Melville Feezance smiled, but I wasn’t sure how warmly. How do you take the temperature of a smile?
“I retired two months ago,” he said, “after forty years with the Thorough-Bread Bakery.” I retrained my impulse to pun about loafing on the job or making a lot of dough.
“I hope you’re enjoying retirement as much as I am,” I said.
“I’m not. As soon as I retired, I became the victim of a campaign of vandalism. Someone dumps garbage on my lawn, I receive calls from a pay phone at two a.m.” I was surprised: I didn’t think there were any pay phones left. “The air was let out of my tires. On Hallowe’en, my windows were soaped, not just a couple of squiggly lines or a lopsided circle, but a huge variety of shapes.”
“Like a surrealist painting?”
I was tempted to ask if he had had its artistic value assessed. With a title like “Soap on Window”, it could be worth something; new forms of art often are, temporarily at least.
I had had a case like this in the past, so I asked the usual question: “Do you have any enemies, perhaps someone you worked with?”
“No. Most of the people at the Bakery had been there for years. I was manager for the last two decades.”
“Are you the only person in your neighbourhood who’s been victimized?”
“As far as I know. I installed a couple of security cameras, but so far all I’ve got is pictures of the neighbours’ cats, a few raccoons, and a skunk.”
Animals, I knew, did not make telephone calls.
I tried to imagine my house after such attacks. Actually it wasn’t hard because I’m not the greatest homeowner or housekeeper in the world ꟷ or even Blandsville. If God had intended us to have green, neatly trimmed lawns, He wouldn’t let grass grow so quickly, except when a drought turns it brown and pseudo-dead.
That afternoon I spent an hour walking around Mr. Feezance’s part of town. It seemed to be quiet and crime-free. I knocked on his neighbour’s door.
A man answered. “We don’t want whatever you’re selling, we can’t contribute to whatever you’re calling for, and we’re long-time Anglicans.” Did I look like a Jehovah’s Witness?
“I’m not trying to sell, collect, or convert. My driveway is being paved. and I wonder if I could park my car in your driveway, just for tonight. I’ll pay you, of course.” I didn’t tell him why I really wanted to park next to my client’s house,in case he was the vandal.
“Why don’t you park closer to your own home?”
“I don’t get along with my neighbours. Maybe you know how it is.”
“No, I don’t know,” he growled. “I’m on good terms with everybody around here.” I’m surprised, I thought. But he agreed to let me use his driveway from nine p.m. till seven a.m. for five dollars ꟷ in advance.
Shortly after nine I began my stakeout. I couldn’t turn on the radio or read, of course. I had considered asking Hank or Amanda to keep me company, but why inflict the boredom on someone else?