Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
I don't know how we ended up hosting the damn party, because I really hated them. Harrington Gibbs was the guest of honor. Rich beyond my wildest imagination and the envy of my wife. Harrington and my wife, Gail, had been an item at Cornell for three years. Harrington went on to Oxford while Gail and I stayed behind to carry on the Cornell tradition; whatever that is. I didn't actually meet Gail until after Harrington had left. They separated with the agreement that they would both be able to see other people.
I got my MBA and Gail and I eventually married, had two children, and lived happily ever after; until today. Harrington Gibbs returned after twenty years, richer and better looking than ever. Grace and Garry Junior were both away at college, leaving us with the proverbial empty nest. When Harrington announced his return, Gail was more excited than I had seen her since college.
I always knew that she still cared for him. In many ways, I found it extremely irritating, but I tried not to let my displeasure show. I wasn't as good looking as Harrington and I wasn't as rich, but I was her husband. My biggest complaint happened in the bedroom. Several times when we were having really intense intercourse, Gail would call out his name. There is nothing that puts a damper on hot sex faster than a woman who refers to you in the heat of passion by another man's name. It got to the point where I became paranoid about being called Gibby while I was riding my wife. She never could understand why I lost interest in the middle of a wonderful romp. I never explained it to her.
So here we are hosting a party for my wife's old lover Gibby. The one that she fantasizes about while I ring her chimes. How could I not hate this man.
There were only about twenty people, but that was more than I was interested in having. It was a warm summer evening so we had everything outside by the pool. I had several grills set up and the guests were all free to pick at the food throughout the evening. I tried to stay out of the way and play the timid, retiring host.
Of course, Harrington was the center of attraction and to put more icing on the cake, he came with his new yellow Lamborghini Murcielago. Not only did he brag about his car, but also about the $500,000 price tag that came with it. Everybody got to gawk at the auto and most of the ladies got to take a ride, including Gail of course.
As the guests departed, I flitted around like a good husband and started collecting the empty soldiers and dirty dishes. Finally, it was just Gail, Harrington, and myself. Oh, had I mentioned before that Gail invited Harrington to spent the night at our place? We had plenty of room since the kids were away at college. Surprise! Surprise!
"Why don't you two guys sit down and I'll mix you up a real drink to end the evening with? I think we have had enough beer. Gibby, would you like a Tom Collins?"
I cringed when she called him that. I immediately felt emasculated. He smiled and nodded. I swear that I saw him smirk in my direction.
"Garry, I'll get you a Gin and Tonic, and myself a Salty Dog. You guys just relax a little. It's been a long day. I'll be right back."
Harrington Gibbs and I sat quietly for several moments. I didn't have anything that I wanted to talk to him about. Looking for some way to break the tedium, I claimed that I had to disconnect the propane bottle from the grills. Harrington took the opportunity to see that his yellow bird was closed up for the night. As he walked out to the garage area, I started to work on the grill tanks. The garages were separate from the house, something that my father had always insisted upon.
As I was taking the first tank off, I glanced through the kitchen window. Gail was coming down the hallway to the kitchen with a small bottle in her hand. I stopped what I was doing and watched as she opened the bottle and took out three small capsules. It was my prescription bottle of Ambien. For me, Ambien was a killer sleeping pill. It only took one of them to put me out for at least ten hours. I watched as my wife opened and dumped three capsules into my Gin and Tonic glass. Harrington was coming back from the garage area, so I finished up what I was doing and we both returned to the comfort of our lounge chairs, just as Gail was coming out with our drinks.
Gail and Harrington, or Gibby, spent the next few minutes reminiscing about the old days at college. Of course I didn't know any of the people or places that they talked about, but I tried to fain interest as I faked sipping at my Gin and Tonic. It was hard to dump out the drink without losing the ice, but I managed. As the drink went down, I noticed that Gail and Harrington were exchanging glances. I purposely started to lose interest in their conversation and started to rest my eyes. With one final fake flourish, I finished my nighttime cocktail, placed the empty glass on the table, and settled comfortably back in the lounge. I swear I heard Gail giggle.
