"I'm a little lonely here, D. Write back, would you?"
"I really wish you hadn't done this to me, you bastard. I'm broke again. Want to show up now? Now's a good time. I don't like lifting boxes, Count—breaks my back. A letter would be nice. Or a postcard."
"Mexico's good. A little hot, a little dusty, but the women are friendly and the beer's cheap. I'm still missing you. That never changes."
"How's Ten and Pon-chan and everybody? Do they miss me? I miss them, even the scruffy flea-bitten goat-thing. Tell him I said so, alright? Anyway, I got tired of Mexico—I'm in Brazil now. Figured you might turn up at Carnaval or something. Well, you know how to find me. I wish you would."
"Been a while, sorry. I got sick or something—woke up on a freighter going to Germany. Going to head for Berlin right after I work off my cab fare. You like the sea, D? It's beautiful. Out here the water is so deep—reminds me of your one eye, all purple and asking people to fall in. Huh. Weird thing to write, right? Miss you. But you don't miss me much, do you?"
My dear Detective, I wish…that I didn't need to write this. As you will never read it, however, I suppose there is no harm. Perhaps I just wanted to read the words to myself—say them aloud—"My dear Detective". The words have a nice sound to them. Solid and warm. Human.
"D, I'm in Cologne. Nice place, really, really old. Not much call for an ex-cop here, though. Going to learn to drive one of those little tiny trucks they use for hauling stuff around. This guy's teaching me—he's the father of one of the sailors from the ship—good people, you know? I kinda forgot they existed, back in L.A. I've been lucky, I guess, but sometimes I don't feel very lucky. It's been seven months. Do you even remember my name?"
My Dear Detective. Detective Leon Orcot, LAPD. Leon Orcot. Leon. I have a nasty habit I've developed recently. It consists of writing those words over and over again on scraps of paper, recipes, lists for errands I must pursue or the supplies I must purchase for the Pets. The Pets remember you very well, Leon Orcot—and Christopher, too. As do I. As do I.
"Hey, D! I'm off to Paris! City of Lights, and all that shit. You know, I send these postcards whenever I get the chance, right? Give the Post Office people some weird-ass foreign money and they make my message go away, just like that. I never get them back, either, even when I'm still in one place for a while, like I was in Sao Paulo. Does that mean they get to you? How does the Post Office know how to do that? All I ever write is 'Count D' c/o The Pet Shop, and pick a city that you might like and then…it goes. I never get them back 'returned mail' and I never hear from you. You know what, I should mail myself. Maybe I'll get to you faster. This gets really old, really fast."
Leon. Leon. I have a guilty secret—it may be the first I've ever had, hidden even from Grandfather. Does that make me more human, Leon? More like you? Will it ease this inexplicable pain I carry if I'm the same as you or will it make it ache all the more? I do not know. There's so little left that I don't know, Leon, but this—this is something I do not know.
"Damn it, D. Write me back, ok? A little hope would be nice here—I'm fucking lonely. I miss you. I miss you, and I want to kill you for leaving me, and I miss you. I miss all of you. You'd better be missing me just as much, D."
"D? What do you do when you're tired? It's been a year and some. I've kinda lost track, lately. I didn't write for a while—did you even notice? I'm in London. It's cool. People speak my language, at least—or mostly. I think my new nickname is 'Ducks'. Weird, huh? Every time anyone calls me that I think of you. No good reason. It's just that a duck's a bird and birds make me think of you. Most stuff does. I think I hate you now."
Leon, my letters are disappearing. I think Ten-chan is taking them. Perhaps he eats them—or reads them. I find I don't care, to be very honest. It's only your name I've written, over and over, so what does it matter if he reads them or chews them to tiny pieces? It is not as though I'll forget you, though perhaps he is the one who remembers far better than I. I'm losing your scent, Leon Orcot—Detective. I never would have believed that could happen, either. I thought it would be permanently imprinted on my skin, my palms, my fingertips. We've taken each other's hand, Detective, many a time, and yet I can barely remember how that felt. Leon, why is it that there is so much more to fear? I don't believe I would ever wish to be human if this is the consequence.
Leon? Where are you? It's been three months now—Pon-chan is concerned. Grandfather says nothing but I feel that he knows far more than he shares with me. I should enquire, as he is much the wiser of us and can see farther than I, but I am afraid of what I might hear. I've never in my life been afraid of a hard, cold fact, but this one. This one, Leon, is not a fear I wish to confirm. It is ice in my belly, Leon, and no amount of tea will warm me. I'll look for your letter, Leon. I can not feel your absence in this sad world of ours, Leon—not yet— so I'll look for your letter, and hope that my faltering instincts remain intact even amidst the pollution of what was once a glorious Moscow.
"Goddamned Pyrenees. Goddamned Basques. I swear they don't have fucking mail in these fucking foreign mountains, D, and I think I've walked over half of them, hitch-hiking. And the goddamned food was strange—really strange, but good. Thank god for fucking American tourists, that's all I can say. You're damned hard to find, Count D, you know that? How many places have I been now? Fucking lost count. No—I lie. I know exactly. I know exactly how long it's been, too. And maybe it's too long. I don't know. Don't know much of anything anymore, except that I miss you and I'm tired of pet shops that don't have you in them."
