Adventures of RealtorMan

115 Ride Me High

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Kitty realized that Rod hadn’t asked her how far she’d actually have to come up, or offered to buzz her in, because he thought that she still lived in the building. She’d have to get there a bit early – not so early as to come face to face with Gervase – and use the old ploy of having another resident, who of course would recognize her, let her in. She shouldn’t have to wait long.

Street level condo lobby entrance with keypad. If Kitty remebered the code and if it hadn't been recently changed, she could have come right in the lobby.

Street level condo lobby entrance with keypad. Kitty could have come right into this building if she'd remembered the code and it hadn't recently been changed.

She watched as the other penthouse owner walked, with his dog, up to the lobby door. She certainly didn’t want him to ride up with her, know that she was going to see his neighbor but it would be a long haul going up the stairs. She could pretend to get off at a different floor but he might remember where she’d got off the last time, the night of the alibi.

“Hi.” She flashed a smile at Bert. “Forgot my key.”

“Here you go, then.” Bert opened the door and held it for Kitty before trailing in behind, with Pocano in tow.

“Thanks.” And she smiled, and made for the Ladies room. When she returned to the lobby a few minutes later, it was empty, so she called the elevator. It was on it’s way back down, presumably from where it had taken Bert. She hoped that nobody else would step out of it and that she’d intercept it before it went further down to the garage floor, where given the time of day, there were sure to be people waiting for it.

“Come on, come on.” Kitty hissed, toe tapping. The empty elevator welcomed her back with open doors and she soared, unstopped, all the way up to the penthouse floor. A most satisfactory omen.

“Hello Kitty,” Rod held open the entry door, “or should I say Kathy?” He hoped she wasn’t one of those split personality types but he aimed to get to the bottom of her identity. She had dressed well again, more for the stage than the field. More Kitty than Kathy, and he liked the effect. “Please, come and take a look around while I fix you something. What’ll it be?” He indicated the well-stocked bar. He’d unpacked that, first.

“Single malt, straight up.” She’d guessed that correctly. Rod poured generously into two crystal glasses, and handed one to her.

“Cheers, thanks for coming up.” Sweeping his glass around the great room, he asked, “So, what do you think?”

“Cheers, thanks for the invitation.” Imitation was the sincerest form of flattery but she had more. “Very impressive. Care to show me the rest?” The mini-tour tracked past the office. He’d neglected to close the door. “Looks like you could use a little help in there.” She wanted to lead the conversation around to hiring, unaware that this would put them at cross-purposes.

“It needs work.” He negotiated her gradually back to the great room and the view from the window wall out over the lake, where the color dipped in recognition of the approach of evening. “Can’t quite get used to this lake. I’ve spent hours just looking out these windows. By sundown, it’s like a giant cloak comes by and takes away the light with it.” Kitty was astonished. This sounded to her like an original thought.

“I love this lake.”

“It sounds like that ‘Kathy’, if I may call you that?” He motioned her to a chair, and waited for her explanation. She sat down, near the telescope, hoping to see her way out of this dilemma. “You almost had me fooled.”

“It’s nothing. I am Kitty Doyle. When Pastor Minosa hired me, he insisted that for church related work I be called Kathy, instead. Kitty, Kathy, who cares? I wanted the job. I heard there was a ‘leader’ coming. That’s you. You’re where I want to be.” She put it all out there.

“I’m flattered. I’m hired, too, by the ‘Greater Good’, the national office. They added the ‘Amen’, for my middle initial. Said it added cachet.”

“I heard a lot of people saying it, during services.”

“People tend to say it anyway, then. For what I get paid, I don’t mind. I just keep it to the initial A. when I have to use it for paperwork. You could do the same. K.Doyle.”

“I’ll remember. So, they pay you well, do they?”

“They provide everything.” Rod waved his glass to include the penthouse in the ‘everything’.

“The whole enchilada?”

“All of it, except the preaching. That’s what I do. But I can’t do that alone. I need a stage partner, soon. Next week, I start interviewing for one. Why aren’t you on Pastor Minosa’s shortlist?” Kitty thought that Herbie had a lot to answer for, with his cherry-picking. No Moth, no Kathy on his list. An Erin, though, a twenty something. Her glass was nearing empty, as was his. Time to be prudent, or not?

“I should be. He’s been ‘training’ me, for a few weeks now. His idea of training is a combination of starvation, private groping, and daily Bible study with a group of his unfortunate looking followers.” Rod listened but didn’t blink at her bluntness. She pushed on. “Sure, I’m up to speed on the miracles. I can run with finding venues, if that’s the information you want, and do a great job for you, as you’ve already seen, I think.”

“If you did, in fact, generate that report he sent, then yes, exactly what I want. So, I’d hate to give up that excellent work from you.”

“I can do that, and a lot more.” He didn’t doubt her for a moment.

“Such as?”

“I speak professionally, ran my own business for years. Managed my own office, all the engagements. I’d like to share a piece of your action. Will you give me a chance to show you what I can really do?” This wasn’t a standard interview but he was interested, if increasingly mellow.

“Um, would you like, I mean, would you care for something to eat, now? We could go out, on the town.” He wanted to ask this before the date possibility vanished, was consumed by a potential employment discussion.

“Or, we could get room service.” Kitty had him now, needed to keep him here. “Kidding. Order out, I mean. Couldn’t be a nicer ambiance than this. Let’s.”

“OK. What would you like?”

“Something spicy. Szechuan?”

“Well, I don’t know the town, so you’ll have to do it.”

“No problem.” Kitty remembered that the strip mall place did deliveries. It would take forever to arrive. Perfect. She placed the order and re-joined Rod. “Forty minutes. You can meet the delivery guy in the lobby.”

“Time for another, then.”Chapter 114 Ride Me High

“Sure.”Rod replenished the scotch.

“So, the first miracle is ready for rehearsal? Tell me.” He wanted to know how much of a hand she’d had in the planning. Minosa had made it sound all his own.

“Next Tuesday, at the alternate beach location. Will you come?”

“No, in meetings all day. What’s in the works?”

“I was restricted from a lot of planning until Herbie found out I was good and quick and saved him the work. To cut to the chase, we’re going with a speedboat, docked at a downtown marina, to be operated by a church member. He’ll take a crew of Herbie’s along with him. I’ll meet them, in my wetsuit, at the beach, and we’ll test for the acoustics from boat to shore, first, figure out if your voice will carry before we decide on any more. See if it’s doable. It’s forecast to be a calm day.”

114 Live, Work, Play

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

It was Friday afternoon, and Poppy and Pansy would be delivered, Mrs. James was unsure by whom, to be with her as usual on Friday night, even though school was now out for the summer. All four adults were going on a double date somewhere, she was given to understand, though very little information was on offer, other than that she’d have the girls all night. She’d been forewarned though that it was possible that by Saturday afternoon, they might be joining the adults, so to plan on being at home. She didn’t mind being flexible but realized that such last minute changes to her once predictable child care arrangement would get old very fast, especially in summer, when it was easier to be out for longer periods of time, doing pleasant activities with otherwise restless charges.

The Milwaukee Riverwalk spans 3 miles from the Third Ward, thru Downtown and up into the Beerline, incorporating residential, commercial, and entertainment uses.

The Milwaukee Riverwalk spans 3 miles from the Third Ward thru Downtown and up into the Beerline, incorporating residential, commercial, and entertainment uses.

They really needed to have that summer child care plans talk, several times postponed. She suspected that as parental and aunt relationships were changing so fast on the ground, she would be wise to wait and see how this all turned out. She would bide her time, even though it still very much looked like being an ‘if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium’ kind of summer, with every day a new day, in a new place. She hadn’t been involved last summer, and wondered what they’d done to manage. The girls had alluded to several camps so there must have been some master plan in place. Gervase called up to her unit. This was unusual.

“Giving you a heads up that Rod Thuss was quizzing me just now, about you.”

“What? Does he need a baby-sitter, too?”

