Granite Countertop awoke from a terrible dream, one where some kind of supreme overlord had tried to kill him by dropping a moose on him. Normally a nightmare like this would be accompanied by screaming like a little girl and a small amount of bedwetting, but ever since Ms. Ghostlicker had hypnotized him so he only made the night wee-wee when he was wearing plastic underpants, he had slept in the nude, ate in the nude, and usually showered in the nude. He suspected Ms. Ghostlicker had tossed in some other suggestions as well, because all his forks and toenail clippers were missing. He doubted Ms. Ghostlicker had ever actually seen a ghost, but her fortune telling skills were just over fifty percent, and you just can’t argue with statistics like that.
All the voices in his head talking about peeing gave him the urge to go, so he groggily went out of his room and up the stairs, turned right, and headed for the bathroom. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that he had been staying in the basement of a houseboat, and instead of finding the loo he pitched over the railing and plunged into the frigid waters of Itch Bay. Fully awakened by the freezing cold water, his brain told him two things: one, never live on a houseboat in the middle of winter; and two, he was nude and already in the water, so he might as well just go ahead and pee. That’s just what he did. For a long, long time. So long, in fact, that the boat had drifted a few yards away by the time he was done.
Then the houseboat exploded.
This lucky, yet horrific, turn of events was enough to send all sorts of thoughts shooting through Granite’s head. He was lucky to be alive. Who was trying to kill him? How had they sneaked on the boat? Where was the bomb placed? Could he salvage any clothing from the wreckage? Had he peed for so long that he actually raised the overall temperature of the bay?
He swam for the largest bit of flotsam, having dumped at least a gallon of jetsam in the preceding few minutes. Fortunately, it was the bit containing his entire room, which he had made F5 tornado-safe after a particularly convincing construction saleswoman had given his F6 an F1. It was still useable and liveable, though he felt sure he could get a few dollars knocked off the rent now that it no longer had parking. He put on his best suit, over which he put on his best wetsuit, and headed for shore, towing his room behind him by a rope he had made out of several pieces from his macrame owl collection. He towed on, lamenting the floating beads that had once been the eyeballs of a flock of woven nocturnal hooters, and eventually he reached the dock.
He looked up to see his landlord staring back at him. She didn’t look happy, or young, but he was ready for her.
“Hello there, Mrs. Fajita. You look stunning today.”
“Cut the crap, Countertop! What have you done to the apartment building?”
“I didn’t do anything. It was like this when I got here, Mrs. Fajita.”
“I find that strangely believable and plausible. Well, you have a great day!”
He felt a little guilty for taking advantage of the OCD that compelled her to alternate sweetness with raving bitchiness, but knowing that speaking to her again would result in her verbally eviscerating him made it easy for him to remain silent. He took off his wetsuit and folded it, then folded it again, then three more times, and then put it in its tiny case and put that in his wallet. The little case had caused confusion in a fair amount of enchanted evenings when one date or another went to a certain point and he was asked to put on his little wetsuit.
He made it back to his office in the frozen food section of the local grocery store, shivering because his hair was still dripping wet, and went to work on searching for clues. He began jotting them down as he thought of them.
One, houseboat blew up.
He realized he needed a little pick-me-up, and slipped out the back of the freezer into the loading dock area. He knew his way around the loading dock like the back of his hand, where he had drawn a little map of the loading dock with a permanent marker two days ago. Bingo! The pallet was still there. He grabbed a handful of Zagnuts and went back to his desk, ready to think.
Two, he had peed for a really, really long time.
Three, if he hadn’t, he’d be mostly dead right now.
Four, it was because of a delicious combination of hypnosis and nudity.
Five, Ms. Ghostlicker had saved his life. Had she somehow known that he was in danger? He needed to visit her, and soon, if for no other reason than he could only stand to be in his office for ten minutes at a time, fifteen tops.
He traveled to her bungalow on the outskirts of the city – well, not so much outskirts as outminiskirts, pumps and fishnet stockings, because she lived in the part of town where it was possible to hire people to do things that Craigslist didn’t have categories for, but Larrycraigslist probably did. He entered her establishment, and after a brief wait Ms. Ghostlicker called him to the back.
“Ah, Mr. Countertop, do you have more problems with your bedwetting?” Granite looked around at the 15 other people in the waiting room who were all staring at him, hung his head, and closed the door.
“Ms. Ghostlicker, can you keep that stuff just between us, please?”
“Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Countertop. That was just a little joke. I planned on hypnotizing them to forget it later.”
“But some of them are here to hear their fortunes, and that one guy in brown was delivering a package…”
“Pickle!” Granite immediately began clucking like a chicken.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Countertop?” He looked around like nothing had happened.
“I was wondering about your hypnosis skills. How good are they?”
“Toejam!” Granite became stiff as a board and tilted his head back like a Pez dispenser.
“I suppose I’m fairly decent at it, Mr. Countertop. Why do you ask?” Granite relaxed.
“Well, early this morning I was going to make the pee-pee and fell in Itch Bay. While I was going, my house blew up.”
“Ms. Ghostlicker? Are you okay?”
“Mr. Countertop, there is something I must tell you. Earlier this week, a man came into my parlor and asked to speak to his deceased wife. When I had lit the candles, turned off the lights, turned on the music, and all that other crap I do to set the mood, he pulled a gun on me and ordered me to hypnotize an old woman to plant a bomb on your boat. I said every codeword I’ve ever used, including ‘botulism’ (Granite began drinking everything in sight), ‘fussbudget’ (Granite took off his suit jacket and shirt, turned them inside out, and put them back on), and ‘updawg’.”
“Nothing much. What’s up with you? Anyway, he said that if I tried to undo it, he’d kill me. He left me this.” She handed him two playing cards – an ace of hearts, and a queen of spades.
“Ace of hearts – Plaque Aorta! I knew he was behind this!”
“What about the queen of spades, Mr. Countertop?”
“I don’t know, Ms. Ghostlicker. All I can tell you is that it’s probably a woman who is out to get me.” Ms. Ghostlicker stared at him. “No, I mean really out to get me. As in kill me. And that could be anyone. Not a known ‘anyone’, like that girl I left with the check because I left my willingness to buy dinner in my other pants, or that lady who I slept with and never called back even though she was my ex-wife’s sister, or that lady whose bed I peed all over that one -”
“Fussbudget!” Granite flipped his suit jacket and shirt back around and put them on.
“So who is really really out to get you, Mr. Countertop? Think. It could be someone you’ve already met.”
“It is someone I’ve already met. I’m sure of it.”
“Be very careful, Mr. Countertop. The man with the gun is out there, and he could be pointing it at you next time.”
“I have one very important thing in my favor, though, Ms. Ghostlicker.” He held up the two cards. “Whoever he is, he’s not playing with a full deck.”