Here By Mistake?
- Chapter 1 Is Here.
Out Of Dust
©By Duke Stevens
[Use Right & Left Arrow Key
To Center Page - then Down Arrow]
“It is not time that makes eternity.
Love and an hour may quite out-run the years,”
“Welcome to Miami.”
He turned around hoping that the body matched the Lauren Bacall voice.
“Do you always talk behind a man’s back?”
A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth, “Only when I seek an advantage.”
He ran his left hand through his thick hair, “Do you want to explain that.”
Cautiously playing with the line of intrigue flowing between them he smiled, “Are you sure you have the right man?”
This time he received the full treatment.
She raised an elegant eyebrow above an alluring sleepy-eyed glance. She smiled a slow provocative one-sided smile and said in imitation of Bacall’s tantalizing low throaty purr, “I rarely make that kind of mistake.... You are Dr. Howard Chandler, aren’t you?”
“And you’re Lauren Bacall.”
All traces of her act disappeared the moment she threw back her head laughing like a mischievous child, “Actually, I’m a professor of Psychology at the U. Tonight, I’m filling in for Dr. Swartz on his picking-up-visiting-speakers-at-the-airport duty.”
“Not that I couldn’t be more pleased that you’re filling in for Dr. Swartz but is everything all right with him?”
While they made their way through the airport crowd and toward the exit she explained that Dr. Swartz was fine just terribly busy and since she had come to the airport to see her husband off anyway she had offered to pick him up.
“Is your husband connected to the college?”
“No, he’s an attorney.”
He was acutely aware of her as they walked together out of the airport terminal toward the parking lot. She stopped on the right side of a red Mustang to unlock the door for him before going around to the driver’s side of the car.
Standing close behind her left side he wanted to give her the opportunity to touch him when she moved away from the door. He wondered if she would disappoint him.
She lowered her right arm just as she swung around to face him causing her body to brush up against his right side as she turned to go around to the other side of the car. He smiled.
They both knew she could have moved sideways to the open space on her right and around the front of her car without ever having touched him.
He threw his briefcase and small traveling bag in the back seat. He brought the laptop with him to the front seat.
Neither of them spoke while she maneuvered the car through heavy airport traffic and onto the freeway. Turning off the freeway onto Red Road she asked him if he had eaten on the plane.
“No, I didn’t.... too busy going over the lectures and last minute schedule changes. Something no one saw fit to let me in on until I was boarding the plane.”
She responded with a light chuckle, “It seems to be the nature of the seminar beast. I’ve rarely seen it fail to happen.”
“How long have you been working with Dr. Swartz?”
“You wouldn’t be the one responsible for this schedule would you?”
“Yes, I’m responsible for coordinating the entire weekend of lectures. I’m sorry to say it but it’s my fault for the changes. By the way, we registered you in a Holiday Inn - hope that’s okay.”
“The one on Dixie across from the U?”
“It’s fine... This time,” he said, watching her reaction closely.
“How did you know I was the person you were to pick up?”
The Bacall look-alike flicked on the headlights before answering him.
“Dr. Swartz showed me the brochures distributed at Tampa last year. The one with your picture on it. He heard you speak at one of the high schools and was so impressed he got in touch with your people right away.”
“The Quad System was developed to be used in high schools and churches. I have just begun speaking about it at colleges and drug clinics. It’s too early to tell if it can be successful in these areas.”
“Dr. Swartz is interested in utilizing your approach in our efforts here.”
“I was surprised to find a psychologist interested in my approach to drug education. There is little formal use of the methods of professional psychology in the system.”
Throwing a side-glance at his face she asked, “Do I hear a note of hostility?”
“Hostility is too strong a word. Perhaps, indifference would be more accurate.”
Stiffening. her voice cooling, she said, “You certainly can be infuriating... and with so little effort.”
He grinned, “Maybe we can talk about it some time?”
Pulling into the Holiday Inn parking lot she stopped the car in front of the entrance. He retrieved his luggage from the back seat saying, “Are you free tonight? I’d like to take you to dinner. We can go over the schedule then, Okay?”
Reserving her judgment on his arrogance, she said, “That sounds fine. Is an hour long enough for you to get settled in before we have that dinner?”
“Plenty for me... See you in an hour.”
The next morning Dr. Swartz poked his head through Joyce’s office door, “How’d it go last night?”
Pursing her lips her hand doing a sideways wobble, she said, “So-so...”
