A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 6

The next morning was Sunday, and my assignment for the service was to run the announcements. My style is pretty simple. I stood up at the pulpit, mentioned the two or three most important things, and then said, "The rest o' this stuff's in the bulletin, and I'll ask y'all to govern yourselves accordingly."

And then I smiled a smile that I thought must actually glow with joy. "Our sister Albuquerque Moreno had a horrible experience Friday, and I let her know that no one would pitch a fit if she just wasn't able to be here this morning. But not only is she here, she's here in the early service, where there are usually fewer people and therefore she's more likely to have someone realize who she is and something of what happened. Welcome, Burque. And I'm going to do something that to the best of my memory I've never done before in my life."

And I stepped out from behind the pulpit, and began applauding. Most of the people of course had no idea what Burque had been through. But in a few seconds she was receiving a standing ovation.

I left the applause to go its own way and joined my family. Cecelia leaned over and said, under cover of the sound, "Darvin, you are a constant amazement to me."

I shrugged. "I surprise myself sometimes – shoot, I surprise myself pretty frequently. It's surprising when I do something right."

I got a finger in the ribs for that one. "You are right far more often than you are wrong, my husband. And if you saw Albuquerque's face, you know that this was exactly the right way to let her know that we love her."

"That we do," I said, and then turned toward the front, for people were beginning to sit down and rest their hands.

Cecelia sat, and I joined her. She put her hand on my arm and said, "Albuquerque told me that if she were able to be here this morning, she would be ready to come by the office tomorrow to sign the contract. I'll settle the time after church."

I nodded. The piano was starting to play, and it was time to sing.

Cecelia and I were in the office at 8:30 Monday morning, to meet Burque at 9. These days Cecelia goes to the office whenever I do, unless I happen to drop in on my way from somewhere else. She took over as my part-time secretary back in the spring, when Marla graduated from UNM and joined the Albuquerque Police Department. The last I knew Marla was enjoying herself immensely – but despite both our determinations, we've already drifted mostly out of touch. So whenever I head to the office, Cecelia does too, and being a businesswoman herself she's made some changes that have made both our jobs easier.

It was shortly after 9 when Cecelia brought Burque in. Burque had submitted to the interview Sunday evening, and I'd reviewed the interview transcript, which Cecelia had prepared using her copious notes and excellent memory. As Cecelia and Burque came in I was sitting with my feet on the corner of my desk, looking out my window at the Sandia Mountains and drinking a vanilla Coke. I have that office because of the view, and pay good money for it too. And I spend most of my time when I'm there looking at those mountains.

I stood up when the two women came through the door. "How you doin', Burque?" I asked.

"About as good as I can, I guess." Her English seemed more like what I was used to, though her voice was still subdued.

"Well, you're gonna get better, or Cecelia'll take a switch to you."

That got me a little smile, which was what I'd hoped for. Burque was wearing a tank top of sorts, the kind with just one strap that leaves the other shoulder bare. She could pull it off, for she had lovely smooth skin and a well-shaped shoulder, but I've never cared for that much bodily display. I thought about mentioning that I didn't really think it was appropriate for a Christian woman to wear out and about, and then decided not to – I wouldn't, if I could help it, give her the least reason to think the rape was her fault, and she hadn't been a Christian very long anyway and I shouldn't expect her to have as much practice as I do.

Instead I waved her to a chair, while Cecelia sat next to her. Another woman might have put her arm around Burque, but Cecelia has her limits. I knew she cared, and I knew that she'd be able to get that across to Burque should it become necessary.

I pulled a thin manila folder toward me. "We've already got a case file here," I said, "though they ain't much in it yet. First, there's the contract. You can read it – you can have a lawyer look at it if you want – but basically it says I undertake to try to find the guy and I'm only charging you a buck, period, end of negotiation." I slid it across the desk to her, and pulled a pen out of the imitation German beer stein where I always have a bunch, and set it down on top of the contract.

Burque picked up the pen and the contract, and looked over the document. I keep all my legal documents in English as much as the law will allow, since I'm not a lawyer nor the son of one, and need to be able to understand what I'm giving people. For that matter, there's no point in me handing a client or prospective client something to sign that he can't figure out the meaning of. After a moment Burque signed it and handed it back.

I put the contract back in the folder and pulled out the transcript. "Now this is the transcript of Cecelia's interview with you yesterday. How did it go?" I'd had Cecelia's verbal report, but I wanted to see what Burque thought.

"It went well. I'm glad you sent Miz Carpenter, 'cause it was a lot easier talkin' 'bout it wif her. You know, there's female stuff an' all."

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