Harry opened the front door, and his mother was standing in front of it, key in hand ready to put in the lock.
A look of astonishment crossed her face when she saw him. “What are you doing here?” It was a question that was quite blunt, the result of her unwanted surprise.
“You asked me to investigate the disappearance of your husband, and this is one of the logical steps in that investigation.”
She glared at him, then brushed her way past, yelling out to Maria in much the same manner someone would call a dog.
Maria came out of the rear just in time to collect the fur coat just before it hit the ground.
“Tea?” Maria asked?
“For two, in the morning room.”
She swiveled around as Maria left the room and glared at Harry. “We need to talk.” Equally abruptly, she headed towards the morning room, and Harry followed like a hapless puppy.
The morning room was his favorite in the apartment, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park, and for many years, the breakfast room when sustenance was taken on before heading to school.
Those years seemed carefree, though he had never realized the importance of them at the time. Only when he had finished school and moved out had he realized what he was missing. Now he was lucky to get breakfast or see Central Park in summer or winter.
“Sit,“ his mother barked. They sat at either end of the long table.
She gave him several minutes to take in the view and consider his answers, even though he didn’t know the questions. At times it was difficult to know who scared him the most, his mother or his father.
“What progress have you made?”
A simple question with no double meanings. They would come later.
“Who is Emile Florenz?” A dangerous start to the briefing, particularly if he meant something to her.
“Why do you want to know about him? He’s just a golfing partner of your father's. I assume you have spoken to him.”
“Not yet. You have though.” He looked up, and she was looking straight at him, eyes blazing.
“Have I? How could you know who I talk to?”
“You might want to reconsider the notion that if you were thinking you’d put a fool in charge of the investigation because you don’t really want to know, or care, where he is, you’d better think again.”
A statement he never thought he’d have the courage to say, and was, in a sense, almost blurted out. Perhaps he knew that the only way he’d get answers was to come straight for her.
“I don’t think of you as incompetent if that’s what you think.”
“Why would I hire you then?”
Why indeed. It was something he’d thought about on the way over, and the only reason was that she didn’t want him to succeed. The idea of her and Florenz together, that surprised him, despite the fact he knew she was as good at having affairs as his father.
Perhaps it angered him. But it was a bit hypocritical because he could sanction those of his father and not of his mother. Neither was setting a good example for their children.
“Don’t start answering questions with questions. Florenz was your flame at University. I’m going to be digging deeper, are there any other surprises I might find?”
“It depends on how deep you dig.”
“Either of you put a contract on him?”
Maria arrived with a tray with the tea and shortbread biscuits. The tea service was 18th-century bone china, which I would have locked away in a safe rather than be drinking out of, and I would have to be careful not to drop my cup.
She poured the tea, passed me a cup, and waited until Maria left the room, pulling the double doors closed behind her.
“No. I am married to your father, that’s non-negotiable. I fuck Emile because it makes me feel good and it’s none of your business. There are others, I don’t expect you to understand, nor do I care. We have an arrangement. It works. I’m careful, he isn’t. How did you find out?”
“I’m a private investigator. If you have any secrets, I’ll discover them.”
“There’s nothing to find out that’s useful in finding him. There are two other golf partners, and no, I don’t fuck them, there’s some law society he goes on conferences with, they’re just booze and prostitutes, and he intermittently plays poker with some more salubrious types. Find his phone, or tap into it, it might give you some leads.”
All good information, he thought and would be on his list had he thought of it. He took out his notebook and made some notes.
“Now that’s done, who the hell was the girl in your office that said she was your girlfriend?”
© Charles Heath 2020-2021
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