Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 8

Friday 

Leo and I got off to an early start, beating most of the holiday traffic. We arrived at Eliza’s cottage by mid-afternoon. She and Claire were already there, and so were Teresa and her friend Lena. All four of them came out to greet us, and to help us unload.

Teresa introduced us.

– “Colin, Leo – this is my friend Lena.”

– “Umm … hi.” was the best I could manage. It took me another moment to gather my wits. You see, Teresa had neglected to mention that Lena was tall. Like, over 6 feet tall. (I learned later that she was 6’1″) She was remarkably attractive, with long, straight blonde hair, big brown eyes, and those classic east European features: a narrow face, accentuated by long, straight hair, and high cheekbones.

– “Hello.” she said, offering me her hand. “I have heard much about you.” Then she corrected herself. “Teresa tell me much about you.” If Lena was learning to speak English, she had a lot of work to do, but her accent was quite appealing.

– “You too.” I said, shaking her hand. “I mean, Teresa has also told me about you.” Damn, I was having trouble concentrating. If her pretty face wasn’t enough of a distraction, she had long arms, and incredibly long legs. She made Eliza look like a hobbit.

Leo was no better. He just stared, with his mouth open. I gave him a nudge. “Let’s get the car unloaded.”

Eliza’s cottage was a very large 2 storey, 4 bedroom house, with an attached garage and a basement. It was more like a house than a cottage. Leo and I carried the beer downstairs, where there was a second fridge specifically for the chilling of sudsy beverages.

Upstairs, Teresa inspected the wines we had brought, and gave our selections the seal of approval. “Great job, guys.” she said.

Eliza was going through the liquor bottles. “White rum, dark rum, spiced rum … yeesh! Did you get enough rum?”

– “If you need more, we can make a liquor run tomorrow.” said Leo.

Eliza rolled her eyes. “I was being sarcastic.” she said.

– “So was I.” said Leo.

– “Can we do anything to help?” I volunteered.

– “We’ve got everything under control here.” said Teresa.

– “How about outside?” I asked Eliza. “Did you want the grass cut?”

– “That’s right. “answered Eliza. “You’ve been here for closing before. Sure, the grass needs to be cut this weekend. Might as well do it now, if you’re willing.”

– “I’ll help him.” said Leo.

We got the lawnmower out of the garage, and filled it up with gas.

– “Did you see that girl?” he said.

– “Lena? Pretty face, right?”

– “Face? I couldn’t see that high! Christ, her tits were over my head.” said Leo.

Eliza’s cottage sat on two acres of prime lakefront land. There was a copse of trees behind the house, but most of the grass was out front, between the house and the lake. There was a boathouse and a dock, and a large stone patio with a firepit and a massive barbecue. Overlooking that was a large deck, adjacent to the kitchen. Still, there was quite an expanse of grass to cut. It took us well over an hour, with Leo taking over about halfway. I used the trimmer while he finished up.

By the time we were done, we were both a bit sweaty. I realized then that with 11 people staying over, hot showers were not going to be easy to come by.

– “Feel like a swim?” I asked him.

– “You nuts? It’ll be fuckin’ freezing in there.”

I explained the shower issue. “Besides,” I said, “it’ll be a great way to wake up in the morning. Hell, we’ll have to go in tomorrow to get the dock out.”

– “Somebody will have to go in tomorrow.” said Leo. “Why do you assume that person is going to be me? Even if I have to go in, I can wait. For now, I’m grabbing a shower.”

Undeterred, I changed into shorts for swimming, and got my towel. There was no point in delaying the inevitable: I dove off the end of the dock. It was cold enough to make me catch my breath, but as I surfaced and began treading water, I realized that it wasn’t that bad. Our unseasonably warm summer had phased into an unusually warm autumn.

Teresa and Lena had heard the splash, and were standing on the deck when I emerged.

– “How is it?” called Teresa.

– “Better than I expected.” I told her. “Too cool for swimming, but a quick dip won’t cause heart failure.”

She laughed, and then translated for Lena. As I dried off, another car arrived. It was Craig, arriving with Ben. Eric was with them. I shook hands with all three, and thanked Craig for bringing Eric, as I had asked him to.

– “No problem. Glad to.” he replied.