“Ha. But he did ask about your secretarial abilities. I said you’d been capably handling the association work but that I wasn’t sure about any other work of that kind you might have done. Just told him that you are a very reliable and organized person, and always carried scissors. He seemed impressed by that. Asked for your number, said he still hadn’t located his association member lists.”

“Thanks for your kind words.”

“Any time.”

“Any idea why he was asking?”

“None, though sounds as if he could use some help up there. And here’s me thinking that I’m the only one who ever works around here. You’ll be putting me in the shade soon, with all your versatility.” A short while later, her phone rang again. It was Rod Thuss. Without Gervase’s warning, she’d have supposed he were calling to thank her for the cookies and arrange about the return of her plate, or to offer a blessing ceremony over the new cookbook collection.

“Mrs. James, this is Rod Thuss. How are you? Good, good. Thanks again for those cookies. They helped keep my energy up while I was unpacking. Say, would you be willing to come back to my place for a few minutes this afternoon? I have an idea I’d like to discuss with you. And of course, return your plate, too.”

“I could come up this minute but not for long. The girls I sit for will be arriving within the hour.”

“Works for me. Please do.” He met her, front door wide open, and greeted her, warmly. She judged that he must really want her to do something for him. He waved her toward a stool at the breakfast bar; she teetered uncomfortably on one of its legs and one of hers.

“Look a little better in here, now?” As she’d not seen much past the packing cases at her previous visit, she had no particular answer and settled for a polite one.

“It’s a relief to get out of the boxes, at last.”

“Yes, and that’s why I’ve asked you to come. I need to set up a home office, and find some help doing that. I don’t require anyone full-time. But I do need an organized, mature, independent worker to assist me. Would you possibly consider this?” She made no comment and waited to hear what he would say, what his offer might be. He interpreted her silence as a need to elaborate.

“I imagine it would only be for a few hours at a time, several times a week until I can manage some of it on my own. There’d be a lot of flexibility for you to set your own working hours, always during the day. Would you mind being here on your own some of the time?” He’d now asked her two direct questions. She felt obliged to reply.

“Of course I’d have to think, first. And I’m still unsure of my summer baby sitting hours.”

“I understand. Your compensation would be generous, by industry standards. Plus, if it suits you, it would be government work. That’s entirely up to you, how you would wish to be paid.” A few more dollars under the table sounded a good idea to her.

“What work wants doing?”Chapter 115 Live, Work, Play

“Let me show you.” Rod led her along the hallway to his office door. “As you see, I don’t know quite where to start and every time I do, it seems to get worse, not better. But there are things that I need to lay my hands on right away that I can’t seem to find.” Such a mess, and magnified when in a smaller space; it was all Mrs. James could do to resist tidying, setting things straight. She put her itchy fingers behind her back. He would know much joy coming in the morning after she got done with this muddle, this weeping of paperwork pouring out of every opening, every crate.

“Yes, I do see what you mean.” She understood that there were souls who had no sense of order, little grasp of sequence, of what went first. Often they went directly for the small potatoes, as R.T. was wont to say, meaning they ignored the big picture while grasping at some little piece of it.  Or worse, disastrously pulling their fingers out of the dike, precipitating the flood. She recalled teaching her young sons the art of tidying, of first sorting into groups. Of course, they immediately began to play with what was to hand instead of deferring that pleasure until the work was done, the concept of sorting as foreign to them as a language set in a different alphabet.

“I promise I won’t be in your way. You’ll have a clear field. Could you handle this, get something going in a few days time?”

“I expect I could, yes, during business hours.”

“Let’s plan on it then, and thank you, Mrs James. Sooner is better for me. Oh, and here’s your plate.”

“I’ll get back to you, tomorrow.” This would be a good way to jump start her conversation about child-care. It would be silly to give up this ridiculously easy and well reimbursed opportunity.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

After supper, Mrs. James asked the girls to think about some topics they’d like to explore during the summer, reading materials they’d like to find at the library. It was like opening a jack in the box, so many popped out of their heads.

“Scarves. I want to make a scarf, next.” This from Pansy.

“Horses.”

“You already said horses, last time, Poppy.” Pansy refrained from calling her sister ‘stupid.’ Mrs. James, always vigilant, was listening and writing this down.

“Yes, horses were on a previous list.” Mrs. James confirmed. “What else?”

“Balloons, then, those hot-air kind, like Dorothy tried to go home in from Oz.”

“Sisters.” Pansy offered, in penance.

“Tea parties, like the kind we want for our birthday.”

113 Waiting for Google

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

On Wednesday night, Kitty returned Rod’s message and left one for him. On Thursday morning, he left a second message asking her to please call that evening, at five, when he’d try and pick up. Standing in the drive outside her Gospel Hostile, she called again. This time the phone tag worked.

“It’s Kitty.”

“Oh, good. Only have a minute. Can you come up tomorrow around six, for drinks?” Each was practicing the sales dictum to get the appointment, then hang up.

“Sure.”

“See you then.” Kitty felt almost happy; perhaps Rod’s preacherly advice was starting to sink in or, more probably, about the only thing that really contented her any more, she was simply getting her way. Twenty-four little hours to the top.

“Hi, Miss Doyle.” Moth smiled up at her, as she came in the office. “I’m just about finished for the day. Would you have time to help me with the resume, like you said?”

“Sure, Moth. Tell you what. I’ll go pick us up some take-away. We can have a working supper. Anything you especially craving?” Was this what benevolence felt like? Like that first golden glow from a brandy snifter?

“Something spicy. Maybe Szechuan?” He needed no coaxing, not for this, anyway.

“Is the place in the strip mall any good, do you know?”

“I don’t get it very often but yah, it’s good. At least the chicken is.”

“OK. I’ll be back.” Chapter 113 Waiting for Google

Later, at the kitchen table, crowded in amidst the array of little Chinese boxes and serving size spoons, Kitty opened her laptop and began to pepper Moth with questions. As she drew him out, posing these in a slightly different way than the standard application forms generally would, she began to realize that working alone in an office had trained him to be a multiple-skilled and independent worker but one with no reference points to the world of work outside this house, and with absolutely no self-confidence. None.

“You can certainly do a lot of things, running an office, single-handed. See all the things I’ve noted down, already. You just need to know how to describe your skills. Break them down into individual tasks, gliss up the description, use job application lingo. Here, I’ll give you a bunch of sites to check-out.” She waited for the sites to open, to add the links for him. “Do you want to stay and work here, keep doing church related work?”

“It’s the only thing I know, I guess. Would any of these skills you say I have be of any use, someplace else?”

“Count on it, when you learn to apply them differently. When I worked out of my condo at The Prospect, my job was to give presentations to inspire people like realtors, principals, church people like your Dad, to do their best in whatever job they had. Now that I live here, I’ll use my speaking abilities to work for this new mission. Same skills, different space.” Woody and Tad arrived, laughed at the scene, and joined them.

“What’s going on? This table isn’t allowed to be this messy. House rules.” Woody was amazed to see Moth so relaxed.

“Making big career plans, Woody. You have any to throw in?” Woody did.

“Tad and me, we sometimes talk about starting our own delivery service. Two guys and a van could maybe earn a living.”

“And when you start your own business, you have a built-in office manager, right here.” Kitty nodded at Moth. “You could call it ‘Three Many Movers’.”

“Instead of too many? Good name. But us two will never get out of here. Stuck.”

“Why?”

“It’s easy. It’s what we know.”

“What’s the matter with all of you? You’re only twenty, or less, not middle-aged husbands, with brats and mortgages.”

“How would we ever make the break? We’d need some money for a van, at least.”

“Are you saving any up? You can’t have that many expenses.”

“Some. We never seriously thought about it, it’s just a dream. Wouldn’t know where to start.” Kitty wanted to hurl paper butterflies at all three of them, get them jumping around, out of their lethargy.

