I politely declined once again, and he said, “very well. Mr. Harville will be with you shortly.” I spent a few minutes, fantasizing about what his life must be like. Butlers, maids, chauffeurs, limousines, and it was a given that he had his own chef. Yep. I hated him.
Don’t misunderstand. I lived comfortably. I had a nice home, drove a nice car and had money in the bank, but I had started at the bottom and clawed my way to the top. Being there, it seemed like my top was almost like his rock bottom. I really hated him.
He finally came into the room and at that very instant, I realized that I had forgotten to bring the autopsy report. I was hosed. He shook my hand and told me to sit. He got comfortable in his overstuffed leather chair behind his, what I was sure had to be a hand crafted desk. As he glared at me, I sheepishly admitted that I had forgotten the report.
“I don’t give a shit about that report,” he said. “You think I needed to see that report?” I shrugged and asked why he had requested that I get it and send it to him. “You’re the one who needed to see that report,” he scowled.
I was at a loss. I didn’t have a clue what to do or say next. He obviously thought I knew what the hell he was talking about.
He opened a drawer and pulled out a rather thick folder. He plopped it down on his desk and said, “look through this.”
“What is it?” I asked. He acted a little perturbed and said, “I don’t like to give instructions twice, and I don’t like to repeat myself. Understood?” I nodded, I think.
“Now, ” he said. “Before you do that, let’s talk about Parker.” I managed a meek “okay.”
Harville said, “she was a piece of work, wasn’t she?” I nodded in agreement, and he smiled when he said, “I understand she spanked your bottom a few times.” I could feel my face flush as I tried unsuccessfully to attribute the “butt kicking” to my youthful inexperience, but I knew Harville wasn’t buying it.
“She sent quite a few of you crying home to your mamas, didn’t she?” I began my defense but he quickly dismissed me by saying, “save it. I want to tell you a little about Parker Patterson, but first, I want you to tell me what you really thought of her, and you can be honest.”
I put on my big boy panties and said, “okay. I thought she was a fucking bitch and I despised her. I never could understand how she could so vehemently defend people who were lower than pond scum, and not only that, but get them protection. Protection! Like they actually had some kind of value to society. Like they were somehow entitled to special treatment after they had raped, murdered and destroyed people’s lives. I’ll be honest with you. More than once, I wished the gates of hell would open and suck her insider.”
I felt ashamed after my rant and tried to temper it with the stupid statement, “but I’m sorry that she was killed. She didn’t deserve to die that way.”
Harville looked amused when he said, “that was a pretty visceral response. Were you in love with her?”
“No!” I proclaimed rather loudly, “but I will say that I admired her and envied her ability to win every single time. Every single time! She always found a loop-hole or a mistake or some way to make the rest of us look like rank amateurs. But I will admit that she was drop dead gorgeous.” I don’t know where that statement came from. Maybe I was trying to appease Harville, or maybe I was trying to deflect my idiocy, hoping he wouldn’t notice.
I tested the waters when I flippantly said, “tell me. Were you in love with her?”
That question seemed to anger him at first. He looked down and there was obvious pain in his voice when he said, “yes. I did, but I didn’t love her in the way you are implying.” His reply was genuine and I felt like a cad because I could see the anguish in his face.
Still wearing my big boy panties, I switched gears and took charge. “Okay. Tell me about Parker Carolina Patterson.”
He leaned back in his big, impressive chair and began. “Parker Patterson was a high-born. Do you know what that means?” I stopped just short of saying, “I know I have acted like an imbecile at times, but yes, I do know what it means to be high-born.”
“Well,” he went on. “Her father invented a little gadget that nobody knew they needed until he convinced them that they did. He patented it, marketed it and became a multi-billionaire. That’s billionaire with a B,” he said.
“Parker was an only child, and not only was she the apple of her parents’ eyes, she was a child prodigy. She was reading at three years old and actually read “War and Peace” when she was four. She was a brilliant pianist, and I remember seeing her sitting in front of that huge Steinway grand piano with her little fingers flying over those keys like a bumblebee in a garden of flowers.”
I interrupted him and said, “you knew her when she was a little girl?” By the look on his face, I could tell that he had stopped just short of asking me if I was a ninnyhammer. He shook his head and said, “how else would I know these things?” He looked sternly at me and said, “don’t interrupt me again. It is not appreciated.”
After I apologized, he continued. “I was the Patterson’s attorney. They were my only clients. As you can tell, they paid me quite handsomely, and in return, I was totally devoted to them.”
“They were as honest as the day was long and never asked me to hide assets or misrepresent their wealth in any way. They were very unassuming and gracious about their wealth and position, and that’s a rare trait.”
“They were very generous to charities as well. If they saw homeless veterans, they would put them up for weeks and sometimes months, help them find jobs and places to live. They would open their home on Thanksgiving and Christmas. They didn’t care if you wandered in off the street or were another ‘blue blood’ who had been invited.”
“Parker met each one at the front door and handed them a gift and a card. They were living the perfect American dream.” He hesitated for a minute and said, “then, one day…”
His thoughts seemed to drift, but I had been warned not to interrupt so I didn’t dare.
He buzzed for the butler. “Mr. Winslow, would you please bring us a light lunch and some coffee? We’ll have it out on the veranda.”
Mr. Winslow, acting every bit as prim and proper as Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey said, “of course, sir. Right away.” It was clear that we were going to eat lunch before the conversation continued.
We were served a scrumptious salad made of baby spinach leaves, topped with strawberries and almond slivers. That was followed by Jerk Salmon with a hefty helping of Couscous. Although out of my realm of the casual breaking of bread, I imagined that Mr. Harville dined that way every day, served by said prim and proper butler. I really, really hated him.
We finished our meal and went back to the library, where he surprised me when he pulled out a box of cigars from Gurkha Her Majesty’s Reserve, which he boasted cost $15,000 a box. The number 38 was stenciled on the box and I wondered if that was an indication of just how many boxes he owned, or how many cigars the box held. I didn’t ask and although I didn’t smoke, I graciously accepted, and hoped that I didn’t make a fool of myself by coughing up a lung while trying to pretend that I knew what I was doing.
Once again, he leaned back in his chair that I was sure cost twice as much as that box of cigars, took a few puffs and began.
To be continued______________________