(Warning! Look, The Builder is in this, so I bet you know what the warning’s going to be)
“It isn’t fair!” Moony whined as he flung a frying pan across the kitchen. Sunny sat a good distance away, obediently waiting for him to calm down.
He continued to lament his so-called woes. “Salad Olivier? That’s practically the only thing I couldn’t get right back when I was alive! Then she has to show up and make it perfectly!”
Then Moony threw a pot in Sunny’s direction, with Sunny quickly ducking out of the way.
“I’ll bet she’s trying to replace me…!” He trailed off before falling to the floor sobbing. “What’s the point of having my dream if everyone else is better than me?”
This caused Sunny to approach and lay a hand on his shoulder. Feeling it gently squeeze him, Moony lay his own hand on top of it.
“Yeah, I know…Sorry.”
Harwood examined the huge head of napa cabbage he was now holding. He wasn’t entirely certain what to make with it, but he had ideas. Sinbad sat across from him now, thinking he just being a kooky old man.
“Are you like this with all potential landlords, giving them small gifts of produce?” He kept his voice down as he asked Sinbad, taking care not to wake Marc up.
Sinbad grunted before properly speaking. “Nah. But then again my last ‘landlord’ was going to be my father-in-law, so…”
“Ah, yes. You did mention something about that. It sounds like you were pretty taken with this ‘Shark’ fellow,” Harwood said as he continued to admire the cabbage. “Well, at least enough to get engaged.”
He then stopped eyeing the vegetable, and looked to Sinbad instead. “Were your secrets that bad, then?”
Sinbad briefly froze, stopping whatever it was he was doing. He nodded as he continued.
“I guess. I mean, I did some pretty unpleasant shit as part of my last job. I, uh…I don’t blame him for the way he reacted. Just…”
He stopped talking, and hid his face. Then he kept talking, albeit with his voice muffled. “I don’t know. You ever have something like that happen to you?”
After some hesitation, Harwood stood up and walked over to a nearby desk. Sinbad listened to a drawer opening, and papers rustling.
It seemed like forever before Ox-Head showed signs of waking up.
Annette found herself nodding off a few times while in wait. She was woken up almost each time by shouting from downstairs.
She grinned a little when he sat up, gradually opening his huge eyes.
“Have a nice nap?” He turned his head to look at her, and then flashed a smile that revealed him to have unusually sharp canine teeth.
Before Annette could say a proper ‘good morning’, however, a door was loudly slammed nearby. Then followed The Builder grumbling angrily. It was angry enough for both Annette and Ox-Head to check it out.
“You think The Builder fell off the wrong side of the bed, Andromeda?” Ox-Head’s trembling voice sounded groggy. “Can that happen? Is there a wrong side of the bed?” He glanced back over at his bed.
“No idea.” Annette stepped back out into the hallway, watching The Builder stomp away from her. She then took a better look at him, while he was still staring at the place he was sleeping on. “Think maybe you should wait here while I go see what’s up? I’d rather The Builder not…You know…”
Without turning his head back, Ox-Head nodded and said “Okay!” With that, Annette followed her grumbling spouse.
When Sinbad felt Harwood tap on his arm to get his attention, he looked up to see a framed photograph. Initially confused, he took a gentle hold of it and got a closer look.
“So who are these two? Friends of yours?” The two people in the picture were clearly a couple, smiling happily and embracing each other.
“Eh, somewhat. That’s me and my wife Macy a few decades ago. We had our brother-in-law Juan take the picture. It wasn’t a big wedding, but none of us cared. We were as happy as could be given the circumstances.”
Sinbad tried to find a date on the picture, but couldn’t. “Huh. So what was married life like?” The question didn’t seem to be one Harwood was comfortable answering. Nevertheless, he did anyway.
“I hoped it was going to be one of those typical marriages, I suppose. It was a long time ago, and I’ve forgotten most of the minor details. What I do remember is…”
He went quiet, and covered his mouth with a hand. He sighed deeply, as if trying to compose himself. “I guess after a nice few years, things went downhill. First Macy found out she couldn’t have children, then came a whole slew of infidelity accusations, then there was the fire.
“I don’t want to say this about my late wife, but let’s just say it hurts to know she was the one with a problem that can’t be easily fixed.”
Harwood trailed off again, this time looking over at Marc. Sinbad had his assumptions about what happened, but decided not to say them.
“What about a fire?” He tried to veer the conversation in another direction.
