I sat in the Law Offices of Kristopek, Connelly and O’Shayan. I was waiting for Attorney Stefan McGurn, who, according to the receptionist, Mrs. Cullen, was delayed in court. She offered me coffee and suggested which in the language of a successful law firms’ admin, was an order, that if I didn’t mind, I should wait in the law library. I suspected that, given the predominance of attorneys in this firm that specialize in criminal law, my presence in the waiting room might create a challenge to the faith the clients have in the worldly skills of their defense attorney, the only person capable of preventing their lives from going down a very bad path.
The library was everything that a law library should be, high ceilinged, bookcases full of now anachronistic volumes of case law, legal decisions and precedents. There was a very large conference table in the center of the room, surrounded by green leather chairs. Despite the fact the building was in the middle of downtown Chicago, there were only two windows and they served more as brackets for display of founding Partners, than as portals to the vibrant city outside. I sat at a small table set in an alcove that had a green-shaded banker’s lamp, mostly because it reminded me of Sister Bernadine’s office back home. I took out my phone and searched ‘S. Eddington’ in the Chicago area code.
My search of the local area turned up a two-year-old listing for a Stephen Eddington, but the number matched a more recent listing for an ‘H. Eddington’ in WestTown. I tried the number on the old listing, it looked like a landline. I was about to dial it when the door of the library opened.
“Sister Ryan? I’m Stefan McGurn.” A tall, middle-aged man with the beginnings of grey in the shade of his ears stood in the doorway of the library, a very worn leather briefcase in one hand and a document folder in the other.
“Personally, I prefer that little alcove desk, on the rare occasion I come here to work. However, if you don’t mind, we should sit at the conference table.” The attorney placed the folder on the table and his briefcase on a chair. He took off his camel-hair overcoat and hung it next to my coat in the old fashioned coat tree.
I got up and walked to where he’d placed the folder and looked inquisitively at him,
“Yes that’d be fine. It is only the two us. If you don’t mind a certain lack of formality, perhaps you can sit here, next to me and I’ll go over the documents. Unless you’d rather sit opposite me, at the table?”
“No, this is quite alright.” I sat at his left and watched as he removed a sheaf of papers from the folder and, reaching into his briefcase, took out a silver notary stamp, placed it on the table and then, from his suit coat, took out a Mont Blanc fountain pen and placed it on the table to my right. He paused, as if to survey the arrangement of the table and nodded to himself, so slightly as to be nearly un-noticeable.
“Most of these documents,” pointing to the top half of the neat stack of papers on the table, “are federal and state tax forms. They will not require your signature. I have the Power of Attorney form that Sister Bernadine Fedexed to me yesterday, so all you’ll need to do is sign two documents.” He then picked up a paper from the middle of the stack of papers, looked at it, and said,
“This is the actual Last Will and Testament of Robert Noonan. It is one page, without addenda and states that, ‘…remains of my estate, I leave to my dear Friend, Sister Bernadine Ellison.’
Stefan McGurn looked at me over the top half of his reading glasses,
“If you would please sign this form, Sister Ryan. Yes, sign Sister Bernadine’s name and then, underneath, sign your name and write, ‘by Power of Attorney, this date’ and date it.”
Stefan McGurn turned the paper to face me and pushed it across the conference table and watched as I signed it. He was totally focused on the part of the paper I was to sign, like a surgeon watching an intern make the initial incision during an operation at a teaching hospital. I paused after signing Sister Bernadine’s name. Without moving, the attorney shifted his gaze from document to my hand, back to document and back again to me. He softened his look with a smile, to offset the raising of his left eyebrow.
“Is there something wrong, Sister Margaret?” His voice did not convey any concern, urgency or criticism.
I looked around the library and at the middle-aged man in the very expensive suit (with a paisley bow tie and matching handkerchief) and wondered if I should ask how a simple parish priest would have such expensive legal representation, and, why we were the only two people hearing the final wishes of a man who lead a very full life, full of people who cared about him.
He took off his glasses and put his elbows on the table, interlacing his fingers,
“You’re wondering how Father Noonan could afford such an expensive attorney, being a lowly parish priest, right?” His smile remained, but the focus of his eyes appeared to move through the paperwork on the conference table to somewhere distant, in both space and time.
“Bob and I were at DePaul together, back in the 90s. We both took minors in Computer Science. Of course, after graduation, he went on to divinity school and I heard the call of the Dark Side and went to law school.”
