At noon the next day, Harry entered the King Edward Hotel. Yesterday’s conversation with Robert Hawke had grown in his mind from merely odd to downright sinister. At least four lives had been lost in the battle for the Elixicorp shares—Norma’s millions. The prospect of meeting the successor to the brutally rapacious George Pappas set him on edge. Hawke didn’t sound vicious, just creepy. Despite his concerns, Harry’s curiosity mounted.
At the desk, he asked for Dr. Hawke. Within moments, he spotted a woman striding briskly toward him.
“Mr. Jenkins?” Smiling warmly, she held out her hand. “I’m Veronica Deal. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Hawke’s emissary, thought Harry. But isn’t that the same name as the man who upset Miss Giveny? Maybe a husband and wife team?
When Mrs. Deal shook his hand, he relaxed slightly in her warm and
Glancing about, he asked, “Will Dr. Hawke join us?”
“I’ll bring him down shortly.” She looked up at the bank of elevators. “He’ll be only slightly detained. He’ll meet with you in the Victoria Café.”
The main restaurant? Strange choice, Harry thought, for a highly confidential meeting.
The maitre d’ whisked them inward to the dining room. Harry was seated at a banquette in the far corner under high windows, covered with lace curtains. Mrs. Deal disappeared. Five waiters, in their immaculate vests, stood in a semicircle about the servery.
“Something from the bar, sir?” Harry hesitated. The steward continued, “Your host is momentarily delayed.” Dubious about what lay ahead, Harry ordered mineral water.
His eyes were drawn upward. The thirty-foot high ceilings of elaborately sculpted alabaster dwarfed him. But tables, spread with white linen, and urns of sunflowers dotted the room, suggesting warm and pleasant afternoons in the garden of a country inn. Harry glanced at his watch. Already twelve-thirty, and he was the only customer in the vast dining room. Very odd for a busy midweek lunch hour. Now, the emptiness of the cavernous room chilled him.
Mrs. Deal appeared at the entranceway pushing a pale, pudgy man in a wheelchair. Harry put down his napkin and stood up.
The sunlight caught the soft folds of Dr. Hawke’s upturned face. Although his smile was sweet and shy, intense curiosity enlivened his bright blue eyes. In a soft and sibilant voice, he said, “How very good of you to join me, Mr. Jenkins. It is, indeed, time we met.”
Murmuring the usual pleasantries, Harry assisted the maitre d’ in making room for the wheelchair at the table. Mrs. Deal disappeared again.
“Will you join me in a glass of wine, Mr. Jenkins?” Hawke asked, delicately dabbing his lips with his napkin. The steward appeared at Harry’s side.
“Certainly.” Harry handed him the wine list. Over Hawke’s shoulder, he could see the maitre d’ turning customers away.
“This is a very popular restaurant, Dr. Hawke. Odd. They seem to be turning business away.”
“Please call me Robert, Harry.” Hawke smiled merrily, then his face darkened. “The restaurant does not have its customary luncheon crowd because I reserved all the tables.”
Surprised, Harry carefully set down his glass. “Really, Dr. Hawke? Why would you do that?”
A waiter delivered the breadbasket. Hawke’s pudgy hand shot out and hovered over it. Daintily, he took a roll and replied, “I want to have the utmost privacy for our discussions, sir.”
Harry waited until the steward poured the wine. “You have my fullest attention. What sort of legal matter requires such precautions?”
Hawke leaned across the table. “Are your parents alive, Harry?”
Harry blinked in surprise. “My father is. My mother died some years ago.”
“Is your father well?”
“Yes and no.”
A smile crept over Dr. Hawke’s face. When he tapped his forefinger to his lips, Harry noticed for the first time that each finger of his left hand was decorated with a ring.
“Are you referring to his mental health, Harry?” he asked quietly.
“Physically, he is fairly sound, but some days, he’s not particularly alert.” Harry watched as the doctor nibbled on a piece of roll. “Why do you ask?”
“His connections to this world seem frayed?”
Harry was intrigued with the image. “Something like that, I guess,” he said, sipping his wine.
“How long has your father suffered this difficulty?”
“Almost two years.” Harry answered as he began to study the menu.
Hawke looked at him expectantly.
“And yes. As your analogy suggests, on and off,” Harry continued.
“I like to think it is similar to my disease.”
