A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 21

By the time Cecelia got home I'd calmed down. When she came in the door I stood up and gave her a tight hug. "I'm sorry I bit your head off," I told her.

"And I'm sorry I awakened you at such an early hour. The fact that I was justifiably excited did not give me the right to disrupt your slumber."

"Well..." I said, and stuck there.

"You need not dredge your mind for profound statements – I know your heart, and know what you feel even if you find it difficult to be articulate on the subject."

"In that case, let's see what you got."

"Very well." She pulled her little notebook out of the pocket of her skirt, and picked the camera off the TV where she'd hurriedly laid it, and followed me back to my study. I don't usually transact detective business at home, but the study was the best place for this deal. I sat behind my desk, looking down the long room – it used to be the garage, and she'd expanded it in the process of remodeling – and out at Inez Park across the street. When Cecelia remodeled the garage she'd replaced the big door with a wall of glass. As I sat there I remembered that in a year or two I wouldn't be able to see through the new office building, and I'd need to find other space. She put the camera on the desk, sat down across from me, and flipped open her notebook. "Shall I simply begin, or do you have any questions to ask first?"

I flipped a hand at her. "Just fire away, and if I need to I'll ask for clarification."

"Very well. I was feeling very bored about midnight when a car drove up – the same car that Ms. Martinson saw, I determined from the description and the license plate. A man got out, went up the stairs, and into the apartment. I took some photos, more to document the occurrence than with any hope that they would be better than those Ms. Martinson obtained." Cecelia's a formal lady, and Beth's my friend rather than hers; she'd use the honorific even if I ordered her not to. "But approximately 40 minutes later the man emerged from the apartment, came down the stairs – in different clothing – and walked to the car. He got in and drove away. I considered following him, but at that hour, with my lack of training in such an exercise, I judged it better to refrain. And I had obtained more photos, two or three of which, I am confident, will provide a clear enough view of the man's face for Albuquerque to make a determination."

I thought about that for a minute. "Do you think," I finally asked, "that it would pay us to buy a digital camera, even though we don't need pictures very often?"

Her eyebrows went up – a gesture that I knew from long experience meant that I hadn't asked the question she expected. "I believe it would be a profitable investment – both professionally and personally. We do not have as many pictures of Darlia as perhaps we ought to, partly because it's such a hassle to buy film, take pictures not knowing what they'll look like, and then have someone develop them. With a digital camera both operations such as this one, and documenting Darlia's progress, would be much easier."

I nodded. "You're the financial expert – if you can make it work legally and ethically, we'll buy one and write it off as a business expense even though we'll use it more at home. If you can't, we'll just forget putting it against the business. Shoot, either one of us could afford to buy a whole truckload of the things."

"I'll look into it. In the meantime, I'll contrive to do some shopping today. I presume you do not have in mind any sort of professional device."

"No, just a camera. We'll want, if there is such a thing, a way to focus anywhere from six inches to telephoto distance, low-light capability ... I guess those are the two things that will be necessary for the detection side of it. With those two in place, you can make the decisions as to memory, price, all that jazz."

"Very well." She'd said that three times already. It was right in her style, but normally she doesn't say it that often. On the other hand, normally – that meaning the past 13 years, before she started working for me – I haven't give her instructions. "You'll need to direct me to the man who develops the film for you."

"I'll take you. Lemme call him so he'll know we're coming, since he usually ain't open this early."

She picked up her notebook and got out of her chair. As she did, I thought that if we went ahead and bought the house next door and moved the office into it, I'd have to think about how I wanted to design it. Cecelia was more, now, than a mere secretary, and I wanted the new arrangements to reflect that.

She broke into my thoughts. "I shall wish to take a shower first – I have not been chopping cotton, but I have been in this clothing for some hours and would prefer to put on something with a little less of my perspiration in it." Cecelia could never have been Winston Churchill – she won't use a one-syllable word when there's a perfectly good 98-syllable word handy.

"Okay, do that. And remind me, while we're on the way, to talk to you 'bout our office plans."

She nodded. "I have had little time to make inquiries, so I haven't much to report. However, this errand will be an opportune time for such a discussion." And she carried the camera out – where to I didn't know and didn't ask, knowing that when I needed it, it would be available.

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