– “Hope you’re ready to go, Colin.” said Ben. “Of course, I’m going to win this thing, but it’s always better if you make it a challenge.”

– “I’ll try my best.” I answered. I was never quite sure how to take Ben. In my humble opinion, he was an arrogant asshole. But others seemed to like him, so I might have been wrong.

 

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Another Life – Chapter 6

Marty was treating Caroline like the protagonist in a fucking Jane Austen novel – in another eight or nine years, he’d have progressed to holding her hand.

I had no problem with Caroline. Actually, I didn’t know her all that well. I’d been trying to stay away from her – and to keep her sisters with me – to give Marty some room. Lord knows what he was doing with it.

He kept asking me to go to their house with him – and I kept going. I asked myself why: really, I did. Maybe 60% of it was loyalty to my buddy. The rest? Fucked if I know.

Tanya was jailbait. Avoid at all costs. That didn’t mean that I was blind. She was funny, with a caustic sense of humor and a sharp tongue. Ron was probably right: one of these days she was going to turn into a proper little hottie. Couldn’t fault her taste in music, either.

Sam was a conundrum, shrouded in a mystery, wrapped in a nutbar. I couldn’t figure her out – and I couldn’t decide how I felt about her. Dumb as a bag of rocks. Pretty. Sweet, at times.

Best left alone.

Against my better judgment, I took up with Anne again. That was a mistake. We both knew it, right after the first time we ended up in bed. But it took a second fuck, in her bedroom, before we were smart enough to call it quits.

Then Marty invited me to a cottage party.

– “I’ll drive, if you can get us a case of beer.” he said.

– “Let me guess: we’re taking the sisters.”

– “If that’s okay with you.”

It turned out to be a massive party, with incredibly loud music, over 100 people, and a beautiful night sky.

– “Sit near me.” I ordered Sam and Tanya. I didn’t want either one getting into trouble.

Quite a few beers were drunk that night – many of them by me. I was feeling a bit … melancholy. Maybe it was breaking up with Anne again. But I snapped out of it when I heard the first chords of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ blaring over the speakers.

– “Listen to this.” I told Tanya. “The drums. Everybody hears the guitar – or Ann Wilson’s voice.”

– “She’s awesome.” said Tanya.

– “I know – but the listen to the drummer. He’s kicking the shit out of this song!”

Tanya just grinned. She loved it when I talked to her, made her the centre of my attention. She listened to me for twenty minutes solid, as I switched to Zeppelin, trying to explain what made John Bonham such an incredible drummer.

– “Tanya? Could you get Uncle Joe another beer? And one for yourself and your sister, if you don’t mind.”

– “I’ll get them!” yelled Sam, as she sprang to her feet. She was no longer a brunette – she’d dyed her hair blonde again. Off she ran. Tanya watched her go, and then turned to me.

– “Joe?”

– “Yeah?”

– “If I was 18, would you go out with me?”

Shit. Shitshitshit.

– “Tanya – you’re a bright girl.” I said. She could tell that I was building up to a ‘but’.

“I think you like me.” she said.

– “You’re smart, and you have you good taste in music.” I told her. “You still have to recognize why Neil Peart is a fucking great drummer, too … but you’re pretty cool.”

– “You didn’t answer my question.” she said.

– “What was the question?” I asked. I’d already had more beers than I needed.

– “Here you go!” shouted Sam. She handed us both a fresh beer.

I have to admit it: I was on my way to getting seriously blitzed. I hadn’t intended to. But keeping track of Sam and Tanya was hard work.

We ended up sitting around a huge bonfire. Sam was drunk, and clingy. Tanya was drunk, and growing incoherent. I was drunk – and not sure what was going on.

I do remember someone hijacking the turntable, and putting on ‘Achilles’ Last Stand.’ Martin found us there. While Caroline glared at us, he got us to our feet. Somehow, we got the drunken sisters into the back seat of his car. I ended up in the middle, with a sister on either side of me.

Tanya was fairly wasted, and a bit queasy. We rolled down her window, and made sure that she got a steady supply of fresh air. Sam wasn’t so far gone.

I was. I saw her pretty face, hovering near mine. And I leaned forward – and kissed her.

