He sat at his laboratory table and stared blankly at the broken bottles strewn across the shelves and the table and on the floor. All of the smells of his life filled the air around him, mixed together in a single cloud of memories, like a fireworks show that had gone terribly wrong, all of the fireworks shooting off at once. His face burned with the injustice of it all. Who would do such a thing?
After a day of visiting Andrews park, The Gray Owl coffee shop, Furber’s Antiques, and The Foundry, he had come home to find his front door ajar. Someone had forced their way in leaving a splintered frame and a battered door. It was sloppy, not the work of a pro. His first thought was of the safety of Mother. He raced up the stairs to make sure she was ok. To his relief, he found her just as she should be, resting in her bed, oblivious to the crime that had taken place while he was out.
“There there, Mother,” he said, perhaps mostly to comfort himself. He fluffed her pillow and straightened her bed spread.
Once he was satisfied that Mother was okay, he went to his bedroom and found an old wooden baseball bat. He had to be sure that whomever had broken in wasn’t still there. He listened carefully as one by one he checked every room of the house. The only sound he heard was the creak of the floorboards beneath his brown, faux leather boat oxfords. But it wasn’t only the sounds he was searching for. Jim breathed in the odors of every room, checking for something that didn’t belong.
The first unusual smell was in the foyer. In his panic, he hadn’t noticed it before.
Top notes of bergamot, lavender and warm cinnamon. Artfully balanced heart notes of mimosa flower and rich leather. Lower tones combining heady tobacco leaves and dense oak moss. Men’s cologne. Burberry London Eau de Toilette.
He followed his nose through the front living room and into the kitchen where he found the basement door slightly ajar. As soon as he opened the door, he discovered another smell. A smell so complex and so overwhelming that he had to cover his nose with the cloth handkerchief from his pants pocket. When he flipped on the light switch, his fears were confirmed. His bottles, hundreds of them, were smashed into little pieces. And his machine…his machine was crushed with what must have been a blunt object like a crow bar or a sledge hammer. His beautiful machine was destroyed.
He first thoughts were not of his terrible loss. All that he had worked for. His entire life in smells destroyed. No, his first thought was of Marie. What would he tell her? he wondered. She was counting on him. Her job was on the line. With a great sigh, he picked up the broom in the corner behind the air purifier and began to clean up the mess that used to be his lab.