The Curious Case of the Missing Heart: Part 4

Griff wanted to pull a panzer up to the curb outside Food for Thought, parallel park it in between whatever junkers would shop there, and invade like one may Poland. He wanted to arrest the shop owner Mr. Love for obstruction, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy against the United States.


‘I want to pull a panzer up to the curb outside Food for Thought, parallel park it in between whatever junkers would shop there, and invade like one may Poland. I want to arrest the shop owner Mr. Love for obstruction, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy against the United States,’ Griff said.


I told him that there wasn’t anything necessarily criminal about the shop owner Mr. Love lying about the other Mr. Love’s employment and their relationship to one another.


‘Griff,’ I said, ‘there isn’t anything necessarily criminal about the shop owner Mr. Love lying about the other Mr. Love’s employment and their relationship to one another.’


Nevertheless, it was suspicious and gave us enough cause to bring the shop owner Mr. Love in for questioning.


We sirened our siren and carred our car to Food for Thought.


Yes, sir, that is indeed proper English. Sirened a siren. Carred a car. Well—true. You’re correct. It isn’t traditional English. However, it’s my improvement to English. It simplifies everything. Which is better, no?


The rule is that the noun is also its own verb. Instead of sleeping in a bed, you’d bed a bed. Instead of reading a book, you’d book a book.


What was that? Well—I suppose—I never really thought—yes, writing a book would also be to book a book. Okay, so it requires some work. There’s no need to laugh, sir. Yes, very funny, sir. Can we get back to the case?


Anyway—arriving at Food for Thought, Griff unholstered his weapon and crouch stepped across the sidewalk, shouldering himself beside the front door. I remained at the car. I stood idle and watched him.


‘What are you doing?’ I asked.


‘What does it look like?’ Griff asked.


‘It looks like you just pooped your pants and are leaning against the wall because the shame of pooping your pants is too much to bear. Subconsciously speaking,’ I said.


‘And the gun?’ Griff asked.


‘Umm… you’re really mad about it?’ I answered.


Approaching the entrance, I saw that the door was already ajar. It looked like someone else had wanted to get to the shop owner Mr. Love too. The lock had been kicked in. The door handle tilted. The frame splintered and torn in. And—


Sir?


Yes, sir.


Really, sir?


I understand then. Griff testified yesterday? And he admitted that we kicked the door in ourselves? So, sir, Griff didn’t lie to protect me, his partner, and corroborate the stories we agreed to corroborate? Because, sir, Griff’s the one who kicked the door in. It wasn’t me. It would never be me. I have bad ankles and the bottoms of my feet are highly sensitive to pressure. That’s why I wear cushions.


Look.


See, right here.


Okay. As long as you understand. I don’t want there to be a misunderstanding about the events of the case.


Yes, sir, no more lying.


Yes, sir, even if it protects my partner—who, apparently, isn’t willing to lie for me and protect me. Who, apparently, doesn’t appreciate the courtesy eight years together is, frankly, entitled to. Who, apparently, is ungrateful for all the thing I do for him.


You know, I mow his lawn sometimes.


Absolutely not. That was absolutely not a euphemism. I will not be spoken to like this—


Yes, sir, I understand the chain of command.


Yes, sir, I understand that this is bigger than me.


Yes, sir, back to the story.


So, we entered Food for Thought and called out to this Mr. Love.


‘Mr. Love?’ Griff called out.


‘Mr. Love?’ I called out.


With no immediate answer, Griff and I performed a sweep of the store. The backroom was empty. The bathroom was empty. And, despite the misgiving that hung over us and the shop, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Everything was where it was left. Where it had been—to the best of our memories—when we were there earlier. It was just empty of people, that was all.


Griff walked behind the counter, yanked open some drawers, jostled some junk around, and noted that the only item on the counter was the cash register. Oh, and a book. The book I mentioned before. The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow.


When Griff mentioned this book, I remembered how I’d seen the shop owner Mr. Love’s eyes wander into the back corner and up to the top shelf. The shelf with the black-spined books. I remembered how this Mr. Love had looked up to that shelf and those books when I questioned him about the Mr. Love with the stolen heart.


Well, what do you know, those books were gone. Everything was where it was except for Mr. Love and those black-spined books.


I told Griff about the shelf and the books, so he slid the ladder attached to the shelves over and made his way up.


‘You’re right,’ Griff said when he reached the top. ‘There’s an outline of dust where a row of books had been. And judging by the mound of surrounding dust, they’d been there for a while. That bastard took the books all right. The books must be important.’


Now what happened next still astounds me. Perhaps I’ll forever be astounded by what happened next—Griff had an idea. He said to check the rest of the books on the rest of the shelves and that maybe, like the black-spined books being distinct from the rest, there would be another set of distinct books. And that these would then be revelatory to finding both Mr. Love and the other Mr. Love’s heart.


Griff and I skimmed the titles, searching for something out of the ordinary. There was the usual bookshop fodder. The to-be-expected best-selling titles that every American mantle displays. The books of poetry no one reads but people anyway. The detective stories and the romances and the ever-growing collection of ways to fix our shitty lives.


