After asking Jimmy to repeat himself, he did so and I wrote the same message out to JB. I texted him that he should feed the monster in Jimmy’s closet. A few more messages back and forth and Jimmy soon gave instructions on how to do just that.
I was used to hearing Jimmy say some crazy things. Some were stories, some were exaggerations, probably more than a few of them were lies. But this time seemed different somehow. He looked a bit worried as he talked about the monster. He looked like he was afraid. Not that we wouldn’t believe him, but that maybe we would.
“Jimmy, is this code for something? It might be hard for JB to figure it out through texts.”
He fixed me with an incredulous stare. “You don’t think he can figure out how to slide pancakes under a door? He’s not a complete idiot, Lizzy. You have to believe in him a little more than that.”
“That’s not what - ”
“Besides, it’s not like they have syrup on them. If they did, they wouldn’t slide across the floor at all, they would be sticky and cling to stuff. Come on Lizzy, get your head in the game.”
I decided not to argue. I hated thinking like this, but right now the monster in the closet, real or not, was JB’s problem and not mine. Mine was that I was lost in the woods with Jimmy, who wasn’t wearing any pants.
“Fine, you’re right. So what do we do now? We have to get home before tomorrow morning.”
Jimmy tapped his foot and looked around. He slapped at another mosquito on his bleeding legs. “First things first, we figure out which way is which.” He rubbed his chin in thought. “I read in The Hardy Boys that you can use a watch and the sun to tell which way was north.” He looked at his wrist again, as if he had a watch, but he didn’t. He saw that I didn’t either.
“Okay, maybe not that one. And we can’t use the North Star either, cuz the trees are too thick overhead.” I looked up and saw that what he said was true. I groaned involuntarily, fear starting to creep up on me a bit. I didn’t want to be in these woods at night. “So what do we do?” I asked him.
He frowned. He looked around again, clucked his tongue. Sighed, stomped, then sighed again. After that, he simply shrugged and picked up a medium-sized stick that was laying on the ground. He snapped a few of its twigs and leaves off, creating a simple, long, straight stick. He put the tip to the ground and then tied the rescued pants around his waist. “I guess we just walk,” Jimmy said.
“Ummm, just walk aimlessly? Into the woods? At night time?”
He shrugged again. “Not sure what else to do. Don’t worry, we’ll find our way back.”
I wasn’t too sure of that. “What if we walk the wrong way and are just going deeper into the woods?”
He smiled, but the gesture was cut short as he swat at another large mosquito that landed on his scratched up leg. “It’ll work itself out. Remember, it’s impossible to go more than halfway into the woods; you know that.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked him, confused.
“Because once you go halfway, you’re walking out of the woods, not into it. It’s all about positive thinking, remember?”
He started walking, testing out his new walking stick. I sighed and started walking with him. It was already getting hard to see more than ten feet in front of us. The last of the days light was fading away fast.
“Jimmy, why don’t you just wear the pants? It would help with the mosquitos.” He shook his head vigorously. “No way, I swore to recover and protect these pants with my very life. I can’t get my blood on them, that would stain them.”
“If you just have them tied around your waist, aren’t they touching your legs anyway?” He stopped short and untied the pants, looking them over carefully until he said, “Aw dang!” After a moment, he added, “I could have cursed just now, I’m pretty good at it, but I was trying to be polite.” He tied the pants around his neck like an ascot and started walking again.
We trotted in silence for a while, not hearing much noise aside from our heavy breathing. There was only the occasional cricket and the wind in the branches. Eventually, when it was nearly too dark to see, I felt a buzzing in my pocket.
It was from JB, no mention of a monster encounter. A moment later;
Are you guys almost back?
Before I could reply, another text:
Are you guys almost back?
Are you guys almost back?
The same message arrived a few more times, then all the bars of reception disappeared and stayed gone. To make matters worse, the phone battery was getting low, just hitting twenty percent and slowing down.
I told Jimmy that the battery was low and that we lost reception. He looked worried, but visibly relaxed a bit when I told him the list we gave JB was done.
“Can you tell me about the monster?” I prodded. Jimmy shivered. I wasn’t sure if it was from the chill in the trees and the lack of pants, or from fear.
I waited for him to continue, but he did not. “Jimmy, I need you to - ” I started, but he cut me short. “I can’t talk about the monster. I’ve already said too much. Just trust me when I say that it’s a matter of life or death, and that I’ve got it under control.” He gave me his most confident smile and a thumbs up, but the effect was undermined by his white, bleeding legs and the dirty mom pants wrapped around his neck. He didn’t seem like he had too much under control at the moment.
I tried in vain to get him to open up about the monster. Eventually, I gave it up, figuring that I’d get the scoop later from JB. If there really was a monster, he would have seen some kind of proof. I also hoped that he was okay. I missed talking to him. The inability to use the phone out here had me on edge.
Jimmy seemed to sense that I was getting worried, so he started talking. As we walked, he talked nonstop on a variety of topics, from spiders to world wars to ghosts and books. It was right then, lost in the woods after a simple scheme went awry, that I realized how futile this whole thing had been from the start.
Everyone seemed to think that Jimmy would get more interests and then just move on from detective work, but that wasn’t the case. It turned out, the more stuff he became interested in, the more things he could apply to being a detective. Sorry, lead detective.
He learned how spiders wove webs so that he could improve his tripwires. He studied world wars and then learned what not to do from the losers. He talked about how detective work and ghost hunting were closely related and that when he dies he couldn’t wait to be a ghost detective, the first of his kind. He said it would be like ‘if Ghostwriter had the guts to do what was necessary.’
We could have set up this case and a hundred more after it, but Jimmy was never going to get sick of being a detective. It was who he was. It was what he wanted to be, and he put his all into it. I thought that was pretty cool.
As the night got a bit colder, he slowed down on the conversation. A few more minutes after that, we were walking in silence. I still wasn’t sure if we were headed in the right direction or not, but we were making good time.
Without warning, he came to a sudden halt. If he was a car, you would have heard the loud squeal of tires. He snapped his fingers and then whirled around. He smacked himself in the forehead, the noise of which echoed back from the trees.
“Massive Levi’s, Sam!”