When my partner, Richard Crawford dropped dead rather unceremoniously in the office, I felt as if I’d been swamped by a tidal wave of events—some troublesome, some unnerving and weird, but one completely delicious and delightful. But this happy meeting took place just weeks before Crawford’s unseemly exit.
I haven’t yet told you that my marriage to Laura was ready to implode. Nothing open or overt—but unconscious, unsubtle, underground rumblings of dissatisfaction particularly about money. At least that’s the way it seemed to me after twenty years of marriage.
In an estates law firm, many afternoons are spent in funeral parlours paying respects to deceased clients. This is a vaguely depressing aspect of the work. I, however, was in a pretty testy mood that afternoon and certainly not expecting to meet anyone of great interest.
Conduct in Question [funeral parlour scene] begins as follows.
Trapped next to the open casket, Harry Jenkins glanced at the deceased woman, an elderly client whose face was rouged into a grotesque parody of life. Poor Miss Richardson. Only at her death did her relatives come out of the woodwork. He brushed back his thinning hair and swallowed hard. His senior law partner, Richard Crawford, stood close by. His fine features and elegant attire made Harry feel clumsy and overblown.
Crawford always found just the right inflection for his softly spoken words of condolence. Even after countless funerals, Harry’s own phrases seemed stilted and woefully inadequate. Crawford moved gracefully amongst the damp-eyed mourners, greeting each one with a grave but gracious air. Taking the hand of one, giving a dry kiss to another, Crawford worked the room for new clients. Harry’s teacup rattled in his hand as he sought a place to set it down.
Natasha Boretsky, a realtor for Crawford, gently touched Harry’s arm and drew him closer. “Harry, good to see you. I called you the other day.”
Her hair was dark and lustrous. He caught a hint of her perfume. Smiling, he awkwardly took her hand and managed to say, “Really? I’m sorry I missed your call.”
Her dark brown eyes widened with pleasure. His cup threatened to tip, but still he held her hand for just a moment longer, until they were parted in the crush of the crowd.
By nature, I am a faithful sort of man. I like stability and calm. Perhaps I have denied myself certain pleasures in life. But lately, life has soured with Laura and I was seeking some solace. But back to the story.
His back turned, Crawford stood in front of him. Trapped, Harry gazed over the sea of mourners and out the window. Caught in the afternoon light, dust motes hung motionless in the funeral-parlor air.
A promising spring day lay beyond the curtain. Outside, a man and a woman were kissing. She laughed and broke away. A gentle breeze lifted her broad-brimmed hat and sent it soaring upward to the sky. Enchanted, Harry watched the man rush to catch the hat and place it on her head. Arm in arm, they disappeared down the block.
Suddenly, he had to escape. He touched Crawford on the arm in order to pass by, and the old man jerked backward. Harry’s cup was knocked to the floor. The clatter silenced the mourners only for a moment. Harry swept the shards of china to one side and strode from the room. Crawford shook his head and smoothly returned to his conversation.
Harry heaved open the heavy brass doors of the funeral parlor to find a congregation of smokers huddled under the canopy. As he shouldered by, conversation rippled about him.
“The police are calling the killer ‘The Florist.”
“Because of his handiwork?”
“Yes. Apparently, he carves naked flesh in absolutely beautiful designs.”
“Must be a real fruitcake on the loose.”
Harry hurried past. He could not conceive of a being who could ravage and create in one instant.
In his car, he stared blankly at a beer advertisement on a billboard.
Funerals always made him restless with questions. At forty-two, the great divide of half a century loomed in his path like a foreboding angel. Time had been steadily measured out to him in hours and days, to the point of tedium. Yet, twenty years had passed in just a moment. What did that mean for the future? Despite his years of faithful tutelage under Crawford, Harry was still trapped under the old man’s thumb. All his offers to purchase the practice had been adamantly refused.
Backing up, he slammed on the brakes. Good God! He had almost smashed the side panel of a Jaguar parked way over the line. Carefully, he exited the lot and headed for home. He and his wife, Laura, could have a relaxed dinner together. Lately a silence had grown between them, and the house had acquired a hollow sound. It wasn’t too late to mend the rift, he hoped.
When he opened the front door, he saw the note, which read: Out for dinner with Martha. Laura. Slowly, Harry set his briefcase down. In the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and found some cold meat for a sandwich.
If I told you I did not think of Natasha at this moment, you would likely laugh. If you read the entire trilogy, you will see just how important she became to me– also how much I learned from her.
It is true! Over the next weeks, I was confronted with murder, fraud and deceit–and more death. But because of her, I also learned much about love and forgiveness.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.
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