Chapter 3

“Dad…dee!!! Come on! We’re hungry!!”

His daughter’s voice pulled Ed Willoughby away from wherever the ‘Attention Hermes’ email was trying to take him. He was pretty sure that he didn’t want to know who this Tom Fearing guy was or what it was that he was after. Nevertheless, he saved the email in an unlabeled folder and turned off the computer. If you asked Ed at that moment, ‘hey! One question: ‘Why’d you save the email? And since we’re asking, an unlabeled folder, really?’ He would have looked at you with a total lack of comprehension and, more likely than not, turn your question into an accusation. Leaving the computer and its annoying email behind, walking towards the dining room, Ed thought about how much he looked forward to Family Dinner Night. Even though the kitchen had a table big enough for the family, dinner was always in the formal dining room. Through most of their house hunting, which only began in earnest when Diane announced that she was pregnant with their second child, she seemed satisfied to leave most of the choices to her husband. She did want a house that was an easy commute to her office in downtown Chicago, and he wanted it to be in St Emily’s parish so that the kids could attend the parochial school. Mt Prospect became the primary target community. That changed while looking at house number 16; Diane pushed through the swinging butler’s door between the kitchen and the dining room.

“I know what a proper home’s dining room needs to look like; this house has it.”

With that, the decision was made. Ed knew that the decision to purchase this particular house was because the dining room was as large as most modern living rooms. They were both happy that day for different but similar reasons.

While Diane’s work schedule prevented her from getting home before 8:00 pm most weeknights, Ed and the children maintained the more traditional dinner hour of 6:00 pm. Being the Executive Chef at Omni Corp afforded many perks, the most valued of them was his work schedule. Ed was at home more daytime hours, during the workweek than Diane. At the occasional summer get-togethers, Ed would explain, “Yeah, I leave for work at 5:00 in the morning. My clientele is all about the breakfast and lunch so after a few hours of paperwork in the afternoon; I can usually be home when the kids get home from school.” Ed would watch the person (or people) he was explaining his work schedule to and though he would deny it, he always noticed that they invariably glanced at Diane. He would object strenuously were one to suggest that he had a look of satisfaction on his face at precisely that moment. He worked very hard to provide for his family and was proud of the results.

Diane stood in the doorway to the dining room, “I’m sorry sir, do you have a reservation?” With a dishtowel over her left arm, she smiled with a relaxed expression, something that had become increasingly rare, as her career demanded more and more of her.

‘My god she’s beautiful,’ Ed thought. Dressed in what he would jokingly refer to as her Designer Housewife clothes, Diane wore jeans and an Oxford shirt. (The shirt was Ralph Lauren, and the jeans were by True Religion.) No matter what she wore, she never failed to make him feel somehow undeserving and, at the same time, very lucky. Her figure still turned heads, on the rare occasion they managed a night out. Dark hair and figure notwithstanding, Diane had the kind of eyes that made well-adjusted and non-suicidal men willing to throw themselves into the abyss of unqualified devotion. Although not overly religious, despite being raised in a very Catholic family, Ed would, after the next-to-the-last-drink on his increasingly infrequent boy’s night out, invariably tell someone, (friend, waitress, passing total strangers, didn’t matter), that although he didn’t believe in Fate, if he had to, he would gladly sell his soul for this woman.

Ed heard Alice start to giggle. She sat in her place at the dining table, her pale red hair tied back in a nine year old’s attempt to imitate her mother’s hairstyle. Alice insisted on sitting nearest the door to the kitchen, “That’s so I can be ready if Mommy needs help!” she would confide, with the unalloyed hope common to children under the age of ten.

“Well, I was told that this was the place to get a decent meal, but no one said anything about reservations!”

“See if he has any money…” Simon, currently trapped in the throes of early adolescence, managed to get into the spirit of the family banter, with a perfect out-of-the-corner-of-his-mouth voice, “at least make him show some ID, credit card or something!”

Diane, moving to behind Simon’s chair, smiled and took the earphones off her son’s head, as gently as she would bath him in the first months of his life.

Capturing her husband’s attention by the simple expedient of raising her eyebrows, “Well, I’d love to make an exception, but you heard the maître ‘d. Do you have some sort of ID? After all, we can’t let just anyone eat here.”

