The Goodwin manuscript collection also includes one notebook, partially filled with distorted handwriting, in ink. The contents, as near as can be deciphered, are as follows:
I have found a notebook and a pen, so now I am writing. Archie Goodwin is my name. I wasn’t sure for a while.
“What exactly did Miss Raeburn give you?” The short, skinny, homely guy keeps asking me the same question. “Do you have any idea?” I can’t find him the answers he wants because they’re not in my notebook. But I notice he’s opened a black bag sitting on the bedside table, and he’s putting a gadget with ear plugs away in it, which answers some question about him. I don’t know what, though. I can’t remember anything. This place is strange. I don’t recognize the room. I don’t know the name of the homely guy with the black bag. I sure don’t know much. I do know how to write in my notebook, though.
I also know there’s an elephant next to the bed in this room, perched in one of the armchairs, a big fat guy. Come to think of it, he seems very important for some reason although I don’t know his name. Maybe I should call him a Big Fat Guy. He says, “Have you noticed his eyes?”
“The pupils are extremely dilated. I see that,” says the skinny character. The little movements of the muscles of his face, the way he’s pitched his voice, show he’s impatient and worried. I don’t remember where I learned how to tell this, but I can, so I write it down. “That could be indicative of a number of things. Based on the current symptoms, belladonna or some related alkaloid-containing species would be my first guess. But I don’t dare try to counteract whatever it is until I have a better idea of exactly what Archie has had poured down him.”
Archie Goodwin’s my name.
“You could pump his stomach.”
“He said he ingested whatever it was in the form of an infusion. By this point, emptying the stomach wouldn’t do any good.”
The Big Fat Guy is also upset although the signs on him are subtle. This seems to be where I should write down what he looks like: very big, very fat, brown eyes, brown, curly hair. The thick hair swirls right. He must brush it that way. I notice a brown mole just above his right cheekbone that is singing to me. Is he maybe forty, fifty? I’m not sure, and I can’t tell why he isn’t noticing the flowers singing the harmony behind him. They are three different shades of yellow, floating close to the ceiling. They look like bugs, so it could be they can fly. Is that right?
He says, “Confound it! Saul is with Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Stebbins, down at Homicide, talking with her. If anyone can extract the information we need, that trio can, but it is taking too much time.” He gets up and comes over to my bed where I am sitting, writing. “It has been three hours, as near as we can ascertain, since that woman tried to kill him. He’s flushed. He complains of a dry mouth. His heart races.”
He is very large and yellow. I want him to see me. “Hey, I’m here,” I say.
“Only in some senses of the word, Archie. You have been drugged, poisoned. You are hallucinating.”
What’s poisoned? Oh wait, now I remember. “Tea,” I say, and write it down.
“Indeed.” The Big Fat Guy reaches over and puts a large hand on my shoulder, and the homely guy blinks a little. “At least you are no longer attempting to light a cigarette. You spent an hour and a half after you returned to the brownstone attempting to do so, a sight all the more disconcerting because you did not have a cigarette in your hand during your efforts.”
I’m not sure what the problem is, so I shrug. I don’t remember much right now, except my name. Archie Goodwin. Where is this place?
“You live here. This is your bedroom, under my roof.” I must have asked it out loud.
“Are we married? I don’t remember.” There’s a lot of stuff I don’t remember.
“No.” He takes the hand away. His eyes are dark and his lips are twisted, but it’s hard to see, even close up. Everything is blurred.
“May I have a drink of water?” I ask the Big Fat Guy. He gets a glass of water and then sits down on the bed next to me. I try to take it away from him and miss. He growls and holds it to my lips, so I drink it all and ask for more. I ask for more three times, but my mouth is still as dry as a desert. After a while, I give up and pick up my notebook and pen. My name is still Archie Goodwin when I read what I have written.
Somewhere up in the ceiling all the flowers are singing together, each to each. They will not sing to me. The Big Fat Guy gives me some more water and says they are not telling secrets, they are singing radio jingles, if what I repeat is any indication of what I hear. Also, my taste is atrocious, and he is not surprised. I stick out my tongue at him, but it is so dry that the gesture hurts. I drink another glass of water and make a mark in my notebook. There are twelve marks in my notebook although I don’t remember making them.
I like the deep baritone rumble better, but the skinny character has a high light voice, and he’s the one talking. “Give him more water when he asks for it, and make sure he’s urinating. Otherwise, keep him as calm as possible and confined in familiar surroundings.” There is a black band around my arm with a black tube dangling off of it, and the skinny character is removing it. I consider punching him for getting cute with me but don’t when the mole and the flowers tell me not to. “I’m going to call and have Betty bring over Merrick and a few other texts, and then phone to see if I can contact a toxologist I know over at Columbia.” For some reason, the Big Fat Guy scowls at the idea of contact. Maybe he doesn’t like it. Maybe he doesn’t like this Merrick guy. “I’ll check in with Mr. Panzer, too.” The skinny character pauses and then adds, “Nero, it’s my considered opinion that, since he’s made it this far, Archie will survive. In fact, I’m currently more concerned that he be closely watched, given the state he’s in.”
“My name is Archie Goodwin,” I say, loudly. I hate being ignored, a lot. The skinny character shouldn’t have disappeared like that. It’s cheating.
So, I turn around and the Big Fat Guy is still there, on the bed. His name isn’t Nero, I remember that much. “Do you want another glass of water?” he asks me.
“Not until the bug-flowers finish this number.” They have a nice harmony going with his mole. “It’s a favorite of mine.”
He grunts. “What are they singing this time, Archie?”