“I’ll get you some links, too, when I’m finished with Moth. Seriously. Put your heads together, come up with a business plan, get out of town, away from this rut. I did, once.” Tad was blushing again. To hide his embarrassment, he got up to clear away the table. When he saw there was still food in the containers, he stopped and sat down again.

“Mind if I finish these?” Kitty waved him away, in disgust.

“Whatever. Then you can clean it all up. We’re busy here.” Tad and Woody polished off the contents of the boxes, tossed away the trash, and took off, leaving Kitty and Moth to their deliberations.

“Thing is, we’re all afraid of our parents. Those two won’t say, ’cause they’re ashamed to admit it.”

“Is it just the three of you kids or are there other siblings, or cousins?”

“We have a girl cousin, Erin, who’s a little older than Woody, in her twenties. She’s Aunt Thea’s husband’s niece.”

“You don’t say. Who’s Aunt Thea, again? I can’t keep track.”

“She’s Mom’s sister. You see her at the morning Bible study.” Kitty remembered now; a gaunter, older version of Minnie Minus.

“Oh, right, her. So this Erin, where’s she?”

“She’s been away at college. Her Dad made her go, get away like you say we should be doing.”

“She got lucky, then.”

“She’s back now, staying with Aunt Thea.”

“Is there an ‘Uncle’ Thea, too?”

“You mean is she married?” Kitty nodded.”There was, but they got divorced, after he ran out on her. Said he couldn’t stand being around all these church types all the time.” Kitty was relieved to hear that someone in the family had acted with his feet. “Anyway, Erin went to a religious college and wants to get a church job. Dad’s got her lined up for an interview next week, with Mr. Thuss.”

“What’s the job?”

“Not sure but I heard that he’s going to be hiring several people as assistants. Dad didn’t go into it with me, of course.”

“Why don’t you try out for one?” Moth looked horrified.

“What if he found out?”

“Maybe he’d fire you, Moth, and then you’d have to do something else, right?”

“Where would I go? I live here, too.”

“There are other places, other things to look forward to, like we’re working on here.” Kitty resumed the accumulation of materials for Moth to review, deciding to add more, knowing that the real problem was fear, how to get him past that giant scary dog growling on the porch of life and into a freer and open road. “Let’s get back at it and get you started thinking, at least.”

There are very few condo buildngs with free wireless access. The majority are cable ready. Some offer additional features, such as witring upgrades.

There are very few condo buildings with free wireless access. The majority are cable ready. Some offer additional features, such as wiring upgrades.

Huddled close together, as the room grew dark, sharing her screen, and thinking themselves uninterrupted, they neither of them heard her coming. Myrtle materialized, dwarfish in the doorway, and squinted at them over the top of the screen. Moth blinked.

“Oh, Mom. Didn’t know you were coming over tonight. Was there something you needed?”

“It is my house. I can come when I want.” Kitty started saving her links to view later with her pocket app, and quickly displayed a church related site.

“Mom, I didn’t mean…”

“Miss Doyle, what are you doing with Timothy?” Kitty swallowed her dislike, swallowed hard – for Moth’s sake, for her own sake, too – and her efforts of this evening.

“Good evening, Mrs. Minosa. Timothy and I are looking up information on the internet.”

“Better not be smut.” Moth groaned. “We don’t hold with any of that. Timothy, the office, now.”

112 A Man May Smile and Smile

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Gervase walked back to where Mrs. James was rewinding the last errant ball.

“That’s all sorted then. What a muddle yarn can get into, left to its own devices.” She’d brought it all downstairs to work on so she could have that catch-up talk with Gervase, at the same time.

“I didn’t introduce you to Mr. Thuss. I offered to but he said you’d met, though he hadn’t recognized you, at first.” She laughed.

“I suppose he was concerned some deranged bag lady had wandered in, so perhaps, just this once, I’ll overlook the slight.”

“Still, once he did know who you were…” She finished the thought. Chapter 112 A Man May Smile

“Yes, he could have acknowledged me, waved at least. Though I’d just as soon he didn’t, the way he was pointing around those scissors.” She grabbed a pair of hers, out of her work bag, holding them with the blades down – in the approved manner – handles up toward him and ready to be transferred, relay race style.

“That’s the way I was taught, too.” She sat down and put away the scissors. Gervase sat down, too.

“I have something else to tell you about Mr. Thuss. Last Sunday, an old friend whisked me off to a west side church for services there. I was at loose ends that day, with everyone busy or away for the holiday so I said I’d go along, just for something different.” Gervase wasn’t familiar with her normal Sunday routines; it was a regular day off for him. They’d not yet resumed their initial conversation, over a week ago now, about religion and faith. He assumed that was now on tap.

“And was it different?”

“We ended up in one of those mega-type churches, with auditorium and stage.”

“I’ve seen those on TV.” This new, arena fashion of church amazed him. Gervase had been raised in a close, countryside, Roman Catholic parish, Quebecois style.

“Turns out our Mr. Thuss was the star speaker, in the stem winder tradition, as opposed to yarn winder.” Here she patted down the contents of her work bag. “His style was charming, almost, with lots of wedding picture size smiles. But I don’t go to church to be charmed.”

“What! Him?” Gervase turned toward ‘Little Susie’. “So he can turn it on and off, like a faucet.”

“Very much so. I listened but I didn’t agree with his interpretation of scripture.”

“Are you allowed to disagree, much? Being Episcopalian, as you said?”

“Born to it, Gervase. Having a think’s what made Henry the Eighth infamous!” Gervase chuckled at a comparison between the English monarch and Mrs. James and privately considered that more people than not prefer to be told what to think, religious-wise, at least. “For instance, there was a passage for today about a prophet who prayed and stretched out on a boy three times. What would you make of that?” Gervase didn’t like to say. “Strange, isn’t it? Open to unfortunate interpretations. For me, that’s an invitation to figure it out. First, he was trying to heal the boy, to give back life, not hurt him. Second, it didn’t work the first time so he had to try more than once, or he would have stopped. He persisted. Third, we often repeat prayers, don’t we?” Gervase flashbacked to his weekly, rosary at the ready, boyhood escape from the enforced confessional box.

“It’s been known to happen.”

“It’s reputed to be the first resurrection event in scripture, and, it happened for a widow. I suppose you pay more attention to things, after things happen to you personally.”

“I know I do. Older I get, for sure.”

“So, it’s important to think things through. To get back to Mr. Thuss, he just skimmed the surface, didn’t dig for truth. So, I didn’t care for his ‘Be Happy’ message.”

“And you don’t believe that you have to believe what he says, as a man of the cloth?”

“Rubbish. Because he wears suits, in his case rather expensively cut, for a man of the cloth?  I expect to be encouraged to reflect, find my own meaning. But Gervase, I still haven’t told you.”

“Told me what?”

“Who else I saw there, on stage with him. Want to guess?” It really wasn’t fair of her to do this, she knew. “Sorry, I blame Poppy and Pansy for that digression. You’ll never guess in a million tries, so I’ll tell you. Kitty Doyle.” And she sat back in her chair, for full effect, and waited for him to take it in.

“Kitty Doyle? Disbelief often led directly to repetition.

“In the flesh, though not the name.” She wished she’d brought along the program to show him.

“Name?” Gervase struggled.

“She’s been re-christened, for lack of a better term, Kathy – with a K – Doyle.”

“But what did she do, exactly?”

“Well, she paraded devoutly onstage with the rest of the church leaders – unseasonably robed, let me add, in purple and gold – warbled songs of praise, and coerced us to contribute.” Her mind snapped back to that awful morning at the side of the pool, the TV blaring hymns. So that’s where she’d heard that tune played before. Something about fettering. How grotesque, seeing again the body weighted down, and with her own bottles, too. An instrument designed for play, to hold one up, instead holding another down.

“It must have been such a shock to see her. I’m shocked, just you telling me. What does it mean?”

“I’ve had some time to run it by several possibilities, since. I suppose it means that she’s hooked up with that church and whether it’s with Mr. Thuss, we don’t know. It must be for profit or self-promotion, mustn’t it?”