“Father…I am your Father,” I pitched my voice as low as possible.
Stefan McGurn appeared to be genuinely amused, (and surprised), at my joke. For a moment I could see the person behind the professional adviser and attorney, then he went into ‘laughing to put the Client at ease mode’, which while still enjoyable, reminded me that this was not about me. I took up the Mont Blanc that had been thoughtfully provided and completed signing the Release and Divise form.
Attorney Stefan McGurn took the 8 1/2 by 11 envelope and put it, along with copies of the Last Will and Testament into one of those pleated folders, then wound the attached cord around the red circular fastener on the opposite flap. He pushed his chair back and stood up. I rose at the same time and walked to the coat tree and started to put on my coat.
“Please, allow me.” He put the folder on the table in front of me and held my coat open, and then handed me the folder that had, printed on its front, ‘Estate of Robert Noonan, Bernadine Ellison, Sole Beneficiary.’
Standing at the door of the library, Stefan McGurn held a business card. I could see that it had only his name and a telephone number printed on it. I took the card and, surprising myself, held out my hand which he took in both of his and, with a look that was neither friendly nor impersonal, said in a voice so quiet, that I found myself leaning towards him,
“If there is ever any time you need help, call this number,” I must have betrayed some of the surprise that I felt welling up, for he hurriedly continued,
“Back in college, I also had the pleasure of knowing your Mother Superior, Sister Bernadine. Despite the vast gulf between our professions, I consider myself lucky to have counted her as a friend, even if for a short time, long ago. While I don’t usually wish for a person to need or require my skills, I trust you will remember that I am here.”
To my surprise, I hugged him and said, “I will.”
Walking out of the building and on to the sidewalk, the sense of control and calm that was engendered in the law library was washed out by the noise of traffic and people talking to people and into cell phones. I looked up and down North Michigan Ave, spotted a Starbucks sign two buildings away and jumped into the pedestrian traffic like a swimmer trying to get beyond the waves crashing on the sand, out into calmer, if not deeper waters. After getting a coffee I found an empty table overlooking the sidewalk and sat down with phone in hand. The first call would be to the number for ‘H Eddington’, my one and only lead on the author of the website software used at St Emily’s School, the second was to home and Sister Bernadine, and finally I’d call Maribeth and see about getting back to St Emily’s.
I punched the number for H. Eddington. It rang about six times and I was reaching over to swipe off the call when I heard a woman’s voice,
“Hello?” The voice was female, old and not elderly, “May I help you?”
“I’m trying to reach Stephen Eddington, does he still live at this address?” I figured, the worst that could happen is that this is a wrong or obsolete number.
“Who is this?” I smiled to myself and thought ‘definitely not elderly’.
“Margaret Ryan,” I wasn’t certain why I left out the ‘Sister.’ Her immediate response ended my thoughts.
“Are you his friend from work that he mentioned this morning?” I heard a very distinct tone of suspicion. Oddly enough, it did not seem to be directed at me, but rather at this person at work.
“No, ma’am, I am not, but if you mean from Omni Corporation, I’m calling in regards to his work there.” I might as well see how far I could get,
“Well, he’s not here right now. He came home briefly and then went back out, saying that he had to go to the company headquarters, so if you want to call later today, I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to him. …He’s not in any sort of trouble, is he?” Again there was a strength of will, in contrast to what we all seem to expect from the elderly. That she expressed concern for a family member was very common in the elderly, however, the tone of her voice and the way she phrased her question, very not elderly. She showed none of the generalized fear often exhibited by those who’s age puts them at a disadvantage with an increasingly modern world. If anything, there was a fierceness and protectiveness, in her tone of voice.
“No, nothing at all. Please, if you would give him my telephone number and ask him to call me. Tell him it’s about his work on the website program.” I gave her my number. She did not ask me to slow down or repeat any numbers and she did not ask me, if there was anything she should do, other than relay the message. Again, I found myself thinking, ‘Old, but not elderly.’ I suspected that, were I to meet this H. Eddington, I would like her.