“Multiple sclerosis. Some days are better than others.” His smile was charming. “Today, I’m in the chair, but on others, I can walk fairly well.”
Harry’s mind drifted off. His father seemed to disappear into a dark well, only to resurface at the most surprising moments. Usually, he was quiescent. But some times, a violent personality would leap out from his father’s gentle being with the random force of a spinning wheel detached from its center. Then, he would curse and strike the nurses as they tried to wash or shave him. If such a creature inhabited his father, Harry knew it was in every person. But how helpless he felt in the face of such madness!
If nothing else, Harry knew he must bear witness. This is my father. I cherish his mind, his memory, his being. It was a small enough act for a son but, given their years of silence, how much did he actually know of him? Surely by now, he must have really forgiven Dad.
“Thinking of your father?” Hawke asked quietly as he poured more wine. Harry nodded absently. “Likely, at times you do not recognize him? Does he suffer from psychotic episodes?”
Harry nodded again and lifted his wine glass.
“When the circuitry is severely damaged, nightmarish devils escape.” Hawke stared at him over the top of his glass. “Unfortunately, the beast is within all of us. Civilized behavior is a most tenuous membrane.” His eyes sparkled with challenge. “What do you think about the kind and gentle soul, then?”
Harry spoke thoughtfully. “I think it must still exist, somewhere, if it can return.”
“Precisely, Mr. Jenkins!” said Hawke, with the energy of a religious zealot. “It is my fervent hope that we can repair the damage that permits these demons to escape.” He slapped the table with the palm of his hand. “They have no place in our civilized world.”
Harry wondered about the direction of the conversation. Interesting enough, but perhaps facile. He said, “Dr. Hawke, you didn’t arrange this luncheon to discuss my father. Is there some legal matter I can help you with?”
Although Hawke appeared disappointed, he quickly brightened. “Sometimes, I become too enthused.” He shrugged amiably. “But it is my passion. Shall we order lunch?”
Harry nodded. They ordered, and waiters came and went.
“I understand you represent Norma Dinnick,” Hawke said.
“I’m her court appointed legal guardian,” Harry answered carefully.
Robert nodded enthusiastically. “Good. Then I am speaking to the proper person.”
Harry waited and said nothing.
“There is some money missing, sir.” Hawke’s eyebrows rose unpleasantly. “A great deal of money.”
Harry remained still and silent.
Motioning for the waiter, Hawke ordered, “Draw the screen around this table at once.”
Swiftly, two men shifted a silk brocade screen around the dining table. After several moments of the doctor’s hectoring, a suitable degree of privacy was achieved.
“That money was intended to fund research on Alzheimer’s. It is desperately needed.”
“What does Mrs. Dinnick have to do with it?” Of course, Harry knew it was the same money Norma was after.
Hawke clenched his fist. “Mrs. Dinnick knows where that money is! If the Hawke Institute is to establish its clinical trials at the Queen Mary Hospital, then we must have it.” In a more conciliatory tone, he concluded, “Millions of people need this drug, Harry.”
Harry reviewed his obligations. As her legal guardian, standing in her shoes, his job was to act solely on her behalf. Obviously, the ownership of the money remained in dispute, but it could be a stalemate. No party could have a legitimate claim to proceeds of fraud.
“Dr. Hawke,” he began slowly, “If, in fact, Norma Dinnick knows the location of these funds—and I am not saying she does—she claims them for herself. Any other position would be strenuously resisted.”
Hawke’s lips began to tremble in rage. “Sir, the funds were raised by a conglomerate charged with the responsibility of using them for medical research. Mrs. Dinnick selfishly stands in the way of desperately needed scientific work. Surely, she can be reasoned with?”
“Dr. Hawke, any dispute as to ownership must be determined in court.”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed in appraisal. At last, he smiled. “Spoken like a true advocate, Mr. Jenkins.” He patted Harry’s hand. “I must take the proper measure of you as an opponent and a man.”
Harry shrugged and picked up his salad fork. He sought to learn as much as he could. “What can you tell me about these trials?” he asked mildly.
The corners of Hawke’s mouth began to twitch. The waiters with the lunch appeared from behind the screen. Hawke motioned for silence until they were gone. Harry cut into his club salad. Hawke tore another roll, then stirred his soup reflectively.