He raised his eyebrows his eyes lighting up with interest. He came into the room one hand carrying his briefcase a cup of coffee in the other hand. Leaning the case against the leg of a chair before sitting down he placed the cup on the corner of her desk.
“What does ‘so-so’ mean? Any trouble with the motel reservations?”
“None at all... It seems we have a bit of a maverick on our hands.”
“Hmmm... Maybe that’s one of the reasons his program is so good.”
“Maybe! Anyway, I’m trying to work out the wrench he threw in the works. The radio interview is off and he wants to do the high school faculty lecture tomorrow morning at ten thirty instead of at one o’clock as we planned.”
“Interesting... He reversed two of the five changes Dr. Anderson approved. Did you mention the changes had been cleared with Dr. Anderson?”
“Yes! He smiled and said they hadn’t been cleared with him.”
Dr. Swartz tugged at a corner of his graying beard, “I can understand the lecture change. It was back-to-back with the final one with faculty. But the radio interview call-off seems unnecessary. He has more than three hours after the interview before his plane leaves... plenty of time.”
She looked down at the papers on her desk, “I have a hunch that Dr. Chandler’s reasons for not going along with all the changes are more fundamentally connected with his obviously complex personality than they are to his lack of physical stamina or preparation.”
Dr. Swartz reached for his briefcase, got up taking his cup of coffee off the desk, “Well, Dr. Landa I think this weekend is going to be as entertaining as it is informative.”
Dr. Landa brought her eyes up to meet his, “I believe you might be right, Dr. Swartz.”
Several hours later, Dr. Joyce Landa sank down in the office chair with a sigh muttering, “How does he do it? Three, hour and a half lectures back-to-back with only half an hour break for lunch.”
Dr. Swartz smiled, “What do you think overall?”
“I think he had the first two groups mesmerized. You heard him. He practically said outright that psychology for the most part was modern man’s most precious superstition. Not one of them turned a hair.”
“Hmmm... Perhaps they agree... Is he doing as well with the hard-core of our modern witch doctors?”
This time she smiled, “He had his hands full but you can’t help admiring him. He’s the most unflappable person under fire I’ve ever seen.”
Before Dr. Swartz could nod in agreement a young man stuck his head around the door to say, “They want you in on the question and answer session.”
When Dr. Swartz and Joyce Landa entered the lecture room Howard Chandler was listening in quiet respect to a question from a thin clearly agitated older man. When the man had finished speaking they moved to the front of the room. Howard acknowledged their arrival with a faint smile and nod of his head.
He spoke to the questioner with gentle self-composure, “No, I did not say or imply that modern psychology was meaningless bunk. What I have been saying is that the Quad System of drug education - the system I developed and have been asked here to explain - does not have built into it a reliance on the methods within present-day psychological examination.”
Dr. Swartz and Joyce turned toward the sound of shuffling feet and seemingly unintelligible sputtering sounds coming from the back of the room. Dr. Chandler stopped speaking.
Raising his hand in mild protest he said, “No, it isn’t the same thing. The point I’m making is that anyone can be as functionally capable in instituting and carrying out the Quad System with as much possibility of productive results as a professional psychologist.”
Several people started to speak at once. He raised his hand again, “The traditional psychological approach to the addict’s problems has been to focus on the addict him or herself. On the disappointments, the personal problems, the psychological trauma experienced. The focus has been inward rarely outward in emphasis.”
Bringing his eyes toward Joyce, he continued, “For all practical purposes the Quad System does not care why the addict is an addict. It doesn’t concern itself about the stresses that were on or are on the addict. It does not attempt to deal with the addict’s possible psychological trauma.”
“Isn’t that a big discount of the addict’s personal problems and any trauma that he may have sustained.”
“Non-addicts have personal problems and emotional stresses also but they find other means of dealing with them than through the use of illegal drugs or the abuse of legal drugs.”
Letting his eyes explore the audience, he continued, “The majority of these people do not rely on the counseling professions for their answer to their unwillingness to use drugs.”
Dr. Swartz stood up, “I think we’re getting off the main purpose for Dr. Chandler’s visit. He was not invited here to be tarred and feathered by a group of irate psychologists but to explain his system of drug education which is, after considering a good number of impressive reports, actually working for the long-term.”
A ripple of laughter rolled across the room at his comment about tarring and feathering Dr. Chandler.
Dr. Landa turned in her chair to add, “Dr. Chandler has two more groups to present his lecture to this afternoon. It’s time to end this session. Thank you all for coming today.”