“Just when there was a chance she’d be gone away for good, too.”

Just to the west of downton there are four unit buildings with a common entrance - but no lobby - and some offer open, landscaped space.

Just to the west of downtown, four unit buildings with a common entrance – but no lobby – are more prevalent. Some offer open, landscaped common areas.

“Good riddance. Still, we can live in hope. There’s only one of her, isn’t there? If she stays away to the west, how can it affect us?” The dreadful mobility of the Wicked Witch of the West broom-sticked its way into a corner of her mind, angling for attention.

“Other than knowing that fraud is alive and well, you mean.”

“We know that exists in any case, though you’d prefer it not be at church, or in a preacher living in our midst. I know my own mind but certainly have no wish to offend what others profess to be true, or desirable.”

“But you can’t accuse Kitty Doyle of respect for anyone, can you?” It beggared the imagination of Gervase to reconstruct this creature as a preacher. He laughed at his unintended rhyme and repeated it for Mrs. James.

“The creature as the preacher – ha.”

“Yes, that’s the trick. Laugh at her, not her church. That’s very good, Gervase.”

“It would be terrible if she’d converted, or something, wouldn’t it?”

“Reformed? In that case, then, all might be well. She’d behave in a better way. Not that we’d ever trust her, mind you, but there’s at least a chance she’d be less awful. It would be worse if she were just the same and still living here, pretending to be good.”

“And I’d have to be nice to her.”

“You’re condemned to be nice to everybody, Gervase. At least here, at work. Not sure what I’d do, faced with her again, at her sanctimonious best. Rely on my instincts, as well as my manners, I guess. Hope I never have to find out. I hope the girls never do, either.”

“Have you told anyone else?”

“Not even Hans.”

“I feel a bit like your prophet. I’ll need to stretch myself thin to cover everyone who lives here, especially the little girls.”

111 Take Me Down

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

It was Wednesday afternoon, and Rod was reviewing the report Minosa had e-mailed. He was working from what amounted to his penthouse office, as well as he’d bothered to set it up. He’d found plenty of distractions around town, in spite of his bad attitude, and had neglected his unpacking, in the meanwhile. Chapter 111 Take Me Down

He was surprised at the level of detail the report contained, some of it disheartening news but he appreciated that it was so complete, and worthy of including in his own follow-up report to his national office; that would save him a lot of work. Although Minosa’s name was all over it there was a small mention, in the line for it on the required form, of the field agent. Kathy Doyle. Hmm. Surely that Kathy Doyle on stage at last Sunday services was the same woman he’d met downstairs, and whom he’d casually invited to visit him here. He checked his desk drawer for the card she’d handed him during their chance encounter. It wasn’t there. He cursed, then resolved to get his office set-up underway today. He ran through the mental checklist – the ‘what was I wearing that day’ review – and came up with a potential jacket pocket. And the card was there, smushed but legible. At least his brain still worked, if not his daily organization.

Kitty Doyle, the card announced, not Kathy Doyle. If his eyesight was to be believed, or unless there was a clone or an identical twin or a trick involved, that Kathy Doyle was certainly this Kitty Doyle. Interesting. Rod considered which of them he preferred to know, the stunner at the elevator, or the apparently capable field agent. He phoned the number on Kitty Doyle’s card. She did not answer but he left his call-back number, without a message. That would give him some room to maneuver between the ladies, or lady, in the case.

Instead of opening another unpacked box, he opted for an invigorating, work-related stint on his rowing machine, an opportunity to consider the details about an event on the big lake, as he steered his make-believe craft out over its waters. According to Doyle, one of the main difficulties was this business of having to apply for a special permit at least ninety days prior, for a downtown beach location in a public park, and the unpredictability of the lake conditions that far ahead. There would be no rain date granted, and no refund, if it didn’t work out. All the links to the various permit applications were included in the report. Very thorough, on short notice. Rod knew that she’d been given this particular assignment only two days ago because it was he, now that he’d re-located here, who’d put the fire to Minosa’s feet to get the ball rolling. This kind of efficiency was extremely appealing to him. As he pulled, he began to speculate as to what else the Kathy/Kitty might be very good at doing.

An alternate location was offered, too, further up along the lake. They’d still have to take their chance on the weather, and negotiate for a special permit, or throw a spontaneous session and ask for forgiveness after the fact – blaming their religious fervor, possibly – rather than seek permission beforehand, but it looked like a great opportunity and proved to Rod the benefit of having a local doing this job. The Pastor, for all his mingy ways and his diminutive wife, had got her, this Kathy, right. He was impressed by her sense of the theatrical nature of these outdoor events, combined with her apparent knowledge of the inherent message that had to be conveyed to the faithful in attendance, those whose wallets must be pried open in appreciation of the spectacle presented.

After a while, he heard himself humming the “Fount of Every Blessing” tune, rowing in rhythm to it. He wished he could come up with a catchy tune, then sell it on their website, along with all the other merchandise that would come down the pike from national. It was all part of the package to deliver a consistent message, with a salvation stories theme. He’d need a stage partner to perform it really well. Interviews were on tap for next week, a short list of suitable candidates Minosa was providing. Rod would interview in this office; another reason to get the place in order soon. What he really needed first was an office manager.

A den/office is a separate room in the room count. Another room may offer a nook for use as a work space or sitting area and is included in the square footage.

A den/office is a separate room. Another room in the room count may offer a size-able nook for use as a work space or sitting area, and is included in the unit’s total square footage.

After a luxurious shower in his upgraded master bathroom spa, Rod emerged, ready to re-tackle his office, or lack of office. Shifting over a pile of files on his desk, he noticed the pair of scissors Gervase had loaned him, last week. The pile tilted ominously, then tipped, spilling papers out in layers across the desk like an advancing, white-hot lava flow. This was impossible. He decided to take a break and return the scissors, keep the concierge on the home team. A trip down to the lobby couldn’t put him too far behind on the remainder of his to-do list, not in a good cause. Before he went, he added scissors to his requisition list and, so as not to lose that, too, tacked up the list on an exposed corner of his new cork board, where the encasing plastic wrap had split open.

Rod stepped out into the penthouse foyer, his fingers through the two scissor handle openings as if he were about to cut something, and pushed the down arrow. This was an odd building, with just the one elevator but it was still before the evening rush hour, so he figured he wouldn’t wait long. He did, a full five minutes. Another time, he’d take the stairs down – scissor-less – and time that, just to compare which were quicker. In the lobby, he spotted Gervase, who was away from his desk and chatting with an older woman who was improbably making something with a bunch of white and black yarn tumbling out from a large bag all over a lobby couch, and resembling the clutter he’d just abandoned upstairs. This reminded him of scenes from old folks’ homes he’d visited by the scores, in his younger, less exalted days. Rod brandished the scissors and called over to him.

“Ah, Gervase, thanks for the loan of the scissors. Time to return them, for sure.” Rod stood by the desk, willing Gervase to join him.

“Mr. Thuss, you should’ve called me up to get them.” Gervase returned to his desk. “It’s what I do for residents.”

“Is that woman over there a resident?” Rod lowered his voice to inquire. He hadn’t recognized Mrs. James as the bearer of cookies to his unit.

“Oh, yes, that’s Mrs. James, and she’s actually the association secretary. Would you like me to introduce you? She’s very keen to know people.”

“Oh, that’s Mrs. James. I didn’t recognize her under all that yarn. We’ve met. She brought me some cookies, last weekend. I’ll just check my mailbox and wait for Little Susie to take me back up.”

“Little Susie?” Gervase scanned the lobby, alert for unknown visitors.

“It’s just a name I use for something that takes you up and down, Gervase. Like an elevator.”

“Oh, that Little Susie.” Gervase was left to ponder why a penthouse man would use the term.

110 Should I Go, Should I Stay?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

As promised, R.M. had e-mailed to Greg a market analysis for his unit, and included comparable sales – recent sales, typically within the last twelve months – of units at the POPS, or similar buildings, where there was some basis of direct comparison to Greg’s, either by size, or room count, or taxes. It was the place to start when considering a listing price but it was also necessary to factor in other things such as unit condition, or location in the building, for example.