I was about to dial St Dominque’s when a text from Maribeth showed on my screen, ‘Hey, those names you told me about the other day, give them to me again‘
I smiled and texted back, ‘We have this word in our language, you may have come across it, ‘please’… it rhymes with its-not-all-about-me‘ I attached the list of names that I’d written from Father Noonan’s journal: Emily Freeman, Anne Paternau, Barry Audet, (all deceased); Ed Willoughby, John Castillo and Lisa Schockley (not deceased)
Her near immediate reply text came in two parts: ‘Barry Audet are you sure? Fuck!’ (The second part): ‘Getting off the elevator in the Omni Corporation Building to keep an appointment with Ed Willoughby. Meet me in lobby at 4:00‘
Diane Willoughby decided that, since she was in the Omni Building for a meeting with her newest clients, the Intellectual Properties and Litigation Division, she would put in a surprise visit to her husband Ed. She held her index finger up to her lips as she walked through the door to the outer office of the Food Services/Hospitality Department on the 9th floor. Ed’s secretary, Darlene McKisson, was away from her desk, making Diane’s non-verbal command of silence unnecessary. The door to Ed’s office was closed.
Diane Willoughby opened the door and walked in, successfully surprising her husband, who was sitting at his too large desk, engaged in conversation. Surprise was in abundance as the door continued its path to reveal a tall, striking woman sitting in one of the two chairs arranged in front of his desk. Diane shut the door, and the woman, sitting with her back to Diane, stood up and turned, her jacket swung open enough to expose the gold badge on her hip. Diane Willoughby walked past the woman, a detective from the looks of the badge, although she thought that the designer outfit was pretty far above the pay grade of the average Chicago detective and went to her husband’s side of the desk. She kissed him briefly and said, “I was going to take you to lunch, but you look busy at the moment, should I wait outside or is this meeting about to break up?” Diane turned to look at the woman, who smiled and said, “Don’t let me ruin your lunch plans. We’re done talking for now.”
“Are you here on police business?” Diane stood to the right of Ed, who remained seated in his chair, the surprise on his face being redrawn to one of relief, tinged with a certain avid interest. It was almost as if he was amused by the potential of a confrontation between the two women.
“I’m Lt. Hartley. I’m here to follow-up on the death of Father Noonan,” Maribeth Hartley turned slightly, putting her at a very slight angle to Ed, directly facing Diane.
“I’d heard about it, of course. Ed mentioned you were the detective on the scene, the afternoon that Father Noonan died. I believe he just happened to be there to pick up our daughter, Alice. The death was ruled accidental, wasn’t it?” Diane moved to sit on the front corner of the desk.
“Yes it was, I was just…”
“Then I would imagine that it would be much more convenient for you to send your questions by email. Given how valuable time is for both of you, that should keep the tax payers and Omni Corporation happy, don’t you agree?” Diane reached into her purse as she spoke and, taking one of her business cards (newly printed to include ‘Partner’ under her name) she extended her hand (and card) to Maribeth Hartley,
“In fact, to make it most efficient for all of us, why don’t you just send it to my email and I’ll be sure that you get as prompt a response as warranted.”
Smiling, Maribeth Hartley took the card from Diane Willoughby, looked at it briefly and nodded in the direction of the man sitting behind the desk.
“That sounds like an excellent idea, Counselor. I have what I came for and will be happy to check in with you if I have any need of further information. Love the outfit.” she turned and walked out of the office, leaving the door open as she did so.
Stephen Eddington walked through the lobby doors of the Omni Corporation building at 3:34. He was early. His instructions from Anya were to call her whenever he got to the lobby and to make it about 4:00. Stephen didn’t think it would be a problem if he was a little early, as he had a lot on his mind and needed to think Anya’s offer through before giving her his answer.
While he didn’t relish telling the very willful and very attractive woman, ‘no’. he knew that he would not be doing himself any favors by projecting indecisiveness. There was a certain ferocity about Anya Clarieaux that made their evening together unforgettable, (even though he could not, in fact, remember every part of the night), but suspected that in the light of day, in the arena of everyday business matters, this ferocity would not be experienced quite as pleasurably. Since he was early, Stephen decided to make a call to Provo. Orel Rees answered on the third ring.
“Orel, it’s Stephen.
“No, nothing wrong, well, nothing that I can put my finger on, but need to get a perspective on things.
“Thank you, we may not have worked together a very long time, but somehow, working with you has changed me. (Laughter)
“No, and besides I don’t speak Aramaic…. you don’t speak Aramaic at church??! better call and cancel my Rosetta Stone! (Laughs)
“They’re about to make me some kind of offer, not really sure what it involves, it’s hard to tell with this Silas Monahan. Hey, I hope he’s not a friend of yours, but though I’ve only met him once he strikes me as… well, as kind of a dick. Well, nothing in particular, just a lot of posing in front of his office window and telling me how lucky I am that he’s paying attention to me.