Near the end of the day, Dr. Joyce Landa placed the stack of Quad System director manuals on a shelf and walked over to the large window behind her desk.
She started to pull the shades down when she saw Howard Chandler walking across the parking lot loosening his tie.
Taking her hands away from the window shade she whirled around, grabbed her purse and dashed into the hall bumping into the ever querulous Dr. Huffman.
“Oh! I’m sorry, Dr. Huffman.”
“I was coming in to see you, Dr. Landa. I want you to know I’m not through with Dr. Chandler. I don’t know why he insists on no more than fifteen people in his lectures at a time anyway... probably thinks it gives him more control.”
“I’m in a hurry, Dr. Huffman. But, you’ll get another crack at him tomorrow. The last session includes all groups he has spoken to this weekend.”
Dr. Huffman followed her talking-backward-retreat until she reached the stairway. He turned away muttering something about the probable demise of Miami’s Psychology Department in the hands of “instant-Oatmeal” graduates.
By the time she caught up with Howard he had his tie off, his shirt opened at the collar, shirt sleeves rolled up and his jacket tossed over one shoulder.
She pulled the Mustang to the curb. She tapped the horn lightly to get his attention before getting out of the car.
He stopped walking turned around and waited for her, “Why, Dr. Landa! Are you chasing me?”
“Now that you mention it, I am.”
Joyce said, “I was going to offer you a ride to the motel after the last lecture but you took off so fast I didn’t get a chance. I just now saw you crossing the parking lot from my window.”
“I decided to walk. It’s a good way to knock-out the days tension. Tell you what, you drive me to the motel now and I’ll take you to dinner again. Tonight - around seven o’clock. Is it a deal?”
He was not waiting in the lobby when she got to the motel. Going to a lobby phone, she called him. He answered on the third ring.
“I’m in the lobby.”
“Give me a minute! Better yet, come to my room.”
She could hear the shower running when she opened the door. Crossing the room, she sat down in a chair across from two king-size beds.
A small fist-like knot announced itself to her stomach as she took-in this common motel room transformed overnight into something distinctively and without restraint belonging to him.
His briefcase dominating the small table by her chair, a robe tossed over the other chair, a brush and comb set and two open books shared the top of the dresser. Even his smell collaborated with the tossed-back blankets on the bed to his right of possession.
Her eyes shot toward the bathroom door when the water stopped running and the sound of a towel rolling off it bar brought breathtaking visions of Dr. Chandler naked. Her heart leaped as the doorknob turned splitting the seconds with suspenseful titillating promise.
Wisps of steam escaped into the room as he stood in the bathroom doorway towel-drying his hair. He was naked and obviously amused at something.
“Did I say something funny?”
He chuckled, “I was admiring your up-front responses.”
“You mean because I didn’t look away from the bathroom door when you opened it?”
“Something like that... Yes.”
“Haven’t you heard? It’s a new world.... for some of us.”
He picked up the brush and comb alternating their use while he kept his eyes on her. The muscles in his arms and upper chest rippled during the time it took to bring his hair under control.
Wondering why he used such an old-fashioned way to control his hair, she thought he probably liked the effect his powerful chest and arms had on women watching him while doing it.
She was right.
Getting up from the chair she turned her back to him pulling one side of the large window drape apart enough to see outward.
“I watched you for ten minutes at the airport before approaching you.”
“When I realized you were the man in the brochure I was startled. Very few men are better looking than their pictures. You were. It interested me. Not only were you better looking physically you carry with you a distinct sense of bearing which is almost overwhelmingly attractive... even to men, I’d guess. It conveys strength, power and certainly it is an allure to women.”
“I wanted time to think.”
The memory of what had taken place between Harry and herself at the airport played itself over in her mind. She remembered how still her husband had been when she’d asked why his being an attorney had disallowed a home life.
She had felt like an actress in a soap opera. He had teased her then saying the ladder to success is painful and something similar to.... She couldn’t remember. She remembered only that out of the ashes of that ludicrous inanity a terrible new kind of anger had emerged to insert itself between them. The scene had been repeated all too often during their marriage.
“You needed time to think?”
Becoming aware that Howard Chandler had said something to her, she brought her eyes back to his.
Seeing she’d not heard it he repeated the question, “You needed time to think?”
She couldn’t focus her mind on what she had just been saying to him. Suddenly it didn’t seem to matter.
“You want me to say you have a marvelous body, don’t you?”
