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RichEisbrouch

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About RichEisbrouch

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    Manic Poster

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    69
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    Male
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    Gay
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    Los Angeles, California
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    writing, research, staying in touch with friends, work and volunteer work, walking our dogs...

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  1. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 26

    And thank you again. That's always great to know. And I'm glad you mentioned the humor. Some people seem to miss that in my writing because the tone is so low key.
  2. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 27

    Again, thanks. If you still prefer reading for plot, then after In The Plan, you may be stuck in terms of my writing. But The Pendleton Omens has a slightly younger Don Burris in it, and some sense of mystery. And Quabbin, as already mentioned, shares the same source as Tall Man Down, so you'd be going back to home ground. But Quabbin has a different sensibility and focus. Same thing with GWM, also set in Waldron. Then there's Crisscross Moon -- another semi-romance with a slight archeological mystery as its driver.
  3. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 27

    It took the Board about a year to appoint a new president, and she came from Tech. She was in her late thirties, had created a mid-range start-up that had been bought – very expensively – by a far better established, much better known company, and she never needed to work again. But she liked the idea of coming back to Massachusetts after fifteen years of living in California, and she’d gone to Hampshire before doing grad work at Berkeley. “I’ve just always been comfortable here,” she told us all at her first faculty meeting. “Though I know that, as soon as winter comes, I’m going to miss Palo Alto.” Still, she fit right in – not too pompous, not too dull – and the guy she was living with – a sculptor who liked Waldron’s artists’ community – was just low key enough to be a faculty dad. They were raising two kids from earlier relationships if not exactly marriages. “From what I heard,” Pete told me, “he didn’t even know about his daughter until recently. And that was when her mother went into rehab and the court decided she was – at least temporarily – a less that fit mother.” “How did that get past our Board?” “They knew about it. Danielle was very open in her interviews. “But the Board liked her contacts and money more than they disliked her complications.” “Nice of them.” “She’s another very good catch.” “I didn’t think we were allowed to talk about people in those terms anymore.” “Bite him,” Pete said to Josh. And he now had enough teeth to do damage. Rebecca seemed very happy about Danielle, but I never actually talked with her about it. I mostly got my news from Larry, in the same way Pete heard about the steadily growing Tech/Business area from Elise. “They got the old Music building,” Larry told me one morning when we ran into each other at Financial Aids. I was checking for available work-study students. “Music goes into pre-fabs for a couple of years while the old music building is rehabbed and rewired for Tech – at least for important offices. The adjuncts still stay in Waldron Hall’s basement, which is close enough by.” “Where’s Music eventually land?” “To be determined – possibly the half basement that’s mostly used for dead storage now. And there’s the thought of a performing arts center again.” I laughed. “They’ll never get money for that. Besides, I like our church. It’s the perfect size for our tiny department.” “You underestimate yourself.” “You need to get to New York more.” We laughed at that, too. Larry and Marcia had too many kids for the family ever to waste money. “And college is coming,” Larry added. “They can all go to Waldron for free, but I don’t want ‘em here.” “Don’t let that get around.” Larry had easily held on to both his jobs, though the tentative union faltered without his lead. In that way, Catlin, Greg, and the Board had gotten what they wanted, as well as avoided at least a year of faculty infighting. Greg got something else he possibly didn’t know he wanted – he and his assistant suddenly got married. “And not even ‘cause we’re about to have a baby,” he joked. “Donna already has two, she doesn’t want more, and she thinks I’m too old to produce anything viable.” “That’s a blow,” I kidded. “Yeah. But proving her wrong is self-destructive.” “Well, welcome to instant family.” “Don’t you know it. And suddenly my farm seems too small.” Abby Rodelle was still around town, and I occasionally saw her come out of the Catlin Foundation office, when I went to the post office. And Pete saw Sandra, who still did a little decorating, in and around Abby’s continued research and their joint writing. “We haven’t finished any of Steve’s books yet,” Sandra told Pete. “But his agent likes what we’ve shown her, so I think we’re okay. Besides, the Hollywood people keep considering Steve’s other projects.” And Don wasn’t back directing traffic. Owen still made him crazy, but I heard about them shooting pool often enough to know their long friendship wasn’t in trouble. And Don had Zen Noah to keep him calm. As I had Pete and Josh. He should have been starting his Terrible Twos, but we hadn’t seen much sign of them yet. Though everyone counseled there were far more complicated times to come.
  4. Yep, I think In The Plan might be a good match for some of your tastes.  Looks like you're having fun.

    Again, thanks for reading.

    1. Show previous comments  3 more
    2. pvtguy

      pvtguy

      I don't understand what the page link is.  I did leave a review - did it show up?