“Well, let’s see,” Ed reached into his pockets: car keys, wallet, breath mints and examined each and every item as if he were seeing them for the first time. Alice was the first to start laughing, Diane maintained character, but he was sure he could see a familiar, ‘Show me how far you’re willing to take this’ look. Even Simon, with his ‘why do I have to put up with this family’ early-teen seriousness, was starting to laugh.

Ed finished emptying his pockets, pulling them inside out. Picking up a dinner plate, he got down on his knees and moved around the table towards Alice, begging, with a passable Cockney accent, “Please Ma’am could I ‘ave some food, I’m bloody well so right ‘unary.” Everyone laughed.

“OK kids, let your father get some food, I think we’ve made him wait long enough.” Diane looked at the two children and her (currently childlike) husband at their dinner table and felt a little like company. Not a total stranger, but it was as if she was the only adult in the room. Unbidden, memories of the well-intended yet harsh discipline of her mother and the affectionate neglect of her father, an instant (and instantaneous) replay of the family life that had given birth to her mantra, ‘Someone has to be responsible, we can’t all just act like children.’ Thomas Sloan, a very successful attorney, spent more time with clients that he did with his family. The efforts of her mother would be funny if they happened to someone else. Now, she was the attorney who submitted willingly, if the truth be known, to demands of her career and her husband Ed was the one to nurture the family, to create the home. Married during their final year of grad school, Ed had already secured a position with Archer Daniels Midland that was certain to lead to a very rewarding practice as a CPA. Yet, soon after Simon was born, he announced that he had accepted a more family friendly position as the Executive Chef at Omni Corporation’s Headquarters. If you asked her why her husband gave up the accounting, she would say, ‘Why, to have more time for the family,’ an answer obviously intended to fulfill the social demands of polite but casual company, i.e. new clients, distant relatives and non-former-friends at high school and college reunions. However, if you listened closely, you would make a note to find out more, as clearly there was something more to this answer.

“So Alice, how was your day in Wonderland?”

His daughter responded with a look of patient disapproval, which, given she was a nine-year-old girl, involved a certain amount of eye rolling and brow furrowing,

“…but the school computer is off, and there’s a sign saying that none of our tablets will be working while they fix some sort of problem,” Alice said between incredibly precise and careful bites of food.

Simon had his earphones back on, eating his food with the intensity more commonly observed in the newly incarcerated inmates, sitting amidst career prisoners for the first time.

“SIMON!! Dad-base to Simon!! Come in Simon,” Ed was holding the spoon from a serving dish to his mouth, a teardrop of mashed potatoes fell on his shirt cuff.

“…and the principle, Sister Phyllis? She said there’s a bug in the computer but Tommy, he said that instead of the picture of the school and the words ‘St Emily’s School,’ there was something written on the screen and they were bad words and that’s why they took it out of the library and put in the Principal’s office. There were real bad words on it.” She said this last with an air of a person explaining a complex situation to a simple person, a person who could not be relied upon to see that being put in the Principal’s office established that the words were very bad indeed.

“It said ‘Fuck you’…” Simon said clearly, though he continued staring at his plate.

“Simon!!” two adult voices in unison.

“But it did! That’s what Phil said it said and that’s not a bad word anymore, everyone says f….”

“Enough!!” this time it was Diane, in a tone that caused many a judge to look up from the pool of light into which they always seemed to stare. It was the tone of voice, Diane would employ in the courtroom when she felt the need to draw blood.

The dining room in the house at 115 West Lonnquist Boulevard became as silent as a confessional the Friday before First Communion.

“…well, they do.”

“Daddy? You know everything about computers, why would they take the computer and put it in Sister Phyllis’ office? When our computer stops, you just do something to it right here, and it works,” Alice brought the people in the room back, away from where they were heading.

“I don’t know sweetheart, maybe they decided that it was old and needed replacing,” Ed recalled that the school computer was less than two years old. He remembered because when the school announced its acquisition, a computer for the library, he’d remarked at the dinner table that ‘St Emily’s was getting radicalized, jumping into the digital age after only 20 years of trial to see if it was dangerous to young, impressionable children.’

“Well, Tommy said he saw it working when it was in the principal’s office, and there was a message on the monitor that was really weird…”

“Simon, we’re at dinner…” Diane interrupted her son.

“Sure, I know… but the message was really strange, something about Greek mythology.” Simon, a voracious reader like his mother, had just discovered Bulfinch and was captivated by the world of gods and goddesses, heroes and giants.

