Paul said Christie’s condition hadn’t changed. She was still under observation in a windowless hospital room devoid of sharp objects, lacking a television set or even electrical outlets. I said I wanted to go see her, but Paul insisted she didn’t want any visitors. Maybe she didn’t mean me and Paul was just mad about my going over to Katie’s. Hiding my feelings was hard work, but it had to be done. If Paul sensed that I had fallen in love with Katie, her appraisal value would suddenly double and the love triangle stalemate would be broken. There was only so much Christie’s illness could do to forestall his leaving her for Katie.
“So are you two going to see each other again this weekend?” Paul asked sulkily. Katie must not have told him about our night of love making otherwise he’d be asking even more personal questions or chewing me out for stabbing him in the back.
“Not sure,” I said, faking interest in a memo on my office desk. “I think she plays tennis; maybe I’ll ask her to a game. Have you ever played tennis with her?”
“Me? No,” he shook his head.
Good! I breathed. And I didn’t have to worry about poetry either; Paul thought Homer’s last name was Simpson. “Hey, maybe when Christie’s better we can play doubles,” I said on an upbeat note. “Don’t sweat it about the two women meeting, you’re not as good looking as they let you think.”
“Katie thinks you’re good looking.” Paul blurted out. This time I wasn’t as uninterested in his confessions. Too bad I couldn’t let on that I wanted to know everything she had said about me. He’d pick up on my change of attitude. Of course that’s exactly what Katie wanted, which is why she was setting traps where I could slip up with Paul.
“She’s seems quite the playgirl.” I said, thinking perhaps I was overdoing the nonchalant act. Just a little curious would look more natural.
Paul ignored what I said, staying on course with the task Katie had wound him up for. “Says, you know a lot of poetry.”
That did it! How that woman could make things happen from afar! Just like her father.
“Poetry can work wonders on the right woman,” I said, returning the compliment through the messenger. What I really wanted to scream at Katie via Paul was, “What does Irene Adler see in SpongeBob SquarePants?” It wasn’t just that I was jealous; I was genuinely puzzled as to why a woman with a color spectrum as rich as Katie’s would bother with Paul’s box of crayons.
“Say Paul,” I asked in a faraway tone, “what do you think of the name Irene Adler?”
“Dunno,” he shrugged. “What department does she work in?”
“Doesn’t work here. I just like the name.”
A knowing grin appeared on Paul’s face. “Couldn’t stand it long without a bed warmer, could you?” he wagged a finger. “Where did you meet her?”
“Who, Irene Adler?”
“No, Irene I-want-to-get-in-your-pantsler. What does she look like?”
“Kinda like SpongeBob SquarePants’ girlfriend.”
“SpongeBob doesn’t have a girlfriend; he’s supposed to be gay.” Paul said authoritatively. He was an encyclopedia on the intimate lives of all the TV cartoon characters.
“Well if he did have a girl, that’s who Irene Adler would look like.”
“Get outa here,” Paul said. “Come on, you’ve let the cat out of the bag already. What’s the deal with Irene Adler? ”
“That’s all you’re getting out of me, Paul. I’m not saying nothin’ till further notice.”
“You better, you hound,” he said punching me genially on the arm. He almost seemed giddy with relief. It was Irene Adler for me, not Katie.
Sadly nothing was ever going to happen between the beautiful Irene Adler and me. The real Sherlock Holmes already had dibs on Irene. When Paul would inevitably relay news of my crush on Irene Adler to Katie, she would remember this Arthur Conan Doyle paragraph as though I had brushed it onto her naked mind:
To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen…. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
The lovely Irene Adler, was the only opponent to have unequivocally outwitted Sherlock Holmes. Lucky for the Archangel of Justice that Irene Adler was only a blackmailer and had never attempted murder. But neither had Kataayoon Gorgani, except she didn’t know it. Even more tragically, her half dead father didn’t know it. All this time he had been dog paddling between consciousness and death, refusing to die, persisting, until he got closure from her. “Bring her to me,” he had said many times. Dream after cryptic dream, he had led me to Katie’s house on a mission for him: “Bring her to me.”
What was left of Gorgani’s mind would let Christie go once I delivered Katie to his bedside. That was the deal. But Mr. Gorgani had it all wrong. Katie had no closure to give her father because she didn’electrocute him, though that is what father and daughter both believed. After that enjoyable stayover at Katie’s I had realized a frightening truth: even if I managed to convince Katie to go see her father, it would only make matters worse for Christie.
That first morning, cuddled by the fireplace with Katie, I han’t pressed her for details. After she almost had a nervous breakdown in front of me, it felt cruel making her relive her father’s electrocution. In her state she wouldn’t hold up under cross examination and a trial, even a fair one conducted by a man freshly in love with her. I guessed a “not guilty” verdict from the only clue she revealed: she didn’t remember attempting the murder. Doctors had told her she had blocked her memory of the traumatic accident.
