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Mary E Martin

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Featured Book
Profile of a Murder
by Roger Vizi

When I wrote ths book in 2000, I was concerned about children having access to the Internet and to chat rooms where "you can be anyone you want." Here we are many years l..  
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I'm continuing to post 7-8 chapters in each of the three novels in the trilogy in hopes that I'll intrigue you enough to get your own copy. Also, I'll be posting articles about the writing of the trilogy and also a fourth novel which is entirely different and is just at the first draft stage. Thanks for reading

 

CHAPTER 4
 
Frustration with his lack of artistic skill flooded the Florist as he walked swiftly up Yonge Street. He glanced at the rows of dingy porn shops. Through grimy windows, he saw magazines with pictures of women, twisted and bent. There were photographs of men posing naked together. How sick, disgusting, and depressing, he thought. Sometimes he yearned for the cleansing power of fire to destroy such depravity.
He shook his head. No one appreciated fine art anymore. At last he reached Bloor Street, where the shops were more suited to his taste. In one small bookstore he examined the art section, finding what he was looking for deep within the racks of books: a selection of line drawings by the masterful French painter, Matisse.
Sinking into a comfortable chair, he was transported by the beauty and expression in the effortless flow of line. Matisse had captured his imagination. How could an artist achieve such life and magnificent truth with just one or two lines?
Setting down the book, he gazed out the window. His carvings were much too fussy. On his last one, he had striven for greater artistic style and flair. The scrolling stem along her neck was a good beginning. How splendid it was to create a masterful mark with just a few lines.
Quickly, he paid for the book and checked his watch. It was getting late. He hailed a cab and resolved to practise his drawing tonight. He would learn from Matisse. An artist must rise to the challenge. This time, he would seek the finest canvas to satisfy his requirements.


CHAPTER 5
 
Better get Chin’s money into the trust account, thought Harry. One million for the deposits and two hundred thousand for legal costs. Surely the huge retainer must include work on the rezoning applications.
Harry nursed a deep-seated grudge against banks. Usually his stomach rebelled as he approached them. Banks are not your friends, he reminded himself while riding down in the elevator. In good times, bank managers—beaming like carnival hucksters—lured solvent citizens into the valley of debt. Scowling in the bad times, they tallied up arrears and heartlessly called in loans. This particular bank, the Toronto-Royal, had refused to finance his attempts to buy Crawford out.
Memories of his father’s own battles with banking institutions leapt to mind.Vividly, he recalled one night at dinner, when he was eight. The banging at the door had made him drip spaghetti sauce over the stove‑top.
There, in the porch light, had stood a tall, burly man.
“You Stanley Jenkins?” the man demanded, thrusting a sheaf of papers into his father’s hand. The top page was decorated with a bright red seal. “Greetings!” it began.
Dad’s shoulders sagged and his chest caved in. Shaking his head, he sighed and turned the pages as Mother hovered in the doorway.
“What is it, Stan?”
The house was entirely silent, except for the ticking of the kitchen clock. Finally, well-educated, hardworking Stanley Jenkins looked up at his wife and said, “They’re going to sell the place, Alice.”
“Who?”
“The bank,” he said quietly. Then anger flared. “Who else, God damn it?”
Harry and Anna were shocked, less by the swearing, than by the lonely frustration in their father’s voice.
Harry wasn’t old enough to be really worried, even when he and his sister, were sent to bed early. Lying in the darkness, he listened to the rise and fall of his parents’ voices. He was puzzled by a phrase his father used over and over again.
“In arrears, in arrears.” His father’s voice peaked in frustration. “We’re three months in arrears.” To Harry, it sounded like a jail sentence.
Harry knew about money. Sometimes, he could almost hear it sloshing up and down the financial canyons of the city. But not enough of it was his.
Money…always the money! He sighed. He knew his wife had other standards, but her family’s wealth spun a soft cocoon that protected them from the rest of the world. From within their silken web, her parents peered out at the populace in general and at Harry in particular. Their intense scrutiny was more than disconcerting. A tilt of the jaw or the pursing of lips spoke volumes. He could seldom measure up against their silently shifting boundaries. Money was the only true and absolute indicator of success. It poisoned their love.
Awed by her beauty, he used to love stroking her soft blonde hair. Once, her green eyes had been filled with love for him. Now they appraised him with brisk efficiency.
As an art dealer for Sotheby’s, she had recently invited Harry to an auction. “Harry, come with me. It’ll be fun.” He had not realized it was a last attempt to draw him into her world.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he hesitated, but could find no excuse. It was foreign territory to him, and he railed at any form of profligacy or flamboyance.
The auction was held in the ballroom of the Royal York Hotel. Immense crystal chandeliers and heavy brocade drapes graced the room. Silent tension hung in the air. The auctioneer, handsome in his pin-striped suit, rapped sharply with his tiny gavel, driving the bidding even higher.
“Eight hundred and fifty thousand.” Looking expectantly over the sea of impassive faces, he called out, “Do I hear nine hundred thousand?” At the back of the room, a small yellow paddle shot up. “Sold…going…going…gone.”
Harry’s stomach had sunk as the figures danced ever higher. Shocked by Laura’s intense excitement, loneliness crept over him. She gloried in this recklessness so foreign to him. She was betrothed to her career and a family would only interfere.
“Why not a child?” Harry used to ask, years back.
“Not yet, darling. Perhaps next year, when the projects at the museum are done.” But there was always another project.
After the auction, they had driven in silence past dark mansions on Sherbourne Street, now a jumble of converted rooming houses. At Gerrard Street lay the Allan Gardens, where men drifted about and fought for park benches. At the end of Sherbourne Street they turned into the tree-lined crescents of Rosedale. Before he knew it, the house in which Laura had grown up, loomed ahead. He gazed at the portico and the stately, broad oak door.
“Home sweet home,” said Harry. He thought the remark was innocent.
“Why did you come this way?” Laura’s voice was flat and hollow. Surprised, Harry glanced at her. Lights of an oncoming car illuminated her thin, drawn face.
“Just trying to get to the parkway.” He hesitated, “Something wrong?”
Angrily, she twisted around in her seat. “You hated the auction, didn’t you? You couldn’t stomach watching people spend money.”
“What?” Harry was alarmed.
“You don’t need to spell it out.” She waved at her old house, grand with its columns and porticos. “Just because I grew up here doesn’t mean I measure everything in money. Am I supposed to apologize for our money?”
Harry was silent. There was no stopping a bursting dam.
“You’re so superior about your ethical values, Harry. As if having money were a crime.”
“Laura, I didn’t say a word.”
“You didn’t need to. It’s written all over your face.”
After several moments of silence, Harry spoke evenly. “Actually, Laura, I was just thinking how well the auction went. You and Dr. Stover must have worked very hard.”
Laura glared at him. “What has he got to do with this?”
