Thursday, May 06, 2010

elementary my dear manson...

I got home late last night to discover a package placed on my bed. Something had come in the mail! A present! A surprise! A mystery.
Inside the package was a used copy of "The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories" by Agatha Christie. There was no note, no indication of who sent it. I flipped through the book and looked at the receipt. Other than noting that someone loves me to the tune of $10.95 plus shipping and handling, there were no clues. The book had come from Esmond, Rhode Island and was ordered on April 25th.
I put on my jammies, crawled into bed and began reading "The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories" until a thought slowly occurred to me.
Anthrax.
Maybe someone hates me to the tune of $10.95 plus shipping and handling. How quickly does it take to die from anthrax? Can one smell anthrax? Had I noticed any tell-tale powder?
Agatha Christie is one of my favorite people ever. But she did write about murder a lot. So...this could go one of two ways.
First thing this morning, I got on the horn to Esmond, Rhode Island. It took an eternity, explaining myself and my mystery to "Mark." I think he could tell from my fast-paced, time-is-money tone that I'm not used to someone looking this kind of information up in an actual paper file. This guy had like, a cabinet. With "records" and "copies" in it.
"Look under S. For Spotswood."
After listening to papers being shuffled for a fucking eternity, Mark announced, "Here it is! Well, it looks like a relative, or a husband."
"A husband is a relative."
"It's from a Richard Spotswood in Mill Valley, California."
"That's my father."
"He sent you a book!"
"So I guess I don't need to worry about Anthrax."
Silence.
The Mystery of the Anonymous Package has been solved. Thanks Dad! And with his sweet gift, he reminded me of something. In my parents annoying quest to do good, they gave a bunch of their books to a retirement home, orphanage, etc. Recently over for dinner, I asked my father, "Remember that book 88 Men and 2 Women?"
My father's face fell. "Yes."
"I need to borrow it. I want to read it again." I had last read this non-fiction book on San Quentin's executions bu Warden Clinton T. Duffy when I was 10.
My father looked at my mother, terrified. "We...I gave it away."
"To the fucking orphans!?!?! My childhood book about executions!?!? You gave away?!?!?""
"I'm sure you can find it online."
Actually, for reasons I will never understand, it is out of print. But in my quest, I discovered THIS terrific article from a 1990 Los Angeles Times. It's a fabulous piece on the history of capital punishment in the Golden State, with a fascinating true version of the execution of Gordon Northcot. Yep, the guy from The Changling!
Did you know they stretched the hanging rope for 2 years to get rid of any bounce? How did they know it wasn't ready after 1 year? Or 6 months, even? 6 months seems like enough to me. But what do I know? I'm certainly no expert at this. And I never will be.
Because some poor kid or near dead is busy not appreciating my rightful first edition of 88 Men and 2 Women...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have my sympathies, Miss Beth.

A few years ago when anthrax was regularly in the news I became suspicious of a piece of junk mail I'd opened. It smelled funny--oddly sweet--and I began to feel a little odd myself. I tried to take a step outside of my mind and just watch the queasy acrobatics taking place in there. Then a long shower.

I happened to have an appointment with my neurologist the next day, and brought him the goods, sealed tight in a zip-lock bag. I told him my worry and asked him if he dared to give it a sniff.

"Does that smell weird to you," I asked, "or am I just nuts?"

He opened the bag, took it out, and, like a hound, ran his nose all over it. He shrugged his shoulders and took out his pen.

"Just nuts," he said. "Just nuts." tp

Dick Spotswood said...

Bethy: Wonderful blog. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. Now the story behind it. I read an on-line article by the writer Bob Greene about the fellow who operated the tiny in-line bookstore (the guy you taklked to), describing him as an unusually honest man running a marginal business. Try to find it, it's your kind of article. Based on the article, I wanted to support him and went to his website. I saw the Agatha Chrisite book and bought it as a present for you and to help the bookseller. Love, Daddy