The knocking resumed and this time Walters woke up from his nap. He got up slowly, unintentionally kicking a paper container with lo-mein stuck to the bottom across the room, pulled his hair back, closed his eyes for a few seconds until the last tendrils of his dream faded away and then went to open the door.
As soon as he saw the man standing outside, Walters awoke completely, a strike of alertness traversing through him. It was just the one man, too dressed up by Walters standards, and especially for this section of the city. Walters felt that the jacket was too impeccably ironed, the face so carefully shaven that seemed feminine, the blank face either too well composed or that of a psychopath.
There was a hint of lavender in the air, but that could just be coming from the vacant lot across the street, overtaken by all sorts of plants encumbering the old rubble of a house that had burned to the ground without affecting the adjoining buildings.
Walters glimpsed down one side of the cobblestoned street and then down the other side. Nobody else. No traffic.
“Paul Walters?” the man asked. Nothing for a few seconds, then a flare of fear as soon as Walters was hit by the upsetting realization that this seemingly upper-class person knew his full name and where he lived. Walters closed his eyes shut and tried to remember whether any big event during the last days could have made him noticed to others. Just a whitish blur in his mind, no details, no defined information. What the fuck had he done? He would have to check his current notebook, all the notes from the last days.
“Are you Paul Walters or not?”
Walters opened his eyes again. That last question had sounded more pleading than demanding, adding a pleasant echo to the voice.
“Yes, yes, what’s the matter? Are you alone?”
“Yes, of course I’m alone. My name is Peter Jameson. I work for Doctor Harry Pomme and he’s interested in using your scuba diving services. He needs someone to prospect the canal adjacent to his property and he has heard about your… qualifications.”
The veering of the conversation towards scuba diving loosened Walters up a bit. He looked mesmerized at the shiny lines on Jameson’s tie. You had your eyes on a particular line and suddenly your eyes had jumped to a contiguous line without you noticing. He then studied Jameson’s head and face, his perfectly parted hair and his smooth skin and the faint smell of lavender. Definitely coming from him. ”I’m going to forget your face as soon as you leave,” Walters thought with pessimism, and he forced himself to remember the blue eyes, the pointy nose, the marked muscles on the neck, that hint of lavender that, after some consideration, he decided was unpleasant, reminiscent of something he had had nightmares about.
“What type of prospecting are we talking about?”
“Doctor Pomme would inform you about the details, but I can tell you that the work should be minimal.” He looked inside Walters’ house while adding, “It should be easy money.”
“Do you want to come inside and tell me all about it?” Walters said, a little unsure why he was offering, but somehow it felt more secure to have this man inside his place than outside, where his plausible connections to others seemed more real.
“No, as I said, Doctor Pomme will fill you in with all the details about the job. I’ll wait for you to gather your gear and we’ll take my boat. It’s not too far away, on the docking area that direction,” Jameson said, pointing down the street to his right.”
“My gear…? What, now, you want me to go now?”
“Yes, unless you are extremely busy at this time,” Jameson said with a mischievous smile while glancing again inside the house for a second just to make his point.
“But I don’t know what gear to bring unless I know what the job might be,” Walters lied.
“Just take whatever you need to get into the water and search for something around a small area.”
“Something like a ring?” Walters inquired.
“Something much larger,” Jameson replied without thinking too much about it. “It should be obvious whether it’s in there or not.”
“OK, OK, give me like ten minutes to gather my stuff and get ready. You can wait inside or outside on the balcony, if you want to.”
“I’ll wait out here, thank you.”
Walters closed the door, went to the bed and sat down, grabbing the notebook that had been resting on the stool by the head of the bed. It was a waterproof notebook, small enough to fit in any of his pockets. Walters opened it where a pencil was serving as a bookmark and read the last entry: “25Aug. Store: coke, bourbon, bread, PB, oranges, choc. Took boat 63, promising buildings Poplar/McLean & Poplar/Cooper, basement likely underwater. Natural History Museum. Burger out. Run back. Shower. Chinese: h&s soup, lo mein.” He immediately started a new paragraph with “26Aug” and then stopped, not being too sure how to summarize what had happened during the last minutes, chewing the end of the pencil, stressing out about totally forgetting, at any point now, the name of the man outside and all the rest, so he hastily wrote, “Peter Jameson, works for Dr _______ Pomme, job about finding something in canal, dead body? 1st impression: say no, run. Accepted. Going with Peter now. 12:10p.”