In a stacked building - one with identical floor plans - the position of a unit in the building contributes to its relative value.

In a stacked building – one with identical floor plans – the position of a unit in the building contributes to a determination of its relative value.

Greg, though he’d procrastinated looking at it several times, was reviewing this data, and considering whether this would be a prudent time to try to sell the place. Some condo owners in this market were discovering that they couldn’t afford to sell at the lower prices units were fetching of late; they were renting out, instead, until the market recovered. Either renting or selling, Greg would have to move out, go someplace else himself. He didn’t have to sell, there was nothing awful about the POPS as far as he was concerned, and he had a lot going for him in the building, he knew, not least of which was a built-in nanny. True, he no longer had a girlfriend. She’d been handy, too; well, whenever it had suited her. He lived close to work but this wasn’t so big a city that another location wouldn’t be just as good. He’d really only moved in here in the first place because he could afford it after his promotion, and he’d wanted to show off his newly regained bachelor status.

He’d run these numbers by his financial adviser who said it was a good idea to talk to more than one realtor, or, he could try and sell it himself, too. Although, if these were facts that R.M. had sent, Greg didn’t see the point of getting them sent to him all over again. Then surf around on some real estate websites, see what he could dig up about value, and sales; maybe go to a few open houses, see what other places looked like, see what was hot. As far as he knew, the Cabots’ was the only place listed at the POPS. He could wait and see how that went for R.M., watch him work, see if that got offers. Greg turned back to R.M.’s data, attempting to see his place in comparison.

After a few minutes, he was aware that his thinking seemed to be stuck on contrasting things; maybe because the information, though of vital interest to him, just wasn’t holding his attention. He realized that what he was contrasting was different women, not condos, even to the point of imagining, as he looked at the interior photos, what unit features each of them might prefer; from there it was merely a sidestep away into which woman’s features he himself most preferred.

It was boorish of him to compare Kitty and Georgia so directly. He supposed instead, he should be giving thought to his own feelings as he compared them, but he couldn’t stop. There was always something caged about Kitty, a taut, springy readiness poised to strike, even with her mask of apparent disinterest. He’d never once startled her; she was always there first, disdainful of his pace. She put him on his guard, in a defensive position, skating backwards so he never missed a move. He missed looking at her but he didn’t miss her.

Georgia was poised and calm, to the point of seeming slow. Not unintelligent but languid, more wary than ready to strike, more ready to retreat, as she had when competition had emerged in their marriage. He’d been so hurt that she’d just given up on him then, and conceded defeat. Not much rivalry in those bones. He’d like to see some competitiveness in his daughters, striking a balance as they grew. How hard was it to achieve in one’s kids a distribution of more of the good qualities of each parent and fewer of the poor ones? Between him, and Georgia, maybe they could combine to be just one good enough parent.

Competition was embedded in his business. He was always after the best, the cream of the crop, like his namesake Gregor Mendel, the geneticist, he of the experiment with the peas, testing, re-arranging until he came up with the best combination possible, of dominant and recessive characteristics. Greg’s mother, who so loved peas, gospeled the old tale of the princess and the pea. The princess was aware, to the extent of sleeplessness, that she could feel a hard and uncooked pea all the way through multiple layers of mattresses. It was this discernment of her own abilities, according to Lynn Ehuss, that distinguished this princess from other mortals, whether princesses or peasants.

Perhaps the ping pong was a place to start with the girls, anything to tap into their rivaling souls, get them stirring. Even their hair was flat. He could take them over to Pluto’s, get Carrie Karon to stiffen theirs up a bit, though Kitty had teased them that it was hopeless, said their hair was permanently full, and why expect anything of girls with those names, anyway? All that soft, brown hair, like their mother’s, was inclined to droop around their chubby faces, was never really likely to rise up in spikes nor instill new personalities, either. Kitty’s hair gave the appearance that it stood up without any encouragement, streaky, stranded, and Medusa-like.

At least Gina was teaching them how to deliver a joke well, get the timing right. A good skill to have. What was the one they’d used in the car on the way home? He struggled to recall it. Why were jokes so hard to remember? He worked it back from the punch line. ‘Two silkworms had a race but they ended up in a tie.’ A twin thing? Even with verbal competition, they ended up together. He’d talk to Georgia about it. Yes, he really wanted to talk to Georgia. Out of the mouths of babes.

Chapter 110 Should I Go

Early Monday evening, invigorated by the day’s change of pace, Kitty returned to the training center, her hostel, what she dubbed her ‘Gospel Hostile’. Now, she had a cunning plan to get out of this temporary residency requirement and into something more suitable. She went to find Moth. He was counting up money, lots of money.

“Win the lottery, Moth?” He looked up, while his hands marked his place. It was bad enough doing this job once, counting money that wasn’t his, much less twice. But he didn’t want to miss a chance to talk to Miss Doyle.

“Hi, Kathy.”

“Remember, you can call me Kitty, when no one’s around to hear you.”

“Thanks, Kitty. On Mondays, I have to count the proceeds from the weekend, before my Dad comes to review them. It has to be right the first time or he gets, well, crazy angry with me. He’ll be here soon, so I have to finish. I’d really like to speak with you, I just can’t.”

“That’s OK. Another time. But let me just ask you if you have a list of contact numbers of all the people who conducted the services this weekend. I need to do some follow-up.”

“Oh, sure, if you don’t mind getting it yourself. It’s pinned on that bulletin board.” Moth nodded in the general direction she was to look.

“Got it.” Kitty scanned the list. “What about that new preacher,  Mr. Thuss?”

“Oh, right. That’s in the top drawer, here, in a folder marked Miracle Tour. See it? It’s not for general use, yet, so please keep it to yourself, or I’ll catch hell.”

“You, Moth? No way. Carry on counting.”

109 Veni, Vidi, Vici

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

On Monday morning, Herbie told Kitty that he thought she was ready to take on her first real assignment, to research a re-enactment venue. He’d coached her through all of the miracle stories over the course of the past weeks. In his opinion, she’d handily mastered the details, if not the meaning those represented, and that was all she really needed to know to do her job, only the facts. She’d proved herself to be prompt and diligent at all of their sessions together, and proficient in stage presence at weekend services. She was also driving him crazy, he so lustful after her that he blamed vestiges of former, similar triumphs of his in that house. She was so meek a student; he felt sure of her compliance, once he got around to exercising his growing right to have her, to make her utterly his own creature. He pretended to fight her wicked temptations but this impending domination excited him, so much so that he asked himself if he didn’t prefer the anticipation to the consummation.

Kitty nearly screamed with relief at hearing this research assignment come at last. Released from spending another week locked up with Herbie in this closet of a room, where she perceived both the walls, and Herbie, moving closer and closer, she was able to smile sweetly at him, even as he put his arm around her waist to more confidentially share the news.

“Oh quick, Herbie, tell me which miracle it will be. I’m so excited to find out, to get out and get started.” Kitty told the truth; it was an odd sensation.Chapter 109 Veni

“Well Kathy, it’s to be the fishers of men. Remember that one?”

“Luke 5: 1 – 11?”

“Excellent! And, the special request is that you investigate first the possibility of doing it at the big lake, instead of any of the smaller ones around the city. Think you can handle that?”

“You betcha.” Kitty extracted herself from the enveloping hug Herbie here attempted to execute, in congratulatory guise. “I’ll get over to Lake Michigan today and get you a report tomorrow.”

“Good, because Mr. Thuss is very keen to get his tour in motion.”

