I parked the car in front of the townhouses. There are four of them in a row facing Biscayne Drive. They’re not the best units in this section but they’re not the worst either. I suppose facing the road, even a quiet dead-end like ours, compromises ones privacy. And of course, it’s in an almost direct view of the office. If I lived in one of these units I would be tempted to lower my blinds as Abigail often did, and keep them closed. Stephen and Nan’s blinds were open, but the bright linen curtains Nan had clipped to cafe rings because she liked the feel of flinging them open along a metal rod were gone. The place looked hollow. Where was Stephen today? I wanted to see him.
Mrs. Mason passed me at the door to Building A.
“I hope you know what’s good for you,” she said without a pause.
“What?” I turned to stop her but she’d closed the front door behind her. Had she been complaining of noise again? Impossible, the complex had been quiet all week and would not fill again until the new year.
Inside the model Judith stood in the living room. She wasn’t alone. Patty, from Belle Vue, was perched at the end of the small chair I used. Her stenographer’s pad, identical to my own, was before her. She seemed to be making a list.
“Hello?” I said.
“You’re back,” said Judith. No smile but a worried sympathy crossing her face.
Patty looked guilty.
“My turn to work here,” she said.
“Oh.” Chagrin, embarrassment (how could that be?) in the form of a hot flush rose like mercury in a thermometer until I thought my face would explode. The silence crackled.
Mr. Eberhard entered, evidently from Judith’s office. We will really need to bring in more desks. Judith walked to the couch and sat, arranging her long skirt, brushing invisible lint away with a light hand. She nodded to me and patted the seat next to her. Drawn, I made my way to it, fumbling with purse and coat, tripping on the beige shag carpet.
Finally, Mr. Eberhard, who seemed to be keeping his temper in check, blew a long breath from his nose, like a worried horse.
I am stalling now because when he started to talk, it was all I could do to hear him. When confronted, I react like a snail. I curl inward and hear nothing but the sound of crashing.
But his first words were clear enough.
“Just who do you think you are?” he asked.
“Just who the hell do you think you are and what did you think you were up to?”
I looked to Judith but she kept her eyes on the weave of her green tweed. She favored monochromatic outfits. Her sweater matched the lighter shades. Patty kept her eyes on the steno pad but her chin trembled.
“I just had to sit through an interview with a,” and here he consulted a white card, “Michael Boker, a police detective, about my involvement. Yes, involvement, with Abigail Snowe. Someone, a young woman from this complex, had a conversation with him about my visits to her.” He paced the room, stopped at the piano bench and sitting, facing me. “My visits.” He made the word sound like a glass marble, rolling it in his mouth as if he didn’t know how it had gotten there or what he should do with it. “What visits?” he asked and before I could answer confronted me again.
“Do you honestly think I had something to do with that woman’s death?”
I was in full snail mode now and could barely speak. I thought the back of my head was going to come right off.
“I never said so.”
“But you do think so?”
I nodded. I had to. Was I nuts? And then I shrugged, involuntary as a spasm. I was trying, too late, to back away from the whole thing. Where, I had time to wonder, was my integrity.
And then, thank God, I got my Irish back.