the case of the four women (part five)

This story started here.

At eleven, we were waiting patiently for arrival of Lawrence H. Prescott. At eleven-fifteen, we were getting somewhat restive. At eleven-thirty, Stu called the delicatessen downstairs, where he was clearly a regular customer, and ordered sandwiches and coffee.

The food appeared at ten to twelve, and when Mr. Prescott arrived at twelve-twenty, the sandwiches were gone and we were savoring the coffee, which was quite good.

Lawrence Harrison Prescott was the administrator of the city, appointed by the federal government to run things after the disappearance of Mayor "Uncle" Mike Sheldon. The reason, or excuse, had been that the city was in a state of chaos, one symptom being the founding of U-town in one corner of the metropolis.

This bypassing of the usual mechanisms of democracy had not been uncontroversial, and one of the opposition newspapers had immediately dubbed Prescott the "Lord High Protector." It had become a local joke that nobody could ever remember his actual title, or if he even had one.

The door opened and Lawrence H. Prescott came in, obviously ready to tender an appropriate apology for being late. My employer stood to greet him, stepping forward and extending her hand, and in that small office this meant he had to check his forward momentum to keep from knocking her over.

"Mr. Prescott," she said briskly, shaking his hand, "I'm Jan Sleet. This is my assistant, Marshall, and my attorney, Mr. Anson. I believe you know Miss Tumolo already. I asked you to meet me here not because I need legal representation to help you with this matter, but because for me to visit City Hall, or for you to visit U-town, would entail publicity and speculation that I'm sure we would both prefer to avoid. So, please, how can I help you?"

By this point, she had maneuvered Mr. Prescott into the empty chair and perched herself on the edge of the desk, looming over him in the small space.

It was pretty clear that, at least so far, this was not going exactly as he had pictured it. He turned to Susan and extended his hand. "Always a pleasure, my dear," he said. She smiled and shook his hand, but I had the idea that she was not sharing his pleasure at this reunion.

I could see Stu from where I was sitting, but he was blocked from our visitor by my employer, and I teased him later that he had spent the initial part of the interview examining my employer's posterior. This experience, he had immediately attested, had been the high point of his day, if not his entire week.

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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