He tried to placate her. “Nothing at all. Can’t I give a compliment without getting into trouble?”
Laura stared out the window in silence. At last she spoke as if setting down a heavy burden. “Harry, I think we need time to think things through.”
“What things?”
They were on Bayview Avenue sweeping northward along the Don River. Red taillights crept up the parkway on the other side of the river. The city, always so familiar, seemed hostile and foreign to Harry, as if he had lost his bearings in the dark.
“Us,” she said.
“Yes?” He tried to maintain an even tone.
Her voice was weary. “We’re in completely different worlds, Harry. Your old clients, with their Depression-era thinking, hoard their fistfuls of money, never taking a moment of pleasure in life.”
“And that’s what Dr. Stover gives you? A sense of pleasure in life?” Instantly, he regretted his words. Now they were hurling stones at each other.
As Harry mounted the stone steps to the bank, he vividly recalled Laura’s ashen face as they had argued back and forth in the car. Then he remembered Natasha Boretsky’s eyes widening with pleasure as he took her hand at the funeral parlor. The bank’s vaulted ceilings rose up from the hushed main concourse. Despite any bureaucratic trial visited upon him,no customer would dare to vent his rage in this sepulchre. Crawford had chosen this branch, considering it a suitable extension of his old Toronto practice. Security and gentility were to be found within, or so he had thought.
On several occasions, Harry had accompanied Marjorie Deighton for tea after a bond coupon-clipping expedition, in which interest from solid investments was safely tucked away in an account. Laura was right. Money, according to his clients, was for careful investing, not lavish or frivolous spending.Tables of white linen laden with crystal and delicate teacups dotted Eaton’s Round Room near the bank. In these elegant surroundings, between the business of pouring tea and passing plates of tiny sandwiches, Marjorie had first discussed her personal affairs.
“The secret trust? Yes, Mr. Jenkins, I’ve taken care of that. It is quite safe.” Marjorie dabbed the corners of her lips with her napkin.
“Should I have a copy of it, Miss Deighton?” He hated being in the dark.
“No, not yet. Someday, perhaps,” she said wistfully. “I’d like your advice about Suzannah, and about another matter.”
“Certainly.” Harry was delighted by her confidence.
“She’s very much influenced by her friend Mr. Sasso. I believe he has a reputation.”Although Harry knew Frank Sasso only slightly, the word ‘lout’ readily came to mind.
“I want to ensure that none of my estate comes into his hands. I am sure he has unsavory connections.”
Harry spoke reassuringly. “That can be arranged. Certain legal stratagems…”
Marjorie smiled sadly at him and said, “I have a very special tie with Suzannah. One day, I’ll come to your office and change my will.”
“And the other matter?” Harry asked.
Marjorie averted her eyes. “I’m very worried about my great-nephew, Donald, Gerry’s son. They call him Donnie. He’s getting in some trouble at school, and he’s had a few minor brushes with the law. His parents throw up their hands and march him off to a psychiatrist.” She examined her hands neatly folded in her lap. “They should be talking with him, not abandoning him. He has so many goodqualities, but I’m afraid his parents are too busy with their own lives to notice.”
“Perhaps he needs their understanding. It’s hard for young people, these days,” he murmured.“Is there something you’d like me to do?” Harry spoke carefully. He remembered Laura’s accusations of social work.
Marjorie smiled sadly. “There’s not much you can do. But it helps to be able to talk. You give good advice—not just on legal matters.”
Harry smiled. His client’s trust meant a great deal to him. “You can talk to me anytime, Miss Deighton.”
Inside the Toronto‑Royal, Harry took his place in the single line before the wickets. Miss Priverts the head teller, pursed her lips when she spotted Harry.
Stepping up to the counter, Harry slid the deposit books across the cool marble countertop and under the brass rail.
In his most soothing tone, he began, “Good afternoon, Miss Privets.” He could not prevent a smile. She really did look like a colorless prune.
“The assistant manager wants to speak with you, Mr. Jenkins.” When she deigned to open the deposit books, her voice trailed off. First she squinted and held the checks at arm’s length, then she adjusted her lamp for closer examination.
“I have to speak to Mr. Mudhali,” she began faintly. Snapping shut her cash drawer, she scurried off in search of help. Clearing his throat, Harry assumed a posture of impatience. He became aware of shifting feet and rustling papers in the line behind him. Lost in a study of the checks, Mr. Mudhali emerged from his office.
“Mr. Jenkins, could I see you, please? In my office.” Harry summoned his slightly frayed dignity and followed the man to the inner recesses of his office.
“Mr. Jenkins.” Mudhali’s tone was formal. “I attempted to reach your partner this week, regarding the firm’s line of credit.”
“Mr. Crawford is dead. He had a stroke on Tuesday.”
The man’s eyes widened. “I’m terribly sorry,” mumbled Mudhali. “This does cause a problem. The firm’s line of credit is fifty thousand dollars in arrears. If immediate arrangements are not made…”
In arrears…in arrears. Three months in jail. The words rang out in Harry’s mind.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” he demanded.
Mudhali consulted his file. “Mr. Crawford pledged the firm account as security for a personal line of credit.”
“He can’t do that!”
“Do you want to see the accounting?”
“No. I want to see his signature.”
“Certainly, Mr. Jenkins.” He passed a sheet of paper across the desk.
Harry searched, but could not find his reading glasses. He squinted at the document. It sure as hell looked like Richard’s signature. “The bank can’t secure a personal loan against partnership funds,” said Harry, tossing the sheet back at the assistant manager.
Mudhali paled only slightly. His voice remained stubbornly calm. “Our lawyers will have to deal with the issue.”
Harry was on his feet. His hands pressed on the table so hard that his knuckles were white. “This banking relationship is in trouble, Mr. Mudhali.”
“If suitable arrangements are not made,” Mudhali said, lowering his eyes to the checks on the desk, “we will have to freeze the account and refer the matter to the head office.”
“You do that, sir, and I will have you in court faster than—”
Mudhali fingered Harry’s retainer check. “A substantial immediate payment on account would permit me to deposit these checks and avoid such unpleasantness.”
If he hadn’t been so angry, Harry would have laughed. “A bank hold-up? Listen, Mr. Mudhali, my firm has been a customer for more than fifty years.”
Mudhali held up his hand. “As for any balance remaining, the bank would accept other collateral. Do you own a house?” The assistant manager reached for his loan manual.
“Listen, you are dead wrong on the law. That security is useless.”
“I am not a lawyer, sir, but I understand such legal points take months, if not years to determine in court.”
Considering the complexities of legal partnerships, Harry seethed. Either he went along with the bureaucratic twit (for the moment), or he would be tied up in red tape for months. The Chin retainer would be either uncashed or frozen.
Harry stood up. His chair screeched backward, smashing against a filing cabinet. Only a tiny amount of the trust money had been earned with the interview of Chin, the instructions, and the title searches. If the deals did not go through, he would have to return most of Mr. Chin’s money.
