Are You Alienated: part eight
She thought, at first, that she had heard from Emmett. The message identified the sender as “me”—but the Emmett reference had been part of the subject line, and Minta, after opening the message, found herself amazed.
Actually, you need not refer to my old rank in addressing me; it has been many years since I have had to do with the army. Friends call me Doug. I hope I may call you Minta. You will let me know if you object. In any case, Ms. Castelberry, I have been informed that you are interested in John Emmett. I may be of some help to you.
“Well,” she said aloud, “what do you mean by ‘interested’, and which John Emmett?”
And, under the circumstances, how could she not contact Torbay? She did not hit “Reply”, however. The name Brian Virgil appeared at the top of Minta’s list of two. She did a cursory search, pulled a news article, checked social icons that popped at the bottom of the page, reminding her of their existence—visited seven of these sites. Two hours afterwards, she’d ruled out all of numerous Brian Virgils. Including the one with a “Space 1999” Pinterest board.
Making a sticky note, she typed “BriVi”; underneath, she indented and put “not social”. The alumni office had listed him as a native of Crescent City, California. So, the hometown newspaper?
She began composing her phantom email to Emmett.
“I see how useful it can be to have a third-party researcher. Time-consuming stuff, finding people. I wouldn’t have thought! Of course, maybe BriVi doesn’t want to be found. But I don’t think I can go too far, I’m too ignorant. Anyway, if he comes back flaming, I’ll just apologize. I’m only the hired help―it would be harder for Dr. Slater.”
She saw nothing to be gained in mentioning Torbay, until she’d learned what Torbay meant to offer. She thought of her other news.
Emmett had brought Cammie Graham into his affairs. Minta pictured her, gauche in her theater-going dress, the coat with its satin lining sliding away. And Cammie―doing the work of a servant, not an assistant―grabbing at folds of fabric, trying to hoist the pile of objects with her knee. The flowers falling to the street. Cammie’s stricken, humiliated face. The empathy she’d felt because Cammie allowed herself to be ill-treated. But Cammie, looking up, had seen two watching her.
Well, Minta was a ruthless researcher now.
“And,” she typed on, “I give her credit for thinking on her feet. The house-for-sale wasn’t a bad invention. If I’d been home, she couldn’t have used it. So I’m guessing she thought it up just when Quentin made her come inside and leave her number.”
Now she could tackle Torbay. She opened his email again.
Doug, I want to thank you for contacting me.
Minta stopped and considered. She had first got in touch with Dr. Slater. She’d used Torbay as a medium, so it was her own fault if she’d raised some sort of alarm. Torbay, smart man that he was, had let her know how he’d found out about her. She was being pushed off, courteously, but firmly. And having no real position to defend, she ought to reassure Torbay. She had not intended peeking in at his back door.
I’ve been told you’re an expert on John Emmett. My interest in the case was only a matter of friendship―still, Doug, if I can be of help to you, I will be happy to do anything. Your friend, Minta.
She would never ordinarily sign an email that way. The tone was artificial, a little smarmy. But he would probably delete this and be done with her. She hit “Send”.
Her husband had cast himself, under a thin and unbecoming veil, as wronged man. Minta knew it was whatever Emmett had done to her phone, some message in the act that Quentin took to heart; this, more than her lying…as he saw it…about St. Petersburg. Cammie had done her no favor.
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015 Stephanie Foster)