Jack looked around the front room of his apartment and figured he was either going to have to move to a bigger place, or stop buying stuff. He had nowhere to put his new Daddy Warbucks lamp.
Well, not new exactly. It had been made sometime in the 1940s, but it was in great shape. The base was a glazed plaster cast of Daddy from the waist up, his hand gripping a lapel of his tuxedo, a tiny rhinestone in place of his diamond stick pin. He was grinning, and his pupilless eyes showed not the slightest trace of concern about the lamp stem and socket shell emerging from his bald pate.
Jack had found it in a Soho nostalgia shop, and talked the owner down to eighty-five dollars for it. He would have paid twice that. The apartment didn't need another lamp, but Jack needed this one. Warbucks was such a stand-up guy. No way Jack could pass it up. No bulb or lampshade, but that was easily remedied. Problem was, where to put it?
He did a slow turn. His home was the third floor of a brownstone in the West Eighties, and smelled of old wood. Not surprising since the place was crammed with Victorian golden oak furniture. The walls and shelves were cluttered with memorabilia and tchotchkes from the thirties and forties. Everything in sight except for the computer monitor existed before he was born. Even the Cartoon Network--he could see the large-screen TV in the extra bedroom--was playing a toon from the thirties with a big-eyedowlet crooning how he loved "to sing-a, about the moon-a anna June-a anna spring-a ... ." And here in the front room, not a single empty horizontal surface left ...
Except for the computer monitor.
Jack placed the Daddy Warbucks lamp on top of the monitor, which sat atop Jack's antique oak rolltop desk. The processor sat on the floor in the kneehole, and the keyboard hid under the rolltop. The monitor didn't look comfortable perched up there, but then, the computer didn't really fit anywhere in the room--a plastic iceberg adrift in a sea of wavy-grained oak.
But you couldn't be in business these days without one. Jack didn't understand all that much about computers, but he loved the anonymity they afforded in communications.
He hadn't checked his email since this morning, so he lit up the monitor and rolled up the tambour top to reveal his keyboard. He logged on through one of his ISPs--Jack had multiple accounts under various names with a number of Internet service providers, and maintained a Web site through one of them. Everything he'd read said that people were increasingly looking to the Internet to solve all sorts of problems, so Jack figured he might as well make himself available to folks searching there for his kind of solution.
Half a dozen emails from the Web site waited, but only one seemed worth answering, and that barely:
I need your help. It's about my wife. Please call me or email me back, but =please= get back to me.
It was signed "Lewis Ehler" and he'd left two numbers, one in Brooklyn, the other on Long Island.
It's about my wife ... not some guy who wanted toknow if she was cheating, he hoped. Marital problems weren't in Jack's line.
He had another job just starting up, but that promised to be mostly night work. Which meant his days would be free.
He wrote down the numbers, then headed out to make the call.
Copyright © 2000 by F. Paul Wilson