Leon. It is Grandfather who reads these. I don't what he does with them after. I fear they never reach you; that they're discarded in a waste bin somewhere in this city. That was what I had intended but now—now it is different. Now I look to the skies of Istanbul to see if they're the same colour as your eyes. I cast my wandering senses at the wind passing over a crowd of your beloved humans to learn if the very breeze might carry your voice. I hold my own hands, Leon, safely in my lap, and imagine skin roughened and calloused instead, wrapped around them. Golden skin, thin as honey. And hair like the sun.
"D, I'm actually on the Orient Express. Totally fancy-schmancy train like you wouldn't believe. Complimentary everything and a bar car with a smoking deck! You know, I didn't even think this thing actually existed, except in an old movie. But I'm on it at last and I'll end up somewhere in China, maybe? Beijing, they told me. Used to be called something else. Shanghai? Don't know and who cares anyway, right? Hopefully, I'll just manage to get there. I've got a visa and a passport but sometimes that doesn't mean much in the places I've been. I got rolled in Madrid—dumbass mistake on my part—never fall asleep in a bar, D—but they didn't get my ID, just my money. Which sucked, big time. Luckily, my aunt and uncle wired me some money from my savings, plus a little extra, so it's all good. I did the truck-hire-for-transport thing, since I've got my international license now, basically just to get my ass to Moscow, which is colder than a witches tit, D. I looked for you there and in Warsaw and Amsterdam and Oslo on the way—I always look for you, and sometimes I find places you've been. They smell like you, D. People think I'm crazy, sniffing around old abandoned shops in wherever the fuck Chinatown I'm in today. Sometimes the Chinese people take pity on me and tell me stuff, so I guess I know I'm on the right track. I think I fell off for a while there. The tracks, that is. It was bad, really bad. You don't want to know, I guess. You'd yell at me and say I wasn't taking care of myself and why wasn't I thinking about Chris and how I was upsetting him? Damn, but I wish you'd do that now—in person. Yeah—I'm crazy. Fucking bonkers. But that's okay, I guess. The worst is behind me, you know. All those months and nothing but shit nothing—no clues, no news, no nothing—and then I get this piece of paper, out of the blue, with my name on it. Just my name, over and over. Really pretty script, very fancy. And the paper smells like the Shop, even after it's been to hell and back, following me all around Europe. Smells like you, D. And then it was like I could see you again, D, clear as day, all prissy and dolled up in one of your dresses and your eyes smiling. Sometimes they do, even when you're mad at me—it's the weirdest thing. But I could see you again, nice and sharp, in my head, and that was the most important thing. Well, that and the paper with my name all over it. Like Christmas and my birthday and all the good stuff rolled up together and stuck right in my hand, out of nowhere. So, I'm on my way, D. It's been a long time coming, but I am. Two years, three months, twelve days and about eleven hours, give or take a few minutes. Twenty some cities, I think, at least the big ones, and lots of miles on my ass, which is still as hard as it ever was. My head? My head's gone soft, D, because I think of you. Messes me up every day and every night, but it's alright. It's worth it. You're worth it. And if the Chinese people are even halfway right and I even halfway understand all the gobbledegook they were saying—yeah, I can actually say stuff in Chinese now, sort of—then I'll get to tell you that from my own mouth, maybe even when I get off this train. First place I'm going, D—Chinatown. Hope I'll find it, 'cause it's all Chinatown in Beijing, right? Well, I really hope so, because I'm lonely, D. I'm so fucking lonely and there isn't any way to stop feeling this way except to find you so you can make it stop. Alright? Good. Well, anyway, tell the guys I miss them—Pon and Ten and Norman and everyone. Say 'hi' to Q-chan, too, from me—he'll just love that, the old fart. And save me some tea, okay? Miss you, D. Always. Love, Leon.
My Dear Detective, I have received your letter. Grandfather presented it to me this morning, over breakfast, and I do not believe that I've ever felt the emotion that currently courses through my veins. I am, I think, what you would describe as 'happy', Leon. Little did I realize such a simply named emotion could be so very strong. It reminds me of spring.
We are presently established in Tokyo, dear Detective, in a new Shop in the Shinjuku District, so you are much closer to me now than ever before, geographically. I had hoped to come to you in Beijing, of course, but it is best to postpone our encounter for just a while longer, as my wisest of grandfathers advises. I've waited such a very long time for you now, Leon; I can be patient for a little longer.
There is a reason, of course; there is a law. Nature's own, and not to be flouted lightly. Grandfather has explained quite concisely that this is how it must be done, Leon. It is a tale in the telling, ours—your story, I would say, far more than mine. A 'journey', Grandfather called it, ending in either great happiness or great sorrow, each and all of your own choice, my Detective. Your life; your decision.
To foolishly endanger the traveler with our own petty wants and wishes is not the way of my family, Leon. It has never been our duty to interfere in what must happen—and to do so now, when it is your very life at stake, Leon—that would most certainly not be my choice. We are but caretakers and observers, and thus must remain ever on the sidelines. I cannot ask that you join me here, nor compel you to come. But you may, if you so choose.
You will not read this message; I may not send it. But, know, Leon, that I desire you always to be safe and well. I desire your happiness, evermore. And that is precisely why I may not come to you, my dear Detective, however sorely I desire it. But, if I might retain the slightest hope of meeting with you again, by your own will and freely, dear Detective, and without a single, lingering regret on your part, I will endure without complaint every second of every day that yet remains between us.
Au revoir, 'D'