Standing outside the front door of the apartment he used to call home, there were mixed emotions running through his mind. The rather strange childhood, well, compared to other children of his age at junior school, leaving home to go to college, and then the argument that made it impossible to stay.
His father's expectations were not the same as Harry's even though he'd done as he promised, going to law school, and working in his father's practice. But law just wasn't Harry's thing, well, that side of the law, which he discovered was more about defending the criminals, not prosecuting them.
It was a lucrative occupation, proof of what was just beyond that door held ajar for those who wanted to pass through it, to the multi-million-dollar apartments and the trappings that come with it, that life his family called home.
Would his mother be home? At that hour of the day, he suspected not, though he never really knew, nor had he ever known, what she did with her day.
As far back as he could remember, neither of his parents had ever spoken about their day over dinner, in fact, dinner was always a somber affair and none of the five children could wait to leave the oppressive atmosphere at the table.
Yes, Harry thought, it was surprising how quickly the bad memories came flooding back the moment he outside that front door.
Not having a key, forced to surrender it after the conflagration with his father, he was reduced to pushing the button for the chime that would summon the maid.
The door opened. Maria. She was not a live-in maid, but one that came early and left late, what Harry always believed to be a thankless job. Even so, it was one she had been doing since he was about five.
He was the only one of the four boys she referred to as master for some reason.
"Maria. How are you?"
"I am well. Your parents are not here."
"I'm not here to see them. May I come in?"
She hesitated for a few seconds, most likely wrestling with a command from either of his parents not to let him cross the threshold, the pariah of the family to be viewed with suspicion.
Then, with a shake of her head, she stepped to one side, saying, "Of course."
He was, after all, still a Walthenson.
He passed by her and waited until she closed the door. Just crossing the threshold, he felt like he had been transported to a different world, one where opulence was everywhere, the mainstay, the ten-million-dollar painting on the foyer wall, setting the gold plate standard.
Notwithstanding the fact, it had a gold-plated frame. Harry hated it, mainly because it was garish, but also because he didn’t understand what it represented. No one did. A needless trinket, his mother had said when she first saw it, but a good investment.
To her, everything had a monetary value. Everything.
"Why are you here, Master Harry? It is not something I will get into trouble for, is it?"
She had every reason to ask because it would not be the first time she had suffered because of his actions. A regret he could not make up for
"No. My mother has asked me to find Mr. Walthenson. Apparently, he's gone missing, well, in her eyes he's missing, but he could be just on another of his, er, you know what I mean."
By the expression on her face, she didn’t know what he meant. She had always been grateful for the job he had given her and would brook no bad words about him. "No one has told me anything. The Mistress never tells me anything. For my own protection, she says."
"And probably the best course of action for her. I suspect she has secrets of her own, which, I emphasize, I don't want to know about. Do you have any idea where my father has gone?"
"Me. No. I know better than to ask either of them anything. I just do as I'm told."
"Ok. Then I'll just go and have a look in the study, just in case he left a clue to his whereabouts, or what he was working on."
"So long as it does not cause trouble. And leave it the way you found it. Both are very particular about that room. No dusting, no cleaning, no entry." She shook her head, walking towards the kitchen at the rear. "I don't want to know."
Harry didn't blame her. His father's wrath was not something you wanted raining down on you, a fate Harry was well acquainted with.
And it was a room he tried extremely hard to keep out of, as indeed had his brothers and sister. A summons to the study was like standing in court waiting for the death sentence.
It took a moment to collect his courage, then walk towards the double door entrance.
© Charles Heath 2020-2021