He quickly walked over to stand behind her. She could now feel his erect penis against her body. She could smell the clean maleness of him. The pounding of her heart denied her outward calm as his finger slowly traced a line from under her ear to the small hollow near her collarbone.
“Only if you want to say things like that... Lovely Lady.”
Her hand fell away from the drape as she allowed her body to lean back against his, her head resting on his left shoulder. Turning her toward him he kissed the top of her head nestling his face in her hair near her ear. He whispered softly as he stroked the side of her neck, “You know you’re going to sleep with me, don’t you?”
In Sacramento, Dr. Howard Chandler back from Miami was quietly thumbing through a book in the small reference library connected to his office when he saw through the open doorway a dark-haired, brown-eyes, deeply suntanned female-tornado whirl into his office.
She snatched the pile of unopened mail off his desk whirled around ready to dash out the door as fast as she had just come through it when he said, “And who are you?”
Letting out a startled, “Yeeps!” she dropped the mail on the floor. Scrambling after it, she bobbed her head up and down looking from him to the floor as she breathlessly talked to him while she picked-up the mail.
“My heavens! You scared me! My heart leaped ten feet! You-must-be-Dr. Chandler. I didn’t know you were back. Mrs. Waverly’s sick and I’m helping out Ms. Flannery who’s taking over until she gets better. Until Mrs. Waverly gets better, I mean.”
She straightened up from her squatting position laying the retrieved mail back on the desk.
Howard grinned at her, “When you’re not helping out secretary replacements are you a student here?”
“Yes, I’m a freshman. Pre-law. My Dad always said I should be a lawyer because I can out talk almost everyone.”
She laughed, “You may not believe this but I once talked a cop out of giving me a speeding ticket twice on the same day. My Dad says when you can do that in Arizona, it’s mighty close to a miracle... I -- ”
Howard extended his hand interrupting her, “Welcome to Sacramento. I am Dr. Chandler. And your name is...?”
Placing her hand firmly inside his she said, “My name is Betsy Langford. I -- ”
She stopped talking to take a closer look at him. She let out a low whistle.
“My Gosh! You’re a big guy! You wouldn’t have any sons at home that look like you, would you?”
He laughed. He found that he was enjoying this unexpected encounter realizing that it had been a long time since he had met anyone over fourteen so natural, open and unaffected.
She laughed with him as he told her that as a matter of fact he did have a son her age and there were those who said they did look alike. She raised her eyes to the ceiling in mock supplication saying fervently, “Oh, I do hope I can meet him too.”
Sobering as instantly as she had been ready a few seconds before to indulge in fun, she said, “I guess you’ll handle your mail now that you’re here. I’d better get back to Ms. Flannery. It was nice to finally meet you.”
She turned to go.
Suddenly he didn’t want her to leave.
“What is yeeps?” he asked her.
She turned around at the door to face him smiling, “I don’t know either, Dr. Chandler. But, I’ve been saying it since I was ten years old and my brother put a large bullfrog under my blankets.”
Remembering, she giggled. Howard thought she didn’t look any more than ten years old at that moment.
He sat down in the desk chair fingering the pile of unopened mail thinking about how dark her eyes were - dark and guileless -- full of open and uncomplicated friendliness.
He felt tired and painfully lonely as the memory of a little girl with black curly hair and large dark wide eyes came to hover over the last few minutes with Betsy Langford bringing alive a torturous lost vision.
He wondered if Faith would have looked like this girl had she lived. Would she have been spontaneously alive as comfortable with people -- as appealing. He would never know.
His hand swept across the top of the desk knocking the pile of mail on the floor.
He wished Betsy would come back in and pick them up again and tell him her name was Faith.
David Christopher drove slowly down Capital Avenue and entered the Mall with a deep sense of satisfaction that the Sacramento area was proving to be an excellent choice for the Solar Research Center.
He felt again a profound appreciation for the Judge’s friendship. It had been an unexpected result of the land purchase mushrooming out of the Judge’s first cautious curiosity about Dave and the Solar research concept, itself, to what was now - almost six months later - an unstinting loyalty to Dave’s ideas and goals for the center.
Time and again the Judge had proved invaluable in helping him cut through the mounds of red tape within the various private and governmental agencies while he was attempting to create a foothold for the center within the community.
Turning North on sixteenth street, Dave smiled wondering what brusque comment, Hannah - the Judge’s long time resident manager - as she liked to call herself would have for him this time. The sign for the Del Paso Boulevard off ramp brought him back to concentrate on driving for a while as he maneuvered the car toward the left side of the road.
