A Titled Visitor: Hammersmith (twenty-two)
A Titled Visitor
Vic, as Aimee with Curach, longed for an opportunity to pull—in this case, Monty Hogben would have to do—a confidant aside and ask: What’s it all about?
Mossbunker’s height put the two of them knee to knee, and Vic bounced along eyeing the mogul’s chin (not to seem standoffish; not, on the other hand, inviting of conversation). Piggott and Hogben had it roomier on their end of the cab. No one spoke.
Traffic was thick here, where a quad of tall buildings frostily graced an intersection with shade and tunneled wind, and where two of the electric trolley cars were engaged on their opposite tracks in passing. A lightweight and glossy green delivery wagon, drawn by a smart white horse, advertising the name of a downtown mercantile company, began edging ahead, coming round at an angle, drawing shouts from the southbound car’s conductor. A man pushing a bicycle wove himself through the tangle’s heart. Vic took this moment when momentum had stalled, to organize his facts, mentally, as a newspaper man might well do…
Mossbunker’s fool’s errand had turned into a project, in some way he was not journalist enough to detect. Vic guessed himself beginning to compose an exposé—and resented it. The only hot story that mattered to him was what his daughter, under the spell of an insinuating Sicilian, might be getting up to in his absence. But, suppose now, that nephew of Aimee’s could write a punctuated sentence…suppose Littler could take a little dictation? The potential in this notion made Vic sit up. Mossbunker sat up.
“Piggott. Step out and see what’s making all this delay.”
“No, sir,” Vic said. “I’ll step out. Hogben, you come along.”
Piggott’s thrusting up of his lower lip, as the two men sidled onto the street, suggested to Vic a lack of persuasive slyness in this gambit.
Hogben said: “I can’t tell you much.”
“Known the professor for many years?”
“’Bout six or seven. But, let me tell you this…our way was always to head off separate, him to get us a venue, me to suss out the kind of crowd we were up against. You know, every town’s different…and you never can be sure when someone in the same line hasn’t just passed through that way. Folks get riled up, takes ’em a while to simmer down.”
Time was short. There had grown a visible gap, now, between the parting rears of the two cars. “You mean,” Vic said, “he had plenty chance to strike off on his own, if he had other business he liked to take care of.”
“That’s about it.”
They turned, saw Piggott’s arm waving to them…sardonically, if that were possible. “But,” Vic said, “did Bellfountain not sit down of an evening to write to the homefolks? What’d the two of you do at holiday times? What about the ladies? Some gal he went to court?”
These demands were too many to be answered in a jaunt of thirty feet. Hogben got as far as, “Not Bellfountain, le Fontainebleau.”
“Not even that,” Vic sighed, mounting to his place and giving Mossbunker the good news.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)