detention case I’d pushed all the way to the Supreme Court. The ACLU won for the kid, but he never forgave me after I switched sides halfway through, and testified that he had it coming.

Other associates include Mrs. Eddy, but if she thought he had it coming she wouldn’t have come to me to find out who did it, so I put her in the plus column, at least for the moment.

No family. Did play pool down at Newtonian Physics, which wasn’t far away. So I went down to talk to people who knew him. Things didn’t get any better for Eddy from there. The main thing is that he owed these people quite a lot of money. And they were all friends of his, yet he’d spent years not paying them back. Plenty of allegations of cheating were thrown around too, making me wonder again about the criminal record maybe being fair after all. Then the last guy I talked to screwed things up a lot. First, he insisted that Eddy was a great guy, the best friend a man could have, and this brought my scales back into balance, which is the same as returning to zero, and who wants to work a day to get back to where they started? Then this guy starts crying, which is really embarrassing, probably the part of the job I hate most except for having to deal with Jakobs. What am I supposed to do, offer a handkerchief? Am I supposed to carry handkerchiefs just for this, in other words making sure to carry extra, a number beyond the number I’m likely to need in a given period-between-handkerchief-resupply-times? And why do I have to pay (in the form of handkerchiefs) for other people’s emotional problems? Anyway, I deal with the crying okay this time, he had his own handkerchief, but then he starts telling me how he killed Eddy because he thought Eddy cheated one time too many, and how he covered it up by making it look like a freak accident off the break, and then how only a handful of pool players in the world could make such a shot at all, never mind make it look accidental, which is really annoying, I can’t stand that kind of boasting. All the while I’m trying to tell him that I don’t care, that I’m just trying to find out if Eddy deserved to die, but that just makes him worse, and I had to stop asking that directly or I knew the tears would never stop.

So instead we get into an argument, and I’m trying to tell him that Eddy was a welshing scumbag who lied through his teeth for a living and was known to talk through movies in the theater and to answer his cellphone while in the john, and on top of that everybody else said that there were the questions, always the questions, never ending questions about who and why and what and when and how and why and how come and really but what happened then and which one did that and whatever in the world could explain that and why why why. I thought that did it, because it shut the guy up, and I thought he’d go back to the other side then and stop with all this confession stuff, but no, he looks at me with these huge eyes and says that’s why he had his nickname (which he can’t bear to say) and bursts into tears again, tears and supplications and lamentations and explanations.

I gave him my number and left.

So now I don’t know what to do. The scales are pretty even, it seems to me. I don’t think even scales are good enough, for this meeting with Mrs. Eddy I’ve got coming up.

But then it hits me: I just need to figure out whether she deserves to know.

(1400 words)

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5 Responses to “‘The Case of Curious Eddy’”

  1. kevintel Says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I told you that myself earlier, but I need to post that here. Fantastic stuff. Maybe 1,400 is your sweet spot for word-count. Maybe it’s because you went for a perverse black humour. Maybe the basic idea inspired you to new heights. But more of this standard please, if only for yourself…

  2. Niall Murphy Says:

    This is great!

    But you need to change:

    “Sure enough, no questions about where I’d been, or comments about how he hadn’t seen me around—just the same old lines about the limp and the lisp. I thought about blowing him away and leaving town, but I had rules about that.
    Once we were done with it, he got me Eddy’s records.”


    “Sure enough, no questions about where I’d been, or comments about how he hadn’t seen me around—just the same old lines. Once we were done with it, he got me Eddy’s records.”

    The ‘blowing away’ feels forced, and interrupts the rhythm of the piece.

    Other than that, wow, good stuff.

  3. Tadhg Says:

    Kev: Thanks for the high praise!

    I should note, though, that I didn’t set out to write a 1400 word story here, it just came to about that (I find that rounding down to the nearest 50 is a good method for fighting prose bloat), and that I didn’t set out to write something to a higher standard, or put more effort in for this one. In fact, this story went from “I don’t know what I’m going to write about” to the form above in about 60 minutes, considerably less than e.g. ‘Detox’, which took at least twice that. I haven’t figured out where the various quality, time, fluidity, theme, or style levers and throttles are in the creative mechanism, but hopefully they’ll emerge into view as I keep at it!

    Niall: Thanks for the praise and feedback! I’m too close to the piece right now to have any idea whether or not you’re right, but if I ever decide to edit it again I’ll keep that suggestion in mind.

  4. Radegund Says:

    This is gorgeous. Thank you :-)

  5. Tadhg Says:

    Radegund: Hey, long time no see! Glad you liked it!

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