Harry was scrupulous about client funds, and would fret if the bookkeeper missed a penny. Snatching up his checkbook, he saw in his mind the bright and trusting faces of a hundred clients. He saw those faces turn gray in disbelief when he uncapped his pen.
Petty triumph gleamed in Mudhali’s eyes.
Despite years of circumspection and care, Harry was driven by a new and reckless fury. Either he made a payment, or the bank would freeze his accounts. Mudhali had nailed him to the wall.
He exploded. “You’ll have payment of half the damned arrears right now!” He scrawled a trust account check for twenty-five thousand dollars to the bank, from Albert Chin’s money.
“Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. However, you do realize that this takes care of only part of the arrears of interest on the loan.”
Harry grew cold. “How much is the loan?” He held his breath.
“Five hundred thousand dollars.”
“Jesus Christ,” Harry breathed. “That loan can’t legally be secured on the firm’s account.” He prayed he was right. Time to read up on partnership law. Otherwise, Crane, Crawford and Jenkins would be dead.
Mr. Mudhali closed the firm’s file. “As I have said, that’s for our legal department to consider, sir.” His expressionless brown eyes disclosed nothing.
White anger and fear propelled Harry along King Street in record time. That pompous paper-pusher had goaded him into taking twenty-five thousand dollars of the Chin money before he’d earned it. If he couldn’t straighten out Crawford’s mess, he’d be sunk. Damn that womanizer! Suddenly, he stopped and grinned. Even if the old bastard could secure a personal line of credit on partnership funds, his estate would be liable to repay the debt. Dorothy, Crawford’s long-suffering wife, would not be pleased. For a moment, he breathed more easily.
As to his rashness, Laura’s voice rang in his ears. “You’re so tied to your outdated morality, Harry. Everybody else takes risks. But not you. Are you that much better than everyone else?” Jesus! Laura would be proud, he thought bitterly. In anger, he had put one foot on the wrong side.
Albert Chin had said that money was no problem, and after all, there was lots of work in preparing those offers. He would search the titles to the properties, do the corporate searches, and prepare six offers and submit them. Surely that would add up to twenty-five grand. Besides, Chin would not have given him such a munificent retainer had he not expected a sizable bill. And Harry knew that he was not the only lawyer guilty of such an infraction.
But the dreaded Section Four of the Code of Conduct refused to let go of his thoughts. Thou shalt not withdraw monies from trust without an accounting delivered within four days of any such transaction. The deed was done. Mudhali would have transferred the funds immediately.
Suddenly, Harry brightened. When Chin came in to sign the offers tomorrow, he would give him a letter setting out the withdrawal on account of services to be rendered. It was likely that this maneuver would ensure compliance at least with the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Despite his rationale, Harry knew that his pride had driven him to rashness.
Miss Giveny was waiting by the car, exuding a steam of impatience. He forced the Mudhali encounter to back of his mind.
“Things are beginning to hum,” he said, with forced cheeriness. “The Chin money is safely tucked in the bank. Now, let’s see what Miss Deighton wants. Oh, by the way, did you bring Marjorie’s existing will?”
She sniffed, offended that her competence might be in question. “Of course. I brought two copies of it and put the original back in the vault.”
“Good. I wonder what changes she’ll want to make.”
Harry climbed in next to his secretary. “She’ll only cause trouble,” muttered Miss Giveny sullenly.
Astonished at the unmitigated bleakness of her tone, Harry stared across at her. “Why would you say that?”
Miss Giveny shrugged. Staring straight ahead, she said, “Because it’s true . She was a great worry to Mr. Crawford. Always demanding his time over the silliest things.”
“Really? She always struck me as a very pleasant, reasonable sort.” In the slanting sun, Harry could see the tightening at the corners of her mouth. “What sorts of things?”
“Oh, I don’t know. She was always fussing about her nieces and nephew, and how they treated her.” Miss Giveny paused, as if debating whether to continue. “She was always talking about how to end it all, if she got really sick. Almost an obsession, if you ask me.”
“You mean you think she’d try to kill herself?”
Miss Giveny gazed at Harry as if he were a lowly student. “Hardly! She’s far too vain and selfish for that. All she wanted was to worry Mr. Crawford, just to get his attention. She never gave Mr. Crawford a moment’s peace. Always having to protect her.”
“Protect her? From what?” asked Harry.
Miss Giveny sniffed and crumpled up her Kleenex. “Mostly from her relatives.”
Such fears often preoccupied lonely old aunts, thought Harry. Particularly the wealthy ones, and with good reason. Was a niece or nephew visiting this afternoon? He’d need to watch out for telltale signs of duress. Lots of clients had to be protected from their nearest and dearest.
“If there’s anything more…?”
“No, nothing,” she said, snapping her purse shut. “It was all before your time, anyway.”
The conversation ended. Miss Giveny could speak volumes with her silence. They turned north onto Spadina Avenue, which, at the southerly end, was one of the broadest and most desolate streets in the city.
Chinatown was further north. New buildings, oriental in shape and design, had appeared overnight. With waves of Hong Kong money swamping the city, the Seniors’ Home and the Chinese Emporium had replaced the older, worn structures. Beyond Chinatown, Spadina Crescent wound around the massive, turreted Connaught Laboratory, which was ensconced like a Victorian dowager protecting the leafy residential district of the Deightons further north.
Time and again, he was reminded that Toronto was no longer the staid city of his childhood. Sometimes it resembled an ancient heap of unrelated jigsaw-puzzle pieces; at other times, the city seemed unified by a raw, surging energy, teeming with life.
They arrived ten minutes early. Harry parked in front of St. Timothy’s Church, which stood next to the Deighton mansion. He decided to take a walk. Miss Giveny remained in the car.
On the south side of Mount Rose was a small sporting-goods store, which resembled a concrete bunker. On the other side, shabby stores crowded in along the sidewalk. Three of Chin’s lots fronted on the north side of the street, just west of the church. Tenanted housing occupied the other three lots directly behind them.
Harry turned back to the car. Without a word, Miss Giveny climbed out and followed him up the walk.
The Deighton residence was a handsome example of mid-Victorian architecture. Like a fortress against the world, the house had two turrets rising up the three stories. A chill wind swept them up the steps to the broad veranda, which ran the along the front and down one side of the house. The sun was fading fast, leaving behind the bitter chill of an early spring.
As promised, the front door was unlocked. Although he loved the oval expanse of beveled glass set in the door, Harry shook his head at the lack of security. Some of his elderly clients were terrorized by reports of rising crime. Undoubtedly, they would be hiding behind locks and latches, fearful that the Florist would break in. Others, such as the Deightons, were so insulated by their attitudes of class and status that they felt safe. An attack on their property or person would signal the total disintegration of society.
Harry pushed Marjorie’s front door open.
“Miss Deighton,” he called, as they stepped inside.