    3. RichEisbrouch

      RichEisbrouch

      Nope, when I clicked on the notification, the message says something like "This page has disappeared."  But thanks and don't make yourself nuts about it.  SItes simply have quirks.

    4. RichEisbrouch

      RichEisbrouch

      Specifically, the message is:

      Sorry, there is a problem

      Page Not Found.

      Error code: 2S136/B

  5. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 26

    Yep, I know that. But it's not a thrilling murder mystery. It's a half-humorous novel about small group of people at a New England college. That's why there's still another chapter. And thanks again for reading.
  6. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 26

    “The guys from Boston were impressed,” Don told Pete and Noah. We were having dinner. We were home. Josh was smiling in his highchair. I wasn’t the least bit tired, though I certainly should have been. “Stop gloating,” Pete told me. “I’m not.” “You’re grinning enough,” Noah agreed. “I’m trying not to.” “You still need to explain some things,” Pete continued. “Only some?” “Now you’re leering,” Noah pointed out. I tried to frown, but it didn’t work, and I started to laugh. “Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry. It’s just nice to know my brain still works.” “Your brain’s always working,” Pete assured me. “You’re always figuring things out.” “Well, this way...” “Then explain,” he insisted. “Before you fall asleep.” “Just give me a minute.” I refilled my coffee cup and then tried to settle down. “The whole point,” I began, “is that we kept trying to figure out what happened. And we kept looking at it from Catlin’s point of view – or even Elise Pelletiers’, since she was with him. Then, later – when college politics started to interfere – we got distracted by that. And when we came back to Catlin at all, it was, Who would hurt him? and Why? But the point was that – no matter how much conflict he happened to create – no one was trying to hurt him. There was never any reason, and that’s why I always thought his dying was an accident. In fact, if anyone was trying to hurt Catlin, it was himself. That’s what we had backwards. And this definitely was no suicide – Abby Rodelle made that clear. Catlin wasn’t close to being ready to leave this world.” “Then what happened?” “Someone was trying to help him – it was that simple. Elise gave us the background pretty clearly. By 12:30 Tuesday morning, Catlin could barely walk. He was leaning against the tail end of his car for support. Yet he was still drinking. He toasted her. And on his way walking back to the President’s House – or maybe even going up the porch steps – he stumbled and fell. And if he didn’t just flat out pass out and stumble, he may have knocked himself out when he hit his head.” Pete and Noah seemed to accept all that, but Noah still had to ask, “And then what?” And Don and I just grinned. “That’s the part we can never prove,” Don picked up. “It’s all guess work until Abby Rodelle walks into the house at what?” He turned to me. “I think it was like 9:30, Tuesday morning.” “No, I already knew by then,” Pete told us. “I was in the Business office when she came in.” “Well, the last anyone saw Catlin...” I explained to Noah, “...anyone we can identify – was around 12:30, when Elise left. Then it’s blank till almost nine hours later – probably at least till dawn, considering how dark that driveway is at night. Then someone spotted him – either knocked out and unconscious in the driveway or maybe slumped on the steps. Or maybe he was just sleeping, in either place. And it was probably somebody walking or jogging by – on the way to work or to catch the bus to Springfield. Or even walking a dog.” “It probably wasn’t someone driving,” Don added further. “Though you never know. The shortest glance and seeing something that shouldn’t have been there could have made someone pull over.” “Because there’s a very narrow opening in the front hedges that lets you see the maybe forty feet to the front porch. And Catlin’s car was parked just far enough off center for someone to have a line of sight from the street or sidewalk.” “But it’s so much easier if you’re walking by. The Boston cops kept testing that.” “Or if your dog stopped to sniff the edge of the hedges – to check someplace another dog marked.” Pete just laughed. “So you’re crediting this to a dog now? The Hound of Waldron?” Don and I laughed. “Yeah. If you want it that way.” “Then what?” Noah asked. “Well what would you do if you saw someone passed out in a driveway?” “See if he needed his back fixed,” Don cracked. “You’d see if they need help,” Pete corrected. “Or if they needed the police.” “And that’s probably what happened. Though what also could have happened was that by that time, Catlin was just sleeping, and this helpful person simply woke him up.” “And?” “Well, that’s when we start guessing,” Don admitted. “If Catlin simply got up and said, Oh. Great. Jesus. Guess I drank too much last night. Thanks for waking me. I’ll take it from here and the other person left, then things go one way.” “But at least we know Catlin was awake and walking at that point,” I said. “Though he might not have been in as good shape as he thought.” “So he could have gone into the house by himself.” “But it makes more sense that he was still a bit unsteady, and someone was with him.” “Where was the dog?” Pete asked, always good on details. “If there was one.” “That’s why it might have been a jogger – or someone walking.” “Though a dog could have been tied to the railing.” “Or brought into the house.” “In any case, the person could have gone inside with Catlin – to