My mind wandered, my shoulders were heavy and I had yet to see the finished hat that Mr. Heung had so long ago promised. You can imagine my fears. Had I acted out the wrong sequence of events for Mr. Heung? Possibly he thought I no longer wanted this festive thing upon my head. Or maybe, I'd completely misconveyed that I absolutely needed it by this coming weekend for the Malvern Races tailgates.
I fear I should not have left these finishing touches to his otherwise able hands. And just a small part of me regretted introducing Mr. Heung to that Veronica girl who has so otherwise drastically changed his whole life about and flung him towards happiness at high speed. You see, they do tend to spend most every waking minute in some happy sort of way gazing at one another and fretting about each others wants. Veronica has completely turned the charming Second Hand into such a chic boutique and such a popular spot, too. Especially on Wednesday's when she and Mr. Heung serve 'high tea'.
It's become so popular, and hence somewhat crowded and more difficult to conduct investigative journalistic endeavors within, that Babson, Isabel and I have had to set our alarms for earlyish hours and arrive at the Second Hand before noon. Otherwise, we would never be able to scour the inventory for suspiciously hot items and buy them up for our silent auction. At least not without causing a bit of a stir. Especially now that that nasty little insurance man, Mr. Kuflick, has been following my every move. Whats more, several of the town police men seem to be following me quite a bit, as well. They seem to be under the impression that I hold secret meetings with The Burglar.
Really all that these silly men have accomplished is to throw off my feeding schedule for the poor stray cats that I care for. You see, many of these strays, the cats that is, not the officers and the insurance man, are quite skittish and often entirely afraid of humans. Now, Isabel and certainly Eliahas Wayne would argue with me on including an insurance man in that category. Human, that is. Not skittish cat. Though Mr. Kuflick does strike me as a bit skittish. Or maybe just lonely.
Thats it. That is when I had such an outstanding idea that it almost hurt the sides of my head. Possibly, rising at such an early hour and setting off to my various investigations were causing a bit of a head knocker, too. But the other stuff all began to seem so plainly clear. About Mr. Kuflick, that is. He was lonely. That is why he became so angered at the thought of our lovely garden party. And that is why he had so much time to hunt down the man responsible for his employer being required to pay Eliahas Wayne such a large sum for a priceless violin.
And it was at precisely that moment, when I had this brilliant idea, that I ran into Lavalier Gormley. I was on my way to The Gryphon to see if I could spot Isabel and fill her up with my ideas, and Lavalier was on her way to the library to do something or other with books that she does on a regular occasion. She is very good that way, donating so much time to the inside of the building and it's contents.
Well, on and on she rattled to me about something or other needed for space and computers and rams in the library and how she thought that this years proceeds should feed them and not the gardens surrounding the building.
"Yes!" I nearly screamed, and luckily and grabbed her shoulders as I yelled or I think she was about to fall over. Lavalier insists that I have never agreed with her before and this enthusiastic response caught her quite by surprise. But I had more surprise for her. Dear Lavalier, so intent on reading about other people's lives and loves that she completely forgot to have either for herself. And no reason why not to, really. Just a bit of make up, a wig and some newish clothes and she'd be an all together not unpleasant looking person. Just perfect for my soon to be charming Mr. Kuflick.
"Lavalier," I asked her breathlessly, "would you be the great sort of friend who would help me, and the library, out in such a tremendously important task?"
I hugged her and enthused how much I knew I could count on her before she had an actual chance to say yes. But she got into the spirit of things, squeaking "whats this?" and "what are you up to?" as I grabbed her hand and lead her down the block towards The Second Hand.
Oh how pleased she looked when I explained that is was absolutely essential that she, Lavalier Gormley, must save our Garden Party fundraiser for the library by escorting Mr. Kuflick to the affair and charming into small, tiny little pieces.
"I've never charmed a man in my life, Abigail, and I don't see how you think I"d be able to do this for something so important." she insisted. But I insisted that it was because this was so important that is the precise reason why she was so perfect for the job. And besides, I guaranteed her as I deposited her at that Veronica girl's feet, Veronica has lots of experience charming men and I was positive that if Lavalier just zipped up her mouth and stopped fussing and pushing me away and let Veronica do a complete and total make over that she could, in fact, charm this Mr. Kuflick.
Exhausting it was, really, the whole. I had to run, and run fast, out of The Second Hand and then lean heavy against the door so as to keep Lavalier from escaping and chasing after me. But once Veronica and Mr. Heung got to her I was able to make my escape on over to The Gryphon where I was fairly certain Mr. Kuflick would be lurking in wait for me. And he was. Unfortunately, I had completely missed my opportunity at The Second Hand to demand my hat. Just not a good time, what with trying to stop Lavalier from getting away.
But the point here is that Mr. Kuflick was indeed waiting for me. As were Isabel and Babson, both looking a bit sickish and trying to convey some sort of unspoken message to me as I skipped on up to ol' Kuffy.