The interior was dim and cold. The twilight flickered momentarily, illuminating the broad staircase, which led off the foyer. Harry rubbed his hands together for warmth, then took off his coat. The brass rings screeched along the rod as he drew back the heavy brocade curtains of the cloakroom.
“Good afternoon, Miss Deighton,” he said more loudly, opening the parlor door. Her chair by the fireplace was empty, and the grate was cold. Miss Giveny shivered at his side.
A strong draft caught his ankles from somewhere at the back. Moving through the shadowy parlor and dining room, he entered the kitchen. A naked ceiling bulb swayed slightly in the pantry off the kitchen, casting a stark and ugly light. The draft came from the back door, which was not properly closed. Shoving his weight against it, Harry slammed it shut.
The telephone rang in the still house: once, then twice. Harry waited for it to be answered. The phone continued its ringing.
On the main staircase, he called out, “Miss Deighton, it’s Harold Jenkins. Are you all right?”
He held his breath to listen. Was that movement upstairs?
Harry peered upward in the gray light. A shadow seemed to pass on the wall of the upstairs landing. The cursed phone continued to ring.
On the stairs, Miss Giveny held him back. “I’ll go. She wouldn’t want a man coming up.”
Abruptly, the telephone stopped. Miss Giveny rushed up the stairs. She rapped on the door and then twisted the knob.
The staccato bursts from the telephone were the only sound throughout the house.
White-faced, Miss Giveny stood at the head of the stairs. “The door won’t budge.”
Harry mounted the stairs, two at a time. His sleeve brushed a potted plant, pitching it to the floor. He knocked again. “Miss Deighton, are you in there?”
The knob was so loose that it might easily snap off. At last the catch turned, but the door still would not budge. He threw his weight against the door and it gave way.
Marjorie lay peacefully on the bed, dressed in a deep-blue silk dress, as if ready to go out for afternoon tea. Her ankles were crossed rather primly and her arms lay in repose at her sides.
Two straight-backed chairs were pulled up beside the bed. A broken teacup lay on the floor, its contents forming a dark stain on the carpet.
A bedside lamp bathed her face in a soft rose light. He was moved by the utter peace in her expression. How clear her skin was—almost translucent. Care seemed washed away. Lowering his head to her chest, he listened for breathing. Gently, he took her wrist, but could find no pulse. He winced at the cold and stiffness of her fingers.
No long suffering, no clinging to respirators, no indignities inflicted upon body and soul by modern medicine. A neat and peaceful passing, thought Harry. Just what Marjorie had wanted.
The telephone broke the silence of the house again. Harry picked up the receiver.
“Hello?”
He heard an indistinct sound. Was it breathing? Throat-clearing?
“Yes? Who is it?” he asked.
The line went dead. Harry shook his head and hung up.
Briskly, Miss Giveny drew back the curtains. The orange twilight flooded the room. She straightened the upended pot in the hall. Watching her, Harry reflected that death seemed to compel the living into a frenzy of activity.
He sat down and gazed at his client, then he dialed emergency services. He spoke quietly on the phone.
At the death of an old client, Harry often felt a chapter in his own life had closed. A woman with eighty-five years of experience had valued his advice—and not just as a lawyer. Surprised at the keenness of his sense of loss, he took her hand once more. Here lay Richard Crawford’s lover. Such a union he could scarcely imagine. But then, their love needn’t make sense to him. With her passing, perhaps Crawford’s critical ghost would fade from his mind.
Again the phone rang. Harry stared at it, then picked it up. “Yes?”
This time the phone was slammed down. What in hell? he thought.
Loud banging at the front door shattered the silence.
Miss Giveny answered. Four men crowded into Marjorie’s bedroom. After a brief examination, the coroner pronounced her dead. A weary‑looking sergeant named Welkom took perfunctory notes.
“So, you related to the deceased?” Welkom asked.
“No, I’m Harry Jenkins, her solicitor.”
The sergeant sighed as if this fact were a troublesome complication. “When did you find her?”
“Ten minutes ago. We called right away.”
“Touch anything?” he asked, glancing about.
 “Just her. To see if there were a pulse.”
“What were you doing here?”
“I had a four o’clock appointment with her, but she had a visitor at two.” Harry pointed out the two chairs drawn up to the bed, and the tea tray. “Certainly looks as if she had some visitors,” he said.
The sergeant closed his notebook. “Well, we can send forensics around to check the place out.”
“She was quite elderly, and she may have just passed away in her sleep.” Harry hesitated. “But she really was concerned about the appointment. Said she’d need my advice. Also, when we got here, the phone started ringing on and off. I picked it up twice and the line went dead both times.”
Welkom shrugged and said to the coroner, “What do you think, Mel?” His eyes briefly lowered to the floor. “No signs of violence? No petal designs anywhere?”
“You mean like the Florist’s handiwork?” said the coroner, examining the body. “No, none. But those were all young girls.” Mel shook his head. “Given her age, I think she just died of natural causes.”
The paramedics moved the body onto the stretcher and headed downstairs.
Welkom shouldered past the coroner out into the hallway. “Next of kin, Mr. Jenkins?”
“Yes, two nieces: Katharine Rowe and Suzannah Deighton. And a nephew, Gerald.”
“We’ll have to contact them,” the sergeant said, jotting down the names.
Harry started down the stairs, only to stop on the landing. He tried the door to the back stairs, but it was jammed. He’d get someone in to make the minor repairs. Buyers with lots of money loved features such as back stairs and French doors. He smiled. Natasha would be the perfect appraiser of the property. As Marjorie’s executor, along with Gideon Trust, he would net substantial compensation. With a lighter step, he descended the staircase.
At the foot of the stairs, he stopped again. Something was not right.
“Shouldn’t there be an autopsy, sergeant?” he asked.
Welkom shrugged. “That’s up to the coroner. There was no violence. Probably she just died of natural causes.”
Harry began, “Yes, but—”
“Listen, Mr. Jenkins, Leave it to us. We’ll let you know.” The sergeant snapped his pad shut and left.
Once the body had been removed, Harry left a note for Rosie, Marjorie’s housekeeper, to call him when she came back from her afternoon off. Then he tried to reach the next of kin.
Katharine Rowe, Marjorie’s eldest niece, was still in meetings. There was no answer at Suzannah’s. Gerry Deighton had left his dental clinic at noon and had not returned. Harry left his home and office numbers. He knew almost nothing of Marjorie’s relatives. Except for Suzannah and her problems with Frank, Marjorie had rarely spoken of them. Harry knew a client’s death could prove interesting. Next of kin frequently shed new light on clients he thought he knew well. It worked both ways. Relatives, formerly only names typed in wills, often came to life in the most surprising fashion. The maze of human relationships fascinated him. Together, Miss Giveny and Harry closed up the empty house.
“I’ll take you right home, Miss Giveny,” he said as he opened the car door for her.