They waited at least twenty minutes and then both of them carefully picked me up and carried me to the bed room. I made a few mumbling noises which caused Gail to giggle again, as they took off my shoes.
Ten minutes, later I was up and wide awake. I was amazed at how clear-headed and determined I felt. I put my shoes back on and started down the hallway. Gail and Harrington were in Grace's room and there was no doubt what they were doing from the sounds that they were making. I wondered for a moment if Gail might accidentally call him Garry. I could have very easily gone into the room and ended it all right then and there, but that would not have been any fun.
When I got to the garage, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I wanted to push the Lamborghini out of the garage, but the damn thing was locked and I didn't have a key. The sun roof was open so I reached in and opened the driver's door. Now I could go to work, but I still couldn't push it.
I started out with three old cans of charcoal lighter fluid. I didn't even have a charcoal grill any more. Two cans inside and one on the roof. I popped the trunk and the hood for better access. Boy, that V12 was beautiful. I had one gallon of paint thinner for the engine compartment and I topped it off with a couple of cans of Coleman Fuel. As I worked my way around the garage, I was surprised at the treasures that I found. There was a half of a gallon of Kerosene that went into the back seat. A partial can of turpentine covered the inside of the trunk. I poured a gallon of muratic acid over the top of the car, which didn't make sense, because I was planning on burning it anyhow. To finish things off, I tossed a small box of leftover fireworks inside; mostly roman candles and rockets.
It was going to be a shame to lose Gail's Volvo wagon and my Jeep Liberty, but it would be worth it. I stood in the doorway at the far end of the garage and tossed in a lit railroad flare. It took me less than a minute to get back to the house and to the bedroom. The inside of the garage was lit up like Christmas. Gail and Harrington were still busy at it when I passed their room.
I took four Ambien capsules out of the bottle and swallowed them. At the last minute, I took another one. I wanted it to look as if I had been over dosed. I laid down on the bed and started to laugh quietly to myself.
The next thing that I remembered was some guy shining a light in my eyes and mumbling something like; "He's alive. He's alive." There was a lot of commotion as they got me out of the house into the back of an EMT unit. I was just conscious enough to realize that somebody had cut a hole in my throat and stuck something into the hole. I realized that I couldn't swallow and that something smelled like an old boyscout campfire. I remembered the smell. Something was burning. There were cops, firemen and medics. Somebody stuck a needle in my arm.
Grace and Garry Junior were sitting in my room when I woke up. I peeked with one eye to see what was happening and noticed them there.
"What's going on guys?"
"Dad. You're awake. Hold on, I'll get the nurse." Garry walked out of the room as Grace came over and sat beside me.
"How are you feeling?"
"I feel like crap. What happened?" I knew what the hell happened, but I could never let anyone else know.
"You over-dosed on your sleeping pills. You had a bad reaction and it almost killed you."
"What the hell are you talking about? I haven't taken a sleeping pill for weeks."
Grace looked a little shocked when I said that. The nurse, who came back with Garry, was all smiles. "Well, Mister Crenshaw, I will say that you are looking a lot better than you did last night."
"What the hell happened to me?"
"The best that we can tell is that you took a few too many pills and they didn't agree with you."
"I didn't take any pills. I had a couple of beers and one Gin and Tonic last night. That was it."
My nurse just cocked her head and gave me an odd look.
"Just what did they find in me? What kind of pills?"
She picked up the chart at the end of the bed and gave it a quick glance. "It says here that you ingested Zolpidem."
"What is that in English?"
"I have a prescription for Ambien, but I didn't take any last night."
"Mister Crenshaw, I think you better talk with some other people about this. I am not in a position to discuss this with you. I am glad you are looking better. I will notify the doctor."
Grace came back to the bed and Garry went out with the nurse.
"How did you guys get here?"
"Mom called Garry and he picked me up on the way home."
"Where is your mother, by the way? Shouldn't she be here?"
"She is talking to the police about the fire."
"What fire? Did I sleep through a fire."
"The garage burned down. The house is fine."
"Is anybody hurt?"
"I hate to say this, but I am a little confused."
I looked out the room window to the hallway. Garry and the nurse were talking to a tall man in a dark suit. There seemed to be a lot of hand waving, but they weren't arguing.