Who else could have thrown the circuit breaker back on when she was the only other person in the mansion that day? Surely not the dog! Tanks eyeballs swung guiltily in my direction. No Tank, you couldn’t have done it either, I thought at him. Tank’s “not guilty” verdict suddenly reminded him that he needed to nibble on his testicles.
I got up to make us breakfast, rummaging through Katie’s kitchen cupboards for cookware and ingredients. She didn’t seem to mind, smiling amusedly at my clumsy search and wiping her last tears with the backs of her hand. There were still traces of ink underneath her fingernails and under mine too, reminding me of how we had dropped the ink brush to the bedroom floor and fingerpainted each other the second time we made love. For the third stanza we were out of ink and our sex sonata had to move on to its brief final couplet in conventioanl form.
“Right in front of your nose,” she laughed as I looked for salt. “It would have bit you if it were a snake.”
“No, no, don’t tell me,” I said. “I want to find everything myself.”
“Like you’re going to find the salt in a better place if you look for it yourself,” she giggled. “You’re just like Baba. He never let anyone help with anything. Do you know he wanted to build our entire house by himself? A whole mansion. Every brick. Almost strangled two architects before finding one who did exactly as he asked.”
“These eggs aren’t egg shaped enough,” I joked.
“Do you want me to go out and buy eggier ones for you?”
“No, you wouldn’t know what shape to buy. So your dad was a perfectionist? Why am I even asking? just look at you! How many daughters did he make and throw away before you came along?”
She chuckled bashfully at the compliment “That slick tongue of yours! I’d get far in life if it was in my mouth.”
“Why don’t you come over here in the kitchen and maybe we can arrange that,” I said accepting the bribe. She got up to ransom her kitchen from me, paying the price over and over again as the eggs fried and the bread toasted.
Our in-between conversations completely transformed the picture I had of her father. Mr. Gorgani was not at all the shrewed corporate type I had imagined. The Gorgani fashion empire was the brainchild of Mrs. Gorgani, the London prostitute. Katie’s father had simply been the goose that laid the golden eggs. When he wasn’t designing clothes, or clumisly following his wife’s script at Hollywood PR paties, he stayed at home in his pyjamas, planting geraniums in the garden.
He trusted gardners and servants even less than architects. Having frightened away every mechanic in town, he had learned to repair his own cars. For a genius who could do math puzzles in his sleep learning how to replace brake pads was a cinch. He even baked his own bread in the sangak oven he had built for himself, and imported his own cheese and tea from a tiny shop in Tabriz. He all but filled his own cavities after suing several dentists.
Not wanting to touch a raw nerve with Katie, I couldn’t ask her to detail how such an obsessive perfectionist would also do his own electrical work around the house if, say, a roof air conditioner needed repair. But I was sure that no electrician, much less a compulsive one, would ever climb to the roof to work on a circuit without shutting off the power and locking the circuit breaker box. Especially when there was someone else in the house who could accidentally switch the power back on.
Katie didn’t remember switching on the circuit while her father was on the roof. She only remembered Tank barking and whimpering at a broken body sprawled awkwardly on the lawn. To a psychologist that means one thing, but to someone reluctant to believe in repressed memories, the best explanation for a person not remembering she did something is that she didn’t do it. Once Freud is evicted from the mind, good old fashioned logic says there was someone else besides Katie inside the Gorgani mansion that day. The real murderer. Even the Sherlock of my dreams was clueless about this fact.
Sherlock had it right about one thing though, it was attempted murder not accident. I knew this in my bones from the meticulous character that Katie had sketched of her father. He would definitely cut the power and lock the box.
But how was the police so certain that Gorgani hadn’t just absent-mindedly left the circuit live? Here’s how: the mansion’s alarm system log with its independent power soruce would have told the police exactly when the power to the house had been turned off. The log would also show when the power had come back on, quickly to shut down again when the disaster tripped the breakers a second time. Someone had switched the power back on–accidentally or deliberately. The daughter was the only other person in the house that morning. Maybe she went to the refrigerator and saw that the power was off and… if only she could remember what she did.
So far it was easy putting two and two together from what little I knew, but that couldn’t be the whole story. How did the police think she opened the lock? And more important to me was why Katie would believe the psychologists over her own recollection—or lack thereof. Did she harbor a secret guilt because she really did have a motive for murdering her father? A strong guilt the psychologists had also picked up on? Probably, because Gorgani wouldn’t persist unless he too felt Katie had a motive. As a powerful surge of electrical current scorched his neurons, a small part of his consciousness snagged around one last thought that could not die until resolved: “Why, Kataayoon?” Or perhaps, “I’m sorry, Kataayoon.”
Yet there was no resolution because Gorgani had sent me on Mission Impossible to bring closure to a crime Katie may have wanted to commit, but didn’t.
Spreading jam over my toast, I couldn’t help but see Christie’s body splatter on the concrete in front of a tall building. There was nothing I could do to prevent it.
A cat walked by the window and Tank managed a muffled bark. “Hush, Tank,” Katie said. It’s the little moments in life! Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.
To be continued.