“It’s truly wonderful,” Hawke breathed. “For the first time, we hope to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. The mildly addled will become reliably lucid. The violent will become calm and stable.”
Harry was intrigued with the claim. From his father's state, he knew, all too well, the ravages of the disease. Yet, to his knowledge, understanding of the cause and the process of the disease remained in its infancy. To forestall and mitigate its effects was the goal, not to reverse damage already done.
“How can you repair what has apparently already been destroyed, Dr. Hawke?”
A slow and patient smile crept over the doctor’s face. He covered Harry’s hand with his. “I do admire your energy and reserve. Rather like dealing with a panther in captivity.” Hawke removed his hand and returned to his meal.
Harry took a moment to consider the repetition of the gesture and comment. A direct question was always deflected. And what about the personal commentary?
Harry set down his knife and fork. “You still haven’t answered my question, Dr. Hawke. Are you really claiming your research supports the hope for a cure?”
“Black tangles in the brain,” muttered Hawke.
“The cruel ravages look like black tangles of neurons in the brain.”
“They must be undone, and new pathways constructed.”
“Your drug can do this?”
“I’m so pleased, Harry, at your interest in our project. Because it’s difficult to imagine such a miracle from reams of data, could you come to our little party for the medical profession?” Hawke looked beseechingly at Harry. “It’s at the St. George’s Club this evening, say, about seven. You’ll meet one of the participants in the trials, and you can ask him any questions you like.” Hawke leaned over and squeezed Harry’s hand again. “The results to date are most promising.”
Once released, Harry quickly withdrew his hand and busied himself with his salad. “Haven’t you obtained funding from any of the usual sources?” he asked.
The doctor smiled sadly and shook his head. “Oh, yes, we do have the usual funding. But it is never enough. You know how niggardly governments can be with research money in both our countries.”
His tone suddenly became fierce. “George Pappas raised the money to save minds! Mrs. Dinnick is preventing very important research from going forward.”
Hawke’s knee was touching his. Harry was unnerved by the advances. He must be mistaken, but no, the pressure was becoming intense. Quickly, he shifted on the banquette.
“You will talk to her, Mr. Jenkins?” His eyebrows arched again. “If she understands what hangs in the balance, perhaps she will change her mind.”
“Some days, I can discuss matters with her. And some, I can’t.”
“On the good days, Mr. Jenkins, I am sure you can be most persuasive. You have a magnetic spirit, sir. I have no doubt that your energy can be absolutely overwhelming.”
Harry’s discomfort grew rapidly. “Dr. Hawke, I’ll speak with Mrs. Dinnick, but I won’t promise anything.”
The doctor waved his hand impatiently. “I only ask that you present our case and advise me personally whether you have been successful.” Hawke brushed a crumb from his lips. “I look forward with great eagerness to seeing you again. Not just for our little business at hand. I am attracted by your vitality, Mr. Jenkins.”
In the coolness of the room, Harry felt his color rise.
“Listen, Dr. Hawke, I’m not certain what your intent is here.”
In silent mirth, the doctor rolled from one side of his chair to the other. After considerable effort at control, he said, “Not only have you a keen intellect, you are also most perceptive.” He patted Harry’s hand. “I will embarrass you no further, my friend.”
Harry breathed in silent relief. Unable to think of any words, he simply nodded curtly.
The waiter appeared, and they ordered coffee. Harry gazed out the window.
“You do not suffer from color-blindness, Harry?”
Harry frowned. Hawke’s conversational sallies were becoming tiresome. “No, Dr. Hawke, I do not,” he answered stiffly.
Hawke spoke softly and lyrically. “Then, you enjoy the full spectrum of color?” Harry nodded impatiently. “Can you imagine red without green, or yellow without a lovely blue to enhance it?”
“Dr. Hawke….” Harry shifted uncomfortably on the banquette.
“Imagine, my friend, becoming at least partially color-blind. You can see the cardinal’s red feathers, but the leaves of the trees have become an abysmal gray. The ocean is blue, but the sun is a dull disc. Cruel reminders of the riot of color once enjoyed.” Hawke paused thoughtfully.
Harry was almost seduced by the imagery, but he said impatiently, “Where is this leading, Dr. Hawke?” He made a show of checking his watch. Not another picture of the cruel effects of Alzheimer’s, he hoped.
