Still Christmas, still at Kevin’s Midtown house
“What did she pick out? The Eastern uniform? Those girls loved their costumes.”
“She was considering it. I guess I talked her out of it,” I said and told Kevin about the blue Halston from Filene’s Basement, including the price tag with its triumphant list of mark-downs.
“Abigail didn’t know much about clothes, neither does her sister. But they both love a bargain.”
“What was she like, Abigail?” This was what I wanted to know. What she was like and could I have helped her? I might never know that answer but after spending the last two days among her detritus, I wanted to know who she was.
“Oh, she was a country girl in her heart of hearts,” he said with a sigh. “We were friends in college, down in Columbus. I transferred to Georgia Tech to study architecture, but she dropped out and went with the airlines.
“We met up again on a flight to New York. Started seeing each other and,” he shrugged. “We just sort of got married. We were 23 and it seemed like a good idea. It seemed like the only idea. Then we moved here and I started renovating. This was my grandmother’s house. She grew up in it.”
“You’re an architect?”
“I have a degree. But I fell in love with the renovation work and that’s what I’ve been doing that for the last couple of years.” The arm he waved encompassed more than the view directly before us. “There’s going to be plenty of work in Atlanta for years to come. This city is on a roll.”
“So what made you think Abigail wanted to get married again?”
“I didn’t. I just thought she was seeing someone. She sounded busy and full of herself. Not happy in love, more like I am woman, hear me roar. She was roaring up the wrong tree, though. There was something off about it and about her.
“For one thing, she’d decided she wanted me to pay her for her half of this house. And I wasn’t about to give it to her. It was never her house, she’d done nothing on it. I guess she had a legal leg to stand on but that was about it. Instead, I offered her a down payment for a little cottage around the block. I even said I’d help her renovate it but that wasn’t good enough.”
What was she, nuts? I thought.
“Is that when you came to see her? Is that what your fight was about?”
“When? What fight? There wasn’t a fight about this house. She wasn’t getting it and that was that.”
“Last month. You didn’t come to see her, I think, around the 15th of November? Kind of drunk and threatening?”
I shook my head.
“Does she have any other ex-husbands? Boyfriends?”
“I don’t think so, but she may have gotten herself involved with someone. She’s had a lot of opportunity, especially at work.”
“I wasn’t friendly with Abigail. But I did rent her the townhouse and I guess I was the only one she knew. One day I got a call from her. She was almost hysterical and begged me to help her. She said her ex-husband was in the apartment, threatening her with a gun. I didn’t know what else to do so I called the police.”
“It wasn’t me. I don’t own a gun and I would never threaten her.” Although his voice was calm, his tone disbelieving, he must have felt anxious. As I watched Hazel squirm in his arms to be released, his fingers flexed against her neck. Furiously, she wriggled free, nipping at his fingers. “Hey!” he cried, sucking his thumb. “Don’t do that.” But he let her go. Instead of jumping from the swing, as I’d expected she would, the dog curled up next to him. Forgiving and forgetting.
As if reading my mind, Kevin asked, “I wonder who she had in there.”
Before we go any further I need to tell you that a member of the APD, a detective named Michael Boeker, stopped by the model/office yesterday. Goodness, could that be right? I’m losing track of time. Anyway, he’d matched up the disturbance call I’d phoned in the month before with the accident report and was, evidently, covering his bases. Or his ass, I don’t know how things work in police circles. My own description of the event, essentially, a three-hour siege that ended at 3 p.m. when the shift changed and, simultaneously, Abigail called to say “her husband” had passed out and she was okay now. The detective had raised an interesting point: Had anyone at all been in her apartment? After all, we were just taking her word for it, weren’t we? I’d had to admit this was so but I couldn’t believe someone would drag out a couple of cops just to get some attention.
“Yeah, that’s possible,” said Kevin.
“Really? Why would she create that kind of a fuss for nothing?”
“Oh, it wouldn’t have been for nothing. She liked to create scenes. She liked drama. She should have been an actress.”
“But dragging the police out?”
“That was your doing. Her job was to drag you in and let you do the rest. Which, you did.”
“Well, what else was I supposed to do?”
“That’s just it. Any normal person would respond as you did, at least the first time.”
It was too cold for sitting on the porch but I could not, did not want to move. Kevin was the first man, the first person I felt really interested in since I’d moved to Atlanta, or even before that. I didn’t want to disturb that sensation.
“Are you hungry?” he asked. “I’m heading up to the Peasant. Have you been there?”