make sure he was all right. And then they discovered Catlin wasn’t quite steady enough to go upstairs to sleep for a few more hours... “...if it was only 5:30 or so...” “...and if that’s what Catlin wanted.” “Abby Rodelle said his meeting wasn’t till ten, and he usually came into his office by nine.” “So maybe the person offered to help. And you know how stubborn Catlin was, so he could have easily resisted.” “But maybe it was past that, and the person helped anyway.” “And there’s also a chance it was someone who knew Catlin – someone on the faculty or staff. Or even a student.” “Someone who’d been invited to the house for dinner. You know Catlin and Sandra had parties for students, too.” “So this person knew there was a bathroom downstairs – away from the stairs that Catlin couldn’t handle.” “And they may have helped Catlin get there. And helped him into the shower.” “... to sober up...” “...if the person didn’t realize Catlin had also hit his head.” ”So the person could have helped Catlin undress, and they took off his watch and ring to keep them from getting wet.” “That was perfectly natural.” “And then – when the person realized Catlin was still unsteady – they simply sat Catlin down in the tub.” “And filled it, letting the warm water run slow enough so it wouldn’t overflow.” “Maybe even closing the bathroom door on the way out – to give Catlin privacy.” “There would have been enough light by then from the window,” Pete reminded us. “So that’s why the light was never turned on.” “But the person still had Catlin’s clothes – because you don’t leave good clothes in a wet room. And Catlin was still dressed from the party.” “And they had his watch and ring.” “But going back to the front hall, they saw Catlin’s jacket hanging on a dining room chair.” “And they simply added everything else.” “Neatly.” “And they didn't stick around?” Noah asked. “Why?” I asked. “Good deed done. Dog waiting. Or jogging to be resumed. Or simply a usual Tuesday morning to get to work.” “And the person didn’t tell anyone?” “Yeah, well – there’s the problem. There’s a very good chance more than one person knows.” “A husband... or wife... Or anyone the person lived with. Especially if we’re talking about someone who had to go home before they went on with their day.” “It’s too good a story not to share.” “Even more if it was someone connected to the school – who knew Catlin.” “But everything changes if you wait a few hours, and the person didn’t have a chance to talk.” “Because as soon as word started to get around that Catlin had died, it’s suddenly not a good story.” “It’s only one that could get you in trouble.” “Or arrested.” “Do you honestly think that?” Pete asked. “Oh, yeah. In this age where everyone’s suing everyone else.” “Or if someone didn’t want their life invaded by the media – and you know that would happen.” “”Or maybe this was someone who never liked Catlin and was very open about it.” “And suddenly they’ve gone from doing something good to finding themselves in court.” “So of course they’re going to shut up.” “There’s lots of reasons only one person would know... or that the few who did would keep it quiet...” “But wouldn’t it be pretty easy to find out who the person was?” Noah asked. “I mean if they were connected to the college and followed the same morning routine?” “That’s the first thing the guys from Boston said,” Don admitted. “That even if no one ever came forward, they could plant a camera and monitor it to see who passed the President’s House every morning.” “And even if someone was scared off their normal routine for a while, eventually – when nothing happened – they’d probably go back to it.” “And all Don would have to do was follow up.” “And eventually, I’d find them.” “But there was no point to that I insisted. Though it took a while to convince everyone.” “Including Owen and me.” “Because no good could come of it.” Pete just laughed, understanding immediately and quickly kissing me. “You would think that.” “Yep,” I said, probably gloating this time. That had been my big accomplishment at the station. Not offering what possibly could have happened. But persuading Don and Owen and the guys from Boston to just leave it alone. “There’s also a chance there never was another person,” Don had to add. “That’s what convinced me to walk away. I didn’t know Steven Catlin – no matter how much I’ve learned about him in the past several weeks. But he sounded just ornery enough to try and push his way through this.” “To wake up in the driveway, stagger to the house, try and go upstairs, fail, and decide instead to take a shower. “Groggily leaving his clothes in the dining room.” “Then – when he realized he couldn’t even stand in the slippery shower – and despite everything he normally felt about hating baths...” “...he just gave in and sat down.” “And there’s an equal chance he didn’t realize he wasn’t hung over or still a bit high...” “...but had given himself a concussion when he fell.” “And you both know the rest.” “The warm water...” “The hot room...” “He passed out again, went limp, and slipped under the water...” “And drowned.” “Can you check about the concussion?” Pete wanted to know. “Only by digging him up,” Don admitted. “And it’s just not worth it. It would only upset his family.” “And maybe everyone else.” “Besides, Owen and the guys from Boston agreed to accept Accidental Death – and we’re both comfortable with that.” “It’s the best way to leave it.” “I guess,” Pete said, after seeming to think for a while. “I told you. No good can come of it.” “I guess,” he said again. And Noah agreed. And then we all kind of laughed.
  7. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 25

