On October 20, 2012, as has been thoroughly documented here, here, here, and here in The Weather, Patina, the greatest restaurant in the history of downtown Los Angeles, played the role of unwitting accomplice to a massive overdose of confectionery. The wait staff, well-trained in matters of decorum, were unwilling to speak about the incident. But one witness came forward.
The Lone Witness: Maggie Mull
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Ms. Mull, thank you for coming in.
MAGGIE MULL: Oh, Detective. I always do.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Your innuendo is both nonsensical and ineffective. Please. Do you know why we called you in tonight?
MAGGIE MULL: Do you know why?
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I have two words for you: ROSE AIR. What do you know?
MAGGIE MULL: I don’t know the girl.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Ms. Mull, the rose air!
MAGGIE MULL: I can’t imagine what that might mean. Is that a musical act?
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Peter Nichols. Thomas Dibblee. Adriana Widdoes. Katie Browne. Your thoughts?
MAGGIE MULL: I don’t listen to hip young bands, Detective. Although I do appreciate the seductive majesty of a Eastern dance…
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Ms. Mull, are you drunk right now?
MAGGIE MULL: I’m a little drunk, yes. Feeling warm, as they say. Just as I was on the night of October 20, 2012. That is why you called me in, is it not?
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: … Go on…
MAGGIE MULL: I was alone, with time to kill, in want of drink, and maybe something more. Adventure, I don’t know what you call it. The kindness of strangers. This is the City of Angels, a girl could dream, and I was downtown, going to a show—which show is irrelevant, mind you. It is all a show, Detective. A song and dance for the weary. But, I thought, “You know what? Make a day of it, You. Get weird. Get sassy. You’re a woman.”
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: No I’m not.
MAGGIE MULL: (slams fist on table) To myself, Detective! To myself I said this! I sat alone at Patina, there at the old bar, and I ordered a fifteen dollar milkshake of whiskey and lavender that could wipe the smile off a clown’s face. Do you read me? Fifteen dollars is not a crime, Detective. It’s a cab ride. It’s a laugh. It’s a lunch special at Tony Roma’s.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: (flips through his notes) Who is that?
MAGGIE MULL: It is a place for ribs. But, I’m not here to mince words. I was the one who saw the group, and it was I who made the call, “Detective.” You may want to put that in your diary. See, there were four of them: two pretty young things, dressed with purpose, a dapper looking man, eager to procreate, and then the other one, clearly the “rascal” of the four—MAY I FINISH, please? For goodness sake. I needn’t expand on him. You know of whom I speak. When I passed to use the restroom, I noted his odor. It was fresh, Detective. Too fresh for me, and I’ve known some fresh men in my day. He was a just-bathed young thing. Hell, they all were.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: What is the point, Ms. Mull?
MAGGIE MULL: Oh, Detective. You’ll never get to the pit if you bite right into the plum.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: That is exactly how you—you cannot drink that in here. Please put that away.
MAGGIE MULL: Shhhh. (Glass bottle shatters on floor) All done, see? Look, something was fishy that night, and it wasn’t just the sea bream. I sat at the bar, I had my tonic, and I looked on—you know, I was voted “best eyes” in high school, Detective. What do you think? Do you like my eyes? Do they, shall we say, have a “rose air” about them? That’s all right. You don’t have to answer right away. But they can see just fine: five courses, Detective. Only dessert and cheap champagne, like some perverse Hemingway novel. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried such a thing, but it leaves the mouth withered. Slack and sock-like. No sane person ought to survive such a thing. But they did. They all did.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Ms. Mull, I fail to see the crime here. Why, exactly, did you call us?
MAGGIE MULL: Things aren’t always what they seem…“Detective.”
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I don’t see why you keep putting that in quotes. That is my profession. And please get off the floor.
MAGGIE MULL: (staying put) Do you know the film Misery, Detective? Starring a young Kathy Bates. Skin dewy as rose petals. Mmmm. One could even say she had a… “rose air” about her, could they not? Misery. Rose Air. Loneliness is a cruel Poseidon, Detective. And Patina? She is the crib of the sea. So many lonely nights. They never speak to me, you know. The other patrons. The hostess. Her name is Beverly. She has a son. She doesn’t even ask if I’ll be dining alone, anymore. She doesn’t ask my name. Its just “table of one.” Maybe I was looking for a friend. Maybe… maybe I would have liked to join them, the foursome, the fab four. Young and pretty. Maybe I felt left out of the mystery. So I made the call—I wanted to be heard. I wanted to know why. It seems you and I are not that different, after all. Do you not spend your nights in longing?
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I work, Ms. Mull. I work.
MAGGIE MULL: Yes. Solving crimes. Then you know the desire to be a part of things, and the cruelty of rejection.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: You’re clearly very drunk, Ms. Mull, and this has not been terribly helpful. You’re telling me that nothing happened, that no crime was effectively committed beyond four well-smelling young people eating sweets in Los Angeles’s finest possible setting? And this, this, to you, warranted a full-fledged investigation, and many, many hours of my time, not to mention, the hard-earned wages of our taxpayers?
MAGGIE MULL: Oh, call me a crook all you like, but I’m just a country girl, who’s lost her way, with no one else to call.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: Ms. Mull, where exactly are you from?
MAGGIE MULL: A bottomless bucket of a town in Alabama. You wouldn’t know it.
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: I certainly would. I grew up in Opelika.
MAGGIE MULL: Mmm. I used to love the Ferris wheel in Opelika…
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: The Whirlybird… I rode her every summer…
MAGGIE MULL: Yes, that’s right. The Whirlybird. I miss those minutes spent at her apex, staring off into the sunset…
DETECTIVE BENJAMIN: (pauses) Yes. The “rose air,” you could say.
MAGGIE MULL: Oh, Detective. I always do…
Maggie Mull is a writer and artist, born, raised and living in Los Angeles. She is the creator of Doppelthingers, an online collection of things that look like other things.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.