“What Greek mythology?” Ed’s tone was sharp enough to cause Diane to look up from her son-adoration.

“That’s what didn’t make sense, what Tommy said, it was about a ‘Hermes Collective’ and I’ve read about Hermes in my books, but there’s nothing about a collective or anything, in any myth I’ve read!”

“Ed? Are you alright?”

***

“No fricken response?! What, do I have to drive to this guy’s house and ask him personally?” Tom Fearing sat at his desk. His wife, Cheri, left for her gallery an hour before. He asked, not in any way pushy or anything if she had to go in every single day. She replied that while it was satisfying to have a successful opening, the gallery wasn’t going to run itself. As she drove off, Tom stood in the living room at the picture window and wondered if he was going to be able to live up to her expectations. He then wondered how often he was capable of asking himself that question, without the preceding failures crushing the new optimism that he was trying to nurture with his new blog project. He resolved to find more about the early history of the blogosphere. He was still unable to understand how there could be so much success for the early blog writers and so little actual information on how they managed to achieve so much fame in so little time. ‘I just need to figure out who, besides this Ed Willoughby guy, were in the original group of bloggers and maybe they’ll be some help.’

***

“Any unattended packages will be removed. Please do not leave any luggage or packages un-intended. American Airlines Flight 666 for Chicago, Phoenix and Omaha Nebraska now boarding at Gate 6. Would all passengers please proceed to Gate 6” Hearing the announcement made me smile, as I immediately heard, ‘…and the White Zone is for loading and unloading only; there is no loading in…’. How do these real announcers get the voices so exactly the same, the movie is over 30 years old. Still smiling to myself, I got up, looking out of the corner of my eye at the two boys playing hide ‘n seek among the bolted-down furniture. They were clearly working up their nerve to stare. Good to know that the habit still attracts attention. Their mother, praying to her iPad, seemed oblivious. Periodically, over the last 30 minutes, she would look up and say, “Get over here you two, this is not a playground!” She must have a Good Parent app on her phone. The novelty of wearing the habit hasn’t yet worn off. This is the first time away from the Convent, at least the first time on my own. My roommate, Sister Claire is in charge of buying the groceries for the Convent. Since I was one of the few women with a driver’s license, I was assigned as the driver. I used to tease Sister Claire that the teenage boys pushing the carts back to the store were checking her out. She would actually blush. That’s one of the things that I liked about her. Now, sitting in the Philadelphia Airport, I see them staring, hastening to look away when I catch their eye. I bet I can tell the ones who are Catholic! They show the greater guilt when caught.

“Excuse me, Sister? But my friend and I wanted to ask you, what’s it like? Do you miss, like the clothes and going out and boys??”

Reiko!! You’re rude!! Sorry sister, my friend is from Japan, and they don’t see nuns like you very often, especially young nuns.”

The two girls looked 15, maybe 16. I was caught by the plaid skirts, so much like my grade school uniform … of course the shiny silver hair is not like my hair, back when I wore it long. It was (and still is) what my father would call, ‘the good kind of red, a golden copper that makes an attractive girl beautiful.

***

“Sorry, Detective, toxicology came back negative for anything other than vodka and Tylenol and both were within normal range for a 33-year-old woman.” Maribeth Hartley hung up the phone and stared at the computer on her desk. ‘This is so not the way to show the Chief of Detectives that he wasn’t caving into demands for more female Detectives.’ Maribeth got up and stalked out of the empty squad room, fighting the anger that was her normal response to being frustrated. All she needed was to find out how a young, non-intoxicated woman could fall to her death from the fourth level of an eight-story atrium. At the last desk before the exit door, someone had left their wastepaper basket out to the side, just enough to catch Maribeth’s foot as she passed. Bending her left knee slightly, she spun to the right and kicked it with enough force to bounce off the top edge of the third desk down the row. Leaving the door to the squad room open behind her, Maribeth smiled and decided that another visit to the hotel/resort was in order. Something about the case made her uneasy.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 3

  1. As more and more of the story and characters are revealed, I have more and more questions about both. You have definitely hooked me in (in a good way).

    Like

  2. Nice. Liking the flow of the chapters so far and getting word candy like this now and again – “Diane had the kind of eyes that made well-adjusted and non-suicidal men willing to throw themselves into the abyss of unqualified devotion.”

    Like

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