#7 – Hands On
- The Waterford family announced the engagement of their younger daughter Tish; to the chagrin of her older sister
- Kerstin Waterford moved out of her father’s house in order to grow away from her family
- Duncan Marshall takes a mysterious phone call while at dinner with his wife
Lawrence shovelled another fork-full of eggs into his mouth; it wouldn’t have mattered if scrambled eggs were the only food left on the planet, he would remain a happy man at breakfast time. His egg-based revelry was interrupted by the voice of his wife who had been reading a development proposal which he was planning to submit to his business partners that morning.
He wished she wouldn’t read them.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” she said flatly.
He looked up from his eggs and laid his fork aside. He sighed and swallowed the mouthful at the same time, an esophageal feat of epic proportions. “Lynda,” he replied. “This deal has been discussed and evaluated at every level. Beside,” he smirked, “you didn’t think that the Quinte development was smart either but it was the second most profitable residential venture on the eastern seaboard in twenty years.”
“Quinte was safer,” she responded immediately leading Lawrence smirk to broaden, obviously she had expected that argument; he was constantly impressed by his wife. Not so much that he was willing to end a profitable business prospect based on her hunch, however. She continued, “not to mention that the outlay of funds for it was… oh… about 10% of what you’re committing here.”
It was true that Ajax – the code name for this project – was the largest venture that he, or Waterford Developments, had ever undertaken, but the payoff was more than he could ignore. “This whole economic downturn thing is over. People are heading back to home ownership and they’re coming this way. Middle America is over, the coast is where they want to be.”
“Emerald Heights is the new black,” Lynda offered ironically.
“Hey, you could work in marketing,” Lawrence quipped. “But I’m serious, Lynd. This has been scored every which way. There’s no way to lose.”
Lynda crooked an eyebrow, “I remember reading that somewhere in April of 1912.”
“You are quite the wise-ass today,” Lawrence replied, “say have you heard from the girls today?” He hoped to shift her off the subject of Waterford Developments – a subject that he felt she was entirely too opinionated on – and onto more domestic matters.
“Tish has two of your crews destroying the east half of the house and Kerstin… well Lord knows what that girl is up to.”
It was hard to imagine meeting someone new to Emerald Heights. Oh, sure, the town’s population seemed to be constantly in flux and so on the face of it there appeared to be new people in Emerald Heights – but these were not new people. Like Kerstin herself, newly repatriated to Emerald Heights after years of living in Grand City, these people had some connection to the city. Everyone who called Emerald Heights home for even the briefest of moments had some underlying, often long unknown, connection to this city that would eventually crop up.
Kerstin glanced askance at the man beside whom she stood in the elevator as she descended the floors toward the lobby of her building. He’d come upon her whilst waiting for the elevator on their shared floor. She hadn’t seen him before and his name, Frank Denzre, was entirely foreign to her. Even the surname rang no bells.
She’d been rocking back and forth on her heels as she was wont to do, repeatedly pressing the button so as to, against any logic at all, encourage the elevator to pick up its pace. “Does that work?” the man had cordially asked as he approached her, the sound of the half furious clicking of the button subsided.
She smiled ashamedly. “I suppose not,” she replied.
“Feels like it does, though, eh?” Frank had replied, perhaps attempting to diffuse her obvious embarrassment at such a childish behaviour. She nodded briskly. “I’m Frank,” the man said again, “Frank Denzre.” He added, “I think we’re neighbours.” He was a tallish man, taller than Kerstin who was herself tall. He was well enough appointed in his attire although his sport jacket hung somewhat crookedly on his shoulders it seemed more a matter of hurry than of general manner. Kerstin expected that he would present exceptionally given the chance.
“Kerstin,” she offered at first, pausing for an extended, bordering on awkward, amount of time before concluding, grudgingly, “Waterford.”
“Nice to meet you,” Frank replied earnestly. “I’m new in town, it’s a beautiful place.” He reached forward and pressed the lobby button which compelled the elevator to continue the purpose for which it was summoned so impatiently.
Detective Burgess was standing casually against the lamppost at the corner of the street on which Duncan Marshall‘s photography studio was located. He recognized Duncan’s car has it rounded the corner and watched as it slipped into the lot at the rear of the building. He waited a moment before he began walking toward the alley out of which Duncan would shortly emerge.
“Mr. Marshall,” Burgess spoke as Duncan rounded the corner. Both men took a step backward as Duncan’s forward momentum came to an unsteady halt; attempted to side-step the detective and resume his pace toward his place of business. His posture was closed up tight and he moved as if he was a man who was afraid the very sun itself would burn him to a crisp.