Tracing the heavy design of one of his rings, Hawke continued. “I like to think, sir, that being struck color-blind, or being deprived of any other sense or ability, is not so different from becoming mad. When insanity descends—as with color-blindness—one day, the world looks quite normal. The next, it has lost its usual vibrancy, because all the contrasts and beauty are gone. And unless you are entirely mad, you will be tortured by the faint remembrance that both greens and reds exist—blues and yellows, too. With the dimming of this world, the eye turns inward to be confronted by those nightmarish devils of which we have spoken. Imagine, Harry, the horror of traveling back and forth between lucidity and madness. Always the divided soul!
Hawke peered intently at Harry, but then lowered his eyes and played with a sugar cube. “It is so very sad, Harry, to be deprived of any dimensions in this riot of life, when you lust for the full array of vibrant color.” Again, the doctor’s knee pressed his. “For some, the hunger is always there, longing to be satisfied.”
Harry had no idea what to say. Deep within, he struggled with a growing distaste for the pudgy man, whose intense blue eyes subjected him to keen scrutiny. But he knew better than to antagonize him. The man exhibited such a strange intellect and heightened sensibility, completely unlike the thug Pappas, who killed on a whim.
At last he spoke, “Dr. Hawke, I certainly sympathize with such a plight, but I fail to see how this relates to the matter of my client.”
Hawke’s eyes twinkled. “Surely it’s obvious, Harry. Norma Dinnick must realize she could well benefit from such a drug. In her lucid moments, she will enjoy the full array of color, but as her madness descends, like gathering clouds, she will experience the blotting out first of reds, then of greens.” Robert Hawke shrugged. “Who knows? She might even be considered as a candidate in our trials.”
The man, thought Harry, is charming, but odd, even creepy. But intent on remaining noncommittal, he only smiled and said, “You have an interesting flair for images, Doctor.”
Hawke leaned closer. “If we were to cooperate in finding the money, Harry, then we could fight it out in court. Why waste time, energy, and money in the duplication of effort to reach the same goal? We would submit all issues to court, just like gentlemen. You have my word.”
Harry groped for some way to end the meeting. “I’ll do as I said. I’ll present your case to Mrs. Dinnick and report back. That is, when she is able to discuss matters.”
“Thank you, Harry. I rely on your word as a gentleman.”
When the two men had shaken hands, Mrs. Deal appeared from behind the screen.
Wheeling himself from the table, Hawke said, “Do say you’ll come to our little party at the St. George’s Club.” His eyes narrowed. “I know you’ll be most impressed.”
Harry nodded curtly. “All right. I’ll see you there.”
Hawke turned to Mrs. Deal, “Now my dear, please wheel me upstairs. I’m afraid our little luncheon has wearied me somewhat.”
Mrs. Deal took her charge across the floor of the still empty restaurant. At the door, the retinue of waiters stood back to make way. The doctor’s pink head lolled to one side as they said good-bye to the maitre d’.
Harry collected his notebook and headed back for the office. Walking up Yonge Street in the intense heat, he felt chilled. Hawke and Pappas could not be more different. Still, greed and determination united them. However, Norma was just as determined, and she and Arthur had been crafty enough to outsmart them all. But he had not heard a more eloquent description of the slide from lucidity to madness.
In the suite, Mrs. Deal asked, “Was the meeting a success?”
Hawke stood up and pushed the wheelchair into the corner. He gazed out the window. “Quite successful, Ronnie. Our friend Mr. Jenkins is a worthy opponent—intelligent and perceptive. We must be on our toes with him at all times. But he has agreed to present our case to the Dinnick woman.”
Hawke turned back into the room. Chuckling, he said, “I behaved shamefully, Ronnie.”
“I led him to think I was interested in him sexually.”
Robert pursed his lips and appeared thoughtful. “Because, my dear, it is his weakest point.”
Mrs. Deal sighed but made no comment. She knew her employer had his own agenda, which would never be revealed until the moment of his own choosing. “Would you like some coffee, Robert?”
“Thank you, my dear. We must have clear heads to best this gentleman. He is a most worthy candidate.”
“Candidate for what?” Mrs. Deal asked, handing him his cup.
Hawke pursed his lips in childlike delight. “My trial of one. In time, the world will learn of my real contribution to medical science.”