"Do you want some water?" I heard her, but I didn't answer.
"Dad, do you want some water?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure. I'd love some water."
It was warm water through a sippee straw. At least it was wet.
There was a bandage on my throat where I assumed, that somebody had made an airway. I had a small plastic tube pumping oxygen into my nose which actually felt quite good. My throat was killing me. It felt raw, like hamburger meat. There was an IV in my right arm.
The tall man in the suit was just coming into the room when the doctor showed up. There was a short discussion and the suit man left. Doctor Ampham checked my heart and blood pressure, but seemed to be mostly concerned with my breathing. Ambien can cause severe swelling of the tongue and throat when taken in excess. He seemed concerned when I assured him that I had not taken any sleeping pills.
Of course you guessed it, before the doctor departed, he gave me a shot to make me sleep. Grace and Garry left and promised to be back tomorrow.
My throat felt better in the morning. Before noon, they had disconnected all of the monitoring and support equipment. Apparently my recovery was going fine.
"Good morning Mister Crenshaw. I am Detective Naranja. Are you going to be up for a few questions this morning?"
It was the tall man in the dark suit. I must have fluttered my eyes or something, because I really wasn't fully awake yet. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and made my way to the bathroom. Ahhh. No more bedpan. I sounded like a horse going in the bowl, but I didn't care. It felt good. My throat hurt, which I took as a sign that it was healing.
"Now Mister Naranja. What can I do for you?"
"You look like you are feeling better. Can you tell me what happened last Saturday night?"
"What day is today?"
"Damn. Time flies when you are having fun."
He tried to laugh, but it didn't work.
"Mister, I mean, Detective Naranja. The last thing that I remember about the party Saturday night is cleaning up and then having a drink with my wife and Mister Gibbs. We were sitting on the lounge chairs on the patio. I don't know where the EMT guys or whoever it was, found me."
"The police found you Mister Crenshaw. They found you unconscious in your bed."
"I am sorry. I don't ever remember going to bed."
"You didn't. You wife said that you passed out from too much drinking and that she and Mister Gibbs carried you to your bedroom."
"That's bullshit. I had three beers all night and one Gin and Tonic before bed. Three beers over five hours does not make you stinking drunk."
"You weren't drunk, Mister Crenshaw. They checked your alcohol level when they brought you in. Your level was so low that you couldn't have even qualified for a DUI."
"Why did she say that if it wasn't true?"
"It gets complicated Mister Crenshaw. I'll try and explain it to you, but you have to bear with me."
Detective Naranja and I sat quietly for several moments. I had a whole bunch of questions that I was dying to ask him, but I was also afraid that he might have a lot of questions to ask me.
"Detective Naranja. Was there a fire at my house that night? I seem to remember firemen being there when they took me away."
"Yes. Your garage burned down, along with the three cars inside of it. You don't know anything about that?" He asked that question in a coy manner, as if he was playing me. Of course I knew he was, so I tried to respond accordingly.
"The last thing that I remembered was how good it felt to stretch out on that lounge chair after the party was over."
"Mister Crenshaw, the arson inspectors will be here to talk to you later, but I have one quick question about the fire. Did you store flammables in your garage?"
"Yes. That's why I had the garage built separately from the main house. My father was always afraid of garage fires and I guess I got that little quirk from him. The house wasn't damaged, was it?"
"No. The fire was concentrated in the garage area."
"Any idea what started it?"
"Oh yes. There is no doubt. It was arson. The fire was deliberately set by someone, for some reason."
I guess I should have been a little more clever about the whole thing, but at the time I didn't give a damn. Hell, I still don't.
"I guess somebody didn't like the party."
My witty reply got me a small smirk that told me he was not amused at my answer.
"So, Detective Naranja, if this is something that the fire department is looking into, why are you here?"
"Mister Crenshaw. You didn't take any sleeping pills the night of the party, did you?"
"No. Apparently, I didn't need them."
"The hospital did a complete work up, because of your condition when they brought you in. You had a little alcohol in your system, but not enough to cause a problem. What they did find is that you had been given a large dose of sleeping pills. You had a prescription for the sleeping pills, which were found in your medicine cabinet."