    Yep: me dirty rat. Thanks.
  8. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 25

    I was in the middle of demonstrating to my design class how hard it was to sometimes explain things. I did this by perverting one of my student’s instructions about how to put on my jacket, and I had it upside down, partly inside out, half over my head, and with my left arm in the right sleeve, when I finally became the monkey who saw the stick, the box, and the hanging bananas all at the same time. It was like working again for the Japanese designer I’d studied with in grad school. He had that unfortunate, stereotypical inability to clearly pronounce his L’s, and for five minutes one afternoon, over headsets to the theater control room from where he was sitting in the house, he kept telling me to turn off the right switch on the control board. I kept doing that – flashing the light on and off as proof of my ability – until he stomped all the way up to the booth and turned off the “light switch” on the left side of the board. Oh, that “right switch.” So in the middle of this lesson on design communication, I finally made sense of my feeling that we’d been looking at this whole thing cockeyed. Understanding that, I came back to reminding myself that the simplest explanation was often the best, and there was only one problem with knowing this – I couldn’t prove a damned thing Still, once I finished my class, I called Don at the station. Unfortunately, he was busy. I tried his cell, but it went to message, and I wondered if the guys from Boston had shown up, and if he and Owen were meeting with them. I called Pete, but he already wasn’t thrilled to find I’d spent over an hour the night before walking around town. So all he wanted me do was promise to stop interfering with Don’s job. That wasn’t going to happen, and I’d figure out how to apologize to him later. Meanwhile, I drove the police station. “I told you he was busy,” I was informed again – politely, especially after I identified myself. “Could you tell me where he is?” “No. I really can’t. I’m sorry.” Still, after thinking about it for a moment, I looked for Don’s car in the parking lot. Gone, so I zipped back to the theater, practically ran to the President’s House, and took the three porch steps in one leap. The door was open and just inside, I met one of the young cops whose names I couldn’t remember. “Could you get Don Burris?” I asked, having already spotted his car in the driveway. “Detective Burris is kind of busy right now,” I was told for the third time. “He’ll probably be busy all afternoon.” “Not if I talk with him for five minutes.” That was a lie. He’d still be busy. But differently. “I really can’t interrupt.” Don was probably ten feet away, behind a wall or above a ceiling. I could yell his name, and he’d come. But I’d probably get us both in trouble. I asked the guy to at least tell Don that it was very important that I speak with him – on police business – and maybe something in my intensity moved him because he went to find Don. But only after ordering me to “Stay.” Arf. Less than a minute later, Don told me, grinning, “Rick said there was a crazy man out here who wanted to see me.” Rick was standing just behind Don, looking ready for anything. “I know what happened,” I told Don quietly. He seemed to believe me. I explained. He believed me less. “It works out,” I insisted. “Every bit.” He considered. Then decided. “Give me a couple minutes to get more time.” And he disappeared down the hall. For those “couple minutes,” I stood watching Rick stare at me. While I smiled innocently. Then Don reappeared and led me onto the porch. “Now give me everything you said before. Only slower.” I did, adding as much detail as I could, as proof. Though so much of it was guessing. “There’s no way to back this up,” Don finally sighed. I agreed. “Not unless you alibi the entire town. Plus anyone who happened to be passing through. If you could even identify them.” No one’s going to believe me.” And he turned back to the house. Accidentally looking just beyond him, I suddenly asked, “Could you send Rick out here for a minute? And stay to watch. This might be something.” “Rick!” he called. And Rick appeared. “Could you carefully pick that glass out of the thorns,” I asked him. “Without getting your fingerprints on it?” Rick looked at Don. Don nodded. And Rick pulled a fresh pair of latex gloves out his pocket. He probably soon wished he hadn’t still been wearing his short-sleeved summer uniform, because he kind of bloodied his bare arm on the thorns. “Unless I’m completely wrong,” I told Don, “that has Catlin’s fingerprints on it. He might have dropped it Monday night when he fell.” “Tuesday morning,” Don corrected, and I could tell he was beginning to buy in. “Exactly.” “Let me talk with the guys from Boston.” But before he left, he turned to Rick. “Run that back to the station and have it checked for prints. We’ll be right behind you.” I waited for just a moment, until Don was opening the screen door. “Do you need me with you?” I asked. “You bet. You’re not leaving my sight.” Inside, Don explained to the two Boston detectives that they needed just a little imagination. They laughed, and one of them said, “That'll get us tossed out of court.” That was fine with me. Though I hoped it would never make it that far.
  9. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 24