"You look like you've got something to confess," he said as I plopped down on a comfy chair next to the little wooden one he had perched himself upon. And I confessed to him that I did indeed have something to confess.
I explained how awful I felt about our exchange regarding the Garden Party fundraiser for the Library and that it was all because of my worry for my dear, dear friend Lavalier. Really, the most breathtaking of cerebrally types that I know and how I'd failed her in my promise to find a suitable escort to take her to this event. Then I gave him a slight hug and cheek to cheek and thanked him ever so for agreeing to take up the challenge and dazzle our Lavalier with his lovely little eyes and smart conversation.
Now, I will admit that more than once during this exchange I caught the what could only be described as horrified looks on the faces of Isabel and Babson. And as much as Mr. Kuflick protested that he would not be party to this party, I was convinced that this really was in his best interest. He was lonely. And as long as Mr. Kuflick was to be lonely, The Burglar, Mr. Petigrew, Mr. Heung and The Second Hand, and even I would have no piece.
I left off my chat with Mr. Kuflick with a little hand scribbled list of things that I thought would endear him to Lavalier, whom I described as a regal and intelligent creature who's mind guarded her heart, waiting for that perfect blend of intellect and serious nature. My list suggested that Mr. Kuflick brush up on the lives of the Bronte sisters, try some Burberry after shave and invest in a tie without a clip.
I was exhausted more the more when I finally sat with Isabel and Babson to go over the list of things we'd been able to find at The Second Hand and that Babson had so generously purchased. The purchasing, really, was the difficult thing as Mr. Heung kept insisting the be free and refusing to accept any currency for them. You know, being all hot as they were. And so we finally, with the fabulous help of Veronica, decided that Babson would only pay what Mr. Heung had paid out for the items. She assured him, Mr. Heung that is, that she was certain she would receive so much more back at the silent auction when their rightful owners found them, and that all of this would go to help our animal shelter. She called him a hero and I acted out the part of Batman to convey the meaning to Mr. Heung. I think he rather liked that.
But the point here is the problem. We'd been able to put together a fairly good list of things that had been taken by The Burglar and found at The Second Hand. Though we had recovered most of the jewelry, golf clubby type things, things with screens and wires and batteries and even Eliahas' violin, we hadn't recovered a single hat and not one piece of the scads of silver wear listed as missing.
I fretted about this as I took a long stroll round the block last night with Conroy Cortnoy. Such a nice man, and I think so desperately depressed about his job situation. Or, should I say lack thereof. As I said earlier, I'd lately had to adjust my feeding schedule for the local stray cats on my block, what with the police officers and Mr. Kuflick following all about. They scare of my furry little friends, you know. And so, in the quiet of a lovely late spring evening, I found myself in the happy company of Conroy, who didn't seem to scare off one cat at all. In fact, one of the little buggars came right up to him. A reddish little cat that I'd been trying to coax inside for weeks now.
But the point here is that I do have a dilemma. Well two dilemma's, really. My lack of hat for the tailgates this week and the lack of hats and silver wear for the Babson Hurley Silent Auction for the Benefit of the Wayne Animal Rescue Party. Naturally Conroy was confused at first, but he is such a nice sort. You know, anyone who can win the trust of a frightened little cat can win my trust too. And so, I filled Conroy in on our plans.
"Why thats fantastic!", he exclaimed. "So all of these nice people will get everything back." He is so, so dear and sweet. You know, he looked so personally relieved as if a great weight had been lifted from his little shoulders. And then he wondered if the police would stop looking for The Burglar if everyone got their things back.
I don't know, I confessed, but, I told him, that I was convinced that this Burglar very badly wanted to make amends.
But how, we both wondered, could he do that?
"He could brake back into people's homes and put everything back?" Conroy thought.
But then we decided that some of these folks had since installed alarms and if the dear man were to get caught - red handed as the case seemed, he'd be doomed. These were, after all, crimes. The kinds that carry stiff types of penalties.
And then poor Conroy became so overburdened by this poor Burglar's misery that he bolted away almost as soon as I told him that his dear wife Constance had certainly not purchased silverware services for 50 people at The Second Hand because The Second Hand has yet to carry any silverware. I guess he must have panicked thinking that Constance merely told him this to justify her going out and buying lots of brand new silverware for their tailgate party. And Conroy being out of work, too. She really needs to cherish this man a bit more.
Oh it was a very late night when I finally finished my column.
I know a really, really cool woman who has just horrible taste in some of her things. Well, most of her things look okay, just too preppy for my taste. But her hats are really unreasonably ugly and she wants my boyfriend to help her make this one hat even uglier. I just like her too much to see her wear this freakish thing so I got together with this woman's husband and he agreed we should make a completely different looking hat that will look great and she won't have time to get another one. Is that okay?
No Advice From Me
Dear No Advice,
Hats are such special things that I think you must be a really special person to help another person with her hat. In fact, I almost with I knew who you are so I could ask you to help me with my hat because the man that is supposed to be helping me seems to have forgotten. Good luck,