Tommy sounded just as dumb sober as he did drunk. He had moved up in the ranks, but I think he was still bitter that his entire profession was being replaced by small pieces of plastic stuck to the insides of windshields.
“Hey Robert. I tracked the car this morning. Looks like your friend went to Laconia, New Hampshire yesterday and is heading back today.”
“What?” I mumbled.
“Your friend…..he went to New Hampshire and he’s headed back to Massachusetts right now. Movin’ pretty fast judging by the times between tolls. Better tell him not to speed in your boss’s car.”
“Wake up sunshine! New Hampshire. It’s a state. North of here. It’s where he went. Anything else? I gotta get back to work.” Yeah right, replace gotta with “want to”, and work with “eating more Dunkin’ Donuts.”
“No, no. Thanks Tommy. I owe you.”
“Not a problem, just buy me a beer sometime.” Click.
Laconia? The only two things in Laconia that I knew of were a motorcycle rally and the best vintage pinball arcade on the east coast. Neither of them in November, and neither of them remotely interesting to the Hobfields. This was getting stranger by the minute. And coming back today? The Hobfields weren’t due back until tomorrow. I had the day off because they were presumably out of town, so my investigation would have to wait.
When I got to the house the next day, it seemed empty without Pima. Wait, where the hell was Pima?! Turns out the Hobfields had given her an overnight spa and relaxation package at the Four Seasons on the Common. OK, shit was definitely afoot, and I was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of it!
I was going about my duties, mind in the clouds when I practically bumped into the strange man in the drawing room. I say strange man because I had never seen him before, but he was also strange. You could tell he didn’t travel in the same circles as the Hobfields, shit Johannes Kepler couldn’t figure out what circles this guy traveled in, they were so far from the Hobfields (Kepler was an astronomer… discovered the elliptical orbits of the planets…..it’s a clever reference, trust me). This guy was definitely blue collar to put it diplomatically. Christ, he probably couldn’t even tell an escargot fork from a caviar spoon! Can you imagine! He grumbled hello, set the book he was holding down, and headed to the elevator. That was the last I saw of him for days, and he was never mentioned by anyone. He was like a ghost.
Three days later I had my chance to get to the bottom of this whole mystery. The Hobfields were going to Symphony Hall, and Pima was celebrating her friend’s birthday downtown. The house would be mine. Of course I would have to sneak back in during the evening, but I had keys and knew the alarm code, so it wasn’t going to be like the beginning of a Pink Panther movie or anything. Breaking into a house that I was already working in for fifty plus hours a week did strike me as a bit anti-karmatic. Hey! I just invented a word! The perfect blend of anti-climactic and bad karma. And it happens to be perfect for this situation…..
I let myself in the front door. The neighbors wouldn’t think anything of it even if they did see me. They all knew me and wouldn’t suspect a thing. The alarm wasn’t on which was extremely out of the ordinary. Then again, nothing surprised me anymore after the past two weeks. I went straight to the third floor, and made a beeline for the desk Mr. Hobfield used for a makeshift office. A few old newspaper clippings from twenty years ago, a couple checkbooks which confirmed that those accounts were damn near empty, and a recent self storage receipt from U-Store of Laconia, NH. Aha. The Laconia connection. But what would they need to store in New Hampshire that they couldn’t store in the basement or garage? As I pondered this, my eyes wandered around the room admiring the priceless collection. My eyes stopped at a leather bound copy of Moby Dick. I love that book. But that’s not why my eyes rested on it. All the books were dusty (even Pima wasn’t allowed in here to clean) …except Moby Dick. I walked over and reached for the volume. As I started to slide it out I heard a click, and the whole bookcase gently swayed out. There it was in front of me. A living breathing cliché made out of mahogany and cherry wood…. The Hidden Bookcase Door. I grabbed the side and gently swung it open.