The low throb of the Corvette’s engine brought Sheila holding her last cup of morning coffee to the library windows in time to see Dave behind the wheel of the Corvette stop the car near the front sidewalk.
He seemed to spring from its side like a toppled Jack-In-The-Box puppet. She stood quietly by the windows thinking he was the only man she had seen in years that could compare in looks to Howard Chandler.
She shivered wondering if all extraordinarily good-looking men have certain characteristics in common.
The doorbell ring caught Hannah at the library doorway carrying the remains of Sheila’s breakfast back to the kitchen on a large tray. She looked sharply at Sheila who was unaware of her predicament or indifferent to it. Letting out a deep sigh she hurried to return the tray to the desk pausing only long enough to wipe her hands on her apron before going to answer the door.
Just as she turned again toward the library doorway, Sheila sprang to life putting down her cup of coffee, saying, “Never mind, Hannah. I’ll get it!”
Hannah turned back sending her a scolding glance for taking so long to become aware of her problem.
She picked-up the tray and promptly headed for the kitchen with a distinct but barely audible sniff.
Sheila smiled wearing it to the door, “I’d say April Fool but it’s September. Come-in, won’t you?”
Disconcerted, Dave grinned feeling awkward, “Is my surprise that obvious?”
Entering the foyer, he glanced around, “You must admit you don’t look a bit like Hannah... not that she isn’t a good sort.”
She laughed, “I don’t think she would be offended if she heard you, Mr. Christopher. Hannah has always insisted she is a realist. I don’t think she would have it any other way.”
She turned slightly away from him to walk with him into the library, “As a matter of fact, Hannah was going to answer your ring when I realized this might be a good time for me to talk to you.”
Dave wondered about her while he walked beside her into the library.
Where had he seen her before? He was sure they had met but he couldn’t remember where.
“You want to talk..,”? he began to ask then stopped talking as the change in the library hit him.
Long narrow tables had been brought in and placed in front of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covering two sides of the room.
A variety of smaller tables dominated most of the floor area that had previously been open space.
Books, newspapers, magazines, tapes, recorders, scrapbooks, photographs, ledgers, metals, plaques and notebooks were seemingly scattered everywhere a flat surface could be found.
Where it could not be found they were stacked on top of one another. The only flat surface escaping this invasion of memorabilia was the Judge’s large corner desk.
Sheila walked to the desk. Opening a small box on the front edge of it she withdrew a cigarette. Picking up a thin pencil-shaped lighter, she lowered her eyes for a moment to concentrate on getting the flame to attack the tip of her cigarette.
His eyes came back to her in time to notice her hands nervously flutter briefly as she pulled the smoke into her lungs. He regretted her smoking but kept silent.
It was the flutter of the hands that brought the name and place back to him, “Sheila... at the Judge’s dinner party.”
He grinned at her, “I’ve been trying to remember where we’ve met. Yet, you seem different somehow.”
A suggestion of a smile played at one corner of her mouth while the light coming through the windows insisted on announcing the freckles on her face in spite of her makeup.
Time seemed to reverse itself and she looked impishly younger when the right side of her mouth coaxed the other side to join in the mirth. She laughed.
“Not bad for seeing me only once almost six months ago. Before you came in that night I had two cocktails on an empty stomach battling for control. I should have known better since I don’t have a head for liquor of any kind. When I drink, I talk non-stop to the closest victim I can find.”
“I didn’t mind.”
“You didn’t seem to... but then - ”
She stopped talking as the sound of hurried footsteps made a bid for their attention. Seconds later the Judge burst through the library doorway slightly breathless, unzipping the light jacket of his black jogging suit.
Running his hands through his thinning almost completely white hair, he said, “I thought I’d be through the run before you got here, Dave. But, when I came through the kitchen and Hannah said someone was at the door, I figured it was you.”
He inhaled deeply exhaling slowly before continuing. Turning to Sheila, he said, “We’re going to fly over the research center this morning. Why don’t you come along? It’s too early to start with all this stuff anyway.”
Turning back toward Dave he swept his arm in a half-circle directing attention to the room’s condition, “All of this is Sheila’s idea with Ginny’s backing... They have the quaint notion I’m a great man and should write my memoirs, preserving them for posterity. I tried to tell them Colton knew what he was talking about when he said, ‘...No man appears great to his contemporaries, for the same reason that no man is great to his servant -- they both know too much about him.’”
They laughed with him when he finished by adding, “My critics and Hannah are Colton’s living proof.”