*    *    *    *    *

There used to be a lifeguard at Buckley Beach, back in the day. Kitty had spent hours there with her swimming friends, other golden girls getting a head start on a summer tan, sprawled on the groin that jutted into the sunbathed waters, where the reflection added to the spring and early summer sun’s effect. There was also a cadre of dedicated lake swimmers who launched their long distance or endurance laps from that same groin, virtually disappearing into the water, and riskily, some without spotters. The venerable sign at the top of the bluff proclaimed a host of rules; the ordinance was as specific as it was ignored, more honored in the beach than in the observance. Occasionally, a police officer accosted a scofflaw but it was a quiet secret that the beach was a local refuge for forbidden activities: swimming, sledding, grilling, dog walking, boarding either on wheels or waterborne, the launching or landing of watercraft.

Today, at last reveling in her employment, Kitty, wearing a black wetsuit, swam parallel to the shoreline, aligning her strokes with the sandy ripples only shoulder deep below. She relished every inch of that ever changing, sometimes sandy beach, sometimes stony shore, remembered each crack in the base of the bluff’s protecting wall, slits widening from crevice to cache, home to unwanted debris, the remains of rendezvous, of forgotten frolics, and an expectant repository for escapades yet-to-come.

She’d climbed every track up the well-worn bluff. A liberal sequence of layered graffiti, an anthropologist’s treasure, adorned the perpendicular wall that arbitrarily divided the beach into shoreline more publicly used, or privately enjoyed. The intensity of the messages increased with distance from the public eye, as did the distribution of fractured rip-rap, remnants of wave action blasting and hurling apart the conceding concrete. It was frequently buried, and as often exposed, to waves welling up and through it as it rested, awaiting, like a player at musical chairs, its inevitable, clangy displacement.

Watercraft were not allowed closer than fifty feet from the groin. This would not entirely preclude a miracle tour performance; an accurate reading of the scripture should require that the preacher, the pretend Jesus, inaudible to the growing crowd onshore, get in a boat to be rowed a little ways offshore; ideal, but forbidden. Preaching from a boat, launched elsewhere but arriving here and remaining the mandated distance from the groin, could work. In a pinch of interpretation, he might appear, ready to address the thronging but beach-bound congregation gathered to hear him, then sit on the boat deck. In any case, at least one, if not two boats with fishing nets, would be required to support the storyline.

The assembled host, described as pressing in on Jesus, presumably would consist, for the most part, of the event ticket holders, standing room only. A few of the less eroded breakwater steps could serve as bleachers but this was unlikely to be required, as this was a location strictly for the able-bodied; there was no access other than by a steep ramp or rough-hewn, woodland steps. Kitty took in for the first time what a theatrical setting this really was, with its succession of natural loges marching up the walls, the high gallery at the crest of the bluff, the gaps in the groin as trapdoors to unseen depths below the stage it formed, a tableau set by the wide, flat surface of the lake. It was calm today; another day, with other weather, would transform the scene, render it unusable for a paltry human device, as Mother Nature would so utterly engage in her own dramatic turbulence.

Kitty’s report would have to recommend this, at the very least; any miracle staged here must be planned to coincide with a favorable forecast. Lake Michigan was very volatile; in any wind, any speaker would be inaudible, even with a loudspeaker, even a slight distance away from shore, and the set, all the sand and the bleachers and the audience, gone underwater. When it was showtime in this playhouse, neither the tour producers nor their supporting cast would be able, unlike their original protagonist, to calm the waves. Kitty was a trouper by trade, and to her experienced eyes, this spectacle looked uncertain of a curtain call.

A Lake Michigan beach with a groin, in the distance, and extending away from shore to limit erosion of beach sand from erosion of wave action.

A Lake Michigan beach with a groin, in the distance, extending away from shore to limit erosion of beach sand by wave action.

Village policy permitted first come, first served use of public parks, primarily for residents. Other extravaganzas had, in the past, been re-located from parks to closed-off block party venues, where sufficient facilities and parking could be provided for the use of attendees, leaving the parks free for ongoing public use. But Kitty and Co. needed a lake more, and a lavatory less. Perhaps a special permit could be bought; it wasn’t her decision.

She and Rod hadn’t spoken at services, yesterday. One astonished glance between them had been enough to confirm whom the other was, even so out of context. Herbie hadn’t bothered to introduce them. They kept their acquaintance under wraps, a conspiracy most pleasing to her; he must think she was worth knowing, to keep her for a more private occasion. Rod had a job to do, she made an extra effort onstage, what a dream team. Why put her ambition at risk? She was still only the messenger, not a purveyor of props for a miracle show. That suited her just fine while she considered additional, more fruitful possibilities. Rod Amen Thuss had a thing or two to learn, and she to teach him, and she toyed with the idea of being at the helm of his organization.

108 Getting the Drift

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

By Sunday evening, Mrs. James sensed a return to normal, or at least to a new normal. Greg had brought the girls back and left them with her for the night. He wanted some quiet time to review the comps that R.M. had sent, before he had to get back to the office and think about something else; something besides Georgia, if truth be told.

He’d told Mrs. James that Bert and Gina were coming back to town tonight; tomorrow Gina would be taking Poppy and Pansy to school, at the usual time. It was the last week of classes but Monday’s schedule would be the same. Gertie had invited Georgia to stay overnight at Asphodel; they intended to brainstorm on some concept and layout ideas for the cookbook. Gertie would tell her all about it when she came back to town. Tonight, Mrs. James turned her attention to the girls.

Chapter 108 Getting the Drift

“That place is so amazing!” Poppy bubbled her delight at the day’s adventures.

“Totally!” Pansy, echoing the general enthusiasm but more specifically adding,”Gertie helped us, we learned to ride her horses. She has a whole stable full of them, and she picked out one for me, and for Poppy. She was really nice to us this time.”

“I’m sure she’s always been very nice to you. I hoped you remembered to say thank you.”

“Oh, hundreds of times, at least.” Poppy answered for both of them.

“‘Cause we hope she’ll ask us to come back.” Pansy was self-serving but honest.

“Mrs. James, are there books at the library about riding horses?” Mrs. James assured Poppy that there were a great many books not only about horses and riding them but about girls and horses, too. She smiled at her memories of neighborhood girls who tirelessly ‘rode’ their imaginary horses across the lawns, oblivious to the derision of neighborhood boys. She hoped Poppy and Pansy wouldn’t begin to gallop around her condo, and that Gertie might issue other invitations, including one to her. She admitted to curiosity, and not only about horses.

“I have some news for you two, too.” Mrs. James, anticipating their exhaustion, had waited until tucking them in for the night to impart this, now that she was sure that Kitty had moved. It would serve as a good-night story. “It’s about the Sphinx’s nose.”

“Is this a new book?” Poppy thought to ask.

“No. This is about Miss Doyle.”

“Does she have one of those Sph… one of those noses? Is she dead?” This hope, once again from the honest Pansy, emerged.

“The Sphinx is in Egypt. It’s a monument, built of desert sand a very long time ago, by a great many people.” Mrs. James adjusted their blankets, even though they weren’t required on a warm evening. This ritual summoned up the angels of sleep. “Over many years, the cat, for you see, the Sphinx is a cat-like creature, has lost its nose.”

“Her nose is gone?” Pansy pulled the kicked away blanket up over her own nose.

“There are strong winds in the desert and the nose made of sand just blew away, never to return. Miss Doyle, whatever the state of her nose, has moved away from our building, and that’s the news.”

“What, she’s not here?”

“Sold her condo. So, you won’t need to even think about seeing her here.”

“Does Dad know?”

“I’m sure he’ll find out, just like you have. So, off you go to sleep. Morning comes early, even if it’s your last Monday at school.”

Mrs. James, though weary of the early Monday morning routine of sending off her charges, alert, prepared with whatever was special for the day, clothed, and breakfasted, was eager to catch a few moments with Gervase after Gina had departed with her nieces. Gina pulled up, right on time, outside the door, and the familiar ritual farewells occurred. Mrs. James noticed that Bert was not out walking Pocano, as was his want of late, and arriving just in time to see Gina. She mentioned this to Gervase.

