Camera Obscura

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Chapter Twenty

Larry spent the next hour searching the house for something, anything he could remember. He found a college annual that was familiar, but that was to be expected. It was from ten years ago and it was only five or so that were gone from his memory, if indeed, it was really that much, given what he had found out today. He turned to his college roommate’s picture and sighed. It hurt him to think that, regardless of how it had happened, he had been responsible for Mike’s death. In the bedroom he found pictures reminding him of people, events, but nothing that related to the time that he was missing.

He sat on the bed, and then bounced a little, testing the mattress and springs. It was obvious that he liked his creature comforts because it was comfortable as was all the furniture in the house. The bathroom was small with only a shower, but it was nicely appointed with towels in browns, gold, and dark green. The floor was a tile-patterned linoleum, there were shelves holding shaving cream, razors, a cup with a toothbrush, and the medicine cabinet held only aspirin, toothpaste and box of strip bandages.

“At least I don’t seem to be a slob,” he said looking around. “Golda’s been here,” he smiled, observing that there was very little dust lying on the surfaces. The woman reminded him of his mother. Not physically, of course, because his mother had been taller and slender. But there was something about Golda’s manner, a warmth, a gentle kindness, that was very like his mother. He was lucky to have her for a neighbor and, apparently, a friend.

Larry’s stomach gave him a heads-up, and he realized he hadn’t eaten in some time. The airplane had served only a tiny bag of pretzels and he had purchased a soft drink, but he had been so focused on task ahead of him that it hadn’t mattered at the time. Now, however, it was time to find something to fill that cavity.

He checked the kitchen. The small cupboards held the usual plates, cups, glasses, etc. as well as ordinary spices and such near the stove. Nothing fancy, but again, comfortable. The pantry was well stocked with can goods and an unopened bag of corn chips, probably stale after all this time. Nothing looked as if he had been planning to take a long trip.

The big refrigerator held only a six-pack of beer. He grabbed one, popped the top and said a silent thanks to Golda for having the essentials ready for his return. That and the corn chips, or whatever else he could find, would have to do for lunch. Without any hesitation or thought, he opened one of the cabinets and took out a pilsner glass. He opened the beer and poured it into the glass. Suddenly, he realized he hadn’t even had to search for the glasses.

“Humpf. I guess I do live here.”

He grabbed the chips from the pantry and with the beer went into the living room where he sat down and mulled the situation. This house was nothing like the “dream house” where he and his “dream family” were supposed to have lived. This area was wooded and rustic where the dream had taken place in a more traditional setting with nice homes on either side of a tree-lined street. He saw the television remote on the table, so he switched on the TV, grabbed a handful of chips that were as bad as he expected and took a big swig of the beer to kill the taste.

With the television as background noise, Larry dumped the contents of the pillowcase on coffee table and began sorting the mail into piles, letters in one, magazines in another. Golda had, indeed, taken care of the bills and thrown away the junk mail. A couple of current bills were there, but not a late notice in the bunch. She had said he sent money each month and it occurred to him that since he had not done so, he should try to find out who had.

He noticed a small package. He picked it up and was surprised to see it was addressed to Mike Casey in San Francisco with this Los Angeles address in the upper left corner. The postmark was faded, but with squinting, Larry could read the date and the word Colorado. The package was marked “Return to Sender…No Such Number.”

“Good grief! It seems I was in Colorado last October.”

He tore open the package and spilled the contents on the table. He was surprised to see several film canisters for a thirty-five millimeter camera, and a note, which read, “See what you can do with these. Got a new digital. It’s pretty cool. Had to replace my Konica 35mm. I’ll tell you about it later.”

“What the. . .?”

Before he could finish formulating his question, the sound from the television caught his attention.

“At a joint session of Congress today,” the voice said, “newly appointed ‘drug czar’ former Senator Francis X. Marley of Colorado. . .”

At that name, Larry’s head snapped up. He looked at the screen and saw the words “News Brief” across the bottom of the screen and a vaguely familiar face that was saying, “. . .announced his new program for waging a war on drugs in our schools.”

The image on the screen cut to a scene in Congress where Senator Marley stood behind the podium, gesturing broadly. “My plan,” he said with confidence, “will mobilize the nation’s youth to form a ‘Crime Stop Force’ that will shake the foundations of the underworld.”

As the picture zoomed in on Marley’s florid face, the sound receded and Larry suddenly saw in his mind the same scene as before when he had observed Vladimir Wulf hand a briefcase to a large man in jeans and plaid wool jacket. He was looking through the lens of his camera, trying to focus on the new ski runs that had been carved into the forest on the mountain in the distance. He and Mike were working on a book. Sonofabitch! That’s why I was there. As he had focused his lens and zoomed in on the nearest ski run, the two men appeared and exchanged the briefcase. He saw Wulf’s face clearly. They had what seemed to be a heated discussion. There was a sound; the men looked around just as he snapped the picture. The man in the wool jacket pointed at Larry just as the shutter clicked. It was the same face that he was seeing on the television screen right now.

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