Mrs. Squinzi is here
"Mrs. Squinzi is here". Irunside was startled out of his reverie by his secretary's announcement. But he smiled at her and said: "Thank you, Clara. Let her in".
Mrs. Squinzi walked into the office and was briefly disappointed by the looks of the famous detective. She had pictured a tall, tough and good-looking individual and what she saw instead was a rather short, thin and completely insignificant guy. One of those people you never recognize when run into him at the store or on your way out of church. He gave her a knowing smile as he motioned her to sit down and she felt instant remorse as if he could possibly read her mind.
A long silence followed. Mrs. Squinzi felt strangely comfortable with it, and ran a mental inventory of Irunside's spartan surroundings. He observed his new client, judged her a God-fearing busybody, married without too much emotional involvement, relatively happy with her husband, not seeking a divorce or proof or infidelity. She must be here because of her son, he concluded. Daughters never seemed to be a problem with these types of women.
"It's about... my son" she said, earning another knowing smile. Devil of a man, she thought, he is reading my mind. "He worries me a lot. He used to be so... present. Mama's boy. Then he left home and moved in with that woman..."
"How old is your son?"
"He turned thirty-three two months ago".
"Ah... Was that the first time he moved in with a woman?"
"Yes, of course. He had girlfriends, and he used to bring them around but they never lasted long. But this one... I wonder what she's done to him. I've been seeing less and less of both and when I do see him he worries me so. He's getting awfully thin and weird and, well I can't help wondering about..."
She burst into tears. Irunside offered an immaculate handkerchief with an old-fashioned embroidery she memorized for later analysis while wiping her tears. "...I can't help wondering about drugs".
"Drugs". He repeated the fateful word but when he did it didn't seem so bad anymore. She felt reassured, as if his mere utterance of it could make it impossible that her only son, her beloved Alberto, Mama's boy, could ever turn into a drug addict. "Drugs... let's see, Mrs. Squinzi. In addition to his being thin you mentioned his weirdness. What does he do that strikes you as weird?"
Ah, that was easy. "He hardly ever comes to lunch on Sundays and is seldom seen in church any more. When he does show up for lunch he's usually late, dressed in jeans (oh, he used to be so elegant)... he wears awful awful tennis shoes and gets mad if I call them 'tennis shoes'..."
"Interesting... have your son's eating habits changed?"
"Yes, they have! He used to eat everything! Now he doesn't really like food any more. He likes nutrients, instead. He talks about carbohydrates and proteins and vitamins and caloric intake and insulin and something strange I don't remember ever hearing before called 'zone', and..."
"Interesting. Has he been travelling much?"
"Yes, he's been travelling a lot. I don't know where he finds the money and I hope he's not a... courier! Let's see: in October he was in Venice, in November he was in New York, in December... I forget where he went in December. In January and February he stayed put and even looked like he was gaining some weight, finally. But by March he was awfully thin again, and I remember he went to Paris and Rome. In April he was in London... his old friends say he no longer returns their calls and everybody's worried about his looking so... emaciated. He also looks restless, irritable, not very happy at all. Mr. Irunside, please tell me what's wrong with my son!"
Irunside sighed and thought out loud: "Venice in October... November in New York... March in Rome and Paris and of course, London in April. That's a logical sequence, ah the mathematical beauty of it all". Then he started pounding the keyboard of his computer, seemingly oblivious of Mrs. Squinzi. Fifteen minutes later he printed out a sheet and handed it to his uncomprehending client. The sheet said:
Venice - 3h47'
New York - 3h44'
Rome - 3h41'
Paris - 4h06'
London - 4h12'
Mrs. Squinzi said "I don't understand". Irunside said: "Believe me, I do". Then he took the computer printout back and scribbled a note on it:
a word of advice from an experienced marathoner. Don't neglect your friends and do take some time to explain to your mom about zone dieting (she looks like she might benefit from it, btw). Just looking at your times, the first thing that comes to mind is that you started out well in Venice (was that your first?) and improved a bit in New York. Then you took a needed rest and improved by three more minutes in Rome. Then you ran Paris way too soon and bonked. Then you bonked again in London. Aren't you doing too much too soon? Think about it. There's life beyond marathoning, don't forget. If you want to go for a run together one day and talk about it, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then he handed the sheet back to Mrs. Squinzi and winked at her. "It's all under control, Madam. Give this to your son and have no fear. He'll be all right". She still didn't understand, but felt completely reassured. She left his office feeling strangely euphoric. It wasn't until she got home that she suddenly remembered Irunside hadn't even mentioned money.
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