Hours too late, amid houses of disturbingly accurate repute, I searched for the Great Critic. Or, at least, I searched for where the Great Critic always was, at a bar near the bridge, precipitously close to new money, and drunk.
The Great Critic lay slouched at his regular booth, farthest from the barroom door. I purchased a tipple to quiet my nerves, hoping against hope he'd yet to be enveloped 'neath the shroud of Morpheus. I edged closer when at once he awoke with a hearty âHi!â
He barely looked up. "You've a problem?" he said.
"Obviously," I said. Hardly took a consulting critic to work out that conundrum.
"But, if I may specify," said the Great Critic, "you've a problem of your own. An affaire de coeur, I should say—one all too common in these parts. You've fallen in love with a dancer, mmm?"
Before I could even thrust forward protestations to the contrary, he continued: "An educated girl, more inclined to stay within the bounds of the law than many of her ilk. She favors a goth aesthetic and lives in North Portland—where you went last night, after picking her up from work and stopping briefly at a club of her choosing. You frequented a neighborhood locale for beer and a burger around a fireplace, at which point the conversation became sharply more heated, though you decided to stay over nonetheless."
With characteristic smugness, he then proceeded to walk me through his mental processes—the crimson $2 bill from my wallet indicating Casa Diablo patronage, the smudged hand stamp from the Lovecraft, a lingering whiff of wood smoke and a marijuana varietal found only in the medicinal gardens of Paul Stanford, the faint traces of a hand slap, the stains from beef and barbecue sauce on my pants, the tag still poking out the neck of a shirt I'd purchased this morning.
"Oh, it's nonsense, really," I told him. "This trinket I'd kept around the house—ever since my great aunt passed on. A mother-of-pearl necklace of no real worth, but enormous sentimental value. You understand, of course. I placed it around her neck as a gesture of affection, as any fool in love will do. But she lost it, as any foolish girl will do—forgive me my anachronistic misogyny—which led to a terrible row. But I don't know where she lost it."
The great freelancer—who, as so often happened during times such as these, had closed his eyes and cocked his head upon his shoulder, lolled gently toward the lip of his glass. "You've recovered the necklace?"
"Goodness," I said, "my memory is dim as a $20 brothel. She kept repeating that it was at the bar—dear me, she even stuttered—before issuing a stream of geographical vagaries. Across the river from the blue sky? North of land? Have you heard of such a place?"
"Good gravy," he said. "Your faculties must be failing." His disdain was obvious. "I'm off to the studio for a clean shave and a bracing spot of morphine. Perhaps, cocaine. Dealer's choice, I suppose." He laughed bitterly, staggering onward into the night.
But what to do? I'm writing from Hooper's—long story, don't ask—and simply must retrieve the necklace. I am communicating to you from the other side of a terrible state. Dear reader, can you help me find the pendant? If you ask the kind service staff at the appropriate venue for the purloined necklace, and you are the first to do so, I assure you: My friend Dr. Franklin has assured me he'll reward you appropriately.
Reader, I beseech you: Where did I go? Can you solve the Case of the Purloined Necklace?