“Thank you. I usually take the bus, but tonight…”
“I know. After all of this, we ought to get home as quickly as possible.”
All these reports of the Florist are so troubling,” she sighed.
CHAPTER 4
 
Frustration with his lack of artistic skill flooded the Florist as he walked swiftly up Yonge Street. He glanced at the rows of dingy porn shops. Through grimy windows, he saw magazines with pictures of women, twisted and bent. There were photographs of men posing naked together. How sick, disgusting, and depressing, he thought. Sometimes he yearned for the cleansing power of fire to destroy such depravity.
He shook his head. No one appreciated fine art anymore. At last he reached Bloor Street, where the shops were more suited to his taste. In one small bookstore he examined the art section, finding what he was looking for deep within the racks of books: a selection of line drawings by the masterful French painter, Matisse.
Sinking into a comfortable chair, he was transported by the beauty and expression in the effortless flow of line. Matisse had captured his imagination. How could an artist achieve such life and magnificent truth with just one or two lines?
Setting down the book, he gazed out the window. His carvings were much too fussy. On his last one, he had striven for greater artistic style and flair. The scrolling stem along her neck was a good beginning. How splendid it was to create a masterful mark with just a few lines.
Quickly, he paid for the book and checked his watch. It was getting late. He hailed a cab and resolved to practise his drawing tonight. He would learn from Matisse. An artist must rise to the challenge. This time, he would seek the finest canvas to satisfy his requirements.

CHAPTER 5
 
Better get Chin’s money into the trust account, thought Harry. One million for the deposits and two hundred thousand for legal costs. Surely the huge retainer must include work on the rezoning applications.
Harry nursed a deep-seated grudge against banks. Usually his stomach rebelled as he approached them. Banks are not your friends, he reminded himself while riding down in the elevator. In good times, bank managers—beaming like carnival hucksters—lured solvent citizens into the valley of debt. Scowling in the bad times, they tallied up arrears and heartlessly called in loans. This particular bank, the Toronto-Royal, had refused to finance his attempts to buy Crawford out.
Memories of his father’s own battles with banking institutions leapt to mind.Vividly, he recalled one night at dinner, when he was eight. The banging at the door had made him drip spaghetti sauce over the stove‑top.
There, in the porch light, had stood a tall, burly man.
“You Stanley Jenkins?” the man demanded, thrusting a sheaf of papers into his father’s hand. The top page was decorated with a bright red seal. “Greetings!” it began.
Dad’s shoulders sagged and his chest caved in. Shaking his head, he sighed and turned the pages as Mother hovered in the doorway.
“What is it, Stan?”
The house was entirely silent, except for the ticking of the kitchen clock. Finally, well-educated, hardworking Stanley Jenkins looked up at his wife and said, “They’re going to sell the place, Alice.”
“Who?”
“The bank,” he said quietly. Then anger flared. “Who else, God damn it?”
Harry and Anna were shocked, less by the swearing, than by the lonely frustration in their father’s voice.
Harry wasn’t old enough to be really worried, even when he and his sister, were sent to bed early. Lying in the darkness, he listened to the rise and fall of his parents’ voices. He was puzzled by a phrase his father used over and over again.
“In arrears, in arrears.” His father’s voice peaked in frustration. “We’re three months in arrears.” To Harry, it sounded like a jail sentence.
Harry knew about money. Sometimes, he could almost hear it sloshing up and down the financial canyons of the city. But not enough of it was his.
Money…always the money! He sighed. He knew his wife had other standards, but her family’s wealth spun a soft cocoon that protected them from the rest of the world. From within their silken web, her parents peered out at the populace in general and at Harry in particular. Their intense scrutiny was more than disconcerting. A tilt of the jaw or the pursing of lips spoke volumes. He could seldom measure up against their silently shifting boundaries. Money was the only true and absolute indicator of success. It poisoned their love.
Awed by her beauty, he used to love stroking her soft blonde hair. Once, her green eyes had been filled with love for him. Now they appraised him with brisk efficiency.
As an art dealer for Sotheby’s, she had recently invited Harry to an auction. “Harry, come with me. It’ll be fun.” He had not realized it was a last attempt to draw him into her world.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he hesitated, but could find no excuse. It was foreign territory to him, and he railed at any form of profligacy or flamboyance.
The auction was held in the ballroom of the Royal York Hotel. Immense crystal chandeliers and heavy brocade drapes graced the room. Silent tension hung in the air. The auctioneer, handsome in his pin-striped suit, rapped sharply with his tiny gavel, driving the bidding even higher.
“Eight hundred and fifty thousand.” Looking expectantly over the sea of impassive faces, he called out, “Do I hear nine hundred thousand?” At the back of the room, a small yellow paddle shot up. “Sold…going…going…gone.”
Harry’s stomach had sunk as the figures danced ever higher. Shocked by Laura’s intense excitement, loneliness crept over him. She gloried in this recklessness so foreign to him. She was betrothed to her career and a family would only interfere.
“Why not a child?” Harry used to ask, years back.
“Not yet, darling. Perhaps next year, when the projects at the museum are done.” But there was always another project.
After the auction, they had driven in silence past dark mansions on Sherbourne Street, now a jumble of converted rooming houses. At Gerrard Street lay the Allan Gardens, where men drifted about and fought for park benches. At the end of Sherbourne Street they turned into the tree-lined crescents of Rosedale. Before he knew it, the house in which Laura had grown up, loomed ahead. He gazed at the portico and the stately, broad oak door.
“Home sweet home,” said Harry. He thought the remark was innocent.
“Why did you come this way?” Laura’s voice was flat and hollow. Surprised, Harry glanced at her. Lights of an oncoming car illuminated her thin, drawn face.
“Just trying to get to the parkway.” He hesitated, “Something wrong?”
Angrily, she twisted around in her seat. “You hated the auction, didn’t you? You couldn’t stomach watching people spend money.”
“What?” Harry was alarmed.
“You don’t need to spell it out.” She waved at her old house, grand with its columns and porticos. “Just because I grew up here doesn’t mean I measure everything in money. Am I supposed to apologize for our money?”
Harry was silent. There was no stopping a bursting dam.
“You’re so superior about your ethical values, Harry. As if having money were a crime.”
“Laura, I didn’t say a word.”
“You didn’t need to. It’s written all over your face.”
After several moments of silence, Harry spoke evenly. “Actually, Laura, I was just thinking how well the auction went. You and Dr. Stover must have worked very hard.”
Laura glared at him. “What has he got to do with this?”
He tried to placate her. “Nothing at all. Can’t I give a compliment without getting into trouble?”
Laura stared out the window in silence. At last she spoke as if setting down a heavy burden. “Harry, I think we need time to think things through.”
“What things?”
They were on Bayview Avenue sweeping northward along the Don River. Red taillights crept up the parkway on the other side of the river. The city, always so familiar, seemed hostile and foreign to Harry, as if he had lost his bearings in the dark.