“I probably shouldn’t say,” he said in a manner that made her certain that he would, “but I’ve been down in the garage earlier on another matter,” he hastened to assure her that his was the most innocent of observations,” and Gina’s car was parked down there.”

“What? But she came up the drive.” The nickel dropped. “Oh, you mean she stayed here…” How was one to ferret out whether with the ex-brother-in-law, or with the paramour? How delicious. The life of a gossip was a new one to her. She felt that she might develop certain talents, should she make the effort. But on to other matters.

“We’re a bit behind, aren’t we?” They hadn’t seen each other much during the past week, what with the holiday and his dental woes.

“Funny how an irregular work week throws you off your routine.” Gervase, for a good reason, felt that he’d been days behind, all last week.

“Yes, you’ve been dealing with teeth, and I’ve been trying to help mend bones.” Lee had requested Mrs. James’ company a few times last week, while she was studying for exams and to oblige, Mrs. James had taken along her work to the Karons’, instead of to the lobby. “Have you met our new penthouse man?”

“Yes, Mr. Thuss. He made an odd request, the other day. Wanted to know if I could loan him a pair of scissors.”

“Perhaps he hadn’t completely unpacked, or didn’t know what box a pair might be in. Imagine having so few, though. I have so many pairs, one would be bound to turn up sooner rather than later.” Mrs. James recalled, from her brief visit there, the extent of unopened boxes in the penthouse. But that was a week ago; surely he’d have unpacked by now. “Did he return them?”

“Not yet. I expect he’s just forgotten.”

“Speaking of moving, it’s official now that Kitty Doyle has left the building,” and here she paused, as if resisting the urge to make some celebratory gesture to mark the occasion, prudently waiting instead as a couple of residents passed through the lobby, “and that Hans has bought and moved into her unit.”

“Another mystery cleared up.” Gervase didn’t like to think that something like this could happen right under his nose and blamed it on the meds he was still taking for his tooth.”I begin to wonder what else goes on when I’m not here.”

“There’s more. Sebastian and Matthew Cabot have bought his and are in the process of moving down their things.”

“All in-house, eh? Musical units.” Gervase let out a deep sigh. “I can’t deny that I’m relieved that the Doyle woman is gone. Won’t have to be always checking my back.”

“I think I told you how the girls feel. They actually call her a witch, unlike you.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about what I call her.”

“I told them last night not to worry about seeing her any more.  No more figuring out why she’s the way she is. Oh, do you have to go, Gervase? So much more to tell…”

From the exterior, it's not easy to differentiate a condo from an apartment building. Some were constructed to be used either way, depending on market conditions.

From the exterior, it's not easy to differentiate a condo from an apartment building. Some were constructed to be used either way, depending on market conditions.

“I’ll have to catch you later. After I catch up with myself.”

“Quickly then, do you remember meeting the Thornes’, when we were all out walking Rosie some time back?”

“They had a little boy…on a trike?”

“Yes. Keki. They rent across the street but are thinking of buying. R.M. had them in here last weekend, looking at the Cabots’ unit. Wouldn’t that be a fine thing?”

“Good for R.M., for sure, what with all these private deals, and for you. Some new cuisines in your cookbook mix.”

107 Doubtful Joy

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Sunday was turning out to be a deja-vu of the previous Monday, for Mrs. James. Everybody else had something to do. At this rate, she’d be on the look-out for a new family to sit for. Today, Bert had invited Gina, then at the last minute Georgia, Greg and the girls out to visit at Asphodel Meadows. Gertie would be there, too. It was June now, and a beautiful summer day would see the girls on horseback for the first time. They were over the moon with excitement, and no longer teasing their Aunt Gina about her farmer friend. Mrs. James tried not to feel left out.Chapter 107 Doubtful Joy

Although her minding of Poppy and Pansy on Sundays had precluded her attending church, she religiously followed the liturgical calendar and readings established for each Sunday. Today’s told how Elijah had made bread for the widow, from a jar of meal and a jug of oil, and healed her ailing child.  Mrs. James enjoyed the part about bread making, the Old Testament as cookbook.

The sudden shift in schedule for today had left her late for going to church, as that service would be already underway. It was still early enough in the day to make some plans. The several references to widows in today’s readings put her in mind of her parish friend Betty, who was an indifferent attendee. Betty, another widow, was a lively sort, always sticking her nose into new places, ‘ready for adventure’ as she called it. A perfect tonic for Mrs. James’ mood.

“Betty? It’s Ivy.” They paced themselves through the obligatory catch-up chat and moved quickly to the possibilities the day presented for a get-together. Not surprisingly, Betty had an idea of just what to do.

“Have you been hearing about this new church coming to town? It’s been on all over, but you never listen to talk radio, do you? It sounds way better than our dull routines. Lots more singing. Just getting ready to head out to their big, late morning Sunday service, out on the west side. I’ll pick you up in twenty minutes.” This was not exactly what she’d had in mind but a change of pace would likely do her good. She’d enjoy, for a time, a dose of Betty’s chatter. In the Epistle passage, the apostle Paul had gone out to visit other churches; if he could do it, it would be good enough for her.

The new church was apparently taking over an already established one; in any case, the building was not entirely new. It bore the appearance of a country manor house, where over the centuries, various wings had flown up in stylistic departures from any previous ones, creating a hodge-podge, distinctive and perverse at the same time. In this case, she supposed, the additions had arisen along with the astounding growth and financial success of the congregation. Quite the reverse to the situation of many buildings in theirs and other dioceses, where grand, coherent structures were solidly built in anticipation of the continued devotion of the faithful. Enthusiastically welcomed by a flank of greeters, they went inside and found a seat, nearer the back, a preference of Mrs. James, who liked to see what was going on, rather than being swept up in it.

There was no printed order of service. The rows of auditorium seating were loaded with brochures and song sheets, bulletins and donation envelopes, an airplane seatback pocket-like display of reading options, should fervor wane. Feeling a little at sea, accustomed to a sturdy prayer book in her hands, and a hymnal and a kneeler in the pew, Mrs. James folded her hands in her lap, and watched. There was a large choir, in florid vestments of purple and gold. This was odd to her; if any colors other than white, as it was after Pentecost, they should be wearing green. Purple signified repentance. Not much sign of that; or wealth, purple signified wealth, too, as the dyes to make it were rare and costly, long ago. This must be the connection.

Her eyes floated up to the front, over the thrusting stage, to a flag-size banner promulgating the dogma, Plenty for All, in similar hues. Plenty of ostentation was apparent, at the very least. Betty nudged her, directing her glance to the entrance of the officiants, then held her down as she, by habit, began to rise as the service began. Betty was forced to whisper to Ivy.

“Just follow along. It’s all different.”

As it turned out, she was quite glad to be sitting down as it saved her collapsing with the shock of what she then saw, or rather whom she saw in the procession. Blonde above the gold and purple, ascending the stage with the church leaders, stepped Kitty Doyle, and as if that were not enough to take in, trailing that pack of parading, lower order servants of God, strode Rod Thuss.

“So, that’s what he does.” she heard herself murmur. Betty hushed her, then added a comment of her own, whilst they were on the subject.

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” They were in the back, after all, and no-one would hear them over the beginning music, ‘Jesus, fount of every blessing’. The words appeared like magic on a large screen on the stage, reminding her of the early TV shows where one was exhorted to ‘follow the bouncing ball’ in order to keep up with the lyrics.

Mrs. James was spell-bound, in spite of herself, any basis for church comparison lost in the revelations of echoing worship. She barely recognized the hymn tunes but had to admit that they were catchy. ‘Let thy goodness, like a fetter’, it went on. Betty began to toss her head as she tried to join in the unfamiliar song. ‘Bind my wandering heart to thee.’ There, onstage, belting out this intention, was Kitty. Really! Disbelieving but straining to hear the rest of the verse, as Betty clapped in rhythm beside her, she heard, ‘Here’s my heart, O seal and take it, seal it for thy courts above.’ Mrs. James wasn’t one to cast the first stone but this was not to be borne. Lucky for Kitty, who had a great deal to answer for, that Mrs. James wouldn’t be presiding on that particular celestial bench.