Lord knows what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all. Her lips tasted sweet, though. Sam tickled my lip with her tongue. I did what any red-blooded male would have done, and slid my tongue into her mouth.

Yes, I was kissing Sam. French-kissing Sam, to be exact. Marty drove, while Caroline talked to him. I kept Tanya’s head near the open window, in case she was tempted to spew. Other than that, I necked with Sam. I did have the occasional lucid moment, and I did ask myself: what the fuck are you doing?

I ignored myself, and kept smooching with Sam. She was a good kisser. I did pull back, once, to look at her. Maybe I was drunk. Actually, I was quite drunk – but she looked just fine. And she tasted very nice.

On my other side, Tanya was snoring. At least she didn’t puke.

Marty got us home safely.

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 7

The days crawled by. I saw just about everybody on the list in September, individually or in small groups. But it proved impossible to find an occasion when all 11 of us were free.

Finally, Thanksgiving weekend loomed. Leo and I both skipped off that Friday. We packed our overnight bags and the costumes in the backseat, along with some food supplies Teresa had asked us to pick up.

Then we went shopping for the booze. Everybody had given us their requests. We got six cases of beer (two-fours, in Canadian slang), and three cases of wine. I wasn’t sure that we had enough wine. Then we added a case of liquor. Most of it was rum, or flavoured rum, but there was also vodka, tequila, scotch, and even a bottle of peppermint schnapps (Leo was on a schnapps kick).

– “Schnapps?” I asked him. “For pirates?”

– “It won’t go to waste.” he said. “Just imagine that we’re sailing past some German island.”

As you can probably guess, geography and history weren’t Leo’s strong suits.

– “You psyched?” he asked me.

– “Just a little.” I admitted.

While he was rearranging things in the backseat, I saw that Leo had packed a box of 12 condoms in his overnight bag.

– “Somebody’s optimistic.” I commented.

– “Hey – Be Prepared. That’s my motto.”

– “You have about 100 mottos, Leo.” I said.

– “You can never have enough mottos.” he replied.

– “That’s 101.”

I didn’t kid him too much about the condoms. After all, I had packed a dozen of my own. I was hoping for an epic weekend, too.

 

 

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Another Life – Chapter 4

It wasn’t so bad, living at home while working full-time. I biked to the garage, or took the bus in bad weather. I was able to put some money aside, even after paying my stepmother’s rent. I didn’t do anything foolish, like buy a car, or a new stereo. The money I saved could be used to go to college next year. Uncle Ray gave me some good advice, too.

My ex-girlfriend, Anne, was showing signs that she might be interested in getting back together. I wasn’t so sure. I mean, she was the one who had broken it off … if we started dating again, how long would it be before she remembered why she had dumped me in the first place?

Besides, I was pursuing a few other options. No, not Sam. Meanwhile, Marty was still ‘courting’ Caroline, at his own glacial pace.

– “I think you need to see her more than once or twice a month, Marty.” I told him. “Have you even been out with her alone, yet?”

– “All in good time.” he said.

He dragged me out with him several more times to see the sisters. We ‘dropped in’ on them again, took in another movie, and – to my horror – an antique auction.

The next time we went over, it was to find that Sam had dyed her hair. Brown.

– “She thought it would make her look smarter!” howled Tanya. She was clutching her stomach, bent over double. “She said she didn’t want to be a dumb blonde anymore! Ah! I’ve been laughing for days – it’s killing me!”

– “I think it looks very nice.” insisted Caroline.

Sam had her arms crossed, but the expression on her face was easy to recognize. She was so vulnerable, at that moment – I could have slaughtered her with a word.

– “You look … so different.” I said. Sam bit her lip.”I never imagined you as a brunette.” I added. “You look good.”

The odd thing was … I couldn’t tell her the truth: somehow, she did look smarter. Maybe it was just because she looked so different from the blonde ditz I had become accustomed to. Or maybe it just highlighted how pretty her face was. Damn – I wasn’t going to say that.

Sam seemed happy enough with my answer.

