Continued from previous post:
I took a small sip of wine and then focused once again on the drunken man across the table. “Henri, though our friendship has been long and strong, I must say that I am quite displeased with you at the moment. Why did you not tell me previously that Mike Rowe is currently scouring the floors of your dwelling?”
He eyed me with suspicion. “Mon ami, first of all, perhaps you have not noticed my excessive intake of alcohol. This is presenting some focus issues, as well as causing me to lose my French accent at times even though I am a native. Secondly, I was completely unaware of your need to visit with Mr. Rowe until roughly two minutes ago. Prior to that, we were speaking only of the goat. Perhaps you should just relax and join me in the drunkenness. It certainly reduces the stress level, and it makes things pretty.”
I calmly aligned my untouched silverware before proceeding. “Henri, I must apologize for my forwardness and possibly accusatory tone. And I must admit, inebriation does have its call and charm at the moment. However, it is extremely critical that I speak with Mr. Rowe at once, and we must proceed to your apartment post haste. Please do the finger-snapping thing you do so well, and arrange for the check.”
Three minutes later we were on the sidewalk outside the café.
I raised my hand in preparation for hailing a taxi, but was quickly rebuffed by Henri. “We do not need such things. The taxis are for Americans. Everyone else walks.”
“But I AM American. And it’s been a very tiresome day.”
He scoffed. “Sitting in a courtroom? That’s tiring? Come, it’s just a short distance, we’ll be there in no time.” And off he went, briskly marching down the road and easily weaving his way around after-dinner Parisian couples, who were probably reciting poetry to one another in advance of a philosophical discussion concerning tangerines.
I sighed and waddled after him, silently cursing healthy Europeans and their unseemly disdain for lethargic means of transportation. Within minutes, I could barely catch my breath, my legs trembling and my vision hazy. Henri, of course, was never in danger of even breaking a sweat, and actually had the gall to jog in place at the stoplights.
Luckily, we were only a handful of blocks from Henri’s residence, so my struggles were only temporary. A few labored breaths later we turned the corner and entered the narrow street I knew so well from our college days. (Although I must admit that being so near the scene of my purported lascivious crimes did keep my heart rate slightly escalated, as I glanced about for more children with pointing fingers.)
Henri stopped to caution me at his door. “Don’t make a fool of yourself, Dr. Brian. Let me speak with him initially. You don’t want to embarrass yourself unnecessarily.”
I bit my tongue, refraining from reminding him that I had already appeared nude in national publications, clutching a can of Crisco. There was little shame left to heave upon me.
Henri opened his door.
It appeared that there were several hundred people in his apartment, rushing about madly, fiddling with lighting and pawing at electronic equipment. It was quite fascinating, really, and at another moment in time I might have been content to gawk and giggle. However, we had a fully defined mission at hand, and it was imperative that we complete it. Henri served the initial volley.
“Mes amis!” he shouted, jovially. “I am very sorry to be intruding, but I have a friend who must speak with Monsieur Rowe as soon as it is possible. I trust this will not be an inconvenience?”
All activity ceased in the room, and various sets of eyes turned in our direction, most of them clearly expressing that not only was this inconvenient, it was thoroughly unappreciated. In fact, if there had been available weaponry, I dare say there would also have been bloodshed. Things were not going quite according to plan.
A short, bookish fellow broke away from the angry mob and approached us, lugging a clipboard and sporting one of those ridiculous headsets that Madonna is always wearing, even when she bathes. Despite the fury in his eyes, he forced the semblance of a welcoming smile, as if we were the best of companions. I immediately pegged him as a producer of some kind.
“Greetings, gentlemen,” he proffered. “Mr. Rowe would love to speak with you, but he is extremely occupied at the moment. Perhaps another time?” Just then, there was the startling sound of a toilet flushing, followed quickly by the bathroom door being wrested open, and Mike Rowe walked into the living room.
Much to my amazement, he took one look at me, released a startled yelp, raced to the back of the apartment, through the kitchen, and out the back door, giving it a good slam as he hastily exited.
The producer took off his headset. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” Then he thundered out the back door as well.
Henri turned to me. “Is there ANYWHERE you can go that you don’t frighten people? It must be terribly difficult for you.”
“Henri, I haven’t the faintest idea what that was all about. I’ve never met the man in my life, so an opportunity to offend him has not arisen. Let’s go see what the fuss is about.” I started marching toward the kitchen.
Henri hesitated. “Dr. Brian, I’m not sure if it’s our place to do so. He seemed quite distraught, and you may only exacerbate the matter.”
I sighed. “Henri, this is YOUR apartment. You have every right to determine why people would want to flee from it.”
He finally joined me, and it turned out that we didn’t have to go far. The kitchen window was wide open, and we were suddenly privy to the conversation on the back patio. (Why does Henri insist on keeping that damn window open? Things fall out of it, and I get arrested. Will he ever learn?) We leaned toward the window, our inquisitive minds yearning for information, but being careful to remain in the shadows. Sort of like those people at the Watergate Hotel.
Producer: “We need to finish the shoot. We’re almost done.”
Mike: “I’m not going back in there. I’m not talking to him.”
Producer: “Who IS he?” (Sound of pages being flipped.) “He’s not on the call sheet.”
Mike: “He’s… it’s not important, but I’m not talking to him. Go do your thing, and make him leave.”
Producer, apparently pausing to reflect, then: “Is there something you need to tell me?”
Mike: “Of course not. I’m just not in the mood for fans right now.”
Producer: “Well, you never ran away from that OTHER fan you have. The only time I’ve seen you run was…. Oh God, have you done something illegal again?”
Producer: “Ah, hell. Mike, we’re already over budget, we don’t need any more expenses. Is this something we can fix without writing a check?”
Mike was silent for quite some time, then: “There may have been a misunderstanding with my goat. I was just trying to get him back after he was kidnapped. No pun intended.”
Suddenly, the puzzle pieces began falling into place, and images flashed through my mind. The open kitchen window on another day, the empty spot on the window sill where something had previously been, and a close-up of Mike’s enormously-large hands on his TV show, hands that could easily have made the deep finger tracks that I briefly spotted in a certain can of shortening.
I threw open the back door and confronted him.
“YOU tried to steal the Crisco!”
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