Garrett Woolfolk rolled over in his bed, savoring the sensations of the cocooning sheets, the perfectly arranged pillows, and of not having to get up or meet anyone’s demands or deadlines. Both his students and his editor would be nursing hangovers at this hour and would leave him undisturbed. Also, he had trained his friends to forget his very existence until closer to noon.
Saturday mornings were bliss for Woolfolk.
“Mm, mm, mm?”
Woolfolk tensed; he had not made those sounds. A fear washed over him – the fear that his perfect Saturday morning was about to go the way of yesterday’s lunch.
He opened his eyes and his suspicions were confirmed. A chimpanzee stood underneath a jaunty yellow beret and it was looking intently, yet politely, at Woolfolk.
“Mm, mm, mm?” the chimpanzee repeated, and stuck its hand out. Woolfolk noted the banana the animal held and took it.
“Thank you,” he told the chimp. This seemed to please the beast and it sketched a little bow and beetled off.
Woolfolk sighed. He now possessed two things he wanted no part of: a banana and a mystery.
He listened carefully for a moment and heard nothing. Whatever the chimpanzee might be doing, it was not obviously destroying anything.
Woolfolk decided that with only a little effort he could contrive several reasons why a chimpanzee wearing a jaunty yellow beret might be in his home. Given that, he did not need to do so. He placed the banana on his nightstand and closed his eyes again. Relaxing came naturally to Woolfolk, and he was shortly asleep once more.
“Mm, mm, mm?”
Woolfolk kept his eyes shut as he woke for the second time. This go-round, the chimpanzee sound was accompanied by particular, familiar, and pleasant scents. He reluctantly peeled back his eyelids and saw what he presumed was the same chimpanzee wearing the same beret. The animal was holding one of Woolfolk’s serving trays, upon which rested four slices of buttered toast, some apricot marmalade, a butter knife, a cup of coffee, some sugar and cream, and a linen napkin.
Woolfolk felt trapped and, having no choice, sat up and took the tray.
“Thank you,” he repeated. The chimp bowed again and left Woolfolk’s bedroom.
Woolfolk sighed once more and plied the knife, adding a dab of the apricot marmalade to a slice of toast. He put a spot of cream in the coffee but left the sugar untouched. For good measure, since it was readily available, he picked up the banana and added it to the menu.
He had just drained the last drops of the coffee when the chimpanzee returned for the tray. Woolfolk handed it over, gravely thanking the chimp once more and watching it depart.
Woolfolk briefly pondered but discarded the likelihood of the chimpanzee having made the breakfast. It wasn’t at all impossible – one coffeepot and one toaster work much like any other. But it was unlikely.
Now he was annoyed. Someone was going to great lengths to draw not only his attention but also his living person into some other part of his home than where he wished to remain.
Well, it just wasn’t going to work.
The caffeine in the coffee wouldn’t hit his system for twenty to thirty minutes. He would be asleep long before that and would just have energetic dreams. He composed himself in his bed and closed his eyes.
“Mm, mm, mm?”
He hadn’t been asleep long and wondered if he could ignore the chimp this time.
“Mm, mm, mm?”
No, then. He opened his eyes and turned his head toward where the creature stood.
A new article of clothing arrested Woolfolk’s attention. The chimp was holding a lacy black brassiere. Woolfolk peered at it closely – a 36C if he was any judge of things.
“Tell the lady she wins. I shall be there shortly.” The chimp stared. “Thank you,” Woolfolk finished. That was the animal’s cue, and it left with the brassiere.
Woolfolk groaned, feeling it was only proper that he do so. He threw back the covers in a dramatic motion and sprang from his bed. He turned and looked longingly at the spot he had just occupied. But he knew it was not to be. He donned his dark blue robe and his beige slippers and went to meet the unknown.
In the living room, a dark-headed young woman was adjusting her white blouse, through which the black brassiere was plainly evident.
“Man! It takes a lot to get your attention,” she told Woolfolk.
“My apologies,” he said. “I was not expecting company this morning.”
“Oh, I’m not just company. That’s why I was so keen to meet you.”
“Yes. I’m your new housemate, Dorilee Okuno. Pleased to finally meet you, Dr. Woolfolk. Or is it Garrett?”
“Let’s make it Dr. Woolfolk for now, Miss Okuno. Why do you say that you are my new housemate?”
She pointed to a small collection of things. “Because I’m here and there’s all my stuff. Plus Olaf, whom you’ve already met.”
“We’d not until now been formally introduced,” he said, glancing at the chimpanzee. “Miss Okuno,” he began. He stopped short, taking her in. She face bore the best-of-both-worlds features of Western and Asian parentage. She was aged about 20 – a quarter of a century less than he was – stood a head shorter than he did, and was of medium build, neither slender nor stocky. Woolfolk felt justified in taking a moment to admire the view before soldiering on. “Miss Okuno, I don’t like to be blunt, but let me place certain facts before you.
“One, this is my home. I have paid for it and live in it. Alone.
“Two, I am a bachelor. That references the word ‘alone,’ used previously.
“Three, I am not in the habit, nor do I care to adopt the habit, of permitting strangers and their well-mannered chimpanzees to break into my home and claim squatter’s rights, even when they prepare and serve me breakfast.”
She nodded. “I understand. Now let me place certain facts before you.
“One, I did not ‘break’ in. I used the key under your doormat.”
This surprised Woolfolk greatly. “How did you know it was there?”
“Everyone leaves his spare key under the doormat. It’s cliché.”
Woolfolk bristled. That was a word he applied, with devastating effect, to other people. It was never meant to boomerang. “‘Cliché,’ Miss Okuno?” he asked coldly.
“Cliché, Dr. Woolfolk,” she confirmed. “And thieves love it. To continue, Point Two.” She handed him an envelope. “Those are the only arguments I have, so you might win on numbers.”
Woolfolk recognized the handwriting on the envelope and felt another turn being taken for the worse.
“Oh, what fresh hell is this?” he murmured. He opened the envelope and froze. “You said your first name was…?”
“Dorilee. Yes. Quite.” He pulled the letter from the envelope. The page also contained the familiar writing.
Before you stands one Dorilee Takara Okuno. She is evidence that I did – one time – forsake my sacred, solemn marriage vows. Much as I would like to tread lightly over that subject and move on to a more pleasant one, I am not going to be permitted to do so. I will, all too soon, have to make a full confession to Wanda, and may God have mercy on my soul because she will not.
Before Hell’s foundations buckle beneath me, however, I would very much like to get to know my daughter just a little. I need to lodge her and her monkey –
“Chimpanzee,” Woolfolk corrected automatically.
in a place where I know they will be perfectly safe from both the elements and the baser instincts of those who would take advantage of her.
This, my dear friend, is where you reluctantly come in.
I will explain in more detail later. You will have earned it and I will need to practice for my discussion with Wanda.
I know I can count on you, for which I give many thanks.
He looked up from the letter. “Your father, Dorilee, is Lee Dorin.”
“Dr. Lee Dorin, professor of Asian history at Brinton College.”
She nodded again.
Curiosities competed for attention in Woolfolk’s brain. He would let them sort themselves out while he attended to the primary concerns at hand.
He addressed his friend’s daughter. “Permit me to show you to the guest room, Miss Okuno.” He looked at Olaf, who was standing quietly next to the sofa. “And for future reference, I do not take sugar with my coffee. Thank you.”
The chimpanzee bowed.