A Long, Hard Look (Chapter 30)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1

She was a dozen yards from the car before I stopped gasping like a fish and got out.

I waited until I’d caught up so I didn’t have to yell. That, and I didn’t have the breath to speak. Or the words.

“What on earth are you talking about? How am I supposed to do that? You said she wouldn’t want to know? You’re not making any sense.”

I guess those were the words.

“It’s not logical, it’s emotional.”

“Okay, I get that. What about the rest? How am I supposed to let her know this without her resenting that it’s not coming from you, without her not flying off the handle and punching Everard Mills in the nose?”

She was moving faster. It made it hard to talk, for both of us. She was wheezing a bit. “You have the quick wit and mental acuity of youth. You’ll figure it out.”

“I’m not that young.”

“Younger than I. Young enough for Darcy.”

“Look, I’ve only known her a couple days.”

“I’m not marrying you off. That’s not the point. Figure this out, Phil. You have to. For me. For Darcy. For Sarah, though you don’t owe her anything.”

She stopped. “You don’t owe any of us anything. I know that. I also know I’m being foolish and unreasonable.” She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, let it out, and opened them. “I’ve let this go on far too long. Seeing her so happy, seeming so safe with you, well, it gave me hope we could finally be a real family, Darcy and I.”

It was getting harder to say no, even though I had no clue what to do if I said yes.

“Let me think about it. For now let me focus on the task at hand. If this all blows up in my face, you and Darcy may have to sort some things out yourselves.”

She put her arm through mine and started walking again. “You’re right, of course. I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s settle this mess, and then we’ll see how best to approach my own emotional needs.”

“I’m not trying to weasel out of it, Millie. I really care about both of you.”

She laughed. “I know you do. I wouldn’t have asked otherwise. You’re quite right to postpone this complication. Let’s not say another word about it until a more appropriate time.”

It seemed like she was genuinely okay with it. I know sometimes when a woman says “go ahead” she really means “if you even try it I’ll emasculate you” but I had the impression Millie meant what she said.

We took the elevator up. It was easier coming in this way, past reception, but I still would have been more comfortable sneaking up the stairs as I had a few days ago.

Before the doors opened Millie pressed the stop button. “When we step out, go left, then left again, to the lunch room. Sam will come find you there. She’ll be looking for me. You’ll have to sort out how to capture her interest so you can talk to her.”

She pressed it again, we went the last few feet, and she stepped out and turned right. The receptionist looked at me, but I went left as if I knew what I was doing. Perhaps stepping out of the elevator with the boss’s general factotum made me less suspicious, but she didn’t tackle me or call security.

The lunch room had even less character than I expected. Maybe they all spent so much time at their desks that things like chairs designed to accept the human body or something on the walls except legal documents and disclaimers didn’t seem important.

I was toying with the idea of one of the overpriced chocolate bars when someone came in.

“I got an email to meet Millie here. Did she leave already?”

I pulled out one of the fiberglass monstrosities and sat. I pushed another one out with my foot.

“Care to sit down and tell me how Trude is doing?”

At first she looked confused, then she looked like she was going to leave, then she looked angry.

“What do you want?”

I tapped the side of my shoe against the cheap metal chair leg. “I want to chat about your sister. The blonde one, not the short one.”


“Why not?”

She stood there, things clicking in her head.

I was worried she’d leave and drag someone else into this. “Look, when I was here the other night, the day Gil died, I didn’t know who you were. I’ve met Darcy and Gertrude and I just wanted to talk to you again now that I know you’re Darcy’s sister. Please?” I sat up really straight and looked as honorable and undangerous as I could.

“I only have a few minutes.” She didn’t move, though.

“That’s okay. Please, sit down, just for a few minutes.”

She came over to the chair and slid it back just a little, so she could be sitting in the chair, but not at the table with me.

“What do you want to know?”

“Well, first, I want to extend my condolences about Gilbert. I only met him briefly, but I have the impression his sisters all cared about him very much.”

Her eyes were a little wet at the corners. I went to the counter where the stained coffee pot sat next to the plastic container of cheap powdered creamer and grabbed a couple napkins for her.

She dabbed and blotted and stuff while she answered. “If you’ve met Gertrude, you’ve probably guessed that at least one of his sisters didn’t care much about him. I’m sorry, it’s horrible, but if you know Darcy, you’ve already heard much worse about Gertrude. All of it true, I might add.”

This seemed meaningful. Downright helpful, even.

“So, you weren’t involved in Gertrude’s plan to trick Gil into sabotaging your father’s company?”

She stopped mid-blot. “Of course I was. I’m so stupid, Trude could get me to do anything. Even kill poor Gil.”

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