Three days into the new year there had been a heavy snow storm in Cincinnati. By now the plow has piled most of the snow in three-foot embankments alongside the icy streets as Sally attempts to maneuver her car through the slip and slide downtown traffic. At Fifth Street she pulls into an underground garage, parks the car, and walks through the crusty snow to the Carew Tower, where she takes the elevator to the twenty-first floor. Her mind is uneasy as she opens the door to her father’s office.
“Hi Dad. Are you too busy to talk?”
“Never too busy for you, Sal. It must be important for you to drive here in this
“I need to talk about Judd.”
“Got a problem?”
“I’m not sure.” She slumps into the leather chair next to Cliff’s desk. “Judd wants me to go down to Lexington with him to meet his parents.”
“Don’t you want to go?”
“I guess so. Judd says his mother and father are dying to meet me.”
“But they want to make a big thing of it. They’re planning a party to introduce
me to their friends.”
“You mean the horsey set?”
“I’m nervous about it, but Judd says they’ll love me.”
“Of course they will.”
“I don’t know, Dad. How can I compete with all that Kentucky money?”
“Why compete? If the folks down there are anything like Judd, you’ll be right
“That’s what Judd says, but what do I know about horses? I’ll have nothing
to talk about.”
“I disagree. Talk about your uncle who’s going to star on Broadway.”
“One look at you, my Beauty, and they’ll want to name a racehorse after you.”
“Oh, sure, Dad. Judd can introduce me as his Cincinnati filly.”
“Now you’re talking.”
“I wish you were going with us.”
“I’m flying to San Francisco on Sunday.”
“Are you going to see Mom?”
“Yes, if there’s time, and she wants to see me.”
“Believe me, Dad, she’ll want to see you.”
“Marie is also making the trip.”
“Yeah, it’s a business trip. On Monday night we’re doing a PartySnak cocktail party for northern California distributors. You know, like the one we did here in Cincinnati.”
“Mom loves parties.”
“Should I ask her?”
“You can introduce her to Marie.”
Cliff chuckles. “Maybe I should skip the trip.”
“No, I want you to see Mom.”
“Ok, but I’ll feel awkward.”
“No more than I’ll feel in Lexington.”
“Sally, you’ll knock ‘em dead.”
Sally frowns. “I hope you’re right.”
“I always do. Want to take me to lunch?”
“How can I refuse Miss Filly of 1972?”
When Cliff returns to his office after lunch, he has a message to call Lew. His secretary has scrawled URGENT in bold letters.
“Hi, big brother, what’s up?”
“I had a call from Art.”
“What the hell does he want?”
“He says Matt is in bad shape. This business with young Jack has put him in the hospital with a nervous breakdown.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Art says the police have been questioning everybody in town who might know Jack’s whereabouts.”
“I guess that means they’ll be coming to see us too.”
“Maybe, but I told the New York police that the last two people Jack would want to see are you and me.”
“Unless he needs money. If he can’t call Matt and can’t use his credit cards, the kid is really out in the cold. I hope he doesn’t rob a liquor store.”
“He’s crazy enough to try,” says Lew.
“Well, if he calls me, the only thing I’ll give him is my advice to go to the police.”
“That’s what Art says. I feel awful about it.”
“Yeah, what a family.”
“They’re not my family, Cliff.”
“I feel the same way, but--”
“We’ll never be rid of Captain Jack.”
“God help us,” says Lew.
“He’s too busy trying to help Jack.”
“You think so?”
“Call me if you hear anything.”
“I will, Lew. You do the same.”
After Cliff hangs up, he tells his secretary to close shop for the day. Then he calls Marie at her office and says, “I know it’s only 3:30 but can you get away for a drink?”
“I’d rather meet at my place.”
“How long will it take you to get there?”
“I’m on my way.”
Late Sunday afternoon, Cliff and Marie arrive in San Francisco and check into the Hotel Griffin, located on the Embarcadero waterfront overlooking the Bay Bridge. Marie delights in the Art Deco. For the sake of propriety, Cliff insists they get separate accommodations.
“What’s accommodating about it,” says Marie. “Just don’t get lost tonight trying to find my room.”
“I’ll get a map as soon as I make dinner reservations,” says Cliff.
“I thought it might be fitting to dine at the Cliff House.”
“Of course, a San Francisco landmark,” says Marie.
“And great seafood.”
At the restaurant, Cliff requests a table by the window overlooking the water.
“What a foggy night,” says Marie.
“But nice view.”
“How can you tell?”
“I have a marvelous imagination. If you squint, you can almost see the bridge. Later, we can take a stroll along the Pacific Coast Trail. I hear there’s a tunnel that
cuts through the cliff to where we can watch the ocean crashing on the rocks.”
“Maybe we can see where my army transport ship sailed under the bridge en route to the war.”
“Oh, what war was that?”
“I think it was World War One. I was either young for my age or big for my size. I can’t remember which.”
“Why would you be going to the Pacific? I thought World War One was fought in Europe.”
“We were misled.”
Marie kisses Cliff on the cheek. “You know,Tiger, you can be amusing when you put your mind to it.”
“Stop stealing my line.”
Cliff flags the waiter and orders drinks. During their lobster dinner, Marie asks Cliff when he plans to see his wife Jane.
“Early tomorrow afternoon. I asked her to meet us in the hotel lobby so that you two can meet before the cocktail party.”
“Now, I’m getting nervous.”
Cliff laughs. “That’s what Jane said.”
“It’s no laughing matter, Cliff.”
On Monday afternoon, Cliff greets his wife in the hotel lobby with a warm embrace. For a few moments they stare at each other. Then Jane kisses him lightly on the lips.
“Jane,” he says. “You have hardly changed.”
“Thanks, Cliff. I have to say that you look much better than you did the last time I saw you. The years have been good to you. Are you sure you’re only forty-seven?” She is speaking to Cliff but her eyes are on Marie.
“Not quite forty-six,” says Cliff.
“Forgive me, darling, but this is the first time I’ve seen you since 1959.”
Awkwardly, he takes his wife by the hand and says, “Jane, meet Marie Manning.She’s the hostess for this cocktail affair.”
“Hello, Marie. You’re younger than I expected, and as beautiful as Sally said.”
“Thanks, Jane. I’m so glad you could make the party. This promotion for Parker’s PartySnak Crackers is all Cliff’s idea.”
“Congratulations, Cliff. You always were the creative member of the family.”
“Thanks. Shall we go? The party can’t get started until Marie gets there.”
On the way to the party, Jane asks Cliff if they can meet later “to talk about Sally and things.”
“Of course,” says Cliff. “We can talk in my room.”