Mostly, though, on the shelves Griff checked were simply characters printed on pages bound between cover art. On the shelves I checked were books all the same. Like Pale Fire, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Sot-Weed Factor, Mason & Dixon, Orlando, Don Quixote, Edwin Mullhouse, Recognitions, Naked Lunch, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Sixty Stories, and Metamorphosis. No, sir, that was not entirely necessary to list each of those books. But, yes, sir, I did it anyway.


If you have no further objections to how I’m telling my story, then I’ll continue. Any further objections, sir? No? Good.


We skimmed and we searched and we sought something out of the ordinary. We compared shelves on genre and book size and author name and titles and none of it matter. We compared whether books received positive critical reviews or whether they sold well enough to become best sellers and none of it mattered. No matter what we did to try and discern clues from books, none of it mattered.


It was bullshit.


‘This is bullshit,’ Griff said.


We’d had enough. We grew so frustrated that we could have flung all of those books into the garbage and washed our hands clean of that case.


‘I’ve had enough,’ Griff said. ‘I’m growing so frustrated that I could fling all of these books into the garbage and wash my hands clean of this case.’


He began pacing.


‘I don’t care if one Trevor Love,’ Griff said,’ has had his heart stolen right out of his chest. I don’t care if there’s another Trevor Love lying to us about knowing the Trevor Love without a heart.’


He began gesticulating about, pantomiming his anger.


‘I don’t care if the black-spined books were taken and that we probably won’t be able to find Trevor Love before Trevor Love finds his heart before he dies. I just don’t care.’

Griff swung his arm at the shelf nearest him. His hand swept the books from the shelf. Griff pushed the contents to the floor, but, instead of the anticipated thud shump rip thud, the books hit the floor, crying hollow like empty wooden boxes.


We both stared at the books on the floor and ignored our jaws that did the same. He was confused. I was confused. He’d found his lost sense of urgency. I’d found my lost sense of urgency.


Bending over, Griff lifted the books as if they were as light as they’d sounded when they’d landed. Opening the cover of the top book revealed nothing more than the vacant inside of a hollowed-out musing. A shelf without contents. A casket without a corpse.


I watched from afar. I watched Griff’s bemusement with equal bemusement and sprung my hands to the shelf nearest me. Pulling the books away, they were all light and empty, shells, caskets, all without insides, without the substance one suspects when peeling back its soft or hard cover.


Every book on each shelf was empty. Just covers and the air in between. As it turned out, all except a row of fifteen nondescript classics that didn’t even have full covers—just the spine and the top. Upside-down capital letter Ls. A covering. A tent. Concealing a bi-folded note card that faced out into the shop, that faced me and Griff. It read:


To whom it may concern,

In the beginning, there was nothing. By the end, there will be nothing. So—make the middle something… bizarre.

Trevor Love


Neither Griff nor I knew at the time what to make of any of this. It all seemed so odd, even after the two Trevor Loves and all that. Even after Officer Humphry’s toot when Trevor Love barged into the precinct screaming and hollering and hooting. Even after all that, Griff and I still stood gaping in awe at the note card on the shelf and the seeming taunt of two detectives standing agape at its message.


Thinking back on it, I still get the shivers.


And I don’t know why, but in that moment, it hit me.


‘The book,’ I said to Griff. ‘The book on the counter. That was there when we came earlier. And it’s the only item—other than the cash register on the counter. What’s the book say? What’s inside the book?’


Griff marched to the counter. He ran his hand down the cover and read the title out loud. The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow. He lifted the book off the counter. His eyes met mine when it had weight to it, when it wasn’t just a shell, was more than a casket. He flipped the cover over, past the end pages, to page one, and his mouth fell open. He looked back to me, back to the book, back to me, to the note card over my shoulder on the shelf, and back to the book. He flipped page after page, folding them back onto the one before, and his mouth fell farther and farther, opened wider and wider in wonder, with each passing page.


Slamming the book shut, Griff held it out to me. As if it were a soiled pair of underwear. As if it were a dead fish. As if it were proof that things beyond our understanding, our reasoning, our ways of making sense of the senseless existed and haunted our pitiful human means of understanding, of reasoning, of making sense of the senseless.


I took the book from him. Unsure of what he expected of me. Unsure of what awaited me. Skeptical about the severity of Griff’s reaction.


Resting the book in my left palm, I rubbed my index and thumb over the title page and the printing information and the dedication, and turned to chapter one, page one. Just as Griff had, my mouth fell, my body went numb, my heart pounded and that pounding throbbed in my ears, that pounding pinballing about my rib cage, pushing my stomach into the floor.


Page two, page three, page eighteen, twenty-seven, forty-nine, seventy, one-hundred-six, one-hundred-ninety-three, two-forty-two, three-hundred, every page read the same thing:


To whom it may concern,

In the beginning, there was nothing. By the end, there will be nothing. So—make the middle something… bizarre.

Detectives Lashmont and Griff

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