A few weeks later, Marty persuaded me to invite the sisters to my cousin Ronnie’s Christmas bash. It was guaranteed to be loud, and fun. There would be plenty of opportunity for Marty to be alone with Caroline.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 5

My next excursion to the Lido was even more interesting. Leo wanted my help getting a costume. He also insisted that we go with his sister Claire, and Eliza, even though the two of them were more than capable of shopping for costumes by themselves. I had promised Teresa, so off I went.

Leo has been a close friend since high school. We know just about everything there is to know about each other, with two glaring exceptions.

We have acted as each other’s wingman on a hundred occasions. My buddy Leo is outgoing, dresses well, and exudes confidence. He is utterly fearless, and will approach the best-looking woman in the place. Bar, club, party, any social situation whatsoever – it makes no difference. And he strikes out every single time.

You see, Leo is 5′ 5″, has the body of Pee Wee Herman, and a face that only a mother could love. Yet when he looks in the mirror, Leo sees something completely different. Believe me, I’ve tried to tell him. I have suggested that he adjust his sights, and try to hit on the second best-looking woman he sees. I’ve tried to set him up with a less glamorous girl, or find him someone ‘in his league’, so to speak. No dice. He rejected all of my suggestions – they weren’t good enough for him.

The odd thing is, Leo has had a crush on Eliza since we were in high school. Eliza is his sister’s best friend. And she’s about the farthest thing from the type of woman he usually pursues as you could possibly imagine.

Eliza is tiny. She might be 5′ 1”, as she claims, but I doubt it. She has straw-colored hair and cute freckles. In my opinion, Eliza is quite pretty when she smiles (which she does a lot). She may be small, with no ass or hips to speak of, but she proudly carries a sizeable chest. Her boobs are probably not that large, but on her diminutive frame, they look huge. I’ve always thought of a pigeon when I see her in profile.

She’s a wonderful girl, and a good friend. We all called her “Ee”. I just can’t understand how Leo could obsess over her for a decade without approaching her once, while he has no hesitation at all when it comes to supermodels. I’ve never told him to give up his illusions.

The other thing I’ve never told Leo is that I would love to fuck his sister.

Claire is not the brightest bulb in the package, if you get my drift. Sometimes, you open the fridge door, and the light doesn’t come on. She also has an annoying nasal laugh, that sounds a bit like the neighing of a horse. To top it all off, Claire has a sizeable gap between her front teeth.

But Claire has long, dark hair, and a cute face, even with the gap in her teeth. And she has a body that would make a bishop horny. High, pert breasts – I think they’re 34Bs – a slim waist, swelling hips, and an ass like an apricot. Round, tight, and juicy sweet. She dresses well, like her brother, and when she doesn’t overdo the make-up, Claire looks quite good.

She has given me signs, over the years, that she was interested. There was a party, one time, when we were dancing. I can’t forget the song: it was ‘Love is the Drug’, by Roxy Music. In my defence, it’s a damn sexy song. Watching Claire sway to the music was mesmerizing. When she turned around and began flexing that shapely little ass, I was lost.

We ended up on the couch, with her sitting on my lap. The lights were low, and we necked for a while, with a little groping. Then we heard Leo coming down the stairs, and leapt apart as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice-cold water on us.

I didn’t want to date Claire, and I don’t believe that she was interested in a relationship either. Neither of us wanted to deal with her protective brother. We were a bit wary around each other after that. But there was no denying that the sexual chemistry had been there.

 

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Another Life – Chapter 3

We took them to a movie – Dutch treat. I didn’t catch much of the film: Sam kept leaning over to whisper in my ear. “Who is that?” she’d ask. Or, “Why is he doing that?”

She had a hundred questions. Some of them were truly stupid. I think she genuinely had trouble following the plot. Or maybe she thought she had missed something important.

But it didn’t escape my notice that every time she had a question, she leaned over, rested her hand on my arm, and put her lips next to my ear. Once I even felt the pressure of her boob on my shoulder. Sam wasn’t skinny everywhere. Tanya kept shushing her. Sam tried to justify herself. I had to promise to explain the movie to her afterwards.

We went for ice cream (Marty’s idea). I kept my word, and summarized the film’s plot for Sam. It turned out that she really did think that she had missed a key scene, near the beginning. After that, she felt like she was struggling to catch up. Tanya rolled her eyes so energetically, I was afraid she was going to hurt herself.

