All Bedlam Courses Past (part thirty-three)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
“I was trying to remember the other day… Mr. Chambliss and I were trying to. What was the name of that anthropologist, who dug up the Indian mound… Did you ever think how that sounds like someone who apologizes for the human race?”
Her escort’s bemused face dodged behind the waiter and his tray. It came back confident of its quip. “We need far more of them, if that’s so. Now…huh…” Thacker patted a pocket. “Be here in my notebook. If you don’t mind.”
“I’m not such a bad drawer,” she told him, nodding to his leafing. “I’d rather my cousin Honoré would do it. I doubt there’s anything offensive, or I don’t think he’s superstitious that way…it’s only a skull. Artists study anatomy, don’t they?”
Thacker stopped leafing and gave an unguarded look, the first appealing one she’d seen on his face.
“Skull…did you say?”
“I have a plan.”
Someone she knew, she explained, claimed a local family was kin to one of the typhoid people. She ad-libbed for them: “They think they won’t get justice from the county. I suppose the odds aren’t great, unless we get permission to do them all. But…public interest, is that the phrase I want?”
“The odds, you mean, of picking the right skull? You want a sketch to post up. Anyone recognize Mr. X come forward?”
“Wasn’t the man”—she tapped his book—“doing that for the Indians, though? In a way.”
“Stoltz, Prof. Chamberlain-Wesleyan U.”
“O-oh. It came back to you.”
“Just a habit I have, Miss, of finding out where I’m headed before I wind up there. But you want me to talk to Stoltz. This all your own idea, is it?”
Élucide felt an annoying flush rise. “You! I haven’t ask you to do a thing!”
Thacker ducked his head…made to write in his book…made to tuck it away…let the hand that held it drop to his lap.
“I’ll get you that skull,” he said.
She hailed Manfred, detrained a length down, violating propriety in a suit of light blue, prattling to the dénouement of some yarn. A carriage-mate admired him with motherly tenderness, her arm linked through another woman’s, dressed in mourning.
And finding place in her reticule for Manfred’s card.
“I’m so glad you feel you might write to Mr. Ebrach. He will help.”
These words fell with a wonderful, frank conviction, his hand covering the widow’s, his eyes straying to meet the friend’s. Élucide saw the woman had a very good diamond watch.
She beckoned, slipping in a second, waist-level gesture, that said, no, don’t pretend to be astonished, and told Thacker: “You may know Mr. Ryan-Neville. Manfred, this is William Thacker, from the Vanguard.”
(2023, Stephanie Foster)