So finally, Part 2 of 4. I find the use of some Dutch-isms by Bouke to be strange because they're rather unexpected--or rather, I should say, it's a good thing I'm not the one doing the Dutch translation.
Nigel couldn't remember what happened after. Maybe they talked about petunias. But at some point in the evening he awoke to the bell ringing, and found that Peter had gone, the tea cups had been put away, and on the end table, the gun sat gloomily atop a pile of fifty-pound notes.
Perhaps I'd made the whole thing up, he thought, as he got up to answer the door. Yes, that's it. I'd fallen asleep while reading a book and merely dreamt the whole thing. But he knew that there was no book, and that the gun was real. Real enough, anyway. He couldn't recall having handled it, but he did remember, somehow, the weight, and the smell of the metal.
It was his neighbor, Glenda Parrish. She was a young mother, pretty enough if you liked waifish women who looked as if they could be blown away with a strong cough. She was a stripper at some upscale club in the heart of the Financial District. She'd been married, but the bloke had died or left her—it didn't matter. The neighbors scowled at her and covered their children's eyes when she passed by. Her twin boys, six years old, were forever running in mud and breaking fences, and she always seemed positively translucent with exhaustion. “Why Glenda, come in,” he said, trying to hide his relief. A simple, mundane problem—a misplaced shoe, perhaps, something to wake him up, dispel the oppressive puzzle of Peter Gatsby.
“I'd love to, but I can't,” Glenda said. He saw, as she stepped closer and under the lamp, that her eyes were red. “My boys are missing.”
Nigel blinked. “But how--”
“You've helped us so many times before,” Glenda said, her voice breaking. “Oh God, just please--”
“Have you called the police?”
She nodded, fighting back yet another wave of sobs. “They're going door-to-door,” she said, “making inquiries. But—I don't know—I just have a feeling—they're not here, you know? I don't feel them around. I just—I'm making this up,” she said, laughing, crying, at the same time. “It sounds so ridiculous.”
Nigel nodded absently. He was listening—well, not really “listening”, exactly. Things didn't speak—they never did. He'd never known the word for it—that cross between listening and feeling and smelling that he used to find inanimate objects. Inanimate objects didn't emit anything, other than the information that passed through them. Once they got used to a particular set of information, anything disturbing the set—being lost, for instance—would trigger what could only be described as confusion. His particular talent was to have figured out how to access that information, how to use it. So he wasn't ashamed to have hissed to the boys, when he caught them destroying his rose bushes, “I know what you do to each other when your mother's asleep!”
They left him alone after that, but otherwise they were proper little hellions, and neighbors with missing cats scrupulously avoided their yard. Nigel found their trail quickly enough, but it wasn't until Glenda started sobbing again that he made up his mind to follow it. He'd be hypocritical if he didn't, after all his tsk-ing at the atrocious manners of today's youth.
“It's not ridiculous,” he said, after a moment. “Let me get my hat and a few things, and let's go look for your boys.”
She looked so relieved that he thought she might faint, but she didn't. He left her leaning against the doorframe while he went into his house and fished out the things he needed: a compass, some granola bars, his wallet, some money, an umbrella. He put these all into his messenger bag, which also contained a first-aid kit, a length of cord, and a Swiss Army knife. As he passed through his living room, he saw the gun. He put it into his bag as well, not quite knowing why, but feeling that it wouldn't be a bad idea. The weight—the knobbed handle—settled easily into his hand. There was something trying to come back to him—a memory he'd lost somewhere—but he brushed it away. He had two lost boys to find.