    I really appreciate that. I just have no direct experience about police practices, and when you're basing fiction on fiction and research, reality and intelligent readers sometimes get lost. So I'm glad -- and relieved -- that you're enjoying the story.
  10. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 24

    Thanks. Though you gotta remember it's a detective in fiction. Just trying to tell a story here. You know actual police work is different.
  11. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 24

    Pete and I got to bed early – not long after ten – partly because of our early start and partly because of school the next morning. But I’d been spoiled by the unhurried days and late nights of summer, and maybe I still couldn’t accept that I had to be back in a classroom, teaching. Pete read for a while, and I held the Sunday crossword in front of me, probably adding another few words he’d missed. But I readily set the paper down when he asked if it was okay to turn off his light. Lying, half-wrapped around him under the lightweight blanket, I wanted to sleep. But it didn’t seem possible. I tried to clear my mind, but finally, afraid of keeping Pete awake with my restlessness, I slipped out of bed. I expected him to say something, because I really didn’t think he was asleep. But, apparently, he was. Reaching in the closet for my robe, I absently took my jeans instead. I pulled them on, adding a shirt, then my socks and bucks – my old ones whose backs are so bashed I don’t need to open the laces. The leather heels of my usual off-work loafers would have made too much noise on our polished floors. Carefully, I made my way downstairs, to the room Pete and I use as our home studio. I intended to do some design work – I’m always behind in my drafting. But, even at that still relatively early hour, I found myself lacking in dexterity and interest. Though one of the antique inking pens I’d recently found for my small collection was clogged, and for a while, I set to cleaning that. Finally, only half successful, I left the pen to soak overnight. I picked up a play I’d be designing later that year but had as much trouble with it as with the crossword. I began sorting accumulations in my flat file, emptying drawers I’d been promising to clean for years. Partway through, I found some sketches of a friend I hadn’t seen since grad. school and started a letter. But there seemed so much I wanted to say, and so little that would interest her, that I soon gave up. I piled things back in my files and moved to the living room, checking for anything tolerable on TV. There was nothing, and the choice of that or a stashed recording was no choice. So I did what I usually did when frustrated – and I had to admit, that was my problem with getting to sleep, I went to the refrigerator and studied our leftovers. After making a thick sandwich, I slipped outside, onto the deck off the kitchen, to eat and look at the stars. Between bites, I found the easy Big and Little Dippers, and maybe a half-dozen other constellations whose names I could never memorize. Finished eating, I went inside for a jacket and our book on astronomy. Then I simply took my jacket. To read, I’d need a flashlight, or at least my phone, and finding either might make too much noise. But I soon tired of what I could see through the trees from the back deck, and I walked to the front of our house, for that clearer view. Then I kept walking along our dark street, looking for other lights, wondering who else might be awake. But we don’t live on a street meant for walking. The houses aren’t widely spaced, but there are no sidewalks, and while at any hour cars rarely pass, at night, they seem to come faster. And because of the winding road, cars seem to come out of nowhere, occasionally hitting a jogger, which makes everyone extra careful. So I only walked to the end of our street, to the crossroads where an overhead light made the night seem even stranger and lonelier. I had to do something. I didn’t have my keys or my wallet, but I went home and pried my spare key from its hiding place, then quietly opened my driver’s door and pushed my car down our driveway the street, starting the engine there. I figured I’d drive, slowly and cautiously, to the edge of town, then walk, safely, on the sidewalks there. But in the same way I’d mindlessly taken my jeans from our closet, I found myself driving into town, to the college, and to the theater. I parked and sat there listening to late-night sonatas, wondering how tired I needed to be to slip home. No answer coming, I left my car, passed the pool entrance, and started across the inner quad – the U formed by Waldron Hall, the library, and the newer math/science building. The old, far smaller one – it looked like a two-story, Victorian mansion – practically matched Waldron Hall in age and now housed the music department. The business folks kept eyeing it – saying they’d pay out of donations to have it restored – and that would have been great. At the moment, their faculty was still crammed in part of Waldron Hall’s basement. In any case, this part of the campus was absolutely quiet, the dorms being across the street, well past the cafeteria. On the street beyond campus was the bank Pete and I used, and if I’d had my wallet, I could have withdrawn what little cash we might have needed for the week – we mostly used our debit cards. So simply passing the ATM, I found myself wandering downtown. The Post Office looked staid in all its WPA glory. The gazebo, built on the small common, sometimes looked uncomfortable, camped between the maples and a Civil War memorial. Just then, it looked romantic. At the brick town hall, I stared down the long green corridor to see if there was any sign of activity. The first floor used to be the police station, till the town actually recognized that it needed a newer facility than from mid-nineteenth century. They’d also built a new fire station. So figuring I’d walked enough, I headed back to my car, hoping I was tired enough to drive home. Still, at the theater, I unexpectedly kept walking, past the small, once private houses that were now college offices and moving along the sidewalk across the street from the gym, until I’d reached the President’s House. It was mainly as dark as the trees around it – only the dull light on the porch tried for security. I stood in the driveway, in the narrow break between the hedges, and stared through the shadows at the house. There was barely a moon, which means there probably wouldn’t have been one the night Catlin died. The porch light had been on, Elise said, but she’d also mentioned what it now confirmed – that it wasn’t very bright. I hadn’t remembered to check that the night Don and I had talked with Ted. From the sidewalk, I tried to picture Catlin and Elise, sitting on the steps, looking out past his Audi. I guessed