“I hope he isn’t a dumb.”
Sean’s ‘new’ stepmother Nora, the Senator’s wife, was talking about him as if he wasn’t in the room. Sally sat with Sean, her face registering no emotion. The three of them were ‘taking tea’ in the dining room of the main house in the Clarkson compound. Sean felt as if he was livestock in an inspection of the goods.
“Now, Nora,” said Sally, “He’s gone through a lot in the last few days. After he has settled in I’m sure that you will find him quite capable. How are you feeling now, Billy?”
In fact, Sean was feeling thoroughly disgusted with himself. Nora was the kind of woman to whom he took an immediate dislike, yet he was compelled to sit there, smile pleasantly, and make chit-chat about the flight and the house and the election. Sean had never taken politics personally but, after reading Billy’s report on the Senator’s activities, his disinterest had turned into revulsion.
“I’m doing better, thank you. Once I get my inner clock reset I should be as good as ever,” he said while thinking, “Once I get my life reset, maybe.”
“William, and I will call you William—that Billy nickname is absolutely juvenile—tomorrow night is the big rally in Richmond,” said Nora, “It will be the first time the whole family will appear with the Senator. It’s a very big thing.” Nora’s hand displayed a slight tremor as she held her cup and saucer, “The clothes in the closet should fit you: wear the dark blue suit, a white shirt, and a red tie. The shoes you’re wearing are fine. I’ll send Herbert down to help you dress.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Clarkson,” said Sean. “The wing-tips! As if! I hope that ‘Herbert’ has better taste than Nora,” he thought.
“Be ready by four. We’ll have a reception at a donor’s house before the rally—and remember: smile, agree, don’t comment. They’re our people, try to act as if you belong.”
“I will do my best.”
“Damn right you will,” said Nora, “The Clarkson’s are the best. Don’t ever forget it, not even for a second.” Nora looked at Sean with distaste.
“Oh, and one more thing, William,” she continued, “There will be young women there. Don’t encourage them. They don’t want to help you, they only want to use you for their own ends.”
“Mrs. Robinson, where is Sean?” Molly whispered to Mary Robinson. They were sitting at a table on a balcony in one of Seattle’s Fremont District coffeehouses. “I haven’t heard from him for three days.”
“We have been out of touch with him as well. How did you get my text number?”
“Sean left it in a letter,” Molly said, keeping her gaze on her coffee cup, “He told me it should only be opened in an emergency. What can you tell me?”
“The project that Sean was working on is extremely sensitive,” said Mrs. Robinson. “For your own safety, I don’t want you to know very much about it at this time.”
“My life hasn’t seemed to be worth much lately. I was taken into custody by Federal agents two days ago. They threatened me with prosecution and prison for participating in the WTO protests in 1999.”
“Do you know why? Do you think you are under surveillance?”
“I don’t know why, Mrs. Robinson,’ said Molly, “I did have a feeling of being watched, I don’t think I am anymore—since they let me go. But I borrowed a friend’s phone to text you, just to be on the safe side. Sean told me to be careful in that letter.”
“Please, call me Mary. Tell me, Molly, how did you get here? Did you drive?”
“No, I took a bus and walked the last three blocks. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t being followed.”
“My car is around the corner,” Mary said, “Let’s go for a ride, and I’ll tell you what I can.” Molly looked closely at Mary’s face. Mary’s eyes were rimmed with tears.
“It isn’t good, is it?”, Molly said.
“No,” said Mary, “Let’s go out somewhere where we can be alone, somewhere by the ocean.”
“We can go out to Golden Gardens park, it’s usually pretty private there,” said Molly, fighting a rising wave of nausea, “Do you know the way there?”
“Yes, I know the place.”
As they drove, the clouds, which had been sputtering all day, began to break up. By the time they reached the park, bright sunshine was being reflected from the millions of water droplets that were clinging to the dune grass. The women left the parking lot and were walking on a path that led to the shore. Mary turned and steered Molly into a small grove of trees.
“Molly,” Mary began, “Sean was on an assignment, in Iceland, for my company. This morning I received word from the US State Department that Sean had been killed in a traffic accident. ”
Molly crumpled to the ground and began to softly weep. Mary sat down beside her and cried as well. After a time, Molly quietly spoke:
“H-how? Sean didn’t mention that his trip would be dangerous.”
“He was hit by a taxi when crossing a street... it was at night. I don’t know if it had anything to do with his project,” Mary said. She paused for a moment. “Until we know more we should be very careful about what we say or do. There may be extenuating circumstances in this incident, things that may have something to do with your arrest.”
“I don’t believe it,” Molly said defiantly, “He promised me that he’d come back.”
“His body was flown in last night. I’m going to the morgue to identify it. Will you come with me?”
Molly slowly regained her composure.
“Yes, let’s go. Now.”
They rode in silence. When they were inside the morgue, Mary Robinson spoke with the attendant. After they signed some forms he ushered them into the examination room.
“I’m giving you fair warning, his head has been severely damaged,” he said, sliding the gurney out of the vault. He pulled the sheet down, and Molly moved next to the battered figure. She avoided looking at the corpse’s face but examined his relatively unmarked torso. Saying nothing, she turned away. Mary nodded to the attendant who then covered the body and returned it to storage.
In the office, Mary and Molly signed more papers. The women left. Back in the car, they remained quiet until Mary stopped in front of Molly’s apartment.
“It’s not him,” Molly said.