Something terrible had happened after my first spot of luck in a long while. I, Terry Olivier—English TA, private eye and erstwhile golden boy—had gotten my first case in over a year. From a series of telegrams from a Finnish company, no less. But nonelethess, I had a case: to find the increasingly mysterious Tenny Bros.
And for the record, it’s “Tenny” like “Tennyson,” not “Ten e.”
I was in business; I had my assistant Schlep doing all my teaching for me. I had access to Schlep’s mythic Party Directory in order to fish for clues. But something had gone awry. Now I was standing over the body of my former professor, Graham B.D. Rice, resting in a gory hammock in the back of the Memorial 4M stacks. And someone was laughing.
It was one of those awful percussive laughs you hear in movies, usually before the villain reveals him or herself. I wasn’t gonna stick around for something so clichéd.
But before I could leave, I had to do one last thing. Rice was clutching a piece of paper in his cold, bony mitts. Surprisingly, it was easy to tease out of those rigid fingers. I left quickly.
I may have tripped over my coat as I was dashing out.
When I got back to the office, I found Schlep asleep in a pile of essay sheaves. The glue from his fake mustache had trickled down and was staining the cover to a piece entitled “What The Dickens?! A Catalogue of Suspense In ‘Great Expectations.’”
Poor, poor Schlep. He’d been marooned here in Humanities when two unfortunate events occurred: 1) his girlfriend kicked him out of their shared efficiency and 2) his scholarship money mysteriously vanished. Homeless, sans degree, I found him in a cocoon he had made out of discarded newspapers, by one of the heating vents in Mills. I admired his ingenuity. I offered him an unpaid internship and use of my office when I was away.
I had no right to do this, but Schlep’s case really resonated with me. For I live in waking goddamn fear of peripeteia.
I made my way to the mini fridge and pulled out my tub of mozzarella pearls and my jar of giardiniera. They had both been gotten into. There were only three pearls bobbing, a few stinging ribbons and coins left in the giardiniera. I was almost ready to shake Schlep from his slumber and give him the what for, but I stopped myself. It’s bad luck to wake an intern.
With what was left of my food, I went to my desk to examine the piece of paper practically burning a hole in my coat pocket. I hadn’t bothered to even look at the thing, what with the laughing and the bloody mess. It flashed in my mind that I might be blamed, that someone may have seen me. But I didn’t have time for suppositions anymore.
I unfolded the paper. It was mostly negative space, cut by blue notebook lines, except for a small drawing that was at first wholly indiscernible. It was two-
dimensional, like some kind of cave drawing. It wasn’t until I stared at it long enough that I realized what it was: a penciled crane sporting two huge, curving horns on top of its head.
There was no indication what the hell this was supposed to be. A crane… bull? A bull crane? What kind of Moreau madness was this? Did it have anything to do with the Tenny Bros?
Well, I thought, it doesn’t matter. Terry: you’re in deep now. You’ve got a case and a dead body and you don’t know if they go together. You’ve got a crappy line drawing, and you don’t know what it has to do with anything. You’ve got a fire in your belly. Wait, that’s hunger. You should go eat Terry. Go eat and find some parties. Leave the Schlep; take the drawing.
Tune in two weeks from now for the next Terry Olivier story.