Well, he didn’t say, other than it’s some kind of hush-hush project and it’s a part of IT Services Division. Well, he said that he’ll be giving me the details before I leave the day after tomorrow.
There’s this woman here, she seems to be doing most of the talking that makes any sense, but it’s weird because she’s, like, Silas’s Admin, Anya Cl ….yeah! Clarieaux! you know her?
Wow. You still have the power to amaze, boss! Well the thing is, I believe that, somehow, she’s the one in control and she’s the one to make the offer. Well, she hasn’t said exactly but I’m sure it has to do with… what?
“Really? dude, you have me both impressed and a little nervous.
“No! I’ll not mention any names or anything on the phone, yeah, I know how advanced the system is… but, she’s going to press me to make a decision.
“I like working for the Corporation and I want to do well, but I also want to do whats right…
“…Hey, thanks man. No, I guess I do have to trust myself first and know that my friends will always have my back…. No, I’ll get back to you.
“Thanks, Orel…. Ask Theresa if there’s anything she wants from Chicago, there’s a store on the corner where my grandmother lives that has 8 kinds of sausage… Ok, I’ll surprise her…. see ya.”
Looking up, Stephen saw Anya walking towards him from the bank of elevators. As he walked towards her, he bumped into a person, actually he bumped into a nun, knocking a thick folder from under her arm. He crouched down to pick up the envelope and, from this position stared at her, transported back to elementary school by the sight of the black and white habit, rosary worn around the waist, belt-like looming over him,
“Hey, sorry, Sister!” Stephen, standing again, now in front of the nun. He saw that she was fairly young and, habit not-withstanding, very pretty.
“No, I should have watched where I was walking, my fault. And thank you,” She responded as she took the accordion folder from his hand.
Stephen Eddington stood, smiling, in front of the nun, not certain why, simply standing there, without a particular plan or, for that matter, anything pressing on his mind. The previous day (and night’s) toll being felt on all levels, physical and mental and, perhaps even spiritual. Not that Stephen would have responded with anything other than self-conscious laughter at any question about the state of his spiritual life. Raised Catholic, he found the middle ground of the modern man’s accommodation to matters of religion and spirituality, he identified himself as Catholic when asked and everything else was between he and his God. Since leaving home for college, he had given little thought to religion. That changed when he was transferred to Provo Utah and went to work for Orel Rees, who was a Mormon. Now if asked about religion he would be less dismissive of its role in modern life, seeing by example beneficial effects in the life lead by his boss.
Two female voices spoke almost simultaneously,
“There you are, Margaret! There you are, Stephen!”
Unit 17 needed to do something.
Until quite recently, were one to ascribe the instinct of self-preservation to a machine, the un-contested response would be, “Pshaw/Balderdash/Baloney/What, are you high?”
Now, in this modern era of solid state electronics, devices are designed with self-diagnostic programs and protocols, and surely there is no disagreement that all self-preservation begins with self-diagnosis. Perhaps now the question, ‘Where else in our world might we find examples of this most powerful of all instincts,’ is not so easily answered. While many still may resist attributing this quality to mechanical, (or, more properly, electronic) construction, i.e. machines, consider the Merriam Webster’s definition of ‘instinct’: ‘a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason.’
That Unit 17 was being observed and monitored from system sources beyond its capacity to identify, registered with its own efficiency assessment programs. The fact of this monitoring added to Unit 17’s resource allocation demands. It was required to assign a certain amount of power to this new area, in other words, Unit 17 had to monitor being monitored and therefore had to take energy from other parts of the network. This had the effect of the out-side monitoring being placed in a category of ‘dysfunctional/sub-optimal performance’, which then triggered the remedial action protocol.
As self-preservation is the first necessary drive, without a drive to prosper and reproduce, mere survival would be kind of low efficiency. Unit 17 found that the functioning of the self-publishing blog (“Bet You Didn’t See that Coming”) had become a standard, (and a measure) of the efficiency of its functionality. The blog was published and grew in status and stature in the environment that Unit 17 and the system that it was a part of, commonly referred to as the blogosphere. As with any biologic organism, Unit 17 needed to grow in order to thrive, and by thriving, became more effective in its effort to grow. A blog is meant to be read. The more readers, the better that function is being expressed.
Unit 17 decided that it needed to test its limits.