“Us,” she said.
“Yes?” He tried to maintain an even tone.
Her voice was weary. “We’re in completely different worlds, Harry. Your old clients, with their Depression-era thinking, hoard their fistfuls of money, never taking a moment of pleasure in life.”
“And that’s what Dr. Stover gives you? A sense of pleasure in life?” Instantly, he regretted his words. Now they were hurling stones at each other.
As Harry mounted the stone steps to the bank, he vividly recalled Laura’s ashen face as they had argued back and forth in the car. Then he remembered Natasha Boretsky’s eyes widening with pleasure as he took her hand at the funeral parlor. The bank’s vaulted ceilings rose up from the hushed main concourse. Despite any bureaucratic trial visited upon him,no customer would dare to vent his rage in this sepulchre. Crawford had chosen this branch, considering it a suitable extension of his old Toronto practice. Security and gentility were to be found within, or so he had thought.
On several occasions, Harry had accompanied Marjorie Deighton for tea after a bond coupon-clipping expedition, in which interest from solid investments was safely tucked away in an account. Laura was right. Money, according to his clients, was for careful investing, not lavish or frivolous spending.Tables of white linen laden with crystal and delicate teacups dotted Eaton’s Round Room near the bank. In these elegant surroundings, between the business of pouring tea and passing plates of tiny sandwiches, Marjorie had first discussed her personal affairs.
“The secret trust? Yes, Mr. Jenkins, I’ve taken care of that. It is quite safe.” Marjorie dabbed the corners of her lips with her napkin.
“Should I have a copy of it, Miss Deighton?” He hated being in the dark.
“No, not yet. Someday, perhaps,” she said wistfully. “I’d like your advice about Suzannah, and about another matter.”
“Certainly.” Harry was delighted by her confidence.
“She’s very much influenced by her friend Mr. Sasso. I believe he has a reputation.”Although Harry knew Frank Sasso only slightly, the word ‘lout’ readily came to mind.
“I want to ensure that none of my estate comes into his hands. I am sure he has unsavory connections.”
Harry spoke reassuringly. “That can be arranged. Certain legal stratagems…”
Marjorie smiled sadly at him and said, “I have a very special tie with Suzannah. One day, I’ll come to your office and change my will.”
“And the other matter?” Harry asked.
Marjorie averted her eyes. “I’m very worried about my great-nephew, Donald, Gerry’s son. They call him Donnie. He’s getting in some trouble at school, and he’s had a few minor brushes with the law. His parents throw up their hands and march him off to a psychiatrist.” She examined her hands neatly folded in her lap. “They should be talking with him, not abandoning him. He has so many goodqualities, but I’m afraid his parents are too busy with their own lives to notice.”
“Perhaps he needs their understanding. It’s hard for young people, these days,” he murmured.“Is there something you’d like me to do?” Harry spoke carefully. He remembered Laura’s accusations of social work.
Marjorie smiled sadly. “There’s not much you can do. But it helps to be able to talk. You give good advice—not just on legal matters.”
Harry smiled. His client’s trust meant a great deal to him. “You can talk to me anytime, Miss Deighton.”
Inside the Toronto‑Royal, Harry took his place in the single line before the wickets. Miss Priverts the head teller, pursed her lips when she spotted Harry.
Stepping up to the counter, Harry slid the deposit books across the cool marble countertop and under the brass rail.
In his most soothing tone, he began, “Good afternoon, Miss Privets.” He could not prevent a smile. She really did look like a colorless prune.
“The assistant manager wants to speak with you, Mr. Jenkins.” When she deigned to open the deposit books, her voice trailed off. First she squinted and held the checks at arm’s length, then she adjusted her lamp for closer examination.
“I have to speak to Mr. Mudhali,” she began faintly. Snapping shut her cash drawer, she scurried off in search of help. Clearing his throat, Harry assumed a posture of impatience. He became aware of shifting feet and rustling papers in the line behind him. Lost in a study of the checks, Mr. Mudhali emerged from his office.
“Mr. Jenkins, could I see you, please? In my office.” Harry summoned his slightly frayed dignity and followed the man to the inner recesses of his office.
“Mr. Jenkins.” Mudhali’s tone was formal. “I attempted to reach your partner this week, regarding the firm’s line of credit.”
“Mr. Crawford is dead. He had a stroke on Tuesday.”
The man’s eyes widened. “I’m terribly sorry,” mumbled Mudhali. “This does cause a problem. The firm’s line of credit is fifty thousand dollars in arrears. If immediate arrangements are not made…”
In arrears…in arrears. Three months in jail. The words rang out in Harry’s mind.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” he demanded.
Mudhali consulted his file. “Mr. Crawford pledged the firm account as security for a personal line of credit.”
“He can’t do that!”
“Do you want to see the accounting?”
“No. I want to see his signature.”
“Certainly, Mr. Jenkins.” He passed a sheet of paper across the desk.
Harry searched, but could not find his reading glasses. He squinted at the document. It sure as hell looked like Richard’s signature. “The bank can’t secure a personal loan against partnership funds,” said Harry, tossing the sheet back at the assistant manager.
Mudhali paled only slightly. His voice remained stubbornly calm. “Our lawyers will have to deal with the issue.”
Harry was on his feet. His hands pressed on the table so hard that his knuckles were white. “This banking relationship is in trouble, Mr. Mudhali.”
“If suitable arrangements are not made,” Mudhali said, lowering his eyes to the checks on the desk, “we will have to freeze the account and refer the matter to the head office.”
“You do that, sir, and I will have you in court faster than—”
Mudhali fingered Harry’s retainer check. “A substantial immediate payment on account would permit me to deposit these checks and avoid such unpleasantness.”
If he hadn’t been so angry, Harry would have laughed. “A bank hold-up? Listen, Mr. Mudhali, my firm has been a customer for more than fifty years.”
Mudhali held up his hand. “As for any balance remaining, the bank would accept other collateral. Do you own a house?” The assistant manager reached for his loan manual.
“Listen, you are dead wrong on the law. That security is useless.”
“I am not a lawyer, sir, but I understand such legal points take months, if not years to determine in court.”
Considering the complexities of legal partnerships, Harry seethed. Either he went along with the bureaucratic twit (for the moment), or he would be tied up in red tape for months. The Chin retainer would be either uncashed or frozen.
Harry stood up. His chair screeched backward, smashing against a filing cabinet. Only a tiny amount of the trust money had been earned with the interview of Chin, the instructions, and the title searches. If the deals did not go through, he would have to return most of Mr. Chin’s money.
Harry was scrupulous about client funds, and would fret if the bookkeeper missed a penny. Snatching up his checkbook, he saw in his mind the bright and trusting faces of a hundred clients. He saw those faces turn gray in disbelief when he uncapped his pen.
Petty triumph gleamed in Mudhali’s eyes.