they couldn’t see far but couldn’t confirm that unless I sat on the steps myself. So I went to do that. Of course, there was no car to block my view, but I still couldn’t see much through the opening between the hedges. I tried to remember exactly where the car had been, and I thought to the left of the porch steps – to the left of someone sitting on the steps. On the day Catlin died, I could just see the side of his car past the ambulance, and there was a police car parked on either side of that. So when Elise Pelletiers had gotten up to leave and Catlin followed her, he would have been standing on the driver’s side, since the Audi was parked head in. Though even if he’d stayed on the porch steps, which she claimed he hadn’t, he couldn’t have readily seen her reach the street. What he might have seen was a fragment of her silhouette momentarily blocking a security light on the gym across the road before disappearing. From where I sat, I couldn’t even seen the gym. I could mainly sense its dark bulk, which stretched forward to Waldron Hall and back to the track that enclosed a small practice field. The only part of the gym I could really see was the small, wall-mounted security light, head-high and beside a side door. I knew there were lights further up the three-story building, but they were blocked by the trees, and so were the old fashioned, comparatively short, iron lampposts, widely spaced along the non-campus side of the road. Largely, I saw the kind of darkness even an expensive camera couldn’t record. It looked as romantic as the gazebo. All I lacked was mist. Not even a car drove by, and if one had, I would have barely seen the wash of its headlights on the asphalt, then its front sidelights, then its rear. The street seemed particularly quiet, too. It was noisy when there was a crowd at the gym, and I’d been told by our neighbors behind the theater that they could hear our show music, especially when it was live. But it was too late for games or performances, and what had once been student housing on the third and fourth floors of Waldron Hall had been converted to faculty offices long before I was hired. After classes were over, this was a very isolated area, surprisingly for it being close to the busy end of town. No wonder any number of people had seen the President’s House as a private place to have sex. I wondered for a moment if Catlin maybe had a visitor after Elise Pelletiers left – or even while she was there. I couldn’t see any advantage to Sandra stopping by, unless she absolutely needed to find Catlin with Elise. But that was no way to repair a marriage, which seemed Sandra’s aim. If other people had seen Catlin leave with Elise, probably Sandra knew of it or would know soon enough. But maybe that was part of what they were working on. Ted could have stopped by to talk with his dad. It seemed they’d done a lot of communicating this summer. Or he could have stopped by with the girl he was seeing or the one he’d been seeing, thinking his dad would be home after the party. But Ted was in Amherst, a dozen miles away and being a freshman, he might not even have had his car. He could have thumbed from his dorm. Plenty of people, not all of them kids, did that, when they were tired of waiting for the bus. And he could have picked up his car to drive back. Lisa also could have come by – but why? There was no indication she felt particularly close to her dad this summer. Though maybe part of the problem Sandra was having with her was Lisa’s siding with Catlin. And while she was closer physically – Northampton and Smith being only four miles away, and probably had an apartment and a car – it was still unlikely. If Catlin has just started sleeping around, and Sandra needed an ally, she’d probably call or text Ted. Like Catlin’s immediate family, Abby Rodelle also knew he sometimes worked late. But she’d just seen him at the party and would see him first thing in the morning, so I couldn’t imagine what she’d need to say. Unless she was Sandra’s ally, sent to confront Catlin. But Elise said she’d left on her own, early and peaceably. Maybe it was the ‘early’ that did it: she’d gone by the time Sandra – or Ted – or Abby – had arrived – before a possible fight. But how would a fight with a drunk and somewhat stoned man wind up with him in the tub. I couldn’t make that connection. That still didn’t eliminate Catlin dying by accident, as Greg had described, while having sex with Elise in the slippery tub. And then her panicking and taking off, still wet from the shower. But she seemed too sensible for that. She just would have called the police, and Catlin – merely unconscious – might have been taken away in an ambulance. But what if she had run and someone had seen her? What if the story she’d told Pete, Don, and me was simply a lie? Then why wouldn’t the e-mails and phone calls have asked where she was when Catlin died? I suppose there no point if their real intent was to knock Larry out as Dean. And Elise had easily admitted having sex with Catlin, despite his marriage. She didn’t seem embarrassed or afraid of losing her job. She’d just been honest. I tried to leave them all out – Sandra, Lisa, Ted, Abby, Elise – as I’d separated Catlin’s death from all the nonsense e-mails, phone messages, school and union politics, and the joust between Greg and Larry. I doubted that Greg knew the detail that made Larry resign, but did even one other person on campus know of Larry’s private life? Did Catlin? I hadn’t, and I considered Larry a close friend. But leaving out Catlin, his family, and the opportunistic political silliness sent Catlin’s death back to being an accident – unfortunate, but merely that. Maybe he’d intended to go home after Elise left. Maybe he’d purposely kept that short or even gotten high and drunk to distance himself from his activities. Maybe Sandra had been expecting him and had simply gone to bed. But once Catlin realized he couldn’t drive – or even walk – the short distance home, and maybe that he couldn’t even handle the steps to his President’s House bed, why wouldn’t he just sleep on the living room couch? Unless he was hoping a shower would clear his head. I sat there thinking, “Accident. Accident. Accident,” and wondering why Don had ever thought otherwise. The guys from Boston were just going to embarrass him, and I hoped he’d be quiet when they showed up. Or else he could be back directing traffic. Owen wouldn’t like being embarrassed either. I finally stood up on the porch steps, knowing I had just enough focus to get myself home. As I straightened and momentarily blocked and unblocked the faint porch light behind me, something glinted beside the rose bushes. The glass from the reception still lay in the flower bed, protected by thorns and out of my reach. It was another metaphor I didn’t need.
  12. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 23

