A Titled Visitor: Hammersmith (twenty-two)
Vic, as Aimee with Curach, longed for an opportunity to pull (in this case, Monty Hogben would have to do) a confidant aside and ask—what’s it all about?
Mossbunker’s height put the two of them knee to knee, and Vic bounced along eyeing the mogul’s chin (not to seem standoffish; not, on the other hand, inviting of conversation). Piggott and Hogben had it roomier on their half of the cab. No one spoke.
Traffic was thick here, where a quad of tall buildings frostily graced an intersection with shade and tunneled wind, and where two of the electric trolley cars were engaged on their opposite tracks in passing. A lightweight and glossy green delivery wagon, drawn by a smart white horse, advertising the name of a downtown mercantiler’s flagship, began edging ahead, coming round at an angle, drawing shouts from the southbound car’s conductor. A man pushing a bicycle wove himself through the tangle’s heart. Vic took this moment when momentum had stalled, to organize his facts, mentally, as a newspaper man might well do…
Mossbunker’s fool’s errand had turned into a project, in some way he was not journalist enough to detect. Vic guessed himself beginning to compose an exposé—and resented it. The only hot story that mattered to him was what his daughter, under the spell of an insinuating Sicilian, might be getting up to in his absence. But, suppose now, that nephew of Aimee’s could write a punctuated sentence…suppose Littler could take a little dictation? The potential in this notion made Vic sit up.
Mossbunker sat up. “Piggott. Step out and see what’s making all this delay.”
“No, sir,” Vic said. “I’ll step out. Hogben, you come along.”
Piggott’s thrusting up of his lower lip, as the two men sidled onto the street, suggested to Vic a lack of persuasive slyness in this gambit.
Hogben said at once: “I can’t tell you much.”
“Known the professor many years?”
“Bout six or seven. But, let me tell you this…our way was always to head off separate, him get us a venue, me suss out the kind of crowd we were up against. You know, every town’s different…and you never can be sure when someone in the same line hasn’t just passed through that way. Folks get riled up, takes em a while to simmer down.”
Time was short. There had grown a visible gap, now, between the parting rears of the two cars. “You mean,” Vic said, “he had plenty chance to strike off on his own, if he had other business he liked to take care of.”
“That’s about it.”
A Titled Visitor
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)