COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
My Porsche, fittingly, had been towed away. I'd parked it illegally last night; what did I expect?
So I walked out of the Trion building and looked around for a cab, but none was anywhere to be found. I suppose I could have used a phone in the lobby to call for one, but I felt an overwhelming, almost physical need to get out of there. Carrying the white cardboard box filled with the few things from my office, I walked along the side of the highway.
A few minutes later a bright red car pulled over to the curb, slowed down next to me. It was an Austin Mini Cooper, about the size of a toaster oven. The passenger's side window rolled down, and I could smell Alana's lush floral scent wafting through the city air.
She called out to me. "Hey, do you like it? I just got it. Isn't it fabulous?"
I nodded and attempted a cryptic smile. "Red's cop bait," I said.
"I never go over the speed limit."
I just nodded.
She said, "Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket?"
I nodded, kept walking, unwilling to play.
She inched her car alongside me. "Hey, what happened to your Porsche?"
"Yuck. Where're you going?"
"Home. Harbor Suites." Not home for long, I realized with a jolt. I didn't own it.
"Well, you're not walking all the way. Not with that box. Come on, get in, I'll give you a ride."
She followed alongside, driving slowly on the shoulder of the road. "Oh, come on, Adam, don't be mad."
I stopped, went over to the car, set down my box, put my hands on the car's low roof. Don't be mad? All along I'd been torturing myself because I thought I was manipulating her, and she was just doing a goddamned job. "You—they told you to sleep with me, didn't they?"
"Adam," she said sensibly. "Get real. That wasn't part of the job description. That's just what HR calls a fringe benefit, right?" She laughed her swooping laugh, and it chilled me. "They just wanted me to guide you along, pass along leads, that sort of thing. But then you came after me...."
"They just wanted you to guide me along," I echoed. "Oh, man. Oh, man. Makes me ill." I picked up the box and resumed walking.
"Adam, I was just doing what they told me to do. You of all people should understand that."
"Like we'll ever be able to trust each other? Even now—you're just doing what they want you to, aren't you?"
"Oh, please," said Alana. "Adam, darling. Don't be so goddamned paranoid."
"And I actually thought we had a nice relationship going," I said.
"It was fun. I had a great time."
"God, don't take it so seriously, Adam! It's just sex. And business. What's wrong with that? Trust me, I wasn't faking it!"
I kept walking, looking around for a cab, but there was nothing in sight. I didn't even know this part of town. I was lost.
"Come on, Adam," she said, inching the Mini along. "Get in the car."
I kept going.
"Oh, come on," she said, her voice like velvet, suggesting everything, promising nothing. "Will you just get in the car?"
COPYRIGHT Poem-a-Day Collection by Knopf. Compilation copyright 2009 by Knopf. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
By Jack Gilbert
There is always the harrowing by mortality, the strafing by age, he thinks. Always defeats. Sorrows come like epidemics. But we are alive in the difficult way adults want to be alive. It is worth having the heart broken, a blessing to hurt for eighteen years because a woman is dead. He thinks of long before that, the summer he was with Gianna and her sister in Apulia. Having outwitted the General, their father, and driven south to the estate of the Contessa. Like an opera. The fiefdom stretching away to the horizon. Houses of the peasants burrowed into the walls of the compound. A butler with white gloves serving chicken in aspic. The pretty maid in her uniform bringing his breakfast each morning on a silver tray: toast both light and dark, hot chocolate and tea both. A world like Tosca. A feudal world crushed under the weight of passion without feeling. Gianna's virgin body helplessly in love. The young man wild with romance and appetite. Wondering whether he would ruin her by mistake.
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Chapter XXIV: How Robin Hood Met His Death (Cont'd)
Now there is a dispute as to this abbess who bled him. Some say that she did it in all kindness of heart; while others aver that she was none other than the former Sheriff's daughter, and found her revenge at last in this cruel deed.
Be that as it may, Robin's eyes swam from very weakness when he awoke.
He called wearily for help, but there was no response. He looked longingly through the window at the green of the forest; but he was too weak to make the leap that would be needed to reach the ground.
He then bethought him of his horn, Which hung down at his knee; He set his horn unto his mouth, And blew out weak blasts three.
Little John was out in the forest near by, or the blasts would never have been heard. At their sound he sprang to his feet.
"Woe! woe!" he cried, "I fear my master is near dead, he blows so wearily!"
So he made haste and came running up to the door of the abbey, and knocked loudly for admittance. Failing to get reply, he burst in the door with frenzied blows of his mighty fist, and soon came running up to the room where Robin lay, white and faint. "Alas, dear master!" cried Little John in great distress; "I fear you have met with treachery! If that be so, grant me one last boon, I pray."
"What is it?" asked Robin.
"Let me burn Kirklees-Hall with fire, and all its nunnery."
"Nay, good comrade," answered Robin Hood gently, "I cannot grant such a boon. The dear Christ bade us forgive all our enemies. Moreover, you know I never hurt woman in all my life; nor man when in woman's company."
He closed his eyes and fell back, so that his friend thought him dying. The great tears fell from the giant's eyes and wet his master's hand. Robin slowly rallied and seized his comrade's outstretched arm.
"Lift me up, good Little John," he said brokenly, "I want to smell the air from the good greenwood once again. Give me my good yew bow—here—here-and fix a broad arrow upon the string. Out yonder—among the oaks—where this arrow shall fall—let them dig my grave."
And with one last mighty effort he sped his shaft out of the open window, straight and true, as in the days of old, till it struck the largest oak of them all and dropped in the shadow of the trees. Then he fell back upon the sobbing breast of his devoted friend.
"'Tis the last!" he murmured, "tell the brave hearts to lay me there with the green sod under my head and feet. And—let them lay—my bent bow at my side, for it has made sweet music in mine ears."
He rested a moment, and Little John scarce knew that he was alive. But on a sudden Robin's eye brightened, and he seemed to think himself back once more with the band in the open forest glade. He struggled to rise.
"Ha! 'tis a fine stag, Will! And Allan, thou never didst thrum the harp more sweetly. How the light blazes! And Marian!—'tis my Marian—come at last!"
So died the body of Robin Hood; but his spirit lives on through the centuries in the deathless ballads which are sung of him, and in the hearts of men who love freedom and chivalry.
They buried him where his last arrow had fallen, and they set a stone to mark the spot. And on the stone were graven these words:
"Here underneath his little stone Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon; Never archer as he so good, And people called him Robin Hood. Such outlaws as he and his men Will England never see again."