It was late at night when Marcello and I arrived at the pueblo. In the total darkness we hadn't seen the donkey tied to the fig tree and we must have given him a terrible fright when we pulled up in front of the only house that had the lights on. The poor animal brayed and brayed and caused the people in the house to come out into the yard.
“Yosht! What took you so long? We've been waiting for hours.” Professor Hubnoth embraced me and gave me wet kisses on both my cheeks, while beating my back with his fist and pressing his rigid, unyielding bosom painfully into my chest. Then he passed me on to Moshe Cohen who gave me the same treatment, sans breasts.
“Well, well, well,” I said. “What a warm welcome.” Erik, I noticed, kept his distance. Shmuel Eregast inquired if we had eaten. “I can fry some eggs,” he offered and without further ado started to rake the fire in the stove. “It's no trouble,” he said.
I turned to Erik and said how good it was to see him again.
“Where the fuck have you been all these weeks, you miserable jellyfish?” I admit his reaction took me by surprise. “You had me on a bloody goose chase, you dreadful piece of shit. Jerk!”
“Easy now, Erik. Let's sit down. You know Marcello?”
“Of course I know Marcello!” Erik was obviously very agitated, to the point of aggression even, and he punched the real estate agent in the chest. The poor young man almost lost his balance. “You wimp, you coward! You ran like a chicken and left me all alone in that terrible, haunted house. You're a total brainless bag of slime.”
Shmuel came in with a stack of fresh plates and positioned himself between to two men.
“It's not that you will wake up the neighbours with this ruckus you're making, as we have no neighbours, but still. Be quiet.” He said this with great dignity. “Food will be ready in a few minutes. Now sit down, have some wine and shut up.”
And so we did. Erik cooled down a bit, he apologized to Marcello and then turned to me.
“So where you have been?”
“I was on the run, remember? I was accused of murdering the Limp in room 1107. I told you about that. I had to disappear.”
“Why didn't you answer my phone calls?”
“The less you know, the better.”
“That's a limp excuse.”
Professor Hubnoth reached for the bottle and poured some more wine.
“Listen up,” he said, “enough of this.” He opened his hand as if counting. “One: Authorities can tap into almost any phone any time any where. That's the result of the new Dutch laws. Privacy is a thing of the past. Yosht was right to be careful.” He put his index finger to his thumb. “Two: Yesterday the prosecutor informed us that the post mortem showed that the Limp died of natural causes, a heart attack. The door Yosht slammed into his face had nothing to do with the Limp's demise. Yosht is in the clear.” Professor Hubnoth, looking a little worse for wear, due to the lateness of the hour and the large amounts of wine he drank, let his unsteady gaze wander around the table.
Shmuel hurried in with plates full of food, fried eggs, a few pieces of tortilla, tomatoes, cucumber, bread and butter. “Eat,” he ordered, “eat, there is enough for everyone.” He hurried happily back to the kitchen, but in the doorway turned around. “It's so good to have guests again”
“Which brings me to point three,” professor Hubnoth continued, still with his hand up in the air, thumb and index finger together and now laboriously adding his middle finger. “Three: Moshe and I have decided to buy the pueblo!”