Although she was introduced as Kathy – a mistake? – Kitty’s minor role in the proceedings turned out be to lead the offertory, encouraging others to give freely. Mrs. James assumed that as Kitty behaved as though she had been born to get, not to give, that her true talents had been competently recognized by these leaders. Betty contentedly threw in her widow’s mite as the collection plate glistened in silvery passage along their row. Mrs. James did not.

A sample of a letter, from an association management entity, welcoming a new resident and outlining move-in requirements regarding utilities.

A sample of a letter, from an association management entity, welcoming a new resident and outlining move-in requirements regarding utilities.

The church pastor, Herb Minosa, introduced Rod Thuss to the assembled as a luminary welcomed to the area to conduct an upcoming ministry. Minosa exhorted everyone to return the following Sunday to hear more exciting details. Mrs. James wondered if there wasn’t a hint of resentment at turning over his pulpit-stage to a star-turn, especially one as god-like as Thuss, who chose as his text the passage from Psalms about joy coming in the morning. He left out the context, though, about the morning following a night of weeping. She knew because she’d just read it herself this morning. The Thuss exegesis was a sort of mindless happiness. She doubted this arrangement would ever exist for humans, even in this audience, but listened politely. There was a lot of amen-ing chorusing around her. Betty, enthralled, elbowed her again.

“The middle A. in his name, it’s for Amen.” A preacher, living in luxury at the POPS. So be it.

106 Peter Schemes

Monday, February 6th, 2012

On Friday morning, Martin tried Peter’s cell, and left a message, then called Kitty Doyle’s cell, leaving a message, laughing at himself for even trying. He sent a message to her e-address; straight to bounce city, very likely. He followed up with her attorney’s office, unsure whether to ask for White, Choyce, or Wong, but it didn’t matter; attorney client privilege would rear its professional head. He amused himself by thinking that he would have to call in the cops on this one, get some help. He’d consult with Martinelli about the importance of being diligent in the follow-up of hopeless leads, his apparent specialty this week. Before Martinelli had even arrived with morning defense in hand, his mocha wall, Martin was astounded to get a call from Peter.

“Mr. Martin? This is Peter Pentalent, returning your call.”Chapter 106 Peter Schemes

“I did call you, yes, with a few questions. Are you in town?”

“No. I got laid off from that club, where I saw you. I’m on the road, moving around, looking for work.”

“We have a photo of your car, at the Prospect on Prospect condo building, where you used to live – as we now know – in Hans’ garage space, taken the night that Rusty Mangold died there in the pool. Hans told us that you’d moved out prior to that. How do you explain your car being there that night?”

“Without seeing it, I guess all I can say is that I was there that weekend to organize some stuff that I’d left behind. Not sure why anyone would take a picture of that, though. Pretty uninteresting.”

“What time were you there?”

“Sometime later on Sunday, I guess. Not sure. Does it matter?”

“Yes, it does matter. We’re investigating a suspicious death.”

“But mine obviously wasn’t the only car in the garage that night. Why me? Who did it? What were they doing in there? I mean who would take a picture of my car? Isn’t that a weird thing to do? How did you get it anyway, I mean, Rusty died weeks ago? Why now?” This unexpected, bordering on delusional, interrogation of Peter’s left Martin reminded of role reversal training exercises from his police academy days; things to watch for when interviewing a psychopath. But Peter had just expressed some of Martin’s own misgivings about the well-after the fact and anonymous arrival in his hands of this photo, so deliberately free of possible identifiers. It smacked of vindictiveness. There was already a note of that attitude in Kitty Doyle, what with the flower fiasco. Martin opted to leave her name out of his questions, for now.

“When we saw you at the club, you denied knowing anybody at the POPS.”

“No, I didn’t. You asked me if Rusty had ever mentioned knowing anybody there.” Martin considered the carefulness of Peter’s reply. At the very least, Martin considered, at that point Peter might have told them that he had recently lived there. What else had he omitted to tell them that afternoon?

“So, how did you get in?”

“Hans was away and left me his keys, in case I had time to come over and get started sorting. He’s always going on about more space for his office. Always in such a hurry, so selfish.”

“He doesn’t say that he left you his keys.”

“Oh, that’s just Hans. He doesn’t remember what he’s said half the time. Useless. I came back later to pick up the stuff that was mine, after we made sure about dividing it up. I have a small car, don’t I? Had to make a couple of trips. For that I’d need to have keys, wouldn’t I?”

“What did you remove from the building?”

“Building? Well, nothing from the building. Oh, you mean from the condo? Um, a poster, some glassware, no wait, I brought some glassware back that I’d taken by mistake, silly me, and there were clothes that were definitely mine, too, a pile of cushions, and a lamp, some baking and serving dishes. I don’t really remember the rest ’cause it’s all in storage now.”

“Nothing belonging to Rusty?” Peter had dumped Rusty’s things in the trash not taken them out of the building.

“To Rusty? Rusty never knew Hans, not in person, so that would be crazy.” Crazy like a fox, thought Martin.

*****************

Greg had never found out about the fate of his flowers. A conspiracy of kindness had since surrounded him, aware and hopeful that soon he might be sending flowers to a more grateful recipient. But Martin thought he might as well ask Greg as not, if he knew where Kitty had gone. Greg hadn’t heard that she was gone, so really didn’t know. She’d only ever mentioned possibilities of things she might try next, nothing ever that specific. But he was a little curious about her himself, wondering why the cops wanted to know. On Friday night, after the girls had gone down to Mrs. James unit for the night, he thought he’d check out Kitty’s place. They’d never actually given their own unit keys to each other so he couldn’t get in, if she had moved away. Maybe Hans would know. He lived right across the hall, might have seen her to talk to more recently.

The door to her unit was wide open, so Greg knew at once that she wasn’t there. Kitty would never leave her door open, even a little. He hesitated in the opening. When Hans came down the hall toward the foyer, they each started at the sight of each other. Hans recovered first.

“Hi, Greg, how are you?”

“What’s going on?”

“Oh, you weren’t still expecting to see Kitty in here, were you? She’s moved out. I thought you knew.”

A pile of cleaning materials left by a maid who didn't read the condo docs first. It's against the rules to leave personal items in the cmmon area hallways.

A pile of cleaning materials left by a maid who didn't read the condo docs first. It's against the rules to leave personal items in the common area hallways.

“We aren’t together any more so I guess she didn’t have to tell me. But why are you in here?”

“I bought the place from her. Closed the deal a few hours ago. I’ll be getting it ready to move in, painting, and all.”

“But what about your place?” Greg looked back over his shoulder across the hall to Hans’ door just in time to see another man emerge from the unit, carrying what looked to him like a stick from a roller brush. Greg had a working knowledge of sticks; his lingering inability to figure out about people was interfering with his interpretation of the state of play before him.

“Found it.” The stranger arrived raising it in victory. Hans could see the bewilderment in Greg’s face.

“Greg, this is Sebastian Cabot. Sebastian, Greg Mendel. Sebastian and his brother Matthew are the sons of the Cabots whose unit is for sale upstairs. And they’re buying my unit.” Greg, on auto-pilot, reached out to shake Sebastian’s stick-free hand. When he’d asked R.M. about selling his place, he’d had no idea at all that he was living in such a hotbed of real estate. Perhaps he had better get moving, quite literally, while the building was so active.

“Nice to meet you, Sebastian. I was sorry to hear about your parents.” Mrs. James had informed him of that event. “I see that I need to get into the loop here. Knew none of this moving was happening. Do either of you know where Kitty actually went?” Greg had her contact numbers but Kitty, unless she really wanted to speak with someone, rarely bothered to return messages. Much more likely that she would have boasted about where she was headed next, that is, if she liked where she was going.

“Can’t help you there, Greg.” Hans had Greg down as basically clueless. “It seems you’ll have to get in line behind the cops for the answer to that question.”