“Mr. Marshall, a moment of your time,” Burgess repeated.
Duncan wheeled around, “please, leave me alone. I have nothing more to say to you.” He turned back and made to close the small distance between himself and the doorway to his business.
“Mr. Marshall,” Kevin Burgess said, using precisely the same inflection, volume and meter for the name each time. “I know you talked to her last night.”
Duncan stopped and straightened his posture; he easily gained six inches when standing fully upright. He turned, slower than before, and regarded the detective, “talked to who?”
“Anita,” Burgess replied flatly, “I know she called you.” He paused and started walking toward Duncan with a very confident swagger, “and I know that it’s not the first time in the last few weeks you’ve talked to her.” He drew close to Duncan and leaned in, “and I know that you were in Los Angeles three weeks ago, I know you were in Los Angeles when…” He intentionally let his voice trail off.
Duncan’s jaw clenched and unclenched as he stared at the detective. Briefly Detective Burgess found himself fearful that the man would lay hands on him right in the middle of the street, but he didn’t. “I don’t know what you’re getting it, detective,” Duncan said, punctuating the last word as if it were three. “But I didn’t have anything to do with those murders.”
“Mr. Marshall,” Burgess replied in mock surprise, “who said anything about murder?”
Duncan didn’t reply immediately, and so Burgess decided to continue, “although you did lie to me the other night. Which I find curious.” He put his finger to his lips as if thinking it out for the first time, “you said you hadn’t been back to Los Angeles since moving to Emerald Heights after your father’s death. Which was false. You were there three weeks ago – and you were there six months before that. Both times you were at the Breza estate, too, Mr. Marshall.”
“Oh, and then there’s the fact that Anita Breza’s phone records show that immediately after the murders – y’know, the day that you flew home – that she called you seven times, Mr. Marshall, and they were very long phone calls for a grieving widow.” Burgess was now walking in a tight circle in front of Duncan as he spoke, “and then there’s yesterday’s phone call, after you placed a call to her immediately following our meeting. So, this is starting to paint a picture, Mr. Marshall. What does Anita Breza want with you?”
“We’re friends,” Duncan replied finally and defiantly, “we talk.”
“And why were you in Los Angeles three weeks ago?”
“I had work there. I can prove that.”
“Why did you lie to me before?”
“I didn’t, detective, when you said ‘never’ I took you mean in the permanent sense. I never moved back – but I visited.”
Kevin Burgess nodded slowly, his finger once again tapping his lips. “Now we are getting somewhere. When you were in Los Angeles how much did you see Claudio Breza?”
“We met once… to discuss… me going back out there to do another shoot.” Duncan replied, Burgess’ eyes narrowed, he wasn’t convinced.
“How much did you see of Anita Breza while you were there?” Burgess’ eyebrow raised. “Don’t bother being coy, Mr. Marshall, I know of your affair with Anita Breza. I know that it is at least part of the reason that you continued to work for Claudio Breza after what happened in Portland. He didn’t pay you enough to overlook that stunt.” Duncan remained quiet as Burgess continued, “Mr. Marshall, I know a great deal about you. Would it surprise you to know that I also know of you and your wife’s struggles of conceive?”
And that’s when Duncan laid hands on him.
As the elevator reached the lobby and the door opened the two emerged and crossed the lobby in odd lock-step, neither aware of the others’ destination but seemingly paired in their movements. Kerstin purposely shortened a step in order to break the synchronicity that was making her feel awkward and in so doing inadvertently caught the attention of her coincidental companion.
He stopped, which made her stop.
She opened her mouth as if she was going to speak, but instead ended up standing agape in front of this stranger whose entrance to her life, and her city, had as much mystery as she expected appropriate for both. Frank chuckled and drew his mouth into an undeniably charming smile. His eyes closed unwittingly while he did so and it made Kerstin follow suit with a nervous laugh.
“Are you doing anything just now?” Frank inquired after the giggles had left them.
Kerstin was still feeling fathoms beyond her social depth but replied, “no, not exactly as such, no.” Too many words.
“Would you care to get some breakfast, then? Or a coffee? Or, well, anything at all?” Frank offered.
She smiled in spite of herself. “Yes, yes I would, I suppose.”
Frank, in a way that Kerstin expected was entirely characteristic of him, extended his arm to her into which she hooked her own. They resumed their walking, again in lock-step, out through the front doors of The Rockwell and out onto the streets of Emerald Heights.Tags:Duncan Marshall, Frank Denzre, Kerstin Waterford, Lawrence Waterford, Lynda Waterford, Waterford family