Sequence: The Heron’s Foot (part three)
“Did you tell me…” He stopped.
Madolyn sighed over this relapse…a sigh distracted, gustier than she’d meant. “Go on.” She scooted the chair to his bedside. “What did I tell you?”
He could not have seen Freda Murchison, but seemed, at this moment, to have her on his mind. “Freda. She went back to her husband.”
The opportunity was too good. She had told him what his father brought from the courtroom…that Murchison had shown up as a character witness, that he was a piece of work, that one—
And that the judge had instructed his wife to go home with him. She thought about bald honesty, and thought about what was for the best.
“She came here. She was in the hall just now.” Madolyn squeezed her son’s hand. “You see, she’s not such a bad person. But…we talked about her going back to her husband.”
In a perfect world, Phillip would never place himself under circumstances where the phrase “nick of time” must factor, but his plans for Elsie left no alternative. Ethan, with his money and neuroses—as Phillip had intimated to Godshaw—pulled in his louche entourage the way the grill over a drain collected slop.
He couldn’t, therefore, claim entire credit for Beryl May’s taking up residence in Harvey Planter’s bedroom. Ethan had kept touch with her, had lied about it, and whinged a bit when Phillip suggested he might have broken the law.
“What did I say? I said I hadn’t seen her…I said something or other…” Ethan rooted on Harvey’s living room table, lifting the dog-eared carbons he and Rob Healy had been discussing. Finding nothing to jog his memory, Ethan flapped Healy’s second act, and Phillip watched a scrap of onion-skin paper flutter away.
“…I suppose I said I don’t know where she is. Well, no one knows where another person is.”
But Phillip, working like a casting agent, had got nearly all the guests he’d wanted. In Ethan’s car, he’d played chauffeur to Beryl May—and been disappointed, on meeting her, to learn she’d gone off the perfumed dancehall temptress. She had the day in mind when she’d be called to testify, and her hair was no longer blond, the clothes she wore matronly. Indeed, she dispersed her energy somewhat as the matron of a prison ward might, setting to work in Planter’s home, ordering Ethan’s life.
“Listen, sugar pie, I know you. I know more about you than you think.”
He’d looked up too late, the night Ethan had thrown his first party, and seen Beryl, at the door, slam it in the face of another friend of Ethan’s, an insulting mirror of Beryl in her youth, a guest whose name, regrettably, Phillip hadn’t caught. But, he’d got Rascka—this essential to the snagging of Elsie. Now, tonight, he must bustle Elsie into Planter’s apartment at the last possible moment. He would like very much to see a showdown, fireworks…when he summarized the success of his plan for Gamotte, such a scene would be of immeasurable value. But Phillip could not himself afford to be there.
The Heron’s Foot
(2016, Stephanie Foster)