UNITED STATES—You can never tell what people are thinking by what expressions cross their face. Zorba lived by that knowledge, unlike most of humanity, and at the moment he was a perfect example of it.

The former detective strode toward the window, but saw none of the majestic things before his eyes. His mouth closed. The ocean of wheat and the wheeling of hawks were invisible, as he paused to gather the strand of his thoughts before the implanted circuitry stirred. As the lover at night dreads the coming of the day, Zorba steeled himself for incoming communication.

From Sergeant Robbins, from Cecilia who was going to have their first child; who may’ve already had it. So long trained into obedience to the electronic flow—starting practically in infancy when his grandmother spirited him to the Underground Cities—he was nevertheless being infected by tension as the carrousel of his thoughts turned round and round. This carrousel was different. Getting swept up in it now, could be deadly for the former detective at the time he was being called to give the performance of his life.

Before he turned to face the kin gathered around The Leader on his death bed, Detective Zorba saw what appeared to be five miles away, but it was more like 25. There was a lone horseman, rising above the haunting contours, the bewitching amber nightmare of the wheatlands. Then he was seized by panic that the circuitry was going to call him to task, then he smiled at the joke of it all. Blame his conditioning.

Zorba suddenly remembered that he was out of range and would not get detoured at this sensitive moment with the family on whose charity his survival depended. The long arm of Sergeant Robbins, or anybody else for that matter, could not reach him here. It caused a smile from the inner joke, reached his lips, as he turned to face those gathered in the septic smelling room where The Leader already law rotting.

Zorba immediately regretted it, for he knew that at such moments the facetious spark produced a smirk that gave him an unpleasant know-it-all expression.

Under the edge of the bed, Zorba noted some bottles, apparently empty bottles, he deducted from the hollow glass clink hear when the toe of his shoes struck one. A man has got to get through it, one way or another, Zorba thought.

“Elam DuPuy, “ Zorba spoke the name of the victim of the Wilcox murder victim, bludgeoned to death by a blunt object.

The plaid sibling with blackout out teeth gawked at him. The short-haired daughter, who got more pixieish the more he looked at her, pointed at the epicene bullfrog in a brocade robe whose embroidered designs caught all the colors, ruby, royal blue, scarab green, depending which way the sun hit it.

“There were two brothers, long ago ‘up here,’” said Zorba. “According to your calendar it was 100 Twelvetrees ago that Elam DePuy was bludgeoned by a hammer.”

The figure who lay on the bed, his eyelids flicked open wide.

It made Zorba start, tap the empty bottles and set one rolling out: it was an empty cranberry juice bottle. It was Zorba who could not to show his clear, clean smile and show the wrong face to this family. His mirth could be interpreted as disrespect. But it was funny and Zorba couldn’t help but laugh at himself: the detective had been wildly mistaken about the kind of poison the Leader had been taking.

“Elam DePuy,” reiterated Zorba in solemn tone, “was the name of…”

Ethan DuPuy,” blurted the mummified figure robed in brocade; his stertorous ribcage shook. It had ad hoc effect of dead green hands reaching up and putting him in a chokehold.

To be continued…

Graydon Miller is the author of the international thriller, “Hostages of Veracruz,” (available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3imkqRK).

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)