I wasn’t sure that I believed Sam – not entirely. But while I was explaining the movie, I discovered a few things. For one, if I was doing the talking, that shut off most of Sam’s inane chatter. She listened attentively, with a big smile, her eyes never leaving my face.

It’s flattering, for an 18-year old guy, to have a girl focus on him like that – no matter how dumb she might be.

Besides, I had no problem looking at Sam. When she wasn’t saying something stupid, she was actually quite pretty: long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a cute face. In fact, if she wasn’t talking or giggling, Sam was downright attractive.

She had narrow hips, and not much of an ass, but she was far from flat-chested. Then she giggled, and put her hand on mine. “You’re so smart!” she said.

It was like throwing a bucket of water on me. I immediately remembered where I was, and who I was with. I wasn’t immune to flattery, but …

– “I think she likes you.” said Marty, after we had dropped them off.

– “Great deduction, Sherlock.” I said, with a snort. “Lucky me.”

– “Come on, Joe – it’s not so bad, is it?”

It wasn’t. That’s why I agreed to go a party with Marty and the two older sisters a few weeks later. Tanya was there when we picked them up, and from the expression on her face, she wasn’t too happy to be excluded.

– “Don’t be late!” she said.

Marty drove. I picked up a case of beer. Caroline sat quietly; she didn’t say much at the best of times. Her older sister made up for it, with a non-stop flow of questions: who was hosting, would they know anyone there, could she have a beer – or two …?

The host was a friend of Marty’s, a guy from our high school named Jim. He had a cute sister, who had been a grade behind us. But if I had had any plans to check her out, those were immediately torpedoed.

Sam attached herself to me like a barnacle. She kept one hand on my arm at all times, as if she was afraid to lose contact. I couldn’t entirely blame her: she didn’t know a soul at the party. It didn’t stop her from asking questions about every single person there, though.

Did I know him? Did I know her? Had I dated her? Would I date her? Did I think she (another girl) was pretty? Could she (Sam) have another beer? Half of her questions I couldn’t even hear, because the music in Jim’s basement was on so loud. They were playing the Cars album – I’d heard it too often on the radio.

I steered Sam up the stairs, and into the backyard. It was a nice autumn night, with a clear sky. We sat down on a bench. To keep Sam from talking, I told her a long story, about how Marty and I had met, and become friends.

– “He likes Caroline.” she said, with a giggle.

– “Yeah, he does.” I agreed. “Does she like him?”

– “I dunno.” she said, with a shrug. Well, that made sense. I doubt that either of her sisters ever confided in her. Telling Sam a secret would be the equivalent of putting it on a billboard.

At that point, Jim came out into the backyard with a buddy of his. Introductions were made, and Jim said “Hope we’re not interrupting.”

– “Not at all.” I assured him. I didn’t want Sam to start chattering, so I asked Jim what he’d been up to since graduation.

– “Working with my Dad, mostly. Learning the ropes. Have to get started, if I’m going to take over the business some day.”

– “What kind of business?” asked Sam. I held my breath when she started to talk, but to my relief, it wasn’t a stupid question at all.

– “Men’s clothing.” said Jim.

– “Is it hard work?” she asked. I had to turn, and look at Sam. She worked in a major department store – in the women’s clothing department!

Jim started explaining the trials and tribulations of selling suits to ignorant customers, or cheap customers, and working with temperamental tailors.

– “And then you have to deal with the Jews …”

My eyebrows rose.

– “I’m Jewish.” I said.

Jim stopped dead. Then he started backtracking. “I was just … umm … I didn’t mean …”

I didn’t say anything. I just let him squirm. His buddy looked embarrassed. Finally Jim remembered that he needed to refresh his drink, and went inside.

– “I didn’t know you were Jewish.” said Sam.

– “I’m not.”

Jim’s buddy grinned. “Nice one.” he said. “Have to remember that.” Then he excused himself, and left us alone.

– “I don’t get it.” said Sam. “Why did you say you’re Jewish when you’re not? Was it just to make him stop? Oh … that’s it, isn’t it?”

I told Sam another story. “There was a kid in Grade 4 who got picked on, just because he was dark and had kinky hair. I didn’t stand up for him, then – but I knew I should’ve.”