    When I woke Sunday morning, Josh was tugging at the sheet near my face. He was standing next to the bed, tugging, drooling, and making his usual sounds, kind of talking to himself. “Cute,” I said. “Your father pay you to do this?” But when I turned over to Pete, he was still asleep. I sat up, very quickly. “Pete? Pete.” He mumbled at me. “Wake up. It’s important.” Meanwhile, I’d pulled Josh onto the bed. “Pete, damn it, wake up.” “What? What? What’s the matter?” “Have you been up yet?” “No. Of course not. What do you think?” “Either have I. Josh just woke me.” “Was he crying?” Pete seemed unconcerned, and ready to go back to sleep. “He was standing next to the bed.” That took only a moment to clear. He sat up, as sharply as I had. “What? How’d he get here? Is he okay?” “I don’t know. He seems fine.” Pete looked at Josh, who seemed very happy to be there. “How’d you get here?” he asked. It’s not like he expected an answer. By that time, I was out of bed, through the hall, and into Josh’s room. The side of his crib was still up, and it seemed secure when I pressed on it. Some of the animals he slept with were on the floor, where they often were in the morning. When he woke up before we did, one of his favorite games seemed to be throwing everything out of his crib. I went downstairs to see if, for some dumb reason, my parents or Pete’s had arrived and were playing a joke. No one was there. Halfway down the stairs was a small blue stuffed rabbit, another toy Josh slept with. The gate at the bottom of the stairs hadn’t been in place because Josh was in his crib when we were last awake. It hadn’t been moved to the top of the stairs for the same reason. We sometimes let him crawl around either floor when we were nearby, but never without the gate in place. A set of highly-polished, uncarpeted oak stairs connected the two levels. Pete was at the top of the stairs, with Josh, when I came back. “He must’ve climbed out of his crib somehow, chasing his toys.” “What’s that doing there?” He pointed to the rabbit. “It must’ve fallen.” “Oh, Jesus.” “I know.” “What’ll we do?” I didn’t know. “If we spank you,” I asked Josh, “will you even know what it’s for?” “The gate goes up from now on.” “That won’t keep him in the crib. “We can’t use a harness. It’ll tangle.” “This might be a fluke.” “Can we take that chance?” “He’s too young for a bed. And that wouldn’t solve the problem.” “He can’t even walk yet, not really.” “Maybe we can find a deeper crib.” For a moment, we just looked at each other. Josh, still making pleasant noises, reached for the rabbit I’d by then picked up. “Jesus,” Pete said again. “I know.” On top of that, when we finally looked at a clock, we realized it was only six-fifty. But neither of us wanted to go back to bed. Instead, we started puttering around the house. By nine, we’d showered, dressed, and had eaten breakfast. Josh’s mattress had been on the lowest rung possible, but I pulled his crib apart, did some simple reworking, and reinstalled the mattress eight inches lower. When I finished, we put Josh in the crib and tried to lure him out. But no matter what we offered, he couldn’t make the climb, which made him slightly crabby and us feel more secure. Putting away my tools, I thought about trying again for sleep but decided it was too late. Instead, I went out to mow the back lawn, taking Josh and his walker with me and giving Pete a chance to quietly read the Times . Near eleven, Don phoned with what should have been good news. “Owen did a rough check of my paperwork overnight, and he said it all seemed fine. The stuff you told me yesterday afternoon from the Catlin family helped, too. So I don’t need to come over at all.” “Well, that’s a compliment,” I said. “Considering Owen’s sometimes so picky.” “Yeah.” But he didn’t seem happy, and I suspected he was still brooding about the Boston guys. “Anyway,” he went on, “I just wanted to call and say thanks. And I owe you for this.” “You can come over and mow my lawn. I’ve finished the back, but there’s still the front one to go.” Instead, we both laughed. I wanted to ask how soon the guys from Boston were coming but knew even mentioning that might piss him off. He’d said as early as Monday. I also wanted to tell him I was sure they