Several days later, and things had changed. James was gone, back to work. I had no leads, no human suspects, no idea what would happen next. All I had was the yellow liquid before me, and in my stomach and blood.
“’ey, Aaron, ‘ows it goin’?”
Lizzy stood before me, with her basket of apples as always. I frequented the Turning Tables Bar on busy nights, usually on a trip to dig up information and kick back one or two. Currently, I was sitting on the curb outside the Bar, tossed out for having too much in one afternoon. I had my last drink in hand. I say last because the count didn’t matter. As if I could remember, anyways.
“You’ve star’ed owfully early,” she said. “Maybe you want to talk to ol’ Lizzy ‘bout it?”
“It doesn’t matter. Or something,” I muttered back, imbibing more comfort. “It stopped mattering awhile ago. I’ve already deen befeated…”
“Okay, boy, ease up.” She pulled the mug away from me, succeeding in stretching my body and torso outward until I let go, and my head fell to the knees. I heard it go down the gutter before she spoke again. “Lizzy ‘as nothing to do right now. You’re the only person who thought that a Tuesday afternoon would be ‘appy ‘our. Wha’s your problem?”
I told her everything. Actually, there wasn’t a whole lot to say, but it took me an awful long time to tell it.
“Oh dear,” she said sadly after a long, thoughtful pause. “Whenever the best is bea’en, it’s got to be tough.”
“What do you think?” How far had I fallen? Five o’clock shadow, two days without a shower, and asking a street vendor for help.
“Well, you seem to be dwellin’ on this idea of it bein’ a machine who did the deed. For a man who’s supposed to see all parts of the mystery, you canna stop talking about it.” She smiled at me, then put her hand on mine. “I think I can help you more than you think.
“It’s my job to sell them apples to the folk most able to pay for ‘em. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. They’re always trying to fool me, pretendin’ to be poor, but I have to see through that. It’s just a trick.
“It used to be easy. I thought I could tell; I would look at ‘im, and I would know ‘e ‘ad the money, and I would pester ‘im. I then realized though that the trickery was on my end too. If I thought ‘e was rich and was foolin’, I assumed ‘e was lying to me.” She paused, as though he were coming to his great conclusion. That was good enough to get me to sit up.
“But then I got complaints that I was nuisance, guiltin’ men who only had the dime they gave to me. I treated ‘em like they were something else, and never bothered to see past that.” At that moment, a man turned the corner into view. Lizzy’s eyes glanced over, then back to me. She patted my hand, smiled, then went running down the street after the man.