“My uncle Ray lives with a woman from Guyana. Nice lady. My stepmother calls her names, makes fun of her. I call her on it. I can’t stand that shit. One more reason we don’t get along so well.”

Then I remembered something. “Sam, you work in clothing.”

– “Yeah. In a department store.”

– “Why did you ask Jim if it’s hard work? If anyone would know, you would.”

– “I know.” she said. “But … I didn’t want to start talking about my job. It’s not very important. Besides – I can tell … you don’t like it when I talk too much.”

“I know I’m not very bright.” she continued. “I say – and do – silly things. My sisters tell me, all the time.”

– “What about at work?” I asked.

– “I’m fine at work. I know what I’m doing. And if I have a problem, or a question, I can just ask Mrs. Maguire – my supervisor.”

This came as a revelation to me. Sam was … well, pretty dumb. But she knew it. In my limited experience, most stupid people have absolutely no idea just how ignorant they really are. On the contrary, many of them actually believe that they’re smart.

“I just … I guess I try too hard, sometimes.” said Sam. “I just want people to like me.”

– “I like you, Sam.” I said. At that moment, it was no more than the truth.

– “Really?”

– “Really.”

– “That’s nice.” she said, with a smile that didn’t look goofy at all. “You know, I was really impressed – what you said to that guy.”

– “Let’s get you another beer.” I suggested.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 4

I offered to show Craig a good place to get costumes. But I had to practically threaten Eric to get him to show up. The three of us went to the Lido, the costume supplier for several downtown theaters.

Some guys would roll their eyes at the thought of going into such a place. But Craig and Eric were pleasantly surprised. First of all, the place was immense, with an incredible selection. Second, the mannequins on display looked fantastic. There was a roman centurion, a renaissance courtier … And third, most of the costumes were real. Not cheap plastic, not imitation, but real, quality cloth.

Craig was impressed by a Captain Morgan outfit, but wouldn’t rent it.

– “That looks too fancy. I think I’m just a common sailor.” He settled on an oversized, brightly colored, striped shirt. It looked like a rugby jersey, to me, except that it had laces at the throat. He liked the look of a polka-dotted headscarf, too.

We found him some black boots made out of soft leather, and a wide sash to wear around his waist. Black pants that he could tuck into his boots completed the outfit.

– “I like the sash. Good for tucking a knife in, or hiding your driver’s licence.” I told him.

– “Should I get an eye patch?” he wondered.

Just then Eric came around the corner, with a bundle of clothing over his arm. He was wearing two eye patches – one over each eye.

– “Where are you guys? Ahoy, mateys!” he called.

Craig and I exchanged a look.

– “Maybe not.” he said.

Eric fell in love with a dark grey thing that looked like a vest. It was long enough to reach below his knees. It might have been appropriate if we were doing a samurai murder mystery.

But he had found a pair of boots from the Three Musketeers era, and a huge tricorne hat. I left Craig to help him find a shirt and pants, and wandered off to find my own costume.

Some people would hesitate to spend $200 – or even $100 – on a costume. I’m not one of them. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve spent that much on a fancy restaurant meal, or a sports event, or concert tickets. Some of those outings were memorable, others not so much. But a really cool costume can create a memory that will last a lifetime.

I found what I wanted: a black coat with silver trim and enormous cuffs, a soft tricorne hat, soft black boots, and a wide black belt with an ornate silver buckle. Add a large white shirt with a high collar and black knee-breeches, and I was good to go.

Perhaps a bit too splendid for Ned Mulligan, you might say. Too bad. Let the others think that I was some sort of gentleman pirate. A little deception can go a long way. Besides, when I tried it on, it felt remarkably good. And a glance in the mirror confirmed that it looked great, too.

Eric had somehow found a scruffy grey beard.

– “Doesn’t this look awesome?” he asked me.

– “It looks itchy.” said Craig.

– “How can you put a price on art?” retorted Eric. It made no sense, of course, but he never let that hold him back.

– “You look like Captain Child Molester.” I told him.

– “Precisely!” he roared. “I’ll take it!”

I took them out for beer and wings afterwards. Craig turned out to be a decent guy, as I had anticipated. He found Eric funny, and we had a few laughs.

 

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