Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
I walked in the front door of Kim's office a few minutes before three. Sara turned from her computer and smiled at me. "You need to visit more often, Darvin. Rudy can't believe that I'm seeing so much of you."
I set my hat upside down on the coffee table. "I've often wondered why y'all don't get married again, and I'm wondering now. You talk about Rudy like he's still you're husband."
"It's a thought I've had, Darvin, but it's not time yet – if it ever will be."
I shrugged. I was having trouble getting interested in the subject, though normally I would be able to talk to Sara all day. "Is Kim available?"
"She said to show you right in. So – go right in."
I went right in. Kim was at her window, looking at the building next door. Her office is nice, on the inside at least, but it's not a high rent building and the view isn't much. Kim, on the other hand, was pleasant to look at. Ever since I met Cecelia I've noticed women's clothes more, and I approved of Kim's black skirt and white blouse – so much like what Cecelia would wear, except the blouse fitted Kim more closely than Cecelia's do. Kim is slender too, but Cecelia's tops float around her while Kim's, the few times I've seen her, have been more the correct size.
Kim turned as I came in. "Please sit down, Mr. Carpenter. Regarding our conversation this morning, Sara has prepared a bill up to yesterday, and she can print it off in 20 seconds if it comes to that. But I wish to discuss things before going that far."
"I told you, Kim, that I'd pay you. You've done what I wanted and that's that."
She sat in her chair and regarded me over steepled hands. "How much do you know about Koreans, Mr. Carpenter?"
"Just what I've learned from my sister-in-law – my brother married a Korean lady while he was in the Air Force."
"Are you aware that we're stubborn?"
"Miss Kim – that's what everyone, including Memphis, calls her – she can be stubborn, that I know. I don't know whether she's a representative sample."
"I know myself, and my brother and father – and I have visited Korea and met various cousins and uncles and aunts. And while communication with my Korean relatives was difficult since I only speak a few words of the language, I saw that they too were stubborn. Mr. Carpenter, every Korean I've ever met is stubborn. We're not impossible to convince, but you've got to be convincing to do it. And though I'm half Anglo, and my culture is almost entirely American, I'm stubborn too. I'm not going to let you go off and get hurt just because you say, 'Give me a bill and shut up.'"
"I didn't put it that baldly."
"Beside the point, sir." I don't know when someone's called me sir, but it sounded right in her mouth. "How you said it isn't relevant; what you said is. You're basically telling me to – as my mother says – get stuffed. I don't think so, Mr. Carpenter."
"And why not – assuming you're right."
"Because I am not stupid. I can see that you're pointing yourself right at a dangerous situation, and I'm not convinced you're ready to deal with it right now."
I snorted. "And what makes you an expert on my competence?"
"You're thinner than you were just a week ago, Darvin." I couldn't follow her changes from formal address to informal, and back again; there didn't seem to be a pattern to 'em.
"And what on earth does that have to do with anything?"
"In just one week you've lost enough weight that I can tell, even with the mustache to partially mask your face. You are tense, you are ready to lose your temper with me, you are not the same man I spoke with a week ago. And you are not the same man I've encountered two or three times previously. Something has gotten hold of you, and it's got to be interfering with your ability to deal with problems."
I was ready to blow up at her, but because she'd said so I kept myself in check. "I don't know that any of that's any of your business, Kim."
"I've taken your money, Darvin. We're not friends – we're acquaintances at best – and our current relationship is that of investigator and client. I have taken your money, and I intend to see that you receive full value for it. That makes it my business if nothing else does. Then you're Sara's friend – that counts with me. And I do like you; you're not the typical man I meet either professionally or personally. All these things make it my business."
"But there are limits."
"There are, and I don't intend to go past those limits. But I will go right up to them."
"I submit that you're already over the line."
She stared at me, her jaw tightening. "I determine which lines I won't cross, and where they are – you don't. I haven't crossed any lines yet, Mr. Carpenter, no matter what you may think."
I wanted to shout at her, but she was giving me something I might have said myself. There are those who say that women and men think in fundamentally different ways, and to an extent that might be true. But this wasn't the first time a woman had expressed ideas that fit well with me – though it was the first time such an expression had been so infuriating.
Kim's voice intruded on my thoughts. "Darvin, it's very simply that I am worried about you. I want to do what's best for you – that's part of taking your money. And I can't believe that giving you a bill and letting you go on your way is, right now, in your best interest."