“You wanted good taste; it’s Cole Porter,” I say, and sing it for him:
“When the only one you wanted wants another,
what's the use of swank and cash in the bank galore?
Why, even the janitor's wife
has a perfectly good love life,
and here I am, facing tomorrow,
alone in my sorrow
up on the---”
“Thank you, that is quite enough.” He sounds petulant. His big, fat lips shove out a little. For some reason, it makes me want to grin, so I do. Why not? I don’t remember any reason not to grin. The Big Fat Guy grabs my arm when I try to get up, so I write it all down. Up, down. Up, down. Another drink of water, but my mouth is still cotton in Egypt.
It gives me an idea. “I could go to Egypt with all this cotton, sell it, make a bundle, and buy some more water.”
“Then you can stay at my house while you are there. I have a house in Cairo, Archie.”
He’s humoring me, and I don’t like it. I decide to humor him back. “I don’t remember. Hey, sir, let’s go for a boat trip together and see. Or we can visit Ohio and impress all the neighbors with our city-slicker charm.” He pulls me down again as I try to stand, but I don’t deck him. That would be cheating, and I’m distracted by my pajama bottoms anyhow, which are cotton. I try to demonstrate this for the Big Fat Guy, but he makes me stop.
I feel hot and dry, like a desert, like Egypt.
Archie Goodwin. I’m tired of flipping back to check.
My parents are visiting me from Ohio. They look a lot like the framed photograph hung over my largest armchair, the one the Big Fat Guy is seated in, the one next to the bed. Maybe I should make him move for Father? No, Mother says that wouldn’t be polite. Father isn’t saying much. He never did. I was only a kid, but I remember thinking that parking him in his casket with his mouth sewn shut was about right. He preferred to let his belt talk for him.
“My mother wants to meet you but my father doesn’t. He’s tapping his buckle. That means he’s impatient.” This is important, so I write it down and show it to him.
“Thank you, Archie, but I can’t see her. Do give her my best regards, though.” I do, but she vanishes before I can introduce her. I wonder if I’m hallucinating. I need to go to the can.
The Big Fat Guy gave me this back later, when I was flipping through it, trying to remember what had happened. The notebook pages were glowing yellow until I realized they weren’t there. I was flipping empty air. He was holding on to the notebook.
I have been trying to remember any of this, my parents, the singing flowers, drinking all the water, but I don’t. I don’t remember much of anything, except who I am: Archie Goodwin. The room seems familiar, but I don’t recall the carpet, or the chairs, or that colored picture of a lion’s head. The lion is yellow, like the Big Fat Guy’s shirt, and it’s licking its nose as I watch. I try licking my nose.
As it turns out, I can’t lick my nose. My tongue is too dry. When I ask, he comes over to the bed to bring me another glass of water. I try to sit up and drop the notebook. Then I tried to lick the water and spill it. So, I curse instead, and he tells me to cut it out. When I stand up to let him have it, my legs go out on me. He catches me. It’s hot, the yellow is silk, and the mole between the corner of his lips and his ear sings to me:
“In the still of the night,
while the world lies in slumber,
oh, the times without number---”
I don’t want to hear the rest of it, and I can’t get to his nose, so I lick his cheek, instead. It’s a clever diversionary maneuver. In fact, I touch the mole with the tip of my tongue, which makes it shut up before it can give the secret away. The Big Fat Guy knows it, too. He goes very still and then all the breath rushes out of him in a huff, wasting maybe a bushel’s worth of oxygen. That’ll teach him not to let his beauty marks sing Cole Porter.
Now he wants to see what I’m writing. “I should remove those pages from your notebook and destroy them. Later, when this is over, you will be embarrassed.”
I shoot the Big Fat Guy a look. “No.” What is he thinking? Embarrassed? That’s not embarrassing. I know what’s embarrassing.
This is followed by two pages that are blank aside from a rough sketch of a heart containing an x. Then:
Glasses of water III III
Another blank page follows.
Christ. I don’t remember writing any of this. Now that I’m dried out and re-reading my notes, I can’t believe Wolfe let me write this crap down. I suppose it was better than letting me light non-existent cigarettes for hours, or talk to dead people, or lick him like a alley cat. I don’t remember any of that, either, although I’m informed the festivities continued for twenty horrible hours. Fritz told me Wolfe lasted out the entire fit, but I’m not sure I believe him. Wolfe hasn’t unfolded his cheeks about it once, and he usually claims to be amused when it’s him taking care of me for a change. Of course, I may only have missed seeing it on his face. It’s been a week, now, and I can barely focus well enough to read what I thought was going on. Doc Volmer says my vision should return to its normal state and stay okay, which is probably the only reason I haven’t had to remind myself that I can’t strike a guest of the State of New York when court is in session, even if I’m her victim.
I’ll jot it down here, though, just in case I ever need yet another reminder of why never to break the tape on a second bottle of scotch or sample a café society girl’s special face powder. My poison was brewed from something called Datura, also known as Jimson weed. On impulse, the Raeburn dame decided to make me some tea out of it when I pressed her too hard to visit Wolfe during our interview about her ex-husband’s death that day. She’d recently read how deadly it was in some Limey murder mystery, which was convenient since she had the plant growing right there in her conservatory. However, it seems Datura’s level of toxicity is actually pretty variable. She underestimated, and I walked out her door with my fedora in my hand and made it all the way back to the brownstone before I realized something was wrong. Wolfe says I came into the office and announced that the orchids had told me I’d been poisoned. I wouldn’t know. I don’t remember much.
I do remember his lips, though. The feel of them against---
The final page of the notebook is missing its lower half. The handwriting is interrupted by the tear.
Thanks to Lady Q for the inspiration.
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