Despite years of circumspection and care, Harry was driven by a new and reckless fury. Either he made a payment, or the bank would freeze his accounts. Mudhali had nailed him to the wall.
He exploded. “You’ll have payment of half the damned arrears right now!” He scrawled a trust account check for twenty-five thousand dollars to the bank, from Albert Chin’s money.
“Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. However, you do realize that this takes care of only part of the arrears of interest on the loan.”
Harry grew cold. “How much is the loan?” He held his breath.
“Five hundred thousand dollars.”
“Jesus Christ,” Harry breathed. “That loan can’t legally be secured on the firm’s account.” He prayed he was right. Time to read up on partnership law. Otherwise, Crane, Crawford and Jenkins would be dead.
Mr. Mudhali closed the firm’s file. “As I have said, that’s for our legal department to consider, sir.” His expressionless brown eyes disclosed nothing.
White anger and fear propelled Harry along King Street in record time. That pompous paper-pusher had goaded him into taking twenty-five thousand dollars of the Chin money before he’d earned it. If he couldn’t straighten out Crawford’s mess, he’d be sunk. Damn that womanizer! Suddenly, he stopped and grinned. Even if the old bastard could secure a personal line of credit on partnership funds, his estate would be liable to repay the debt. Dorothy, Crawford’s long-suffering wife, would not be pleased. For a moment, he breathed more easily.
As to his rashness, Laura’s voice rang in his ears. “You’re so tied to your outdated morality, Harry. Everybody else takes risks. But not you. Are you that much better than everyone else?” Jesus! Laura would be proud, he thought bitterly. In anger, he had put one foot on the wrong side.
Albert Chin had said that money was no problem, and after all, there was lots of work in preparing those offers. He would search the titles to the properties, do the corporate searches, and prepare six offers and submit them. Surely that would add up to twenty-five grand. Besides, Chin would not have given him such a munificent retainer had he not expected a sizable bill. And Harry knew that he was not the only lawyer guilty of such an infraction.
But the dreaded Section Four of the Code of Conduct refused to let go of his thoughts. Thou shalt not withdraw monies from trust without an accounting delivered within four days of any such transaction. The deed was done. Mudhali would have transferred the funds immediately.
Suddenly, Harry brightened. When Chin came in to sign the offers tomorrow, he would give him a letter setting out the withdrawal on account of services to be rendered. It was likely that this maneuver would ensure compliance at least with the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Despite his rationale, Harry knew that his pride had driven him to rashness.
Miss Giveny was waiting by the car, exuding a steam of impatience. He forced the Mudhali encounter to back of his mind.
“Things are beginning to hum,” he said, with forced cheeriness. “The Chin money is safely tucked in the bank. Now, let’s see what Miss Deighton wants. Oh, by the way, did you bring Marjorie’s existing will?”
She sniffed, offended that her competence might be in question. “Of course. I brought two copies of it and put the original back in the vault.”
“Good. I wonder what changes she’ll want to make.”
Harry climbed in next to his secretary. “She’ll only cause trouble,” muttered Miss Giveny sullenly.
Astonished at the unmitigated bleakness of her tone, Harry stared across at her. “Why would you say that?”
Miss Giveny shrugged. Staring straight ahead, she said, “Because it’s true . She was a great worry to Mr. Crawford. Always demanding his time over the silliest things.”
“Really? She always struck me as a very pleasant, reasonable sort.” In the slanting sun, Harry could see the tightening at the corners of her mouth. “What sorts of things?”
“Oh, I don’t know. She was always fussing about her nieces and nephew, and how they treated her.” Miss Giveny paused, as if debating whether to continue. “She was always talking about how to end it all, if she got really sick. Almost an obsession, if you ask me.”
“You mean you think she’d try to kill herself?”
Miss Giveny gazed at Harry as if he were a lowly student. “Hardly! She’s far too vain and selfish for that. All she wanted was to worry Mr. Crawford, just to get his attention. She never gave Mr. Crawford a moment’s peace. Always having to protect her.”
“Protect her? From what?” asked Harry.
Miss Giveny sniffed and crumpled up her Kleenex. “Mostly from her relatives.”
Such fears often preoccupied lonely old aunts, thought Harry. Particularly the wealthy ones, and with good reason. Was a niece or nephew visiting this afternoon? He’d need to watch out for telltale signs of duress. Lots of clients had to be protected from their nearest and dearest.
“If there’s anything more…?”
“No, nothing,” she said, snapping her purse shut. “It was all before your time, anyway.”
The conversation ended. Miss Giveny could speak volumes with her silence. They turned north onto Spadina Avenue, which, at the southerly end, was one of the broadest and most desolate streets in the city.
Chinatown was further north. New buildings, oriental in shape and design, had appeared overnight. With waves of Hong Kong money swamping the city, the Seniors’ Home and the Chinese Emporium had replaced the older, worn structures. Beyond Chinatown, Spadina Crescent wound around the massive, turreted Connaught Laboratory, which was ensconced like a Victorian dowager protecting the leafy residential district of the Deightons further north.
Time and again, he was reminded that Toronto was no longer the staid city of his childhood. Sometimes it resembled an ancient heap of unrelated jigsaw-puzzle pieces; at other times, the city seemed unified by a raw, surging energy, teeming with life.
They arrived ten minutes early. Harry parked in front of St. Timothy’s Church, which stood next to the Deighton mansion. He decided to take a walk. Miss Giveny remained in the car.
On the south side of Mount Rose was a small sporting-goods store, which resembled a concrete bunker. On the other side, shabby stores crowded in along the sidewalk. Three of Chin’s lots fronted on the north side of the street, just west of the church. Tenanted housing occupied the other three lots directly behind them.
Harry turned back to the car. Without a word, Miss Giveny climbed out and followed him up the walk.
The Deighton residence was a handsome example of mid-Victorian architecture. Like a fortress against the world, the house had two turrets rising up the three stories. A chill wind swept them up the steps to the broad veranda, which ran the along the front and down one side of the house. The sun was fading fast, leaving behind the bitter chill of an early spring.
As promised, the front door was unlocked. Although he loved the oval expanse of beveled glass set in the door, Harry shook his head at the lack of security. Some of his elderly clients were terrorized by reports of rising crime. Undoubtedly, they would be hiding behind locks and latches, fearful that the Florist would break in. Others, such as the Deightons, were so insulated by their attitudes of class and status that they felt safe. An attack on their property or person would signal the total disintegration of society.
Harry pushed Marjorie’s front door open.
“Miss Deighton,” he called, as they stepped inside.
The interior was dim and cold. The twilight flickered momentarily, illuminating the broad staircase, which led off the foyer. Harry rubbed his hands together for warmth, then took off his coat. The brass rings screeched along the rod as he drew back the heavy brocade curtains of the cloakroom.
“Good afternoon, Miss Deighton,” he said more loudly, opening the parlor door. Her chair by the fireplace was empty, and the grate was cold. Miss Giveny shivered at his side.