Unexpectedly, the Judge became thoughtful then embarrassed, “I guess I should have asked if there’s room on the Cessna for Sheila before I invited her to come along.”
Smiling, Dave said, “There’s plenty of room. Ginny is welcome too.”
Looking relieved the Judge chuckled at the memory of his wife’s first and last airplane ride, “I asked her. She told me to tell you that this woman was never meant to fly but thanks anyway... I’ll shower and change. Give me fifteen minutes.”
Turning to Sheila after the Judge left the room, he asked, “How long has the Judge been running? He’s in good shape.”
“He’s always taken care of himself. I can’t remember when he didn’t jog. He has been asked that question by reporters many times and he loves to answer it with the same family anecdote. You will have to get him to tell it to you sometime.”
Seeing she didn’t want to repeat it, Dave said, “I’ll do that... You will come with us won’t you?”
She pressed what was left of her cigarette into a small ash tray on the desk not looking at him. Pausing a moment to think before answering his question she felt frustrated and inexplicably hemmed in by the very man she had considered only minutes earlier a man she might have reason to distrust.
Bringing her eyes up to meet his the expression in them was thoughtful, hesitant and curious.
It had been obvious to Dave that something had been on her mind. Yet now when she had the opportunity to introduce it to him she was holding back. He waited wondering why.
Seconds later she came to a decision. Walking over to the large windows overlooking the garden and without turning around to face him, she said slowly, “Yes, I would like to go. But, I’ll need to go to the cottage first, Mr. Christopher, do you think I’ll have time?”
“We’ll make time. May I drive you? And... the name’s Dave.”
She smiled, “I’d like to show you something... Dave.”
Waiting for him to come closer she directed his attention outward to the far edge of the garden where standing among the trees he could make out a stone house almost hidden under great twisting pine trees and beautiful Magnolias in the middle of a variety of mature shrubs and bushes brandishing many shades of colored foliage.
“That is the cottage. It has been my home for over twenty years. The Judge and Ginny gave it to me when I came to live with them.”
Drawing in her breath now speaking more carefully she turned away from the view to face him. She told him how she loved it here far away from city traffic but close enough to see the city lights at night. It was, she explained, a wonderful view overlooking the park and Kingpin’s pasture.
His mind embraced the image of Catherine with a pain so real his chest hurt. Sheila’s voice began to fade in and out of his focus while she had continued to talk about the cottage and her life with the Judge and his wife.
Dave knew now what had been bothering Sheila. He had avoided Catherine after the dinner party for almost all of these last six months then two weeks ago he had found himself irresistibly drawn to the park, again and again.
Once on the running path, he had been careful to stop jogging and rest at the spot each day where he could watch her for a few minutes without being observed or so he had thought. But he had been seen, not by Catherine but by Sheila.
The library intercom switched on and the Judge’s voice announced he would be down in a minute. Sheila started for the doors leading to the garden saying, “I’d better go now. I’ll only be a minute.”
Sheila rushed through the garden angry with herself certain she had almost moved into an area more complex than she had initially suspected.
It was just one more item in a growing list of things taking place around her which she couldn’t explain; the Judge and Ginny making veiled references of concern about Cathy; Catherine herself, refusing to talk about her weight loss or the almost compulsive need to be working at all hours going far beyond her already extraordinary dedication to her job; Mike more mature, more reflective. Howard, the only person among them exhibiting a familiar pattern of behavior... still busy with his lectures and rarely home.
It had been an impulse rising out of her frustration of not knowing what was going on around her that had prompted her attempt to find out where David Christopher might fit into what was taking place. She hadn’t seriously considered this virtual stranger very deeply involved in what was happening among their small circle.
After seeing Dave’s visits to the park it had become clear to her that he was interested in Catherine, yet, Cathy hadn’t been aware of his presence in the park. Men had always found Cathy intriguing. Sheila had prepared herself for a certain amount of embarrassment or discomfort in Dave’s reaction to the implication she had seen him watching Cathy with Kingpin.
What she had not been prepared for was the intensity of feeling that had exploded into his face while they had faced each other by the window.
It now seemed far longer than six months that she had been away from home. The feeling of having stepped out over a step no longer there swept over her. Once before in her life, she had experienced such emotion. That time, the crisis had passed without any ripple-effect into the lives of those around her.
This time, it’s different, she thought. A new actor had been added to the cast. She felt a penetrating certainty - a foreboding - that all their lives were about to be changed forever.