Harwood sighed once more. “I don’t remember too well how it happened. All I remember is the aftermath. My brother-in-law and I were injured, and both our wives were, well, I suppose you can figure that one out.”
This realization made Sinbad actually feel pity for the old man he hadn’t known for very long. “Uh…Sorry for your loss.” His condolence was waved off casually.
“It was long ago, and it’s my pain to endure, not yours. Bu yao fang zai xin shang.” He then looked at the clock. “I think it’s time for bed. Maybe I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow?”
Before Sinbad could say ‘okay, good night’, Harwood went back to his room, and locked the door. Sinbad was then awkwardly sitting by himself for a time, before getting up to go back to the atelier.
After he slid himself into his sleeping bag, Sinbad could’ve sworn he could hear soft weeping coming from Harwood’s room.
By the time Annette caught up with The Builder, they had hidden themself in a corner of the cellar, hurriedly chugging a large bottle of white chocolate liqueur. A closer look revealed a red mark on their face, and a noticeable crack in their sunglasses.
“Jeez! What happened, your ego inflate to dangerous levels and bruise you?”
The Builder scowled at her when they realized she was there, and spat out a loud “Shut the fuck up!” before going back to chugging. Some of the liqueur had started dripping down their chin.
When the bottle was empty, they threw it against the wall and shattered it. Then The Builder quickly picked up another bottle, and cringed at the label contents.
“Ew! Durian wine? Why the fuck did I put this in here?” They looked at her, and shook the bottle towards her. “Hey, isn’t this the shit your fuck buddy chugged before he offed himself?”
“Fuck buddy?” It took Annette a few moments to realize who they were talking about. “I never slept with him! He was my best friend, but I never had sex with him!”
The Builder snorted. “Like I’m gonna believe the asari ripoff that fancied herself the next Griselda Blanco! Come on, Netty. A young woman and an old man living together? What other reason could there be?”
“I had my reasons. Reasons I’m not going to tell you. And what’s so wrong with enjoying a bowl of durian ice cream with a dear friend of mine?”
Annette had her words mockingly parroted back to her, as her spouse cracked open the bottle of wine. They took a swig before resuming their venomous banter.
“Gee, I don’t know. Is it because you were a shitty pal, and didn’t stop the old goat from turning himself into worm food? Hell, maybe he couldn’t bear to tell his loser boyfriend the truth.”
“There was nothing sexual between me and him!”
Annette’s outburst didn’t deter The Builder in the least. “Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. But think about it. First the old man pulls a Kinkade, then his lover boy’s autoerotic asphyxiasion goes horribly wrong!
“And then,” The Builder added while standing and making their way to the vodka, “your fat bastard of a husband learned the truth about his pretty blue wifey, and blew his brains out!”
By this point, Annette was beyond apoplectic. She’d covered her ears in an attempt to block out their lies, but her teeth were still bared.
“Shut up! None of that’s true! Nothing you said is true!” She yelled at them.
When The Builder grabbed a large bottle of Smirnoff, they smirked at knowing her reaction was the one they wanted. “Yeah? Then why is it that when your selfish clingy ass showed up, a bunch of people died?”
They bent over backwards to see her again. “Now if you’ll excuse me, some stupid zombie upstairs is practically begging for a Brompton Cocktail.”
Annette was then left to be alone with her seething rage.
Late the next morning, Shark and Dennis were on their way to the police station.
The weather seemed fair enough, so the two decided to walk. Sagebear was in tow, dressed in a comfy-looking outfit and almost pulling Shark towards the building.
When they got there, Dudley was waiting for them at his desk. He’d prepared for their arrival accordingly, if the thick manila envelope and box of dog toys were any indication.
“Here you are,” he said as he handed the envelope to Shark. Then he reached back and pulled out a squeaky dog bone for Sagebear. “And here you go, little dear.”
The moment Sagebear had the toy in her mouth, she began having the time of her life. Dennis smiled as he watched her happily squeak it in her mouth.
“Now isn’t that precious?” He then took a glance at the large envelope in his son’s hands. “You sure you won’t get in trouble for telling us that information, Dudley?”
Dudley shrugged. “They were my family as much as they were yours, brother. I don’t see why my nephew can’t see what exactly they’d done in life.”
With that, Dudley pointed Shark to an empty room where he could see the envelope’s contents in solitude. He and Dennis then sat down to watch Sagebear play with her new toy.
Shark was left to enter the room by himself, and closed the door. When he took a seat at the table inside, he opened the envelope and began reading the first page.