A strong draft caught his ankles from somewhere at the back. Moving through the shadowy parlor and dining room, he entered the kitchen. A naked ceiling bulb swayed slightly in the pantry off the kitchen, casting a stark and ugly light. The draft came from the back door, which was not properly closed. Shoving his weight against it, Harry slammed it shut.
The telephone rang in the still house: once, then twice. Harry waited for it to be answered. The phone continued its ringing.
On the main staircase, he called out, “Miss Deighton, it’s Harold Jenkins. Are you all right?”
He held his breath to listen. Was that movement upstairs?
Harry peered upward in the gray light. A shadow seemed to pass on the wall of the upstairs landing. The cursed phone continued to ring.
On the stairs, Miss Giveny held him back. “I’ll go. She wouldn’t want a man coming up.”
Abruptly, the telephone stopped. Miss Giveny rushed up the stairs. She rapped on the door and then twisted the knob.
The staccato bursts from the telephone were the only sound throughout the house.
White-faced, Miss Giveny stood at the head of the stairs. “The door won’t budge.”
Harry mounted the stairs, two at a time. His sleeve brushed a potted plant, pitching it to the floor. He knocked again. “Miss Deighton, are you in there?”
The knob was so loose that it might easily snap off. At last the catch turned, but the door still would not budge. He threw his weight against the door and it gave way.
Marjorie lay peacefully on the bed, dressed in a deep-blue silk dress, as if ready to go out for afternoon tea. Her ankles were crossed rather primly and her arms lay in repose at her sides.
Two straight-backed chairs were pulled up beside the bed. A broken teacup lay on the floor, its contents forming a dark stain on the carpet.
A bedside lamp bathed her face in a soft rose light. He was moved by the utter peace in her expression. How clear her skin was—almost translucent. Care seemed washed away. Lowering his head to her chest, he listened for breathing. Gently, he took her wrist, but could find no pulse. He winced at the cold and stiffness of her fingers.
No long suffering, no clinging to respirators, no indignities inflicted upon body and soul by modern medicine. A neat and peaceful passing, thought Harry. Just what Marjorie had wanted.
The telephone broke the silence of the house again. Harry picked up the receiver.
“Hello?”
He heard an indistinct sound. Was it breathing? Throat-clearing?
“Yes? Who is it?” he asked.
The line went dead. Harry shook his head and hung up.
Briskly, Miss Giveny drew back the curtains. The orange twilight flooded the room. She straightened the upended pot in the hall. Watching her, Harry reflected that death seemed to compel the living into a frenzy of activity.
He sat down and gazed at his client, then he dialed emergency services. He spoke quietly on the phone.
At the death of an old client, Harry often felt a chapter in his own life had closed. A woman with eighty-five years of experience had valued his advice—and not just as a lawyer. Surprised at the keenness of his sense of loss, he took her hand once more. Here lay Richard Crawford’s lover. Such a union he could scarcely imagine. But then, their love needn’t make sense to him. With her passing, perhaps Crawford’s critical ghost would fade from his mind.
Again the phone rang. Harry stared at it, then picked it up. “Yes?”
This time the phone was slammed down. What in hell? he thought.
Loud banging at the front door shattered the silence.
Miss Giveny answered. Four men crowded into Marjorie’s bedroom. After a brief examination, the coroner pronounced her dead. A weary‑looking sergeant named Welkom took perfunctory notes.
“So, you related to the deceased?” Welkom asked.
“No, I’m Harry Jenkins, her solicitor.”
The sergeant sighed as if this fact were a troublesome complication. “When did you find her?”
“Ten minutes ago. We called right away.”
“Touch anything?” he asked, glancing about.
 “Just her. To see if there were a pulse.”
“What were you doing here?”
“I had a four o’clock appointment with her, but she had a visitor at two.” Harry pointed out the two chairs drawn up to the bed, and the tea tray. “Certainly looks as if she had some visitors,” he said.
The sergeant closed his notebook. “Well, we can send forensics around to check the place out.”
“She was quite elderly, and she may have just passed away in her sleep.” Harry hesitated. “But she really was concerned about the appointment. Said she’d need my advice. Also, when we got here, the phone started ringing on and off. I picked it up twice and the line went dead both times.”
Welkom shrugged and said to the coroner, “What do you think, Mel?” His eyes briefly lowered to the floor. “No signs of violence? No petal designs anywhere?”
“You mean like the Florist’s handiwork?” said the coroner, examining the body. “No, none. But those were all young girls.” Mel shook his head. “Given her age, I think she just died of natural causes.”
The paramedics moved the body onto the stretcher and headed downstairs.
Welkom shouldered past the coroner out into the hallway. “Next of kin, Mr. Jenkins?”
“Yes, two nieces: Katharine Rowe and Suzannah Deighton. And a nephew, Gerald.”
“We’ll have to contact them,” the sergeant said, jotting down the names.
Harry started down the stairs, only to stop on the landing. He tried the door to the back stairs, but it was jammed. He’d get someone in to make the minor repairs. Buyers with lots of money loved features such as back stairs and French doors. He smiled. Natasha would be the perfect appraiser of the property. As Marjorie’s executor, along with Gideon Trust, he would net substantial compensation. With a lighter step, he descended the staircase.
At the foot of the stairs, he stopped again. Something was not right.
“Shouldn’t there be an autopsy, sergeant?” he asked.
Welkom shrugged. “That’s up to the coroner. There was no violence. Probably she just died of natural causes.”
Harry began, “Yes, but—”
“Listen, Mr. Jenkins, Leave it to us. We’ll let you know.” The sergeant snapped his pad shut and left.
Once the body had been removed, Harry left a note for Rosie, Marjorie’s housekeeper, to call him when she came back from her afternoon off. Then he tried to reach the next of kin.
Katharine Rowe, Marjorie’s eldest niece, was still in meetings. There was no answer at Suzannah’s. Gerry Deighton had left his dental clinic at noon and had not returned. Harry left his home and office numbers. He knew almost nothing of Marjorie’s relatives. Except for Suzannah and her problems with Frank, Marjorie had rarely spoken of them. Harry knew a client’s death could prove interesting. Next of kin frequently shed new light on clients he thought he knew well. It worked both ways. Relatives, formerly only names typed in wills, often came to life in the most surprising fashion. The maze of human relationships fascinated him. Together, Miss Giveny and Harry closed up the empty house.
“I’ll take you right home, Miss Giveny,” he said as he opened the car door for her.
“Thank you. I usually take the bus, but tonight…”
“I know. After all of this, we ought to get home as quickly as possible.”
“All these reports of the Florist are so troubling,” she sighed.
 

 

 

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 3/27/2010
thought provoking read
Reviewed by Eugene Williams 11/8/2009
writers are born they are not created never believed that you are a born writer ...thanks for all your great works

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