“It’s good to have her home again.”
The voice coming so close behind Dave startled him. Turning quickly, he nearly fell into the Judge.
“I’m sorry!” I didn’t hear you enter the room.
Chuckling he replied, “I should have warned you... You were in such deep thought. Is Sheila coming with us?”
“Yes! I was wondering why I hadn’t seen her since the dinner party in March. You say she’s been away?”
“She got back two weeks ago. She’s been on a world tour. I think she had been planning that tour all her life --.”
Interrupting himself the Judge looked up to see Sheila enter the room through the doors leading into the garden. She had changed from a dress to a white blouse and green slacks. A pale green sweater hung loosely over her right shoulder. Her strawberry-blonde hair gathered behind her head had been tied with a green scarf matching the slacks.
“Very nice...” murmured the Judge, “Don’t you think so, Dave?”
Dave grinned at Sheila, “Yes.”
“It’s always nice to be appreciated.” she grinned back at him.
The Judge slapped his hand down on a stack of books, “Well! Let’s go to the plane’s Locus Rei Sitae.”
Dave sent Sheila a questioning glance.
“I think he’s telling us to go to the airport.”
Laughing they walked out of the house.
On the field, Dave cleared for the take-off and taxied the plane toward the runway. Sheila experienced the familiar tightening in her stomach as the engines roared into action driving the plane faster and faster until the slight give of the plane lifting off the ground signaled they were airborne.
As the plane began to level off she lifted her eyes from the rapidly falling away earth to gaze toward the ever-expanding horizon wanting to wrap herself in the seemingly eternal presence of cloud and sky - to absorb for a while the sense of suspended time and lose herself briefly in the innocence of latent thought.
Making a decision to stay out of the conversation between the two men she settled back into her seat allowing the steady drone of the engine to lull her into a restful warm contentment.
Seeing that Sheila could not be drawn into their conversation the two men discussed quietly the advantages of owning a private plane moving steadily into a light debate concerning private plane rights versus commercial airline rights which took up the rest of the twenty minute trip.
Time abruptly telescoped back into right-now for Sheila as the plane shifted in mid-air tipping her sideways toward the earth. She gasped jolted too soon out of the relaxed milieu of the flight.
“Are we there?”
He grinned at her through the mirror, “You missed the first sweep so I thought I’d show you what you missed... Look out your port side.”
She looked down over what had once been wide-open land transformed into a miniature city with paved roads leading to various sized building, towers, a small landing strip and rows and rows of mirror-like panels.
Dave circled a large tower explaining what it was to them.
“This baby is the Sun Bandit - a central solar electric plant - sixty stories high, with the unique GE design using sodium in its receiver instead of water. We have high hopes for this project. It has terrific potential for the local utility company willing to set them up. If it works as it’s supposed to...” he added smiling.
“Are they using sodium because it absorbs heat more readily than water?” Sheila asked.
“Exactly! The sodium idea has several important advantages over water-filled solar collecting systems. The receivers can be smaller and more lightweight. The system, itself, can operate at lower pressure; which means costs can be kept down.”
Scanning the sky, he said, “We’ll land and I’ll show you the other research projects we are working on now and those we hope to be working on in the near future.”
Dave lined up the plane with the landing strip, lowering the flaps to land. Sheila noticed a man dart out of a long narrow building, trot to a waiting Jeep, jump in and head the vehicle toward the hanger.
Her attention was brought back to the landing as the earth drew ever closer to the plane. It was only infinitesimal seconds later that the wheels seemed to glide over the runway as though it were invisible ice melting imperceptibly onto the asphalt.
“Nice landing!” The Judge exclaimed, “Smooth as silk.”
Dave winked at Sheila then glanced with a grin at the Judge, “A piece of cake, Judge!”
The Judge laughed recalling some commercial landings that he had never been able to classify while the Cessna rolled to a stop near the Jeep.
Emerging from the door Dave nodded at the man approaching them while at the same time he gave his hand to Sheila assisting her out of the plane.
Dave introduced him to the others, “Judge, Sheila! This is Jim Winfield. He’s our Project Engineer, trouble-shooter and all around nice guy.”
Jim shook the Judge’s hand firmly nodding his head in greeting. Sheila thought him attractive, especially the smile that came into his hello when he shook her hand.
He was stocky, firmly muscled and deeply tanned. She wondered how he had gotten the scar that cut into his face under the right eye and traveled into his hairline, separating the grey at the temple.