wouldn’t find anything – at least, nothing more than he had – and they’d probably be clumsier about it, too, not knowing the people or the area. Instead, I simply said, “Have a good day off,” and he again said he’d let us know when there was anything to know. Finished with that, I walked back into the house, carrying Josh and explained, “Don.” Pete nodded and went back to reading, and Josh and I went to fix us all an early lunch. Still, through the afternoon, I kept thinking about Catlin. Don was thorough, and he’d done everything I thought was logical – meaning everything I would have done, even though I’d never made it to detective. Still, somehow, I thought he going about it wrong – and not just thinking the whole thing was more than an accident. And maybe I hadn’t been forceful enough in dissuading him. I ran that by Pete, as I often did with design ideas, and he asked, “How do you mean ‘wrong’?” “I don’t know – distorted in some way. Like even though we’re being – he’s being – logical, we’re somehow messing up.” He took a moment to puzzle that out. “Like what?” Then he laughed. “You think Steve’s covering something up? That he’s really living at that inn in Vermont, and that was someone else’s body in the tub?” “Tain’t funny.” “I don’t know – Tale of Two Massachusetts Towns.” “You really need to see me sulk?” “Oh, come on. You’ve been convinced this was an accident from the beginning. And you’ve absolutely persuaded me. And to make this into anything else will only unnecessarily upset a lot of people. It just seems like time for you and Don to stand back and watch the guys from Boston work.” I had to admit they should be able to help – if only by being more objective. But I also wanted to tell Pete that higher rank and more experience – and even more expensive equipment – didn’t necessarily make better detectives. It just gave them more pieces to juggle. But that might drag me back into the thing, when I really was set in the other direction. And underneath it all, I couldn’t forget what had almost happened to Josh that morning. I kept seeing his damned blue rabbit lying halfway down the stairs and imagining Josh broken beside it. Or at least as still. And if he died, it would shake us more than maybe either one of our sudden deaths. I could somehow survive losing Pete, as Sandra would survive losing Catlin. But without Josh, Pete and I wouldn’t be the same. “You’re getting grass stains on his pants,” Pete told me at some point, and his voice could have come from another dimension. Josh and I were taking advantage of the newly cut backyard lawn, and I’d been pretending to race him, throwing one of his soft toys maybe ten feet away, then crawling after it. We’d done that five or six times, and each time he seemed to enjoy it more. After Pete joined us, for a while, Josh crawled back and forth between him and me. He’d bring me his ball, which I’d toss to Pete, then he’d go to Pete, and he’d throw the ball to me. If either of us missed, Josh crawled after the ball, and brought it back to the person closer – to start the game over. It was great fun, until I saw it as a metaphor for what Don and I had been doing. Then I tired of it quickly. I helped Pete make dinner that evening still vaguely thinking about Catlin. Then I gave Josh a bath thinking about Don. Pete and I played again with Josh after that, then he took him up to bed. Josh must have gone to sleep quickly after all that exercise, because I only heard Pete sing to him for a few minutes, his usual “Suzanne.” Josh must have gone to sleep somewhere between “the garbage” and “the seaweed.” Still, I couldn’t give in as easily as he had – couldn’t stop thinking just because I wanted to. I remembered Catlin as I thought I’d last seen him – romantically backlit under the trees as he maybe impulsively leaned down to kiss Elise Pelletiers. Then I corrected myself when I remembered the gurney with the body bag coming down the President’s House steps. Then I pictured Catlin, inside that bag. And I kept seeing Josh – with his rabbit.
  13. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 20

    And thanks for reading along. You're moving through my work well faster than I can write.
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