After the introductions were completed they got into the Jeep and headed for Dave’s office. Sheila asked Jim how his wife liked the area.
He glanced sideways at her taking his eyes off the road momentarily to say carefully, “I have no wife. Before I came here I had just changed jobs and it meant I’d have to move my family from the east coast... My wife decided after fifteen years in one place that I didn’t have a right to ask them to leave. We’ve been divorced for two years.”
Sheila offered gently, “I’m sorry.”
Jim looked at her again deliberately seeking her eyes said, “I was sorry too.”
He stopped the Jeep in front of the double-wide manufactured structure. Turning around to Dave and the Judge, he said to Dave, “Any reason why I can’t take over Sheila’s part of this tour?”
He turned back to Sheila then to say, “Unless you mind... that is.”
Dave and Sheila smiled at each other. She shook her head, “No, I don't mind.”
Dave and the Judge got out of the Jeep and walked to the temporary office building.
Inside they found a short, skinny blond. Her long hair pulled away from her face and fastened at the neck with a large brown barrette. She was standing in front of a row of shelves industriously placing material from a tall stack of papers and folders in a sequential numbering system on their marked spaces.
At the information desk facing the door sat a plump dark-haired woman talking calmly into the telephone while writing on a pad of paper.
An all-white streak of hair ran through the front of her Catherine Hepburn hairstyle beginning at the forehead and losing itself in the heaped up arrangement on the top of her head.
She acknowledged Dave’s entrance with a nod holding the hand with the pencil up in the air to indicate she wanted to talk to him. Dave nodded to her then took the Judge into his office.
Taking a large roll of paper filled with several sheets of designs within it off a shelf he unrolled them for the Judge to examine explaining that the first few designs were sketches of the present stage of the center and the last few sheets presented what he hoped the center would eventually become.
Dave looked up when the woman who had been on the telephone stood just outside the office door tapping the door frame lightly to announce herself, “Come in, Toni! I want you to meet Judge Harris.”
Dave introduced her to the Judge. She smiled, shaking his hand, saying that she had a great deal of good things about him and was glad they could finally meet.
She turned to Dave handing him a note, “Mrs. Haddox called and asked me to be sure you got this message.”
He glanced down at the note aware that the Judge and Toni had resumed their casual conversation.
He read, “Dave! You’re coming to lunch today. Please pick up Art at the office on your way (both cars are in the shop). If you can’t come or pick him up please let me know. Thanks! Dottie.”
The image of Catherine the way she had looked the first time he saw her came back to grip him hard. He didn’t want to walk the same hallways where she walked or enter the same offices she entered daily.
He cringed thinking of experiencing the lost hope of that first joy the slender ringless hand had prompted within him all over again.
Going back to where they had first encountered each other would be more painful than running into her on the street unexpectedly or watching her from a distance on the back of Kingpin.
Toni and the Judge were looking at him no longer talking. The Judge had a questioning look on his face and Toni wore the expression of impartial expectancy. He wondered what expression was on his own face.
He felt like a child caught between a teacher and a principal, “I...” he began then stopped to clear his throat, “Toni, please call Mrs. Haddox and tell her... Tell her, I’ll be glad to pick up Art at his office.”
After Toni left the room, Dave tried to bring back his earlier enthusiasm for the Judge’s tour of the center. But he realized when he turned the Judge’s attention once more to the designs on the desk that he wasn’t going to be able to pull it off, at least for himself.
He had lost the ability to concentrate on the figures he’d prepared in order to give the Judge a better understanding of the designs and their indications for the future of the center.
He gave up. Throwing the pencil in his hand down on top of the drawings, he said, “Let’s get on with the tour, Judge. We can come back to this later.”
Dave walked beside the Judge toward the outside of the office building, hoping the center, itself, would be able to make this morning memorable for the Judge visually presenting his dream for its potential that he no longer could convey verbally.
You have finished Chapter 3
Of Out Of Dust
By Duke Stevens
To go to Chapter 4
Click On The Link Below
To Chapter 4
To Bookmark The Chapter
Where You Stopped Reading!
Each Chapter In Your Favorites Menu -
Allows You To Quickly Begin
Where You Left Off Reading
Write Down A Sentence
Where You Stopped Reading
"Search" for it next time
To Save This Page -
Go To Bookmark- Top
©Out Of Dust
Is Copyrighted Material
- All Rights Reserved
For A Fuller Understanding
Of Copyright Protection - Go To Author's Page Below
Author's Info. Page
Please Put The Word
"Novel" On Subject Line